Refocus and Trust During Uncertainty

An inquisitive exploration of the theme of stage fright, in and off the spotlight, during these challenging times of uncertainty. Featuring an interview with musician, actor, and model Ian Mellencamp.

By Sabrina Wirth

The topic of Fear has been on a lot of people’s minds lately. What causes it exactly? On one hand, it can help to motivate or to protect, but on the other hand, fear can also be the barrier that keeps you from achieving your dreams. I’ve grappled with this subject for many years, and thus have had it on my mind often. I remember writing a poem about it in elementary school, concluding that it has to do with uncertainty. We are afraid of what we don’t know. And just like a child who is afraid of the dark loses that fear once the light is turned back on, we are comforted when we are able to clarify an unusual situation. Understanding what the origin of the uncertainty is, can be a useful way to break free from that psychological obstacle. 

Our theme this month is “on stage”, so while there are many types of fear out there, this post will be focused on the kind that is connected with performance and vulnerability. When we expose a part of ourselves to the world, fear can often take over in a crippling way, casting doubt and self-consciousness over the performance. We forget that everyone else has the same obstacles to overcome in their daily lives. The key to overcoming this obstacle though is -as it is in many cases in which fear plays a key role- trust. Trust the motivation behind the performance, and trust in your talent. There’s a reason why you made it to that stage in the first place.

It comes as a surprise to many people, but celebrities often get performance anxiety as well. Adele would get it so bad that she would throw up before or after performances, and Barbra Streisand even gave up performing live for 3 decades after forgetting her lyrics at a concert in Central Park in 1967. Everyone feels it at some degree or another, because it all has to do with the “not knowing”- the uncertainty of the future. Will I hit that high note? Will something go unexpectedly, terribly wrong? Will I start sweating? What will they think of me? Will they love me? Will they hate me? 

Personally, I’ve always loved the attention. Sometimes I wonder “why didn’t I go into acting?” It seems I love an audience. Or at least I used to when I was a kid. I remember listening to my uncle telling jokes, and his delivery was so good, that no matter whether the joke was funny or not, he would always get laughs. I tried to recreate his joke once, in front of a room full of other kids my age and thought that since he had been so successful telling that joke, then I would also be a hit. Well, the context was all wrong, and my delivery wasn’t as good, and by the time I got to the punch line, the part when I expected the room to erupt in laughter, all I heard instead was silence. It was mortifying. I never tried that again. If I could go back in time though, I would have advised myself against telling a Jesus/golfing joke in a room full of 11 year-olds. 

Before I attempted this stand-up comedy, though, I had never experienced that kind of embarrassment. Unfortunately, that memory became engrained in my mind like a mini trauma, and for a long time afterward, I would get anxiety if I was ever placed in a similar situation again. If you ever notice how long it takes for a celebrity to make a comeback after failing publicly, it’s because of this same kind of experience, but at a much larger scale. However, a fast recovery also has to do with mental discipline and a strong belief in oneself.

When Snowboard prodigy, Shaun White, suffered from a horrific crash during a 2018 training run in New Zealand, he recalls being terrified. He said, “It’s just like this visual flashing in my head of what happened. I know I can do the trick, but I knew I could do the trick when I crashed.”

Shaun White

Despite being afraid that what had happened to him in New Zealand could happen again, his desire to stand up on that Olympic podium once more, and reach for another gold medal was stronger. He adjusted his focus from that of fear of crashing to that of attaining his goal. If there was any remnant of fear still there, it probably was transferred from “what if?” to “what if I don’t even try?” The fear of not trying proved to be stronger. 

For singers, and people in the entertainment industry, recovery may be more difficult, as it was for Barbra Streisand, since performance can be deeply personal. Oftentimes, a singer is the only one on stage, and all eyes are on him or her. Nevertheless, whether one is competing in an Olympic arena, or performing on the stage before the games begin, the pressure of being watched and judged is there.

Eminem

Eminem’s song “Lose Yourself” depicts the performer’s anxiety so well. What if you have only that one chance, that one opportunity, and you blow it? The thing is, if you start thinking that way before a performance, you will most likely manifest it. The last half of “Lose Yourself” emphasizes Eminem’s internal struggle with himself. He knows he’s talented, he knows that success is his only option, and he is hungry to not only improve himself, but prove himself as well. His motivation for taking the chance in front of an audience overcame his fear of failure, and look at him now. He ends his song with: “You can do anything you set your mind to, man”. Fear, anxiety, confidence, it’s all a mindset. 

Ian Mellencamp, a musician, actor, and established model, is no stranger to the stage, and even grew up learning about stage life, just by being around his famous uncle, John Mellencamp. Despite being in the spotlight for so long, he says he still gets anxiety before any big performance. He recognizes though, the negative impact of giving in to that anxiety, and instead makes a conscious effort to let go and live in the moment: 

“For me, the ultimate goal is not only to avoid focusing on the anxiety or the material but to live within the present moment during a performance. This is when execution is intended, accurate, authentic, as well as unique, where real improvisation can happen. Therefore, the best performances are achieved this way.”

Ian Mellencamp
Ian Mellencamp

For refocusing or getting over the “stage fright”, Ian recommends preparation: “I’ve learned that the best way for me to combat anxiety is by being prepared. Visualization, meditation, and breath work are also great tools for combating anxiety and enhancing the preparation/performance processes. These tools help funnel the focus on the material and not on the potential negatives. I feel that being prepared and well-rehearsed is the number one confidence booster and anxiety reducer. Combine preparation with the other tools (visualization, meditation, breath work), have patience and persistence, and you will be on your way towards another level of performance.”

Right now, the world is united in its uncertainty about the future. We can either let that be a reason to feel despair and fear, or we can use that time to focus on the present moment, as Ian recommended. Now is the time to prepare, and work on ourselves. How can we use this time productively? When we return to a certain level of normalcy, we will see how people have transformed throughout this period: there may be those who become accustomed to life within their cocoons, but then there will also be those who will surprise everyone, and emerge as butterflies. Your decision!  

Sabrina Wirth
Sabrina Wirth

Sabrina Wirth is an artist, curator, writer, and storyteller. Her curiosity for people and different cultures has led her down various unusual, but fulfilling paths, such as exploring Iraqi Kurdistan, and working on a film about refugees in France. She believes in the power of creativity, and has learned that the best stories are the real-life, human ones.

For more info on Sabrina please visit: www.sabrinawirth.com

Are you On Stage or Back Stage?

By Daniela Pavan

Backstage

Shakespeare said “All the world is a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts, his acts being seven ages.”

Daniela Pavan
Daniela Pavan. Co-Founder and Artistic Director of Creative Pois-On.

This is how our Creative Briefing episode of this month of March begins. This quote is not only part of a very famous monologue by Shakespeare; it is also an important metaphor of our life. It’s like the world we live in is our stage, or better, the context that surrounds us is our stage and we are all actors, playing different roles according to the different contexts we engage with. So, somehow all of us are on the stage of our lives, on a daily basis. I found this a very strong and fascinating metaphor, that can be applied to both social interactions in general as well as business and professional relationships. A metaphor that makes me wonder that since human beings are like actors on the stage of their lives, what can we learn from those who are really on stage every day, working as performing artists?

LISTEN TO MORE OF DANIELA’S INSIGHTS ON THE CREATIVE BRIEFING EPISODE

Sociologist Erving Goffman uses the metaphor of the theater in a very interesting way in my opinion, creating a dramaturgical perspective that sociology applies to study and explain social interactions. Goffman affirms that life is basically a “performance” carried out by “teams” of participants, “front stage” and “backstage”. The terms “front stage” and “backstage” refer indeed to different behaviors that people engage in, every day. Through this metaphor of the theater applied to sociology, Goffman points out the importance of three additional elements: the “setting,” “the appearance” and “the manner”. Specifically, the setting is the context, which is important because it shapes the performance. Then we have the role of a person’s “appearance” that may change responses in terms of social interactions, and the effect that the “manner” of a person’s behavior has on the overall performance. In this very intriguing approach, what is the difference between the “front stage” and “backstage” behavior? Cultural capital, as French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu would say, and norms and expectations for behavior shaped by the context we live in, play the main role in defining the difference between the front and backstage.

