Chiara Bersani. Deserters

Deserters is a live installation by Chiara Bersani (b. 1984, San Rocco al Porto, IT) and her first exhibition ever, consisting of a performance interpreted by three performers with motor impairments and a large environment in which bodies meet and interact without any aid, leaving traces of their movement. Deserters 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 spheres of intimacy, identity, and sexuality 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 relationality—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 title of the exhibition 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.

Chiara Bersani (b. 1984, San Rocco al Porto, IT) 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.

Curator: Lorenzo Giusti, Ines Goldbach

Kunstmuseum Baselland, Muttenz/Basel

Photo: Finn Curry for Kunsthaus Baselland