IIndoors night. The suite of a hotel. A young man in the foreground is making a phone call on loudspeaker. He speaks in an annoyed tone. Behind him two large red curtains of heavy fabric decorate the windows. He wears a white T-shirt with a colourful design on. He has tattoos on the back of his hands as well as part of his arms. In addition to the phone, he also holds an electronic cigarette. We hear the voice of a man he’s talking to and another one will be joining after a while. For the whole scene we will never see their faces and the place they are, we can only imagine them from the tone of their voice; we will have to imagine their age, facial expressions, clothing. During the phone call, however, it is certain that they will often look at each other and perhaps even talk to each other in gestures. “It is not editorially appropriate”. “I’m an artist, I get on a stage and I say what I want and take responsibility for what I say. The assertions that I quote in my text are verified, are assertions of Leghisti councillors who say “if I had a gay son I would burn him in the oven”. Why can’t I say it?”. “I’m just asking you to adjust to a system that you probably don’t recognize.” “So describe me this system! What is the incriminated part that is not good in the text?” “All those situations that you say with first and last names cannot be quoted”. “Why, are they not true? Have you checked if they are true?”. “Regardless”. “Why regardless?”. “Those statements can be said in contexts that are not the ones you are saying.” The young man, more and more incredulous, steps back instinctively towards a sofa making a small leap, turns right to look for something, behind him are now visible a nineteenth-century painting with the figure of a naked woman, a white lamp, an embroidered pillow. He takes some sheets from which he reads the sentence already mentioned. He gets closer until he gets in the foreground and we notice he has varnished nails. “Oh yes? So saying “if I had a gay son I would burn him in the oven” put in a different context takes on a different meaning?”. “I’m saying that this is not the correct context”. “But who does establish it? I on a stage I must be free to say the fuck I want, excuse me the French, you do not determine what I can or cannot say on a stage”.
We now hear a woman’s voice entering the scene. The call now involves four people. After a series of considerations the voice we heard at the beginning comes back stuttering. “Yes, I have to talk… I mean I have to ask… we have to do… We are in trouble”. They still exchange several thoughts, then the whole thing fades as if a mist enters around the characters; their voices slow down, they remain only in two from end to end of the phone. “I actually called you to sing”. “I report only facts, which are not objectionable because if a person says: If I had a gay son I would burn him in the oven, in what context it can be interpreted in a different way, if I had the other party in front of me what would he say about it, since there’s also a court case on this fact that I’m mentioning to you, let me understand. I’m embarrassed for you”.
They greet each other by scheduling a meeting the next day. The whole thing lasts just two minutes and twenty seconds. If you write on YouTube the word “telef…” (“phone…”) the suggestion after only five letters only leads to this phone call. It is an exchange between the musician Fedez, the organizers of the concert of May 1st and the deputy director of Rai Tre the day before the event to which the rapper was invited to perform. So far there have been different reactions and positions on this story. From those who bring the topic to a political level, to those who perceive the dynamics of commercial promotion, to those who think about the dependence of a person or not based on their economic possibilities and employment constraints. To others, all this just seems absurd. It’s been several weeks since it happened and this story already seems far way away but I’m interested in trying to consider something else and I do it starting from the strong feeling felt while listening to a sentence pronounced from the first time: “I’m an artist and when I get on a stage I do what I want”. I felt like in those movie scenes where a person in shock gets a slap to wake up. I must admit that I have never heard someone say something like that so confidently before, and I think maybe this story today allows us to think more deeply. We have seen without filters something similar to what we may have read, imagined and loved by studying the lives of many painting artists of the past, revolutionary poets or great directors who on various occasions have suffered forms of censorship. We know well that so many of these artists have fought silently through the poetic content of their works and it is not my intention to compare Fedez to others, I just want to take his words to reflect. Everyone now seems to have very precise ideas about what happened also because Fedez and his wife are now part of our daily life and since we live in this social era where every day we vote from our virtual pulpit the facts of the world with our thumbs up, on this occasion too we are excellent football coaches in front of the TV. But maybe we haven’t asked ourselves a few questions yet. What do we ask art for, what is it used for, how can an artist express themselves and above all what is the relationship between art and politics? The artist was called to sing but this time he chose not to perform the way others expected, with his music, with what normally makes us rejoice, laugh or cry. He didn’t come out of the spring box after we pressed the button and then went back in, he didn’t walk the wire without a safety net for applause and our amazement. He took from reality, the sad one, and spoke. And now, what do we do? Surely we judge but maybe we also reflect and, perhaps, by doing it we could also understand that the many hypotheses of this story that come to our mind can actually be answers on ourselves; answers that tell us how much in our small we manage to be more or less independent for or how too often so many details taken into consideration might be excuses that we create not to risk. It is not so often that we hear such simple but enormously powerful words, capable of shaking even for a few seconds the horrendous and badly written characters of our politics; in just two minutes, words of great importance were put on the plate in that phone call: freedom, artist, censorship, future, rights. In this small story there is perhaps a new journey to be made, light years far away from the banality of the single influencer. After such a complicated year in which the art world has experienced a great crisis I think it is precious that today this art tries to knock, to ask for presence, reflection on politics and even more to ourselves; that politics that regardless of its colour should feel crippled every time it doesn’t find the creativity that would be needed to represent us all and that, instead, art has always had as the necessary lymph; creativity that brings the whole life towards an idea of beauty and that is far from what dramatically we see every day in Italy. At the end of all this, however, a new question arises: why is there still such a mystical and distorted idea of what an artist is?
Thanks to Chiara Fanasca for the translation of this article