The Two Birds That Were One by Bianca Mastrominico

Sotto in Italiano.

a reflection on the first online Magdalena Festival.
On the branch of a tree / a bird was eating a fruit / On a nearby branch / another bird looked on / The latter went closer / and then realised / that they were both / just one bird.

This ancient Indian story came to my mind while reflecting on my experience of participation as an artist and as an audience member, in BODIES:ON:LIVE Magdalena:On:Line 2021 this June.

In the festival I believe the first bird was the artists who had set up their creative roots in the immateriality of the internet, digitally competent, with a body of work and years of experimentation behind them. The other bird was the cautious and critical performers, writers and directors candidly declaring their uneasiness towards online adaptations of live work, alongside the curious and adventurous, who kept watching closely to grasp techniques, processes and approaches. But what was the fruit? Technical knowledge? The awareness of the medium? An uncanny ability to make everything appear smooth on Zoom and other online platforms? All of this – but digging deeper, above all for me it was the courage to fight against the constraints forced on artists by the pandemic, the inclusiveness in conceiving a truly multicultural digital space for creative exchange, and the passion for moving forward and celebrating our identities as artists in such difficult circumstances.

In the sharing of my work I felt welcomed, supported, and I found connections between culturally diverse practices which I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to encounter otherwise. As a participant/spectator I was invited to be a co-creator of meaning and often – to my great delight – to blur the boundaries between being and performing, in a fluid exercise of our communal creative muscles and expressivity.

On the last day, when online exhaustion kicked in, I still felt compelled to be present with all my focus, but it was not caused by FoMO (the Fear of Missing Out often suffered by social media users) as much as by a genuine inner desire – born from the perseverance, the coherence and the cohesion of our coming together – to witness what our collective energy had been capable of generating, a special kind of human energy without which no art (and no artists) can survive.

I am writing an in-depth reflection on the festival which will be published on the Magdalena website soon.


Bianca Mastrominico