Concert

According to Goffman, people engage in “front stage” behavior when they are aware that others are watching. Interesting, right? Typically, front stage behavior follows a sort of social script shaped by cultural norms, like when we go to the office or queuing at the supermarket to pay.  Whatever the setting of front stage behavior, people are aware of how others perceive them and what they expect, and this knowledge tells them how to behave. Front stage behavior change though in anxiety situations, when people are scared and act instinctively rather than thinking about social norms. However, in normal situations, when someone ignores the expectations for front stage behaviors, it may lead to confusion, even controversy, such as a managing director who shows up at an important meeting in her bathrobe and slippers.

Graduation

Back Stage Behavior instead refers to what we do when nobody is looking, so people are free of the expectations of the front stage context. Therefore, they feel more relaxed when in a backstage setting and can let their guard down. They are not required to wear work clothes or make-up, someone even changes how they speak when backstage. Many of us are not even aware of these differences. When backstage, some people rehearse certain behaviors or interactions and prepare for upcoming front stage performances, such as practicing their smile or handshake, rehearse a presentation or conversation, or prepare themselves to look a certain way once in public again. In the book The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene, the author explains how Napoleon used to spend hours in front of a mirror, modeling his gaze on that of contemporary actor Talma. While backstage though, we are not always alone. Family members, roommates, partners may change our behavior while backstage, even though we feel less under the spotlight, as it happens when we are frontstage.

Theater

People’s backstage behavior mirrors the way actors behave in the backstage of a theater. So going back to my previous question, what can we learn from performers? Being a huge lover of the theater and an actress myself and, at the same time a woman in business, I believe there are a lot of connections that can be designed and developed between acting and business. I am a strong believer that performing on stage is a great way to prepare yourself for success in the working world. For example, in a very interesting article by LifeHack.org, they list the reasons people who love performing on stage are more likely to be successful. So let’s explore the most important together!

  • First of all, you will learn how and when to improvise. Success on stage requires the ability to respond to unexpected developments. This attitude in a business environment translates into being flexible, able to adapt quickly to change and to overcome problems.
  • Then, being on stage as a performer teaches you the importance of deadlines. If someone is late to the show, the whole crew has a problem and the audience won’t definitely be happy. In business, showing up for meetings and meeting deadlines for project deliveries are valuable skills.
  • Communication wise, performers know how to present. When on stage, actors are in full view of the audience as well as fellow performers, therefore they need to develop the confidence to stand in front of people and deliver value. This is huge in business, especially to be able to lead meetings and deal with negotiations.
Stage
  • Performers know how to wear different hats: Delivering a successful performance requires contributions from many people who cover different roles. While you may be an actor, a flexible attitude that allows you to take on multiple responsibilities makes a big difference. This reflects in business because successful people rarely say “that’s not in my job description.”
  • Empathy is very important while on stage. Performers know how to read other people. Empathy helps while performers work on the show as well as to engage with the audience, on stage. This skill makes a difference outside the performing world as well. With empathy, you know how to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and are able to better understand the context you are in. Think about how Design Thinking includes the value of empathy in its process. 
  • Eventually, performers know the importance of celebrating success together! Many actors and performers throw a party when they successfully complete opening night. Recognizing others and being thankful for their contributions are important to professional success as well.

So now the question for you is, do you want to be on or backstage? 

All the World’s a Stage

By Pamela Q. Fernandes

Metz Opera
Metz Opera, France

“All the world’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players,” so begins the famous pastoral comedy “As You Like It” by William Shakespeare. It is, of course, one of his most famous poetic allusions to the theatre because quite frankly all of life is nothing but a play. Each of us acts a part or has a role that is unique to us. No two people are alike, not even monozygotic twins. Your role and the purpose you serve is unique to you. 

The Role We Play 

Shakespeare

That life is a stage; it is a religious idea in a way that fascinated Shakespeare and many of his fans. The Merchant of Venice and Macbeth have many scenes where the protagonists wonder, about the passions of life that so consumed them only for them to disappear into death having fulfilled their roles in life. And so, each of us plays a role. 

Often, I hear people trivialize themselves or the work they do, “I’m just an accountant or I’m just a housewife. I’m only at an entry-level job.” And on and on the go, making light of who they are and what they do. Yet, the role you play cannot be played by anyone else. You as a friend, as a son, or daughter, mother or father, brother or sister, worker, colleague, artist, lawyer, journalist. There’s none like you. You have a set of talents and experiences that are specific to you. 

What Makes You

Chicago

What makes you, you? The games you played as a child, the books you read, the subjects you learned, the movies you watched, the jokes you heard, the food you ate, the places you visited, the lives that touched yours, the lives you touched, the music you enjoyed, the people you met and the experiences you had, made you, you. And no one else will have the same cocktail of experiences you did. It is what makes you special. It is what makes you so suitable to play that role, the dice of life has handed to you. 

In my own life, I’ve noticed people raise eyebrows when I talk about who I am. I am an Indian-Portuguese by heritage but I was born in Kuwait. We fled the first Gulf War and stayed through the second. I love falafels and shawarma but still love a good chicken xacuti curry that’s been cooked in vinegar. I like dancing the jive and reading English classics. I wear many hats as I host a podcast, sing in a church choir, write fiction and volunteer at a hospital nearly 50 hours a week. I serve when I can and try to play the role I have the best way I know it. It’s not much but it’s the one I got and I try to follow the adage “to bloom where I’m planted.” Often, it’s hard, and I doubt myself and my ability to do it all. The critics and the work can be overwhelming. When Painting Kuwait Violet came out, I was nervous about writing about maids and their struggles. Then my book became a finalist at the American Book Fiction Awards. I realized that no one can do what I do. No one else could have written that book but, me. No one would probably love to do all the things I like doing, the roles I enjoy playing or wearing the many hats I wear. 

Life is Hard

Let’s not brush aside the fact that this play of life is hard. We’re all doing it for the first time and it doesn’t come with a manual. There’s no script to follow. Unlike theatre where the climax is over and the characters go home to real “normal” life, ours is a 24/7 role that never ends until we exit left into eternity. We can’t take a break from being a sibling or a friend, we can’t walk away from our spouses or quit being “us.” And so while on this stage of life, we need to ask ourselves about the purpose we serve and how our lives are being shaped by this purpose. The beauty of human life is that we can change. We can change emotionally, physically, politically and spiritually. We can learn from the mistakes of our ancestors and play our roles better. Having studied other great and not so great people, we can learn to transcend into finer human beings and adapt to our roles. 

You Are A Light

The greatest teacher, Jesus tells people, “You are the light of the world.” He says that to everyone. Each of us has the light to make a difference in the world. No matter how small the role we play in life is. We can be difference makers just by doing the next thing that we’re supposed to do. By playing that role, by changing that diaper, by taking out the trash, by offering a seat on the train, by being kind over the phone, by calling a lonely parent, visiting someone who’s sick, picking up the slack at work, lending a listening ear and simply being who we are. It takes courage and perseverance to do it, especially when no one sees what you do. Don’t lose heart when your role gets tough when life gets tougher when the going is difficult and the path might even be lonely. Just keep going because no one can light up the stage as you do. Even when there are no lights on us, when there’s no publicity, no crowds of adoring fans, no fancy clothes or makeup, just keep on fulfilling the role where all the world is a stage and the light is YOU. 

