“Not even we ourselves can describe this work. It’s definitely not theater. Is it a dance? Poetry; Concert; However, I feel happy that I don’t know exactly what it is and grateful I would say, that this work moves in the zone of the inexplicable” said the Oscar-winning British actress Tilda Swinton to the journalists today (11/12) about the special performance-live installation “Embodying Pasolini” (“Embodying Pasolini”) inspired together with the French fashion historian and curator Olivier Saillard and presented at the Onassis Foundation from 11 to 16 December.

A performance ritual where high fashion meets high art starring costumes from the iconic films of the great maverick filmmaker, Pier Paolo Pasolini, who was brutally murdered aged 53 in 1975. This is a collection of over thirty costumes and objects , processed with various experimental techniques of Arte Povera, designed in the 1960s and 1970s by Danilo Donati and prepared by the Farani atelier for the films of the Italian director: from the biblical, inspired by Bedouin caftans and Herod’s painted emerald suit in 1964’s “Gospel of Matthew” to the hand-made edge-to-edge feather and shell-embellished costume and crown worn by Silvana Mangano as Jocasta in 1967’s “Oedipus the Tyrant” and from there to the clothes and objects of the exotic “One Thousand and One Nights” (1974) and the sweeping “Salo, 120 days in Sodom” (1975).

The Oscar-winning actress takes them out of special storage cases, removing their protective papers and tells their story, sweetly whispering to them and bringing them back to life, through her tender and airy touch. A modern rite of passage, an idiosyncratic fashion show by the great actress that highlights the poetic dimension of the creations almost within breathing distance of the viewers.

“The life of a movie suit is very fragile. Because they only have one moment of fame and then they die. If they are lucky they will have a second life, otherwise they will never see the light of day again. The costumes we use in the show, which are real ‘jewels’, were ‘hidden’ in a huge cloakroom in Rome. The whole process was like panning for gold,’ admitted Tilda Swinton.

This is the fifth collaboration between Swindon and renowned fashion historian Olivier Saillard. Their first collaboration took place in 2012 at the Paris Fashion Museum, Palais Galliera, with the actress “activating” garments from the museum’s collection of historical costumes: from Victorian gowns and Napoleonic military uniforms to pieces from the houses of Chanel, Schiaparelli and Balenciaga .

“Ten years ago, we didn’t know that it would be the beginning of a partnership that would last a long time. It was a dream to work with Tilda. And while it’s a real job, we treat it like a “summer job,” a game. It’s like entering a time capsule of joy between movies and obligations,” said Olivier Saillard.

He himself, as he said, always wanted to prove to the world of fashion that there is poetry behind clothing. “When we talk about fashion, we take it for granted that an industry urges you to buy something new. Here we go to discover something new in old but monumental costumes. We were interested in highlighting their poetry. What we’re doing is not a fashion show, nor a theatrical performance, which we didn’t want in the first place. It looks like a live exhibition. I am personally impressed with the power of clothes. Donati made almost archaic costumes, often crude. He was interested in color, although Pasolini’s first films were in black and white,” he added.

The costumes we see in performance are fascinating works of art in themselves, re-encountering the audience – often for the first time since they were made. “When you’re dealing with iconic cinema you see the great imprint it has left behind. It may sound strange, but for us the whole process had a game character. It was as if the costumes themselves were talking to us and saying: “in the movie I stood like this, but now I want to do something different, turn upside down…”. It was like we were having a dialogue with them. Donati was a genius and his creations are “real sculptures”. They still look ready to “dance” and we wanted to give them the opportunity to do so” noted the British actress.

As both creators mentioned, the performance is dominated by the element of improvisation and the sense of the unfinished, which is why no show is the same as the previous ones. “We’re still panning for gold and ‘listening’ to the suits. After all, these are the real protagonists.

We want our actions to be sincere and not pretentious. It is a lively, flexible and open to interpretation process” Swindon pointed out, stressing that the space where the performance is hosted each time, as well as the energy they receive from the audience, also plays a decisive role.

Talking about Pasolini, she said that she started watching him since she was a student.

“I remember a documentary he made on the streets of Rome asking people about sex. I also knew his poetry and then came into contact with his work. He was a relentlessly alive and modern spirit, a model of resistance, a poet above all. He’s always been interested in defying danger for that, and making Salo was a kamikaze move.”