a project by Judith Cowan.
Angelica is a film about inversions: looking at, seeing things from an unusual perspective, behind stage, in between scenes, the sidelines, unnoticed marginalia. All of the moments and perspectives one does not expect to see, lying as they do outside of our daily purview.
Taking as a loose starting point Boiardo’s tales of ‘Orlando in Love’, the film forms a simultaneous re-scripting of two parallel narratives: that of Angelica, the sole female character figured within the stories; and the puppet theatre itself – its traditional machinations, performers, and performances.
Angelica is conventionally a voiceless character with no individual character or agency. Here, she is liberated from both the tales and the theatre, moving out onto the streets of Palermo. She is now the focus, the main character in her own story, active and animated as scenes of death, love, and war are acted out around her. She watches and observes, moving from place to place, leaving us to wonder what she is thinking and to where she is going. What new life might exists outside the confines of traditional narrative?
Mini cameras attached to the puppets and to the puppeteers catch a variety of movement, surprising images, and unusual vantage points. As these views are spliced into one narrative, one senses the shifting, unstable nature of what we often take at face value to be true – both about the world around us, and the stories we tell ourselves within it. Even Angelica changes from moment to moment, embodied by the many different versions of herself, puppets ranging in time period from the 17th Century to present-day.
In Angelica, no view is singular or predictable, no narrative or character entirely coherent. It is rather the gaps between these things that Cowan draws our attention to, asking us to consider how the roles of puppet and performer, theatre and performance, are constructed, deconstructed, and reconstructed at any given moment.
The project involves primary source research at the Museo Internazionale di Marionettes Antonio Pasqualino, Palermo, whose archival holdings range from the historical to contemporary, including rare C17 puppets and related source materials. Cowen worked closely with Sicilian puppeteers and two of the museum’s curators, Paola Nicita and Rosario Perricone.
Angelica was exhibited at MIMAP in October 2013, accompanied by a public programme and a publication about the work, including commissioned essays and high-quality prints. The film was also screened during the discussion ‘Arte e Antropologia’ at the Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, November 2013 and an article about the research will be published in their magazine.
Angelica review in Arte e Critica: Elvira Lamanna. ‘Sguardi di una donna-marionetta’. Arte e Crtiica. 77: 96. February 2014 - ISSN 1591-294
Angelica review in La Repubblica, 11 October, 2013: