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The Tarantismo Project

The Exchange, Penzance  25/2/09 - 7/3/09



Linda Cleary's latest work, a poetry-led mixed media installation, was at the Exchange gallery as part of the New Works programme. 

The Tarantismo was a ritualistic dance from South Italy danced by the rural women to rid the effect of a mythical spider bite: also called 'morso d'amore' or bite of love.  They danced to a piece of music called the Pizzica Taranta in a crazed, erotic state of ecstasy: the dance and the music was said to open the heart and remove all pain. It would also allow the families to 'state' the pain of their household: in cases where the girl had been abused or violated, and there was no legal recourse, the families could state this through the dance and the girl was believed to be cleansed.

The installation uses the Tarantismo as a springboard, but contemporises, agitates and explores its political and social aspects; our social spiderbite, our collective and personal 'morso d'amore'. It creates an arena of discomfort as well as beauty, questions the theme of madness and accepted ideas of desire, love, loss and gender role. 

The work is presented as a rudimentary living room, with text presented in various mediums along with audio, image, film and text/textile fusions; a 'Wardrobe of Dreams & Disillusionment' housing 'A Coat of Delusion' (collaboration with Lou Thomas) made from old emails and 'The Dress' (by Heather Campbell).



The Tarantismo Project challenged the conventions of narrative storytelling by the fact that it actively involved the viewer/listener, who had to open the drawers and cupboards to read the text, letters and narratives inside and leave their own response.  Many people spent an hour and more within the space, or returned at various times, and everyday there were new letters left in the writing desk. 

Linda Cleary's formative arena was performance poetry and writing, and although she had fused work with music and film for many years she had never before created an installation. She describes wanting to include other people in making this work in order to reflect on the sense of community generated by the Tarantismo, and so there are many contributors from a wide international arena and of varying disciplines; writers and spoken word artists, painters, artists, dancers as well as many people that she simply spoke to about their lives.


Several writing and devising workshops accompanied the installation and on Friday 6th March Linda did a performance of poetry within the installation space; incorporating elements of theatre into the presentation.