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ZfinMalta Double Bill

Thoughts on OKOKOK and Nuova Figura, presented as part of ZfinDays 2023, earlier this February.

OKOKOK, by international artist and performer Marco D’Agostin, opened the second weekend of ZfinDays 2023, with a slap in the face. The piece is a stern, powerful and beautifully composed provocation, well representing the qualities which made this multitalented artist popular in the high circles of contemporary culture, including the Biennale di Venezia. Like a Shumon Basar of performative arts, D’Agostin bombards the audience with a seamless sequence of iconic movements and refrains revealing the most callous spirit of the entertainment industry, and of our consumeristic society more in general, spanning from Ryanair flights announcements to Heather Parisi’s dance moves. The piece brings to mind one publication of Basar in particular, The Age of Earthquakes (2015, co-authored with Douglas Coupland and Hans Ulrich Obrist), not only for its sardonic, borderline-cynical approach to ‘the extreme present’, but also for its the merciless pace, constantly on the verge of spiraling out control. The resulting uneasiness triggers a greatly needed moment of reflection on the hyper-spectacular age we live in and succeeds in revealing ‘the deafening silence in which we all move when we try to entertain someone’. 

Nuova Figura, by ZfinMalta’s Artistic Director Paolo Mangiola, reacts to the uncompromising and coldhearted environment portrayed by D’ Agostin with an elusive and highly evocative exploration of imaginary worlds, inspired by the maps drawn by Gozitan cartographer, astronomer and astrologer Antonino Saliba in 1582. The radical change of atmosphere on stage transports the audience away from the ‘extreme present’ and into a fantastic imaginative world. Extended and gracefully rounded movements encourage the audience to release the tension, to regain strength and to follow the dancers in an atemporal journey through natural chaos and order, culminating in a declaration of hope and desire for better things to come. Mangiola and the dancers draw an introspective cartography of human perspectives on the present-day image of the world, with a sophistication that reminds of the films that Weyes Blood sings about.

The two pieces result in an engaging, challenging and at times contradictory show which celebrates the inspiring diversity of the programme of ZfinMalta and which attracts an equally diverse public. As recently stated by Mangiola, “ŻfinDays is for everyone, dance lovers and newcomers. Experience works that are physically challenging and emotionally charged; laced with irony and high on drama. Works that, above all, showcase the great versatility of our company dancers, through choreographers whose names are currently filling theatres across Europe. ŻfinDays is six nights of dance where audiences can expect to be inspired, entertained and above all moved”. 

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