(by Simone Perotti)
“It is hard to be poor in Countries without sunshine”. A good start to my conversation with Marilli Mastrantoni, about time. Actress and art director of cultural events, Marilli doesn’t know why her name and surname are Italian. “My grandmother was Greek from Kannakale and her family had to flee from Turkey after the 1922 war“. She is a beautiful women, with Slav colouring, her birthplace is Greece but she is international by inclination. “I travel a great deal. I am often in London” from where she gets her marked City accent.
How should I present you Marilli? “I am an art director, but above all I have always been an active citizen”. You are a young woman, you did experience the military dictatorship, where does this calling come from? “With or without a dictatorship, one should always be socially and civilly active. All things considered, in the last ten years things have not changed very much from what they were at the time of the Junta of the Colonels”. A somewhat rash comparison perhaps, but I listen and she explains. “It was not so very difficult to image what would happen. With so many stock exchange booms and doped generations, the system reached its natural crisis. It was something that just couldn’t work, capitalism cannot work. Infinite linear growth, hypertrophic consumption … we passed from industrial capitalism to a virtual financial metacapitalism which is incompatible with the real value of companies, and production. It is quite clear that there is a Junta out there, someone who is dictating the rules. I don’t know if it is a business committee or whatever. Certainly, this cannot be defined as a democracy, but an international financial oligarchy, in which the empires who do not wish to lose positions fight the battle. For them it’s like playing a video game, they’re playing with joystick. The recession serves to re-regulate their supremacy, to renew the game. The recession is like a download, when you are updating a videogame. We do not count, but together we have an enormous responsibility towards the environment, and above all our citizenship”. She says all this calmly, without passionate fervour, but rather with the awareness that what she is saying is quite ordinary, something which is quite clear and certain.
Despite the fact that I agree with what she is saying on the whole, I try asking her if perhaps a piece missing: the behaviour of individuals. Marilli, if we stop buying like crazy everything they advertise, if we stop selling our car when they have just a couple of thousand kilometres on the clock to buy a new one with incentives, perhaps that committee would lose some of its business, and something would change. “It wouldn’t be enough, Simone. You’re right though that the individual is responsible. Each and every one of us can choose, that is very important and it helps. But things are more complicated. Who is the “enemy”? Today no one knows. If you buy a product you don’t know who has produced it, you may think it is Greek, but instead it comes from Holland or from who knows where. We are part of the game, always”.
So what do we do Marilli? “Small, active communities, that rewrite the rules of their active participation in the society in which they live. Small groups who, through solidarity and new models, try to become aware of what is happening”. I try asking her to tell me what, how, who, when and where and with what impact, but I don’t get much. “If we are not active, it is power that makes our decisions”. I have to agree, of course. Perhaps what separates us slightly is exactly what separates me always from everyone, namely the importance we give to individual actions, to the role of the individual, rather than to that of the community. “What we need are original substantiated opinions. The word “crisis” in Greek means a problem but also a opinion, an evaluation. That evaluation is the opportunity inherent in the hardship we are experiencing. So we must go back to judging, choosing. Politics is about creating an active citizenship, it’s what I was saying, it is not the political parties, or how they behave, or elections. People have to believe in this again. In Greece the Parliament has purely a decorative function, nothing more. It’s the European Central Bank that decides, and the political parties have no good news to give us. That is why I say that even the way we battle must evolve, it must change”.
You personally created an artistic project to sway this deadlock. It’s called PIGS, and the reference is to the derogatory name given to Countries who have been less virtuous in the European state finance. “Yes, a horrible name. But we did not only go to those Countries, but even to Belgium Denmark, Ireland in order to see and understand, because this problem of the relationship between citizens and public affairs is not a problem that involves only Southern Europe. We visited, travelled, asked questions, carried out surveys and research, collected information, video materials, and then we put everything together, using the mixed multimedia model. This then became a theatre performance-show with a magnificent, strong and very efficient dramaturgic element, which opened in Athens in 2013, with a forum linked to the work of a visual artist (“Save”). Next year in July, we will be in South Africa, and then in other Countries, and I hope in Italy too (editor’s note, it would be wonderful if anyone reading this should think of inviting Marilli for a show). Our aim is to create awareness, encouraging the birth of new and more conscious questions, to open a debate, get people to talk. For that matter, if we, as intellectuals and artists, do not do this, if we who have a microphone in our hands, do not use it, what is the purpose of our work?!”.
My aim, that of the Progetto Mediterranea, is to give a voice to you Marilli, without judging. The real and important questions, always grow less in times of decadence, and multiply in times of rebirth.