Pamela Fernandes

Pamela Q. Fernandes is an author, doctor and medical writer. She writes women’s fiction and romance. She hosts The Christian Circle podcast. You can find out more about her at https://www.pamelaqfernandes.com

Women ‘On Stage’ – Alessandra Salerno and the ‘NoQuiet Women Orchestra’

By Tommaso Cartia

Alessandra Salerno
Alessandra Salerno and the ‘NoQuiet Women Orchestra’

An American Exclusive for Creative Pois-On. International Singer-Songwriter Alessandra Salerno and her ‘NoQuiet Women Orchestra’ performed (You Make me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, on the occasion of #internationalwomensday. The Sicilian music sensation tells us how the idea of the performance came about, and reflects on what it means to be a woman ‘on stage’ in the music industry of today, and on her relationship with the female icons of the blues American tradition. These days, Alessandra is on the front line producing musical acts remotely to stand up for Italy during the tough times of the quarantine imposed on the country to prevent the spread of the COVID-19. We were expecting her to come back on New York’s stages this spring, and although the wait could be longer, she is positive that: “when this panicking climate ends, we will get back on our feet, even stronger than before. New York is a city dear to my heart, and I can’t wait to go back with my new album in my hands Alessandra Salerno – VOL.1 and a live show that will see me more mature, aware and ready to move my audience singing in my three languages: English, Italian and Sicilian.”

Let’s meet Alessandra Salerno backstage and dream away with her music while waiting to see her back on stage soon. 

Click here to watch Alessandra Salerno and the ‘NoQuiet Women Orchestra’ Perform ‘(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman’

It’s a sudden epiphany. Like opening your eyes and your ears on a new energetical vibration, when you experience Alessandra Salerno performing for the first time. Like the sudden eruption of a volcano. And it’s the volcanic land of Sicily, both bitterly harsh and exotically sweet like an African breeze, that forged and painted the alchemic colors of her voice. Her voice and her image are an instrument of Beauty, an enchantment that finds in its apparent contradictions, its subliminal harmony. Framed in what seems a regal Flemish painting, her porcelain skin and the long red hair echo those northern lands that had once conquered the Sicilian island. But the texture of her voice and the autoharp that she embraces takes us on a journey, far away in another country, in the American country and folk tradition that Alessandra embodies with the grace of a fairy of the woods and the soul of a resilient blueswoman. 

Alessandra Salerno and her Autoharp

Alessandra is the definition of ‘force of nature’, explosive, creative, unpredictable and so exuberantly generous on stage. I’ve witnessed her performing several times, and each time I saw her abandoning herself completely to gifting her audience with raw, unbridled emotions. She sparks on stage with her histrionic humor and her absolutely delightful personality. Every stage is The Stage for her. From an impromptu concerto in a remote location to the much-viewed one of The Voice of Italy talent show that saw her rise to fame; from the maxi concerts that she often organizes as Artistic Director in her city Palermo alongside big names of the Italian and international musical scene, to prestigious American venues. She had the chance to perform in Washington at the NIAF Gala, The Bitter End in New York, at the NYU at the popular Sofar Sounds circuit, and also, at a Baptist church in Harlem where she magically was asked to perform with a chorus of all-black singers. She just stepped in, asked to sing… and the miracle happened. 

Alessandra Salerno performs “Creep” by the Radiohead at The Voice of Italy Blind Auditions

Extraordinary things seem to happen when Alessandra is around, her spirit is contagious, and her strong sense of community and aggregation produces entrepreneurial acts that would take a nation of music producers to put together. And she does them overnight.  Like the homage for the International Women’s Day and the ‘NoQuiet Women Orchestra’ that did not exist before March 8th 2020; or the streaming concert that she performed last week from her terrace to give a moment of solace to all the Italians living the nightmare of the quarantine. 

Tells us how the idea of reinterpreting (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, the iconic Aretha Franklin’s song written by Carole King, came about.

Alessandra Salerno

Carole King is an icon, for any woman musician. In paying homage to her I wanted to speak to the future generations that maybe know her less. The business world of today is still very chauvinistic, and the music industry is no exception; on the contrary, it is one of the toughest fields for women. She has been writing music for 50 years, collaborating with the biggest artists, winning the most prestigious awards and she gifted the world with this powerful hymn. It is a ‘necessary’ song, for humankind and for us women, we savor a taste of freedom when we listen to it and when we sing it. But it speaks to men also, to make them understand our strength, our sensitivity, our freedom, and the beauty to be women that they should respect. That’s why I decided to honor all women with this song on the occasion of #internationalwomensday and the #womenshistorymonth.

It seems that the idea of the performance was born from an instinctual artistic act, a sudden eruption, strong with creativity, sound, and feminity. You created the ‘NoQuiet Women Orchestra’ basically overnight right?

Exactly! I was watching a documentary on Carole King that night and the inspiration came immediately, like a burning fire. I thought that to send a strong message to women I should have done something big. So, I called 18 female musicians, and I invited them to be part of the project. We risked being almost 40 because the enthusiasm with which my idea was welcomed has been extremely powerful. Each one of them wanted to invite a fellow female colleague. I needed to contain the project, because of the timing and the capacity of the stage hosting us. But this project is destined to grow. The night before releasing the video I was looking for a name for the ensemble, for something that could have all represented us and mean something also for all the women listening. ‘No Quiet’. That was it, the exact meaning I had in mind. Because we women should not stay silent, as artists that struggle to succeed, and as friends, daughters, mothers, lovers, human beings. It’s an invitation to raise our voices to the world, in unison. This is the ‘NoQuiet Women Orchestra’. 

Alessandra Salerno

March is #womenhistorymonth and also in February, the U.S. celebrates the #blackhistorymonth. These are two worlds that are very dear to your heart. Tell us about your love for the black female voices of singers like Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Billie Holiday and your relationship with the blues, folk, and gospel American tradition.

I followed the #blackhistorymonth a lot over social media, and you are right, I’m in love with the African American culture. I’ve always felt a sort of a very distinctive form of spirituality within myself since I was a kid. My women, my Muses, were Aretha, Etta James, Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Whitney Houston, Nina Simone. I dreamt to be like them, and in their voices and skin color, I’ve always identified myself, in those shades so significantly rich. I still cry over the same songs, like “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday. I found the gospel, the one I was looking for. I’ve been part of a choir for a very long time, and my last time in New York gifted me with an unforgettable experience. I sang in a Harlem’s cathedral accompanied by a wonderful choir. My African American colleagues tell me that I have a black soul. I wish I could find out who I was in another life…

“Faith Within Your Hands” an original song by Alessandra Salerno

Some time ago I had the chance to interview another great Sicilian Singer-Songwriter, Carmen Consoli. She was telling me about her love for the ladies of the American blues music, and she compared them to Rosa Balistreri, the myth of the Sicilian, female songwriting tradition. Because in her opinion, Blues as a genre and an attitude, comes from the same suffering, the same cry of pain that turns into ransom, and from a similar sense of belonging to one’s roots. Do you agree with this definition and what is blues for you?

I totally agree! And I always made this parallel. The music from the South of the world has blues in its veins. The ‘blue notes’ are by definition dark, and the color blue connects with some nostalgic, suffered feelings. Modern music comes from the slaves’ working the camps, from those prayers that would mark the days passing by and the job’s rhythms. The south of the world is united by this hardness of life, this sense of ransom and this strong spirituality. You can find all of this in Rosa Balistreri’s voice. I started singing Rosa when I was 8 years old. These are natural inclinations, everything would lead me to those singers. They are all women, singers, souls made of the same matter. Among them, I would also mention two other icons of the Black Music from the South: Chavela Vargas and Cesària Évora.

Alessandra Salerno performs “Who Told You”. English version of “Cu ti lu dissi’ by Rosa Balistreri.

Recently, you’ve been the recipient of an award dedicated to Rosa Balistreri; and you are the first performer ever to translate her in English. How important it is for you Rosa’s exemplary as an artist and a woman, and what do you feel when you embody and present her to the foreigner’s stages. 

The award has been a great honor for me. As I said, I started to pay homage to her since the very first time I went on stage as a kid. Rosa would tell me of a Palermo I didn’t know. Some would argue that I was too young at that time to understand her, but I’ve always been a very empathetic person, and I would say that she helped me develop my sensitivity, as an artist and a human being. She was one of the first-ever female songwriters in Italy, and her life has been very troubled and, as it happens to many artists, she ended up dying poor and misunderstood. To me, to bring her with me today and putting her on the setlist of my shows alongside my own songs and the tributes to the women that we talked about before, is a moral duty as well as an artistic pleasure. The idea of translating her popular song ‘Cu ti lu dissi’ in “Who Told You”, came because I thought that I needed to gift the world with a version that everybody can understand. Towards the end of the song, I sing in the Sicilian dialect as well, to honor my roots. Every time I sing it in front of an American audience, I witness many different emotional reactions, that move me and for which I’m so so grateful.

