ELISA AMBROGIO: THE SUBSTANCE EXPANDS AND FILLS THE SPACE
“By playing roles, the individual participates in a social world. By internalizing these roles, the same world becomes subjectively real to him”
- Peter L. Berger, The Social Construction of Reality.
The best albums, or songs, illuminate a state of being, whether that state be political or personal, or the personal as political, a state of being in love, falling out of love, longing for or running from. The characters of the story, affected by their place in a world, maybe a world that is an idealization, maybe a world that is the result of being trapped in someone else’s ideals, whether that be government or spouse, neighborhood or gender rules, poverty or prosperity, there is the living in, the occupation of a place, and your reaction or response to the place. Elisa Ambrogio’s “The Immoralist “ is in a way about this place, the perception of a world as the world, and how one relates to this. Songs like “Far From Home” or “Stopped Clocks” with the lyric “wet-eyed lockstep from society,a trick, a trick,a fantasy,trapped, trapped there’s nothing free” exhibit this beautifully, the emphasis on “trick” and “fantasy.” The Immoralist takes these characters, their world, and while never directly implicating a world, the world has definitely left its mark on the protagonists.
“I feel like there’s this sort of, really, I think it’s specific to America, and the individualism that is particularly part of what’s bad about us, and part of what’s good about us, is this kind of isolationist bubble, America existed after the concept of the individual, like the romantic concept of the specific singularity of the individual as even a thing, and I think that sort of self absorption and that sort of weird inner world was part of what created things like the Quakers and the religions that kind of shaped New England, and that environment of New England, that sort of shaped those early kind of commune, and weird, a lot of failed religions, but like American mysticism and weird individualism shaped like so much literature that came out of New England, those things are sort interdependent i think,” comments the Ambrogio, “so I really think that people are really shaped by their environment, and in talking about characters, and this is sort of selfish and kind of stupid as an artist making something, I am much worse at writing about myself, I have no insight, it’s all hamfisted and mouth breathing when I write about myself, and when I write about other people I feel like I am better able to say things that have any kind of skills of observation or any kind of feeling that is true, I think it’s easier to lie about yourself and to yourself, you are able to see things in other people that you can tell the truth about, it’s just like things about other people resonate deeply with me more than things about myself.”
Which is true of all are favorites be it a Ziggy Stardust or a Tupac, whether it be Langston Hughes or Hilton Als,have written about a thing, a person as a thing in relation to another thing. The characters in The Immoralist are experiencing life, or rather we are experiencing their lives through their words, their eyes. In “Superstitious” the character is a essentially a non-believer, or at least in the mystic or otherworldly idea of the tarot, astrology,broken mirrors, or maybe the number 13, yet they are suspect of the love that they have for the person, the most tangible thing, the realest thing in their life, because in the end isn’t that what it comes down to with love; will you be lucky to find and keep it, is that belief in the person any different from that a universal force or consequence, isn’t that what love is? Who knows, Ambrogio doesn’t approach that, she sings as the mirrored reflection. “Reservoir” is the lover’s walk, the escape, the special time where we are “making shapes, making codes” with our eyes, the world of the lover’s embrace, “we know what we’re out here for.” Or, the equally brilliant,”Kylie,” with the lyric “don’t cry for some lost childhood,that was never any good.” The projection or rejection of some idea, living in and for dreams, past and future.
“There’s a Dylan Thomas poem called ‘Fern Hill’ it’s about his childhood and about him being young, it’s really beautiful, I feel like idealizing childhood is really common, I felt incredibly powerless as a child, I felt incredibly at the mercy of others, being an adult is so much better to me, I don’t understand people who loved their childhood, you had no autonomy, you had no control, it was run by rigid tall people,I know a lot of nostalgic adults, there are a lot of people who long for, or idealize their childhood, and that Dylan Thomas poem is really beautiful, it idealizes nature and childhood nature, and it talks about death and dying, but it doesn’t, I don’t remember the line exactly but it’s like “Time held me green and dying” so it talks about, even as a child we’re still dying…I just feel like there is this kind of falsity in projecting these memories onto childhood…it’s like people who say, I wish I could be an animal, it seems so free, just whiling your day away in the sun,’ it’s like you’re out of your mind, you’re a child of the food chain, you got access to guns, why would you want to be an animal…so I kind of hate nostalgia, I hate when you read something like, ‘I wish I were alive in the 30s, everyone read poetry in the 30s,’ or some bullshit like that, it;s like do you understand the deep levels of sexism and racism and plain out stupidity that would have been the acts of de rigueur not the exception?!””
So, yes, The Immoralist fixates on the results of the impact of life, but never in a pitiful way, it is not shrouded with woe, any sadness is in the interpretation of, the characters, even in their lowest moments, are just living and coping, moving through a world they might not even be attempting to understand. It is an outstanding work which will be on display January 17th at The Summit (3536 Navigation Blvd, 77003). I anticipate the translation of these songs in the live setting will be equally enthralling. Elisa Ambrogio is not a simple artist of simple intention, but in a world of that, her motivation and dedication is welcome.