My video endless limit in Festival [FEET] in Berchidda, Sicily,9-16 Aug

The PAV Projects Visual Arts in Time in Jazz Festival Berchidda under the artistic direction of Paolo Fresu, Antonello Fresu and Giannella Demuro.

Paolo Fresu – ”Feet”

It is true, once he stands up, a man cannot stay still.
Frédéric Gros ”A Philosophy of Walking”, 2009.

Keep your feet on the ground…
That’s the best you can do, especially in these times of crisis!
It means being able to look at reality with pragmatism, having no flights of fancy and relying on your own resources.
We, country-men, received this teaching from our fathers, but it was shared by all sectors of society in post-war Italy, both in the north and south of the country. ”Keeping your feet on the ground” meant taking a step at a time, feeling the texture of the soil. So that another step forward could be taken, without running the risk of crushing what was being built, wading towards the rebirth of the country, in a day-by-day, step-by-step process.
”Walden” by Henry David Thoreau is an inspiring piece of writing, a reflection upon the relationship between the feet, the ground, the foothold and freedom.
This may seem to be clashing with the concept of dream and hope, but to think of it, the two philosophies fit together: being in contact with the ground means not only being able to give life to our dreams, but especially to provide a pragmatic perspective to our expectations. Moving step by step also means paying the sort of attention that is typical of the experienced, of those who know the world, its desires and deceits.
Of course, art and creation give forth the scent of poetry and feeling, but isn’t there, perhaps, an intense lyricism in the act of sowing, harvesting or taking a long walk?
So many of our writers, philosophers and thinkers have also been indefatigable walkers. Nietzsche, Rimbaud, Rousseau, Kant and Gandhi. They all maintained that the foot is a tool for self-discovery and achieving the understanding of others. The journey on foot, therefore, is the driving force governing the relationship between man and nature, and therefore a source of creativity.
An ancient Chinese proverb quoted in his autobiography by renown movie director Ermanno Olmi, reads: ”If you have only two coins, use one to buy bread. With the other, buy hyacinths for the soul”. I believe that this is the very essence of the pragmatism and the inconsistency of men, that is, the need to put body and soul, the earth and the sky, in a symbiotic relationship.
Just like the pilgrim that walks the tour of Faith is not only engaged in a metaphorical experience of the human condition, walking has also a ”legal dimension”, Frédéric Gros maintains. Such dimension is officially dictated during a solemn Mass, when the bishop blesses the traditional tools of the walker: the staff (a long stick with the metal end) and the knapsack for the bread. The pilgrim’s knapsack is always open, since he is always ready to give and to share.
Therefore, the ”foot”, this year’s theme, is both the trace of our passage, and the driving force necessary to take a running leap into the unknown. We shall soar in the air or dive into the sea of knowledge.
Dance is a journey within ourselves and the physical language through which we try to reach a trance state, towards communication and research.
The Island of Sardinia is the ideal cradle for this journey. It is no coincidence that the Greeks called it Sandalyon, due to its contour that reminds of a sandal. (Ichnusa)
A sandal that is the mark of historical paths and ancestral migrations within the Mediterranean, an omen of the modern boats of hope, death and desolation.
A 2330 BC. carving in the Saqqara Tomb of the Physicians (Egypt) seems to be depicting a hand and a foot massage being given, and Greek physician Hippocrates taught his disciples foot massage as a therapeutic staple. Therefore, Sardinia turns out to be not only a symbol of the beliefs of the ancient Greeks, but also of a wider area. If Sardinia is our foot, then the places of the worlds are our organs, and the sounds of the world are our limbs and sensors, that is, the nerve endings where everything comes together. Sardinia is a place where the routes of human culture used to converge, being an island at the very heart of the cradle of civilization.
Little is known about the Nuragic culture, but since some Nuraghi were built in the shape of a foot, we may assume that they were built to connect the earth and the sky, just like the ”Moon Staircase” of the Holy Well of Santa Cristina, an observatory that used to (and still) reflect the light of the moon and the sun during the equinoxes and the solstices, which mark the time of the year also nowadays.
The stones of Sardinia inspire the dance. And the dance, in turn, needs sound, that is the marrow and the tendons of society. The sounds emerge from the launeddas and the Tenor during the propitiatory and thanksgiving rites, which are deeply connected to the earth and the seasons.
During the rites, the body itself becomes the instrument and the feet move in accord, signifying human identity.
This is our starting point. And in this perspective shall we interpret the twenty-seventh edition of the International Time in Jazz Festival, a feet-inspired extravaganza.
We shall stomp on the ground… as we have done for many years. But in a new perspective, a new creative instrument that is able to voice our modern aspirations through the multi-faceted language of the Arts.
Merging territories, traditions, art languages and peoples to develop this ancestral theme, is intriguing.
History will be the connective tissue of this edition, that will leave behind the themes (and the elements) of the last five years, but still latch on to them, especially to the ”Fifth Element” that, last year, recalled the idea of emptiness and nothingness.
The Gospel of St. John tells of a Christ who bows to wash the feet of the apostles. In China, during the Ming and Qing dynasties, women’s feet were applied painfully tight binding to display or attain a high social status (it was only in 1902 that an imperial edict abolished foot binding, but it took fifty years to disappear).
The ”shoe diary” written by Gertrude Ly in 1951 survived the Maoist dictatorship thanks to a missionary friar who took it out of China by sewing it between the soles of his shoes; while in India, touching the feet of a master or one’s own parents is as a sign of devotion and respect.
The foot seems to be the protagonist of the complex relationship between men and civilizations: ”pes” (”foot” in Latin and in the Sardinian Logudorese language) is the basic metrical unit of classical prosody, based on the number of syllables, while in the twentieth century, the foot develops in a free and libertarian approach against isosyllabism, claiming the need for free verses. Free, as the quintessence of jazz.
This year, we shall dig into the idioms of our time and surrender to the necessity of drawing a connection with the past of our festival, that has always explored the possibilities of its time.
As Erri De Luca says, praising the feet is nothing more than give voice to the need for a better understanding of the world and our neighbours.
We shall start from what keeps us in connection with our land, before taking a running leap into the unknown.
Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, bedridden due to a serious illness and then to a horrible crash, wrote, ”Pies para que los quiero si tengo alas para volar”.
Why should I want feet, if I have wings to fly?
Who knows… maybe this thought will suggest the theme of our next festival…

Paolo Fresu