Alessandra is a woman…? 

She is a woman with her feet on the ground but with her head chasing dreams. I don’t fear death, but I can be afraid of the future. I wish I will have all the time to make all of my dreams as an artist and a woman come true. I’m very determined but I always try to act out of respect for the others, generosity and giving space to my inner child, who keeps on giving me the enthusiasm needed to keep on going and appreciate life’s little pleasures. 

The World Stage is shutting down at the moment, but the show must go on and will go on. We were expecting you on the New York stages this spring, but I’m sure that the waiting will just make the comeback even more explosive. After all, even a volcano stays quiet before the eruption. What can we expect from your next artistic eruptions?

When this panicking climate will end, we will get back on our feet, even stronger than before. New York is a city dear to my heart, and I can’t wait to go back with my new album in my hands Alessandra Salerno – VOL.1 and a live show that will see me more mature, aware and ready to move my audience singing in my three languages: English, Italian and Sicilian. I wish to establish myself, even more, for who I am – an exotic artist always looking for something special and unique to communicate. My Autoharp will always be here with me of course, but I plan to play also other instruments on stage and also to dress up my songs with my own style. Remember, I’m also a fashion designer! 

For more info on Alessandra Salerno please visit: www.alessandrasalerno.com

Erica Jong – Navigating ‘Fear’ to Always say ‘Yes’ to the World

By Tommaso Cartia

Erica Jong
Erica Jong – Photo Credit Christian Als

The American novelist, satirist, poetess, and quintessential feminist icon Erica Jong opens the doors of her New York apartment to the Artistic Directors of Creative Pois-On, Daniela Pavan and Tommaso Cartia, for an intimate conversation. The author reflects on her life’s journey, on being a woman in the #metoo times of today, on her creative process and the remarkable impact that her revolutionary masterpiece ‘Fear of Flying’ had and still has on women all over the world. Plus she opens up about her loving relationship with Italy and her latest poetry book: ‘The World Began with Yes.”

Stepping into somebody’s else home can be a surreal experience. Like discovering a virgin territory, entering a new dimension. A home is somehow a sanctuary of our own life, of our own inner being, filled with memorabilia tracking down our personal history, the blueprint of our existential journey. Can we recall what were the very first impressions of a place the very first time we stepped foot into it? I can certainly recall what I felt when I entered Mrs. Jong’s apartment in New York. Overwhelming is the geometry of this sensation; vivid vivaciousness is the colorful pattern of this sensation.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST EPISODE HERE

As we stepped into the living room, you could immediately sense the density of a life intensely lived, of a writer who is a life’s traveler. A space exuberant with art and exquisite interior design taste – Jong’s mother, Eda Mirsky Mann, was a painter and a designer – artifacts from all over the world, and of course books, a bibliothèque of books, and a writing station that you would guess must be the altar where the ritual of storytelling is performed. 

Erica Jong
Erica Jong

The colors all over the room are bright, luminous and welcoming, and they match the richness of the red floral pattern that blooms on the blouse Mrs. Jong wears, and they match the warm embrace with which she invites us into her world. A poetical world of creativity, intellect, inquisitiveness, empowerment, wittiness, good humor and open-hearted humanity. The world of a dreamer who keeps on writing poetry because: “it keeps me in touch with the unconscious”. Let’s step into Erica Jong’s world together. Ready, set, imagine…

TOMMASO – Today we are going to explore with you what role Love & Erotism play in your narratives, poetical aesthetic, and emotional and intellectual journey as a writer who so fearlessly broke so many taboos that were imprisoning the expression of women, from the 70’s to our ‘times up’ times. Starting from the groundbreaking masterpiece “Fear of Flying”. How did the idea of the book come about?

ERICA JONG — People ask me that question all the time and I don’t really know. I know that I was keeping notebooks throughout my twenties, but I had no idea they would turn into a novel. Then, I went to this conference of psychoanalysts (because at that time I was married to one), and it was so funny and crazy that I thought: “this is the frame for the book; but the book has to go back and forward in time, it can’t just be in one time.” It’s a book about my whole life up to the age of 28 and looking at it, I never thought I would have found a way to tell the story. 

T — So the book is a reflection of yourself as a woman at that moment in time. But was it also inspired by different traits of an ideal woman? 

E — Both I would say. I was noticing that books were missing the interior life of a woman. That was the period where all the novels where about mad housewives. In the 60s/70s, women were just satisfied with their lives, but not knowing where to go. I came to hate these mad housewives’ novels because the end of every novel seemed all so similar to me. I wanted to talk about the interior life of a woman in a different way. 

DANIELA PAVAN — Have you always considered yourself a feminist or was that a label that has been attached to you? And how different it is to be a feminist in the #metoo era? 

E — I have been a feminist my whole life. My mother was a feminist, my grandmother was a feminist… I don’t think there was ever a time in my life when I thought that women were completely free to be themselves. It was always a motivation for me to write books about women in which they were both sexual and intellectual. Because in most books about women, either the woman is completely consumed with sexuality or she has no sexuality and she’s just an intellectual and I thought, “it isn’t true. We are both.” 

T — Did you have a perception of the impact that the book would have on women at the time you published it? 

E — I think that you can never imagine that the lightning will strike. Sometimes a book intersects with the time and it suddenly becomes a phenomenon. You can’t control that, and you’d be a terrible egotist to imagine it would happen to your book because it happens very rarely. I remember my American publisher saying: “we’ll publish 5000 copies and we’ll probably have to eat them.” Then, my paperback publisher which at that time had a woman in charge said: “I will not buy the book unless you agree to print 35000 copies, because this book is the story of my life and the story of every woman’s life.” She really enforced it. If the book had not come out in a time when there were women in charge of publishing houses, the whole thing would’ve been different.

Erica Jong – Photo Credit Gianni Franchellucci

The Egyptian journalist Mona Eltahawy wrote a very influential book where she says, “the Middle East needs a sexual revolution.” Who knows how soon it will come, but allowing women to have sexual desire has been a problem throughout history. I think that it has been because it’s much stronger than masculine sexuality, and people want to control and contain it. There have always been periods where women’s sexuality is alive and then inevitably goes backward.

D — In your opinion, how much is a woman really free to express her sexuality? And how much is she allowed to express her romantic side? Also, do you think that a woman can be driven by a strong male energy and vice versa? 

E — I certainly think a woman can be attracted to that kind of energy, but I wouldn’t call it male. I would call it energy. It takes different forms. There’s no doubt in my mind that sexual energy is related to creativity. As long as women were held down sexually, they’re also not allowed to express their creativity. The two are connected. 

T — Allowing your body and feelings to be naked, exposed and unleashed, can be paralyzing. In March, with Creative Pois-On we are also covering the storytelling of the stage, and we are thinking about this concept that ‘stage fright’ is actually something that we experience on and off a stage when we have to be under the spotlight of our own both professional and personal life. How did you explore the themes of fear and change in your writing?

E — When I’m writing I always tell myself that no one is going to read it and that it’s just for me. When I have to send the book out to my agent and to my publisher, I feel terrified. Always. There’s a moment where I just don’t want to do it. I experience that with every book. I force myself and I’m always sure that nobody will like it. 

D — In the book, Fear of Dying your character experiences the death of her parents and she’s losing her husband too. What advice would you give to women who, in situations of change and dramatic events, think that they are not strong enough to face it? 

E — Life is change. As all the Buddhists say we try to keep life still, but we can’t. Nothing is permanent. We have to accept that and it’s really hard. I’ve just been reading this book by Pema Chödrön “The Buddhist’s Nun”, where she reflects on how to deal with the uncomfortable of life. She says that we fight against change, but change is the nature of life. We are never going to be able to stop change. If we think we can, we’re deluding ourselves. Even when you think things are settled, they’re never settled. I would hope that my books give women (and men) courage. That’s my deepest wish. 

