From August 28 to September 3, 2023 Bergamo has hosted the rehearsals of Deserters (Disertori), a live installation by Chiara Bersani consisting of a performance interpreted by three performers with motor disabilities, and a large environment in which bodies meet and interact, without any aid, leaving the signs of their passage.

The work addresses the issues of vulnerability and interdependence, interweaving the languages of visual art and performance, welcoming the audience into an immersive scenic environment that undermines those stereotypes related to the intimate, identitary and sexual sphere that frequently affect people with disabilities.
Through this work, Chiara Bersani questions new relational practices that take into account plural prerogatives and investigates—from an aesthetic perspective rooted in proximity and relationship—the broad concept of accessibility, accounting for the political valence of disabled bodies that, after having suffered a violent increase in situations of segregation during the pandemic, here regain space through the unveiling and sharing of sonorities and chants of pleasure.

The sound component of the performance is complemented by a narrated part, formulated to translate the action onto a nonvisual dramaturgical plane. The audio description may be enjoyed simultaneously with the presence of the performers on stage, but also during their absence, and thus by all types of audiences.

The title of the work refers to the words of Virginia Woolf in her essay “On Being Ill” (1926), according to which in sickness “we cease to be soldiers in the army of the upright; we become deserters.” Indeed, the artist’s invitation is to abandon the upright position, characteristic of a self-styled condition of “health” and “conformity,” and adopt a different communal perspective.

The period of the artist’s residency in Bergamo has concluded on Semptember 3, with an evening event hosted at the Ex Oratorio di San Lupo thanks to the cooperation of the Fondazione Adriano Bernareggi. During the evening, the public was able to attend the dress rehearsals of the performance in view of its debut at the Kunsthaus Baselland in Muttenz/Basel, which from October 27, 2023 to January 7, 2024 will host Chiara Bersani’s first solo exhibition in a European institution in the fall, curated by Lorenzo Giusti and Ines Goldbach.

In the Basel exhibition, the action will unfold over a large hand-knotted Nepalese carpet, made to the artist’s design, and who will graphically elaborate on the performative narrative: the interweaving of non-conforming bodies and plant shoots relates to the performers’ actions; the long fringes of yarn, reaching out from all sides of the carpet, make their way into the environment and invite the audience to enter the scenic space.

Participation in the project also includes a talk and a workshop to be held over the coming months, respectively at Galerie Stadtpark in Krems and at the Pirelli HangarBicocca in Milan.

At the end of the project, the performance score, which showcases and sums up the actors’ training and governs the various scenic possibilities, and the environmental installation will become part of the GAMeC Collections.

Deserters (Disertori) is the winning project of the 11th edition of the Italian Council, the program aimed at supporting Italian contemporary art in the world promoted by the Directorate-General for Contemporary Creativity within the Italian Ministry of Culture, and part of the program of Bergamo Brescia Italian Capital of Culture 2023.

The project is also sponsored by EssilorLuxottica.

Thanks to Fondazione Adriano Bernareggi.

Chiara Bersani (San Rocco al Porto, 1984) is an Italian artist active in the performing arts, whose practice, both as a performer and artist, combines the languages of research theater and the visual arts. Her works—featured in museums and art galleries such as La Triennale, Milan; Centrale Fies, Trento; Tenuta dello Scompiglio, Lucca; Mattatoio, Rome; National Museum, Warsaw; the National Gallery, London, as well as in unconventional spaces and on the international circuits—involve professionals from various disciplines, and are largely addressed to an audience “close” to the stage. Her research as performer and artist is based on the concept of the Political Body and the creation of practices aimed at training its presence and action. The “manifesto” work of this research is Gentle Unicorn, a performance included in the Aerowaves circuit. For her rigor in embodying this study, she was awarded the UBU Prize as best new actress/performer under 35 in 2018. In August 2019, during the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Gentle Unicorn and Chiara Bersani were awarded first prize in the dance category of the Total Theatre Awards. Chiara Bersani is an artist supported by the apap circuit—Advancing Performing Arts Project—and Feminist Future, a project co-funded by the European Union’s Creative Europe Program, until 2024.