Ksenija Martinović and Federico BelliniCREDITS
text by Ksenija Martinović and Federico Bellini
choreography for third scene Matilde Ceron
video Sonia Veronelli
The project is a collaboration between participants at the Artists' Residency Holders in the Friuli Venezia Giulia Region 2022: ARTEFICI. ResidenzeCreativeFVG/ArtistiAssociati, Dialoghi_Performing Arts Residencies at Villa Manin/CSS, and Vettori/La Contrada Teatro stabile di Trieste
The show explores the story of Nikola Tesla, a remarkable twentieth-century scientist and one of the greatest inventors in history. Surrounded by an aura of legend that almost verges on mysticism, the paradox of the name Tesla is that it is perhaps now more famous as a brand, or capitalist trademark, where the very domination of American capital has hindered, or at least not helped, the realisation of the inventor's greatest work: the Wardencliffe Tower experiment. Nikola Tesla had made an agreement with the greatest banker of the time, J.P. Morgan, to construct one or more towers that could transmit radio waves. With the work almost complete, Tesla was refused the final loan he needed to complete a project which went beyond his stated intentions. Had it been completed, this would have been an historical turning point for humanity: the production of free electricity for everyone, everywhere. The show investigates a story that is not always remembered in modern history, and is often treated with scepticism by mainstream science. Yet this episode marks the decline of the inventor Tesla and his ostracism by Wall Street, which cut him off from anyone who could have financed such an incredible discovery.
In the first section of the play, the performer Ksenija Martinovic describes her bond with Tesla through biographical experiences. In the second part we find ourselves catapulted into the early twentieth century, where we witness the negotiation between Tesla, J.P. Morgan and other tycoons, symbolised by a system of microphones that gives voice to each individual character. We then follow the foundation and construction of Wardencliffe tower (through a tangle of microphone stands), a metaphor for the rise of Tesla, followed by the sudden collapse and nervous exhaustion that ultimately determined the failure of the company.
The show blends together a range of theatrical genres, with pure narrative, representational theatre and references to the present through performance, where Martinovic's body gradually becomes a machine and generator of energy, almost as if it were a creation of the inventor himself.
"Tesla" is conceived as an artistic continuation of the work based on Albert Einstein's wife, Mileva Maric, which resulted in the show Mileva, with Martinovic and Mattia Cason. Maric had long been forgotten by mainstream science, only to be rediscovered in recent years and recognised for the help she likely gave to Einstein in his most important discoveries. Like Tesla, Maric also died in absolute poverty after a long illness. In essence, these two stories both share the experience of rejection or distrust by the scientific and financial communities. Both of these two great characters, and especially Tesla, have seen their work become subject of an uncritical cult rather than scientific investigation. In Maric's case it seems clear that her biography and fundamental research have ended up being overshadowed by Einstein. The two shows have been created as a performative diptych, in which the elements of the first, "Mileva", seem to multiply in the second. In the first piece, Mileva Maric was dressed in microphones to go and receive a hypothetical Nobel Prize she was never awarded in reality, in "Tesla" it is the forest of microphones that represents the battleground between the scientist and his financiers, turning into the debris of a battlefield, like an altar upon which perhaps one of the greatest human inventions has been sacrificed: free energy. In the same way, the dance where Mileva was metaphorically raped by the shadow-figure of Einstein, in "Tesla" becomes the annulment of every "human" dance, through a sort of macabre robotic ballet where Martinovic's body turns into a machine that feels nothing, not even pain anymore. There are countless cross-references between the two works, starting with Martinovic's alienating presentation. In this she presents herself, but also presents the two figures she will speak about, step by step taking on their words and almost inhabiting their bodies.
This presentation also establishes the link between the actress-author and these two figures, not only due to their shared Serbian roots, but also through the memory and comparison of two completely different national histories: hers and ours. Yet, perhaps, the most salient feature that makes these two shows into a sort of diptych is the relationship between oblivion and science, something which should perhaps be considered as something more than simple forgetfulness or a dereliction of memory.
Ksenija Martinović and Federico Bellini
length: 60 minutes