T — Talking about women’s portrayal in contemporary fiction, movies , and TV. Where do you think that the imagery of the woman is going, and what is your take on a phenomenon like The Handmaid’s Tale, the TV show based on Margaret Atwood’s novel? 

Erica Jong

E — Margaret Atwood wrote The Handmaid’s Tale 40 years ago. I remember going to the first movie that was made of it because she was somebody I knew, we were poets together and we wrote first novels around the same time. The book starts with the fear that human beings will not be able to reproduce because the planet is dying, which we’re very aware of now. That was really the starting point for the book. We’re still dealing with that — people are afraid of having children in a world where the planet, the animals and the plants are dying. She saw very early what was going on. But it was only the tv-series that made the book so known worldwide. 

D — To stay in the lines of pop culture and current social phenomenon, I’m curious to ask you, what do you think about dating nowadays and the use of the dating apps?

E — I can’t imagine going to Tinder and swiping through faces and profiles. People lie about their age, their pictures. It doesn’t seem like a great idea to me, but I know about a lot of people that have met that way. Every time I’ve been single, dating had changed. 

T — As you may know, we are both Italians, so we can’t miss the chance to ask you about your relationship with Italy and Italian literature. What did it mean to you to win the Fernanda Pivano award and how was it meeting the great Umberto Eco

E — Nanda was lovely to me she took care of me like a mommy almost. One time, when I was going to the Maurizio Costanzo Show, (a popular Italian talk show Ed.) at that time she thought that Maurizio was a bit of a sexist and so she said: “I’m not letting Erica go without me on the show ”. She came to defend me. She was very tender and sweet and every time I was in Italy, I would visit her. I met Umberto Eco here at the Italian Cultural Institute. I was asked to introduce him when his The Name of the Rose came out. We were supposed to have a dialogue, but Umberto, practically, would not let me talk. He just talked over me. I’ve met him a few times, including Stefano his son ( I find him so nice). Umberto was an old-fashioned Italian, with a patriarchal mentality. 

Erica Jong and Fernanda Pivano at the ‘Fernanda Pivano Award’

Why do I love Italy? Italy is the one country in the world where you have permission to be human. You have permission to make mistakes, to laugh at yourself, to fail and recover. What I like about the Italian character is that you’re allowed to be a human being. Americans are so obsessed with success — we’re so afraid of failure and in Italy there’s some kind of humor about people. Not that Italian people aren’t neurotic, but the idea that you’re going to make mistakes, you’re not going to perfect all the time, that’s very deep and in the Italian character. I love that! 

In my Italian language course, we had to read Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio. It’s really a book about failure and success, it is so profound. And really, what is Pinocchio’s problem? I want to be a human being. I don’t want to be a puppet. And be able to laugh at yourself. That’s deep in the Italian character. How can you go through life if you can’t laugh at yourself? 

D — What relationship do you have with your imagination? 

E — I’m a big dreamer. I continue to write poetry because it keeps me in touch with the unconscious. I’m very proud that my latest book The World Began with Yes, is published in Italian as well with the title “Il Mondo è Cominciato Con Un Si”, by the Publisher Bompiani, translated by Giovanna Granato with a foreword by Bianca Pitzorno

Italian Book Cover by Bompiani

In this book a wrote a poem that reads (she recites):

The World Began With Yes
One molecule said yes to another molecule and life was born – Clarice Lispector

It was always yes, sì, da, yah
The sibilant sound of assent,
The slippery tongue in the mouth
Of the lover, the da dawning.
The yah yelling,
The sì, sì, sì, sugary & sweet…

It is so nice that I got them to do a two languages edition. If you read poems aloud to yourself, it’s so much easier to understand. I’ve always felt that the voice gives life to the poetry. 

T — Talking about reading poems aloud, you do a lot of public speaking, so how do you use your voice and how does your communication change when you are on stage? 

E — I’ve become very comfortable speaking in public. Sometimes I get up on stage with no notes at all and just talk, but it took a long time to get there. Occasionally, I would do that in Italy, but I feel that my Italian is not literary enough. I love the Italian language. First of all, it’s a language for poetry and opera because there are so many rhymes. My very favorite is Don Giovanni. Some of my books I put Don Giovanni and listen to it while writing. 

D — I’d like to know what you think about podcasting? 

E — People go around with their headsets and experience you through your voice. I think it’s a very interesting medium. 

T — Coming towards the end of our conversation, I really want to thank you for the kind generosity with which you shared your story. So now what’s next for you after the publishing of ‘The World Began with Yes? 

E — I’ve just written an autobiography called “Selfie”. It’s like a self-portrait. 

About ‘The World Began with Yes’ – Il mondo è cominciato con un sì

Erica Jong has never stopped writing poetry. It was her first love and it has provided inspiration for all her other books. In a dark time, she celebrates life. Her title comes from the Brazilian genius Clarice Lispector who was deeply in love with life despite many tragedies. Life challenges us to celebrate even when our very existence is threatened. Never have we needed poetry more. Jong believes that the poet sees the world in a grain of sand and eternity in a wildflower—as Blake wrote. Her work has always stressed the importance of the lives of women, women’s creativity, and self-confidence. She sees her role as a writer as inspiring future poets to come. 

For more info on Erica Jong please click here: www.ericajong.com

Personal Training: Poetry & Exercise Tips

David James Parr

Don’t hold a grudge. Mold one instead, into the form of non-fat erotic, neurotic and quixotic poetry and exercise tips by our Staff Writer and Contributor, Award-Winning Author and Playwright, David James Parr. February is gone but Love & Eroticism are still in the air. This March, Creative Pois-On is “On Stage”, exploring the storytelling of Broadway and the theater, but also of all of the passion, the courage, and the fearlessness that it takes to go on the stage of our own life, conquering the demons of any stage fright, to live as the protagonists of the most truthful idea that we have of ourselves. And that’s what “Personal Training: poetry & exercise tips”, does. With this brand-new poetry collection, David James Parr takes us behind the scenes of the creation of the man and the artist he is today, in the middle of the most feral and yet lovingly human ‘stage fright’ of his earlier years in New York City. A coming of age story, from the warm-up to the toughest training that it takes to get rid of the life that we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.

Enjoy these excerpts from the book – and to read more please CLICK HERE

David James Parr
David James Parr, “warming up”.

“The Warm-Up”

“Here it comes
all hips and zipper
Here he comes
all Jack-the-Ripper

Stand upright
Feet shoulder-width apart
Don’t think of his shoulders
Nor their width

Keep arms at sides
Don’t think of his arms
Nor his sides

Reach up towards sky
Arching back
Don’t think of his back
Nor its arch

Here he comes
all torso and swagger
Here he comes
All cloak and dagger

Hold position for 60 seconds
Breathing normally
Don’t think of his breathing
Nor what was once normal”

David James Parr
David James Parr, “like Wolf and Plath and Hemingway”

“Like Woolf and Plath and Hemingway”

“One by one we all run away
like Woolf and Plath
and Hemingway.

Some leave notes,
some leave crumbs,
some dots to connect one by one.

You can read between the lines
but first you have to plant the vines,
and hear the words: “You’re mine.”

You’re told you’re in a quiet mood,
you’re told to change your attitude,
then you hear this word:
unglued.

The Poetry Collection Cover Book


And then comes that day
when you realize: You may.
Like Woolf and Plath
and Hemingway.

To run away may seem a child’s game,
to such a death you can attach your name,
and look what happens: instant fame.

But are they forgotten with the book?
Downward all eyes would look,
when realizing what they took.

To disappear, a fleeting thought.
Would you like forever just to rot?
Um, well, no
Maybe not.

Still their brains I’d like to pick away.
Can’t we all just have brunch Sunday?
Woolf and Plath
and Hemingway.

Is it that we’ve all been fooled?
Did they give all they should?
Or was it only what they could?

You wake again, and yes, the sky.
Another night has passed on by,
his arm around you: a total lie.

The quiet begs you to stay.
Should you leave?  Who can say?
Not Woolf nor Plath
nor Hemingway.

Your eyes thirst for sleep,
you want the silence, you want the deep,
the dark, the stillness
there you’ll keep.

