EFFE Laureate - Altofest International Contemporary Live Arts

23 August, 2017

Location: Naples, Italy
Director: Anna Gesualdi and Giovanni Trono
Dates: 2017/07/05 – 2017/07/09
Art Disciplines: Dance, Film, Music, Theatre
Find out more about the festivals on their EFFE Profile and the Altofest International Contemporary Live Arts website.

Altofest is the antithesis of the usual big city festival. There are no parades, no great spectacular events in grand venues, no firework displays. Instead the short but intense festival takes small audiences into the homes of ordinary citizens in the centre of Naples and subjects them to work which goes against any notion of comfort. For the first week of July events each lasting not much more than an hour, take place from late afternoon into the late evening. At one level the productions are essentially domestic but at another the effect of experimental work is magnified in effect by the proximity between artist and audience.

Proximity is the key word for co-directors, Anna Gesualdi and Giovanni Trono. “We wanted to create a really intimate space between contemporary art and the people,” says Anna, “one at a time, forming an individual relationship that lets people take responsibility for their reactions.” Giovanni continues, “in a big theatre the audience are just numbers in a seat so that the relationship with the person next to you and the stage is that of two numbers. If you go into someone's house the quality of your presence is immediately different. People can look at each other and recognise them as witnesses in their own home.”

Anna is a theatre director and Giovanni an actor, dancer and choreographer. Inevitably perhaps, though there is some film and music, the emphasis is on theatre, dance and discussion. Despite its apparent informality and improvisational feel, Altofest is minutely designed. They act as dramaturgs, closely involved in how the events are shaped. Anna told me, “we collect the citizens, the collaborators and the spaces. We choose the artists from work they have already made and presented but we then watch and adapt it to the intimate space, we help the citizen and the artist connect.”

Giovanni admits the process does not always make for relaxation. “It's important to us that the house is, for the performance, a 'no comfort zone'. That way both the artist and the audience can go forward. We try to match the artist and the citizen in such a way that they can infect each other – the contemporary language of art infects the daily routine of a household and vice versa.”

The EFFE Jury said, “this quarter of Naples has mostly poor people, no intellectuals or rich, but they host the artists (of contemporary art, not pop or television) so it's something really exceptional for them. During the period of the festival something happens in that quarter – you can walk around there without risking anything. This is the future because such neighbourhoods will be the next frontiers in our cities: the new front line.”

By Simon Mundy for EFA