DECAMERON-19: dispatches from the isolated city 

A transnational collaboration from cities around the world, generating 100 stories in response to life during this global pandemic.

Shown in October 2020 at CENTRE OF GRAVITY at Soapworks in Bristol & at Sunaparanta Centre of the Arts in Goa

The project draws inspiration from the literature of plague, in particular Boccaccio’s ‘Decameron’, in which ten characters, sheltering in an empty villa outside Florence, tell each other stories whilst in isolation from the Black Death of 1348. DECAMERON-19, by contrast, plays out in the digital present, physically and virtually, in our streets and public spaces, under open skies and in cyber-space.

A network of artists from cities across the globe, many of whom were initially strangers to each other,
have been meeting weekly, virtually, to narrate stories lived, retold and performed through the project’s methodology of exchanging scores.

Each contributor, in turn, writes and presents a score which then becomes a tool for exploring the edges of shared, and separate, space. The embodied and situated responses, reflect the common and the unique spatial, psychological, social and political conditions we find ourselves in.

By interpreting the same score in different contexts, Decameronistas have been mapping their localities, and exchanging their experience of making work
in differing states of lockdown, restrictive policy measures and economic constraints. The emergent work, and the emergent colleagueship and friendship, is sustaining the group. The weekly conversations connect these different perspectives, and map the present, exploring the role of art in finding resource currently, and in imagined futures. The result is the co-production of new knowledge about the nature of living through multidimensional crises.
The DECAMERON-19 meetings have been full of laughter, and febrile, furtive, provocative exchange, leavened with a sense of underlying pathos at the state we find ourselves in, and the precarity of individuals situations at different times and places. Like Boccaccio’s novel, the emerging work provides a document of sorts of life at this time. His was written in the vernacular of the Florentine language, this account is written in the individual poetic visions, ritual inventions, weird fictions, unexpected narratives and humorous political critiques of makers, artists, musicians and others, employing their creativity in these transdisciplinary conversations.

As we now enter a new a phase of pandemic, and ever stricter measures to curb the rapid spread of an invisible contagion, we don’t see an obvious end to DECAMERON-19. Reaching 100 stories is our next milestone...


Expanding network: Anja Dimitrijevic; Laura Santini; Mathieu Tremblin, Cynthia Montier; Peter McCaughey; Sharmila Samant; Igor Ponosov; Zara Joan Miller; @xcrswx (Crystabel Riley & Seymour Wright); Robert Luzar; Deana Kolencíková; Thomas Lasbouygues; Ben Parry; Lia Mazzari; Epos 257; Encastrable; Jonathan Naas; Arzhel Prioul; Marianne Villière; Aïda Gomez; Vladimír Turner; Billy Steiger

Concept and curation: Lia Mazzari & Ben Parry


                                                                ( watch an excerpt here )