He announces that it’s morning time
If you trust his eyes, you might be fine.
Again, he whispers:  “You are mine.”

Like this, you keep it all at bay.
It’s been set on time delay.
Like Woolf and Plath
and Hemingway.”

David James Parr
David James Parr – Lensed by Shushu Chen

Writer David James Parr was born on a cul-de-sac in suburban Ohio and grew up on a farm in rural Pennsylvania, where he learned how to spell “cul-de-sac” and to mispronounce “rural”, respectively. He is the author of the novels Violet Peaks and Beauty Marksas well as the collection How To Survive Overwhelming Loss & Loneliness in 5 Easy Steps: Stories. His title story How To Survive Overwhelming Loss & Loneliness in 5 Easy Steps was chosen by Michael Cunningham (The Hours) as one of the Top 10 Stories in The Tennessee Williams Fiction contest, and is included in the anthology The Best Gay Stories of 2017. David’s story Mata Hari was also selected in 2015 as one of the winners of The Tennessee Williams Fiction contest. David’s plays Slap & TickleAlbee Damned and Pluto Is Listening have been produced all across the U.S. including Chicago, Dallas, New York, Provincetown and St. Petersburg, and his play Mimi at The 44th Parallel was a Top 10 Finalist in The Austin Film Festival’s 2019 Playwriting Competition. His fiction has appeared in Saints + SinnersMosaic and Feminisms. His play Eleanor Rigby Is Waiting was made into a film which premiered at the 2019 Manhattan Film Festival, winning Best Independent Feature.

Please stalk David further at:
Facebook: David James Parr Fiction
Instagram: DavidJamesParr
Twitter: @ParrFiction

Blue is the Warmest Color

Pantone Color

By Sabrina Wirth

What does it mean to experience a color? Is there a taste? A smell? A sound? How does a color make you feel? These might not be things that may naturally come to mind when entering a space, but they are precisely the questions that preoccupy the minds of the top color experts at the Pantone Institute of Color on a daily basis. Subconsciously, every color produces an emotional response in the human psyche, triggering sensations such as happiness, anxiety, fear, or calm. As Picasso once said, “Colors, like features, follow the changes of the emotions.” How then, does the Institute determine what the Color of the Year will be? In order to do so, they must collect multiple data points from around the world and distill the overarching global emotions, or “zeitgeist” down to one hue.

“I think sometimes people get the impression that color is a very fluffy kind of a decision,” says Lee Eiseman, Executive Director of the Institute. “And it’s not. It’s so integral to our work, and we justify our decisions, we do a lot of homework that leads us to that specific color.” Pantone, by the way, is responsible for Tiffany’s iconic shade of blue (1837 Blue) as well as the shade of Yellow (Minion Yellow) for the lovable characters in “Minions” and “Despicable Me”.

Lee Eiseman – Executive Director of the Pantone Institute of Color.

Behind every branding choice, there has been a depth of informed investigations into color psychology. To create the Color of the Year, research will usually begin a year in advance, with members of the Institute traveling around the world gathering information on color trends that they see arising organically within different industries. This will include investigations within art exhibitions, films, popular cosmetics, fashion, new technology, and even the automotive industry. They look at whether any particular colors keep reappearing in certain areas of design, and where there is a direction that the color/design scheme seems to be headed.  After the members of the Institute have gathered enough data points, they will meet to discuss the color they have decided on. To Lee’s constant amazement, they almost always conclude with the same shade. This year it is: “Pantone 19-4052 Classic Blue”.

Artech House
The “Submerge” exhibition at the Artechouse in N.Y.C. Picture Courtesy of the Artech House -Twitter Account

“It’s a color that anticipates what’s going to happen next,” said Laurie Pressman, the vice president of the Pantone Color Institute. “What’s the future going to bring as we move into the evening hours?” Specifically, Eiseman says, “the blue is the shade of the sky at twilight when the day is winding down and we’re looking forward to a little bit of peace and quiet.” It is a color that evokes calm and hope in a time when there is a lot of uncertainty around the world. Even the name has symbolism. It “tells you that it’s a color that has some history, that there’s tradition tied into it, but it also is a futuristic color, a color we attach to hi-tech and digital products.” Normally, Pantone will unveil their Color of the Year through multiple press outlets, but this year will mark the first time the Institute has chosen to present the color with an immersive, experiential exhibition that engages not only the visual senses but all the other senses as well. Their partner for this initiative? Artechouse. One of the most innovative museums and artistic production platforms to emerge within New York’s culture scene in the past year. With groundbreaking technology that includes L’ISA Immersive Hyperreal Sound with 32 separate sound channels and 18K resolution projectors, Artechouse was the perfect partner to transform the color into an experience. 

Artechouse
Presentation of the “Submerge” Exhibition at Artechouse. Courtesy of Artechouse Twitter Account.

When founders Sandro Kereselidze and Tati Pastukhova received the call from Pantone Color Institute in October, they were immediately enthusiastic about the artistic challenge. “For me,” recalls Sandro, “it was very exciting in the sense that every designer or anyone who’s in a creative field really appreciates the Pantone Institution. And on top of that, for announcing a color, it was, of course, a big honor for us. Right away we said ‘yes, let’s make it happen!” Within a few months, the Artechouse team developed an installation with Mexican based designers Intus Interactive Design that would be debuted for its first, private viewing in December, and a more public, updated viewing in February to coincide with the start of New York’s Fashion Week. The response was better than both institutions had anticipated, resulting in daily sold-out shows, and highly documented stories all over Instagram. For the exhibition “Submerge”, Artechouse converted their space -a former Chelsea Market boiler room- into a dreamlike world where visitors are invited to explore different spaces that induce Classic Blue emotions through sight, smell, feel, and taste. If the first floor is the appetizer in this feast of the senses, with interactive monitors to play with, and drinks called “Resilience”, “Calm”, and “Reflection” available to order at the Augmented Reality bar, the main course is the grand open space below deck. Upon walking down the stairs, one gets the sense of plunging into a borderless space, where images morph in and out of the walls to create a feeling that anything is possible. 

Submerge Artechouse
From the “Submerge” Exhibition at Artechouse. Courtesy of Artechouse Twitter Account.

Looking back at the work that went behind creating this cutting-edge narrative around Pantone’s Color of the Year, Sandro likened it to a “miracle”: “We have the idea and the knowledge of how it should be done but until it comes to life, it’s impossible to know the end result. That’s the beauty of being a creative – is that you really don’t know what to expect. And it’s always a beautiful surprise in the end… It just comes out as a miracle”.

Artechouse’s third installation “Intangible Forms” opens on March 3rd. 

A Taste of Love

St. Valentine's

by Pamela Fernandes

I remember Maya Angelou’s words, “Eating is so intimate. It’s very sensual. When you invite someone to sit at your table and you want to cook for them, you’re inviting a person into your life.” As we celebrate Valentine’s Month and all things love, I can’t help but think about all the little ways food enhances our love. If you consider your own love stories, I’m sure you’re mind would go back to those coffee dates, dinners— casual fare or expensive three-course meals, chocolates, wine, and cake. Even the occasions we celebrate to mark our love, engagements, weddings, and anniversaries, all include food. We say “I love you” through the food we share and the meals we make for the people we deeply care about. There’s an intimacy to sharing food. 

What To Cook?

Recall when you had your significant other come over to your place for the first time. You must have agonized over what to serve. What must be their taste? Or what about that first date? I’d bet money that you spent an hour or so considering which restaurant and the cuisine that they would enjoy. Why? Because food conveys our love. Food is an expression of the deepest feelings in our hearts. And so, there are aphrodisiacs and foods that keep the romance alive, all in the hope that the spark we feel with another person is kindled and reciprocated in them. 

