“It is still 2021”, Ana Pi reminds herself, sitting at the airport in Paris waiting for her flight. That means flying is something that can be happening again, as well as crossing borders. That means that all of us who are authorised to fly and cross borders, in order to be here physically in Italy, must have what is called a ‘green pass’ (which is not green but a black and white QR code) in our pockets, which states that we are ‘sound’ enough to travel, meet and greet. The invisible has become very much visible, an absence of contamination has become a pass to be a traveling citizen, a moving human being who is allowed to enter a museum space, a theatre, a dance class, a country. It has been almost two years since Dancing Museums moved online and since when there has not been a large-scale gathering of the team.
It also means that part of the team who has already arrived in Italy and settled in in Bassano del Grappa in order to assist to the final conference of the project, has to be in separate hotel rooms to attend to the online public sharing, hoping that the Wi-Fi connection will make it through the afternoon. There are too many of us to be together sharing the same space. We are together, but alone. We somehow got used to seeing each other’s faces and hands moving and talking in small Zoom frames. And we even got used to creating real human connections through this device, sharing choreographic practices, emotions and thoughts in enjoyable ways, which was a challenge in itself as we had to inhabit the virtual space for most of the project.
And so it is quite unbelievable and moving to finally be in the same country, city and hotel (even if in separate rooms) after all the distance and online sessions. Ana asks a bit later on “ Who is around you? And who isn’t? Are you alone? Who are the people you can see? And the ones that you cannot see?” Asking ourselves those questions somehow make the walls of a single hotel bedroom a bit thinner and more transparent. I’m trying to imagine my colleagues next door, or on other floors. I know Betsy, Gill, Elisabetta are here somewhere because we met at breakfast in the morning. I can hear the cleaning ladies in the corridor speaking Italian, their voices are right there behind the door. I think about their invisible hands tidying up the space everyday, their unseen gestures that have an impact on our comfort and ease, sleep even. Who is missing from the picture?
This reminds me of my aversion to the How satisfied are you? smiley buttons that you find in airport toilets, for instance. It takes one split second for anyone to press green, yellow or red and express a basic level of satisfaction. It is designed for us to make this gesture mindlessly, not thinking that a person might actually be impacted by our action. But pressing the button means producing data, it means evaluating an invisible person’s job, it can mean having an impact on someone’s schedule. Where are the people you cannot see, is there a way your movements are connected to theirs?
Ana and Iris are at the airport in Paris. Some are in Venice, some are in transit, some are on the way.
The visible, and the invisible, online, offline, cameras on, cameras off, here we are.