Giant pillow in An outdoor version of Pietro Marullo's Wreck

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Pietro Marullo’s WRECK: survival of the fittest in the age of austerity?

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An outdoor version of Pietro Marullo’s Wreck. Photo © Bertrand Nodet
S pink identity
Yasen Vasilev
Pietro Marullo’s ‘elastic performance’ is a staging of the struggle to survive in a precarious environment – and an example of it.

By the time Pietro Marullo’s WRECK: a list of extinct species was presented in my hometown of Sofia, Bulgaria, at the 2018 Spring Forward festival, I already knew it had made the final selection of two other big international open calls. It had just opened the Arte Lagune Prize at an official ceremony at the Arsenale in Venice, and was scheduled for Danse Élargie in June, the Paris-based award for live art pieces that expand and transcend the notions of dance.

Moving between contemporary dance, performance art, visual art and installation, WRECK is what its Italian-born, Brussels-based author calls an ‘elastic performance’. This is not only a reference to the material of the large black balloon that looms over the audience and dancers for most of the show, but also to the flexibility contemporary artists have to acquire if they want to survive in an increasingly precarious job market in an age of austerity. Marullo manages to do just that, without artistic compromise.


Trailer for Pietro Marullo’s WRECK: a list of extinct species

The huge balloon slowly floats over the stage, revealing one by one a series of single naked human bodies in various positions, then groups of people fossilised in mid-action, as if interrupted by a major disaster. The black cloud allows us a series of glimpses into this ‘list of extinct species’ as the relationship between the bodies and the black mass slowly develops: the frozen bodies become active, start to resist, even manage to take control of the balloon, whose mechanism is revealed and whose single nether crevice is reminiscent of both a vagina that gives birth to the naked dancers, and a supermassive black hole that could suck the whole stage and audience into itself. If the programme notes refer to the balloon as a new Leviathan, its relationship with the dancers also makes us think of forthcoming natural disasters provoked by human-induced environmental destruction – or maybe it’s the next financial crisis, threatening the frail stability of global neoliberal capitalism?

WRECK is certainly а perfect sale for various European festivals. Visually fascinating, open to interpretation and borrowing from various artistic disciplines, it is easy and inexpensive to transport (the balloon can probably fit in a backpack), can be adapted to various spaces and locations (theatres, galleries, outdoors), and performed by both the original professional dancers or local performers trained for a short period of time (in tune with the push for more engagement with local communities and art as social work). And it can be adjusted to different political and social contexts: for example, the dancers can be fully dressed in circumstances where the naked body might still cause a problem.

A smart, struggling artist using the disadvantages of the system to serve his own aims, Marullo shows it is possible to outwit the exploitative system that approaches artists as circulating products. Yet WRECK should also make us think: are less adaptable dance artists on the list of potentially endangered species?


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2018 tour:
16&17.06.2018 – Danse Élargie (Paris, France) [see our coverage of Danse Élargie 2018]
​1​5.07.2018 – Kilowatt Festival (Sansepolcro, Ita​l​y)
​21>23.07.2018 – Wonderfell Festival (Holland)
08>12.08.2018 – FIDCDMX (Mexico City)
01.09.2018 – Israeli Museum (Jerusalem, Israel)
10.09.2018 – DanseHalleren (Copenhagen, Denmark)
13>15.09.2018 – Dansens Hus (Oslo, Norway)
25.10.2018 – SIDance Festival (Seul, South Korea)
01>05.10.2018 – High Fest (Erevan, Armenia)
11.11.2018 – NPAC Festival (Kaohsiung, Taiwan)

Updates at: https://pietromarullo.com/agenda/