Wine

The movie Chocolat based on the novel by Joanne Harris demonstrates just that. Food and romance are two of the most basic pleasures in life. And with them intertwined, we satisfy the most basic needs of another. Food also forms a major part of our lives. One of the most important activities we’ll share with a lover is dining with them, as often as daily. Our dining companion is going to be someone who knows how to woo us with food. The people we do select to be our potential mates or lovers tend to be the people who make an amazing entrance, they order with elan, eat with gusto and make scintillating conversation that we can’t get enough of. How could we ignore the person who notices us cringe at our horribly mixed cocktail and orders a fine wine instead? How do we walk away from the woman who bakes a delicious chocolate cake that makes you go back for seconds? You don’t. And pair that with a conversation that has you reeling or enthralled. A lover with stories to tell. Those are the ones we keep. The ones we keep dating and inviting until finally, we realize we want them to talk to us forever, every day for the rest of our lives. 

A Taste Of Ourselves

Food is also a revelation of ourselves. Since what we eat is a reflection of our personalities, we show our lovers who we are through the food we cook or eat. In my latest romance, IN OTHER WORDS, my main protagonist is a chef. He cooks foods close to his heart; foods that remind him of the happy part of his childhood. Lobster bisque and clam chowder, classic Maine food that formed his past and shaped his future. He takes out the Trish on a date to an Upta Camp and shows her Maine through the food and drink; seafood and Moxie. 

Breakfast, kiwi

When someone cooks their grandmothers’ turkey recipe for Thanksgiving or takes you out to their favorite hang out for a burger, they’re inviting you to look at who they are. They’re telling you, “Hey, this is me.” 

Our food reflects us. In his famous book, In Search Of Lost Time, Proust recalls how the taste of tea mixed with a madeleine transported him back to that time in Combray when he visited his aunt and she’d dip the biscuit in her tisane and give it to him. He says of that memory, “And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory – this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence.” The memory of that biscuit filled him with love, that sweet magic ingredient that makes life worth living.

Celebrate With Food

Therefore, this year, if you’re tempted to skimp on the chocolates or just hand over a bouquet of flowers, think again. Why not tell someone how you feel through food? Go out to dinner, cook something special or splurge on the wine. The food is a part of you, a part of the promise of your relationship and it is you expressing yourself and your love. 

Heart, Love

It invokes memories and forges new ones. It allows you to let other people see you and your intentions towards them. And it’s so much more. As Alan D Wolfelt said, “Food is symbolic of love when words are inadequate.” It’s not the taste of food but quite spectacularly the taste of love. 

I leave you with an Irish blessing;

May love and laughter light your days,

and warm your heart and home.

May good and faithful friends be yours,

wherever you may roam.

May peace and plenty bless your world

with joy that long endures.

May all life’s passing seasons

bring the best to you and yours!

Happy Hearts day! 

Photographer Reka Nyari – #MyBodyBelongsToMe

Geisha Ink
Ginzilla in ‘Geisha Ink’ by Reka Nyari

Artistic Directors of Creative Pois-On Tommaso Cartia and Daniela Pavan interview the Master of visual storytelling at the Black Book Gallery, New York, on the occasion of the artist’s ‘INK Stories’ exhibition. In the month dedicated to the storytelling of Love & Erotism, Creative Pois-On embarks in a voluptuous journey with this sensorial conversation where the photographer shares her aesthetic and narratives surrounding gender and sexuality in refreshingly unapologetic ways.

When asked about her creative process, and the subjects that she captures on camera, Reka Nyari has stated, “I want to find out the darkness and the edge behind that person.” The central theme of Nyari’s storytelling finds its completion in the ‘INK’ series: an intimate study of self-identity and female empowerment through nude portraiture.

Reka Nyari
Reka Nyari

Her vision and her visuals turned her into a worldwide known phenomenon. She is the recipient and the winner of many prestigious awards, including first place at the International Photography Awards (IPA) 2010, Beauty Pro Category. Her 225-page Monograph titled “Femme Fatale: Female Erotic Photography” has been published in 6 languages. And her commercial client list includes names like Kiki de Montparnasse, Fleur du Male, RADO Switzerland, AOL, Liz Claiborne, Makeup Forever, DC Comics, Sally Hansen and Ultra Records. She appeared in various magazines like Esquire, Vanity Fair, Tatler, Korean Cosmopolitan, and Vogue. Outspoken and elegant, poignant, eversive but also embracing, inclusive and motherly, Reka’s spirit embodies the most ancestral powers of the archetypical female figures but she is also very current, a woman of her times. Proof of that is the #MyBodyBelongsToMe campaign that outraged the social media and the predominantly patriarchal society with its raw message: “I shot over 60 women from all backgrounds, ages, and sizes to protest control over the female bodies. It made the news all over the world as a commentary to Facebook censorship.”

Find out more in this interview where the artist opens her heart and unleashes her passions withing to our Artistic Directors.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST EPISODE HERE

Daniela Pavan — I would like to start by asking you. What does love mean, to you? Do you have an image, a photograph of it?

Reka Nyari — The first thing I think about is my family, my amazing husband of fifteen years, who is super sweet and supportive and then our four-year-old daughter. I love them very much and it fills my heart with happiness when I think of them. 

Tommaso Cartia — Your nudes are some stunningly beautiful works of art. What do you think the storytelling of nudity is? What is nudity for you?

R — I think that when we are naked, whether being photographed or otherwise, we’re in a more vulnerable position, a truthful one. How we carry ourselves and how we even look around ourselves, our gestures, our gaze, even the way we walk speaks so much about us and our experiences. Both sometimes in negative and positive contexts. Once you remove the fashion, the outfits, the make-up, the photos become more lasting and timeless, they become us. 

Levitate, Reka Nyari.
Blooming Ink by Reka Nyari.

T — I’m very fascinated by your series of nudes entitled “INK”. “Geisha Ink”, “Valkyrie Ink”, “Mother Ink”, “Reaper Ink” and “Blooming Ink”. They tell stories of different types of women, stories of abuse and survival, of death and resurgence. Why did you choose ink as a pictorial element on their bodies, is that like a brush that writes and marks on their skins both the struggles and the romance of their existence? 

R — When I first started shooting women, I was fascinated and amazed by the resilience and the narrative that they had and I wanted to tell their stories to the world. For example, the first woman that I shot, Ginzilla, when I got to know her I’ve found out that she had grown up in a very traditional Japanese family of an uncompromisingly strict conservative-values, where her mother was very controlling and she wasn’t allowed to do any of the things a teenage girl normally does. So… She rebelled and started dating a tattoo artist. And after her first tattoo, she covered her entire body with tattoos designed by her but done by her lovers. It’s her love story, written on her body and at the time of the shoot her family still had no idea that she had any tattoos. It was this quiet rebellion, marked on her skin.

Reka Nyari
Reaper Ink by Reka Nyari.

D — You once said: “Female sexuality is the most powerful thing in the world.” Why do you think that so many people are ashamed or scared of it? And what difference do you see, if you see a difference, between the concepts of beauty, sexuality and vulnerability?

R — I think it’s all about control. I think we can see it from all different societies and religions that are focused on controlling female sexuality and sexuality in general. You can be beautiful, sexual and vulnerable and all of those things separately. I think it’s also important for women to claim back their own sexuality and nudity. The more we normalize it, the more power it has. We should not shame our bodies and we should not let anybody shame them. 

Reka Nyari.
Reka Nyari.

D — You recently published on your Instagram account a series of pictures you took for the #MyBodyBelongsToMe campaign that is still super relevant today! You shot over 60 women from all backgrounds, ages, and sizes to protest against the control over the female bodies. Also, you made headlines all over the world because this campaign was censored on Facebook. What can you tell us about it?

R — I was inspired by a young Tunisian woman called Amina Tyler. She did some self-portraits that she put on social media with her nipples out. Then, she received death threats and had to escape her family. Women from all over the world started posting pictures of themselves to support her. stating things like: “if you’re going to kill her, you might as well kill all of us.” I figured we could have done something about it in New York and a lot of women came forward. For me, nudity is not a big issue, but so many women in New York were posing for the first time naked or topless and it was this empowering moment of saying “I’m not ashamed of my breasts, even if my kid’s teacher sees this.”

#mybodybelongstome
#MyBodyBelongsToMe Campaign

D — Let’s tell a little bit of your story. You were born in Helsinki and you grew up between Finland and Hungary, then you moved to New York in your late teenage years to study at the SVA – School of Visual Art. If you can think of two photographs, what’s the portrait of your hometown and your roots that you carry within yourself and what’s your snapshot in time of New York City?

