KE’BEK-LEPAGE, the Photographs by Marzio Emilio Villa

Murales donna indiana pellirossa stile pop in ambiente urbano di periferia
Murales di Kevin Ledo a Montreal raffigurante donna indiana

On the occasion of the exhibition at the UniversitàStatale di Milano, within Bookcity 2019


Images are “symbolic complexes […] ‘connotations’ (multi-voices): they leave room for interpretation”

(V. Flusser, for A ‘Philosophy of Photography’ (Folisofiadellafotografia), 1983)

Vilém Flusser argues that the observer of a photograph has the possibility to grasp one element after anothe, wandering with his eyes on the surface of the image, with a procedure called scanning(Ivi, p.5), which produces in his mind temporal realisation between the parts. One can, in fact, return to the elements already seen, elevating them to the meaning of the image. The possibility of a live show to have a historical linearity in which nothing is repeated is cancelled, everything has a cause and consequence. The work by Marzio Emilio Villa is a seemingly simple iconographic product, but it is actually the result of a skilled compositional process, which establishes the travel photographs on a complex analytical excavation of the place, subconsciously proposing to the observer a framework with a predefined significant element.


Marzio Emilio Villa, a young Italian photographer with Brazilian origins, recently was invited to exhibit in the prestigious Espace photographique du Laika Store in Paris (La marée de la mémorie, September-November 2019). He has often prepared exhibitions from travels, developing intangible heritage safeguarded by the places. In this case it is the investigation of the trail of Robert Lepage, in which the territorial elements and suggestions which inspired his works are rediscovered. Anna Maria Monteverdi is the curator of the exhibition, an in-depth connoisseur of the playwright-director Quebecois, to which she devoted much of her academic research. Together, they created a ‘journey’ into the multicultural universe, a very clear problem to Villa, which constitutes the complex environment of Quebec, where Lepage was formed, had worked, and where he undertook cultural battles.

“The theme we tried to develop is ‘The Invisible Theatre’”, Monteverdi says. “There are no pictures in theatre, of a stage or of the actors, there are faces fixed with a mastery and an almost touching sensibility from Marzio Emilio Villa, caught in the street, in the Montreal metro and in the Chinese quarter”, associated with landscapes in character/scene pairs, as in the Lepage spectacle ((A.M. Monteverdi, inL. Sestini, L’altro Quebec a Milano: allaStatale la mostrasulKebek di Robert Lepage, ItaliaNotizie24, 13/11/2019)


There are places often found without human presence, where life is perceptible; the photo, an infinitesimal time space, inserts the here and now between the before and after, a distant past and nested future in which the observer’s mind can build and visualise, according to a culture and a personal feeling. A “subconscious optic”, in the words of Benjamin (Piccola Storia della Fotografia, pp.7-8), in that the photo can provide us with, allowing us to load it, quantitatively and qualitatively, of feeling, suggestions, history, and meanings. We are witnessing a process that is starting from something elaborate through the awareness of the photographic medium, and the photographer’s choices, producing something elaborate subconsciously with the eyes of the spectator: a theatre?


The groups of collected images comprise a selection of the largest exhibition that, in July 2019, was exhibited at the Pasquini Castle in Castiglioncello (near Rome), for the In equilibrio Festival. The images exhibited for the Bookcity 2019, in the atrium of the State University of Milan, constituted a route between territories and significant moments of life, discovering Lepage’s lieux-ressource. The ‘luoghi-risorsa’ (Resource-Places) are concepts derived from the ‘objet ressource’; that is, the matrix objects of the story, based on his working methodology. They are the spaces that generate scenic writings, strongly biographical, worked on-stage by Lepage in absolute freedom from realistic conventions. We could say that the pictures by Villa give back the sense of the place, using Kevin Lynch’s categories for his reading (K. Lynch, A Theory of Good City Form, 1984), the more complex one that captures its soul and scans its meanings, which also oscillates in the show.


This re-mediation experiment that transfers the spectacular imagery into photography, provides a possible form to a scenic idea: the “subjective” of a potential “reader-viewer”.

Visitor crosses the “inhabited” landscape of Quebec, countries far from our imagination, activating mental processes with continuous changes of scale.

Unspoilt natural landscapes are exclusively inhabited with vegetation and water: rivers and lakes, where “the mirror surfaces double or dematerialise the fixity of the topographic configuration”, where snow and ice transfigure reality by making its borders indeterminate (C. Norberg Schulz, Genius Loci. Paesaggio, Ambiente, Architettura, 1979, p. 35).

Urban landscapes are multi-ethnic settlements, “cultural landscapes” that reveal the metissage through ‘backdrops’ of everyday life: material culture is found there with its architectural connections, rich in stylistic and linguistic hybridizations; domestic intimacies and the survival of unresolved social demands and repressions emerge through symbolic elements.


These images are theatre, because they seize identity based on memory: the theatre for Lepage is “the great sport of remembering”.

The shots, sought after and caught in the immediacy of unrepeatable moments, they visually concretize that reservoir of resources for Lepage’s stage writings; they are his “iconographic fulcrums”, memory enhancers: life lived, political and social battles, forming elements for his works (A.M. Monteverdi, Memoria,  maschera e macchinanelteatro di Robert Lepage, 2018, p.63).

“In Lepage’s Theatre”, writes Monteverdi, “pictures dissolve to a precise dramaturgical function: highlighting a subtext, creating a context, an emotional atmosphere, showing the interior of the protagonist, becoming its immaterial ‘deuteragonist’ […] or self-reflexive mirror. The images reveal in the photographic sense of the term, that is, they bring to light” (Ivi, p.214). In these images by Villa we see a suspension of the linearity of the stories that Lepage tells with skilful mixture of events, without incurring narrative inconsistencies; photography, a medium often used in his plays. In fact, it collaborates in a non-traumatic way to this transduction: a writing in essence that activates an interpretation process in the viewer.


The meeting of the ideas of Marzio Emilio Villa and Anna Maria Monteverdi has shifted the focus from art to things that have a life of their own, dismantling the shows so as to go back to the most intimate roots and, sometimes, undeclared. The result is not guaranteed for all theatre writers, but for the few who has the places as a fundamental role in creation. It is an abacus of theatre/life combination, from which the observer can depart (as would Lepage himself) at a time of always new journeys ‘without destinations’, triggering mechanisms of “infinite creation”(A.M. Monteverdi, Il teatro di Robert Lepage, 2004, p.89). 


The catalogue, curated by Anna Maria Monteverdi, was presented with the participation of the authors. This in the context of Milano Bookcity 2019, at the opening of the exhibition, on November 14th, by the Rector of the Milan State University, prof. Elio Franzini, the director of the Department of Cultural Heritage, prof. Alberto Bentoglio, the Italian delegate of Quebec, Dr. Marianna Simeone, and the writer.


The exhibition will continue its journey to La Spezia, hosted in the Palazzina delle Arti, from  March 3rd to  May 6th, 2020, again in its most complete form.