RC PHOENIX_I Smoke My Life Away

The first paragraph of Radical ChangePHOENIX – I SMOKE MY LIFE AWAY fully reflects the aesthetic and poetic features of the wide-ranging theatrical performance project created by Maria Federica Maestri and Francesco Pititto, made of twelve performances inspired by the twelve episodes of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The performance offertorium is lived in full and with mystery by Valentina Barbarini, the iconic interpreter of the metamorphoses and essential subject of this artistic creation.

The performer follows the legendary path of the Phoenix, the sacred bird that having reached five hundred years of age, places its body in a nest of incense and cardamom, built on top of a palm tree, then exhales the last breath. Then another Phoenix will be born from her body and will carry the nest inside the temple of Hyperion, the Titan father of the Sun God.

The Phoenix metamorphosis, the mythical bird born from itself, takes place in an anti-monumental space, among silent eggs – large transparent pods – that open up to receive the dying body of the little Phoenix inside an ash bath. Her head wrapped in a cap made of dozens of cigarette butts, Phoenix starts to live again so that she can die again.

In a powerful visual and sound installation, some very short infantile text fragments – the farewell to the father, the fear of death, the shyness of birth – display micro emotional traces completely deprived of eloquence and dramatic rhetoric.


They say that, from the father’s body, a young phoenix is reborn, destined to live the same number of years. When age has given it strength, and it can carry burdens, it lightens the branches of the tall palm of the heavy nest, and piously carries its own cradle that was its father’s tomb, and, reaching the city of Hyperion through the clear air, lays it down in front of the sacred doors of Hyperion’s temple.

The Metamorphoses, Ovid

Like a small Phoenix, every five hundred years to be reborn identical to the first time. “I can lay down my soul and then reclaim it” – is this not what the artist aspires to in building her poetry, her work? Dyeing and resurrecting, inside an egg or from flames, always surrounded by the branches of her nest scented with aromatic herbs. Construction, Combustion, Death, Resurrection, Transformation, Identity, Form, Corporeity, Color, Smell – is this not the essence of artistic creation?

There is one, a bird, which renews itself,
and reproduces from itself.
Smoking my life I die.
Burning my head I’ll be born again.
Please cry for me Father.
They say that, from the father’s body,
a young phoenix is reborn,
destined to live the same number of years.


Translation Dramaturgy Imagery | Francesco Pititto
Installation Plastic elements Direction | Maria Federica Maestri
Music | Andrea Azzali
Performer | Valentina Barbarini
Project Curator | Elena Sorbi
Organization | Ilaria Stocchi_Loredana Scianna
Press Office, Communication & Promotion | Michele Pascarella
Technical care | Alice Scartapacchio
Production | Lenz Fondazione

première Parma, Lenz Theater, 16 February 2007
première second version Parma, Lenz Theater, 8 April 2016

Running | 40’

Lenz creates enigmatic and fascinating performances that reject linear narration. In Radical Change a baroque and postmodern visual sign is impressively strong and it recalls Matthew Barney’s atmospheres. Bodies are protagonists; wrapped in projections, camouflaged behind plastic transparent curtains, sunk inside placentae of Plexiglas, on a stage similar to an alchemy laboratory. Naked bodies that move with assertive gestures at the sound of looped music, all the way to the brink of dancing. The exasperating insistence on the images challenges the audience to reckon with the visions that constantly encircle and transform their lives.

Corriere della Sera, Radical Change by Lenz Rifrazioni, Massimo Marino, 15 May 2007

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