R — When I was growing up I was actually really shy and withdrawn. I was always an artist, but I felt like I was a little bit lost, I was a tomboy. I don’t know what photographs would really describe me… Maybe something that has a feeling of isolation like in the Nude York series of mine. Being alone in the city and finding yourself and your way.

Reka Nyari
Valkyrie Ink by Reka Nyari

D — How did these two different environments inspire the artist that you are today? And what’s the inspiration behind your Nude York series?

R — I think that everybody has different sides of their personality. I have a side that is very introverted and quiet and I like to work on all these concepts by myself and I also have a dark quality that I think that it comes from growing up in Finland, which can be a country with a very melancholic atmosphere. I’m really attracted to darkness, but then I’m also super social. That’s also what I like about photography, I get to meet and work with amazing people and build something together, it’s not just me in my room by myself creating. I think photography is something that binds these two aspects: introverted and social. 

T — Your artistic expression is also inspired by the cinematography and the eccentric narratives of directors like Roman Polanski, David Lynch, as well as by the art of Helmut Newton, Guy Bourdin, Miles Aldridge, and, Cindy Sherman, to name a few. How did these artists influence your own narrative?

R — One thing they all have in common is that they’re storytellers. I always felt that I was a storyteller even when I went to art school and I was studying painting, I felt like I was more of an illustrator. I didn’t want to do just the finished piece, I wanted to tell the story behind it and tell the process and the essence of the person. Also, I love that darkness, that weirdness, and the edginess that all of the artists and the directors you’ve mentioned have.

Reka Nyari
Mother Ink by Reka Nyari

D — Among your many accomplishments, it is remarkable the work that you have been doing with the Human Rights Foundation for years, shooting portraits of some of the most courageous activists in the World. What can you tell us about this significant project?

R — I’ve been working with the Human Rights Foundation for years and just loved meeting women’s’ activists that are fighting throughout the world for child rights, females empowerment and all kind of different issues. It has been an amazing process to give back to this community with my photography, shooting people who maybe never had a photograph taken before but it was a great way for them to have their voices heard. 

D — You are also a mom. How did motherhood affect your work and perspective in life?

R — I was so worried when I got pregnant because I have always worked for myself and I’m an artist. I think a lot of women are worried that a child could still their identity. But it has actually made me a better person. I feel more grounded, having my daughter made me focus on my work even more. I started looking at my reel and I was like, “who do I want to be as a role model for my daughter? What kind of things do I want to do, do I want to embody and portray?”

T — What are your upcoming projects?

R — The show at the Blackbook Gallery is going to be up until March 15th, they extended it. Then, I have a big solo exhibition at the Framing Gallery in Chelsea in September and October and then a book coming out of the whole series. 

T — If you can leave us with an image of the woman of the future, a photograph, what that would be? 

R — The image that I really would love to see is of more women in power, united with men of course. More images of equality and acceptance.

Interview with Refik Anadol – A.I. and Machine Hallucination: The Fourth Version Of Imagination

Refik Anadol
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Few people in the world can say that they’ve seen it all. Refik Anadol has done much more than that: he has created more. His body of work locates creativity at the intersection of humans and the machines. Media Artist, Director, and Pioneer in the aesthetic of artificial intelligence, Anadol paints with a thinking brush, offering the radical visualizations of our digitized memories, along with expanding new possibilities of architecture, narrative and the body in motion. In this interview, Anadol not only pleases us in describing the creativity and passion behind his work but also enriches the conversation by making spiritual connections to what it means to be a human being.

As Anadol correctly states “when thinking about time-space and past-future, I believe that our physical sensors have incredible potential.” This is exactly what Anadol’s body of work challenges every day: the possibilities and the ubiquitous computing imposed on humankind and what it means to be a human in the age of Artificial Intelligence. One of Anadol’s most groundbreaking creation is for sure Machine Hallucination, where the artist has used 300 million publicly available images of New York City. For the WDCH Dreams exhibition instead, he accessed 100 years of the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s digital archives. In Oakland’s Sense of Place, he worked with real-time environmental data; and for the Charlotte Airport’s Interconnected project, he utilized real-time airport statistics. Refik is the recipient of a great variety of awards including the Lorenzo Il Magnifico Lifetime Achievement Award for New Media Art, the Microsoft Research’s Best Vision Award, German Design Award, UCLA Art + Architecture Moss Award, University of California Institute for Research in the Arts Award, SEGD Global Design Awards, and Google’s Artists and Machine Intelligence Artist Residency Award.

Listen to the Creative Interview Episode Here.

Refik Anadol joins Artistic Directors of Creative Pois-On, Tommaso Cartia and Daniela Pavan, for an intimate conversation where human nature is explored, along with its infinite possibilities and potentialities. Ready, set and imagine with this soulful artist gifted with an extraordinary ability to channel the world surrounding us into dreamy stories sparked with the power of our own imagination.

Tommaso – How did your unique art research start and when did art become such a fundamental part of your life?

Refik Anadol – I think I started my journey very at eight years old when I watched the movie Bladerunner — that movie changed my life. The same year I’ve got my first computer and that was also a very changing experience. I was always dreaming about the near future. I transformed my imagination into a form of art.

Refik Anadol
Refik Anadol in his studio

Daniela – How do you create these very intricated installations?

R – I’m obsessed with data, light, algorithms and recent A.I. intelligence. Eight years ago, I discovered the VVVV software. Without writing a code, you can connect notes and create a meaningful software algorithmic logic to pretty much anything: the sound, the text, the visual, the data eventually.

T — Is it something that is now in development? 

R — It’s been more than fifteen years actually. They mostly use it in Germany, but it’s now all over the world. I’ve been using it for ten years now.

T — You put all of this into Machine Hallucination that it’s now on display at the ARTECHOUSE in NYC. Can you tell us more about it? 

R — I’m very inspired by how we as humans can perceive things and create a memory and dream with that. With A.I., we can now experience this feeling like a narrative, as a new form of cinema. I use mounting memories, adopting the A.I. to visualize our memories, particularly the actual moment of remembering.  I’m trying to combine A.I., neuroscience, and architecture to produce the hallucination of buildings and environments transforming in space and time. I want to display the memory of a building. I think it’s an incredible story and narrative that can inspire and create new ways of imagination. Machine hallucination is the fourth version of this imagination. 

ARTECHOUSE NYC | Machine Hallucination • Artist Insight: Refik Anadol

D Art is a way to tell stories, data and numbers are a way to justify decisions – creativity meets logic… it’s like when the impossible becomes possible. How do you build this bridge?

I’m thinking about these experiences as a cinema, instead of just sculptures or paintings. Memory in the 21st century is also data – our likes, shares and comments, the technology we’re using every day, is a form of memory. This is one of the reasons why this project is letting audiences being inside the story by immersing themselves in it. You’re stepping inside of the machine. It’s not fake and the feeling of stepping inside is honest, is real.

T – It seems to me that your work, speaks, profoundly, about the individuality of the human being and of the universe we live in. When you talk about dreams and hallucinations, are you thinking in a scientific way or a spiritual one? And, how do you personally approach the mystery of the unknown?

R – If you think about memories and dreams, there’s the human soul. And emotions are much more complicated cognitive capacities of the human perception. Spirituality comes from the perception of time. The artwork should be communicated through different emotional impacts. We are surrounded by these machines and constantly moving by algorithms. The big question is, what does it truly mean to be a human in the 21st century? I think that the answer lies in the spiritual connection between humanity and technology.

WDCH Dreams
WDCH Dreams by Refik Anadol

T — What kind of response you got from the audience that really inspires you to progress with your research?

R — In the last three years, I think I’ve touched people in different ways. I’ve emotionally reached people that later sent me some very personal messages. I remember that one time somebody spent 5 hours in the Machine Hallucination exhibit, technically is a half an hour experience. In another installation of mine, Melting Memories, people experience such transformative feelings that they can stay in for three hours, and they don’t want to leave.

For more info on Refik Anadol please visit: www.refikanadol.com