performed by Chiara Bersani
Chiara Bersani knowingly works magic on us. Her diminutive figure: half fur-clad princess, half My-Little-Pony personified, enchants us. Her outsized eyes bathe us in tenderness as she pads around the space, ever so slowly, on knees and knuckles. She’s so near we could reach out and stroke her: she’s inviting us into her world by claiming our hearts. Her gentle candor makes us feel very safe: banished is our childhood fear of admonishments not to stare. We marvel at her fairytale form until she tosses her ponytail and switches her gaze just at the right moment, avoiding all awkwardness. This is an artist whose skill has us eating out of her hand.
We’re still beaming when the trumpets sound at the end. Don’t take life too seriously they seem to be saying: there is so much to love and delight in, and of course, unicorns do exist.
Welcome to Chiara Bersani’s imaginarium. In this wide museum room, you don’t see her at first, as contemporary art is everywhere. Then you realise she’s here lying on the floor, so small. As she slowly puts herself on all fours, you see her body’s different from most. She makes a story of it. Avoiding us, she crawls. Like a horse, walking elegantly on her knees and fists, shaking her ponytail, lifting a leg – seeking the unicorn in her, the magic. Is she serious? Ironic? You choose. And as she then comes towards us sitting on the floor, she looks at us openly, one by one. And we get a fresh look at her. Unusual, a unique creature, rare and beautiful: she’s a unicorn. Blowing a trumpet, her cry turns into a rallying cry. She’s among us, we’re all unicorns. Hooray.
The door to enter Chiara Bersani’s piece Seeking Unicorns is via a poem you find on your seat, full of hope and giddy anticipation. Letting the gaze travel across the gallery space, taking in the bright walls, the art works dotted around, you don’t immediately notice the tiny body lying on the floor. Bersani, who is usually a wheelchair user, is crawling along on her fists, a shape that resembles hooves. Occasionally she shakes her pony tail and twitches her back leg like a horse might do. With big questioning eyes she approaches the audience, creating an intimate closeness, demanding direct eye contact, an acknowledgment of her existence. One by one the faces she approaches light up. It is a beautiful human experience. With visible effort she blows into a trumpet and it sounds like a rallying call. Miraculously, it gets answered. Unicorns exist.