I’ve always been a very demure girl.
I’ve always been a very thoughtful girl, little instinctive, very emotional.
But when I was asked to be part of “VB74”, the performance that Vanessa Beecroft staged for the opening of the exhibition “Bellissima” at the MAXXI in Rome, I could not resist.

I arrived in Rome in the warm late morning of Friday 28 November.
At the Atelier Bomba, in via dell’Oca 39, I started my personal process of transformation: from young woman to an integral part of a work of art, from independent being to artist’s property.
The rehearsals were simple. Before me, Sabrina; after me, Elena.
I still well remember the corner between fabrics and powder pink veils from which I could glimpse the non-dress on Sabrina’s expert body. I can still remember quite well Elena, the girl I just met, and her gaze, expressing waiting and perhaps concern, in front of the dressing room.

And about me, what I remember? What is left of me?
I had decided not to decide, I wanted to test myself all the way. “I’m here for that,” I had told to myself in one of my constant soliloquies. Vanessa Beecroft’s women are by definition “nude” and I wanted to be one of them. I wanted to be Vanessa Beecroft’s and no one else’s. 
In reference to Beecroft’s performance, are we sure we want to minimize the whole thing with the adjective “nude”? 
Usually one says: to be shirtless, to be bareheaded, bare back, bare arms, bare skin … Under the veil I have never been even bare-eyed. Vanessa Beecroft, with her art, has not only floored but has also broken the fragile frames of human definitions.

VB74 Copyright © Vanessa Beecroft, produzione MAXXI. Foto Musacchio, Ianiello e Napolitano, courtesy Fondazione MAXXI 1

To my left I see the hall of mirrors in which we – 30 women -would have had to live for two days of performance. A cube with only three faces, the three dimensions.
So I reflect myself quickly and pass by.
I enter the auditorium and touch with my hand the black velvet armchairs.
I enter the theater and meet Vanessa Beecroft’s eyes.
8.00 am: Vanessa and Pier thought I had to be the first of the five “Dolls” to be put make up on.

After that time, I’ve lost the sense of time. Perhaps forgotten in a pocket of the clothes that I would not worn during the hours spent at the MAXXI; perhaps abandoned already out of the door along with the questions and the static human preconceptions.
 My skin is translucent white, a non pink tone and absolutely achromatic. In the process of transformation, I became exactly white marble color: ivory and cold as sometimes my soul would like to be.

Suzy Menkes on Instagram - Vanessa Beecroft VB74

On a stand there were 30 hangers with the 30 names of us 30 women. On each were gently propped the veils created by the Atelier Bomba that each of us would have had to wear. Alongside this there were shoes that only some of us were going to wear.
30 names for 30 women: my new companions of a two-day life, beyond time and space.
I will always remember them as my friends as ever. 
The artist decided to make me wear a veil that all would have worn over their head and one of the only piece of lingerie duo, the culotte. I was serene and at ease. I was different, once again.
They took me by the hand and led me into the room of my pose, in the non-space of this non-time. There was a line, a sort of limbo in which women were waiting patiently their turn for shooting. I stood in line until they decided it was my turn: so they took me by the hand and, not my will, I passed in front of Federica and the others.

Alberta Ferretti on Instagram - Vanessa Beecroft VB74

They wanted to do at least fifteen individual shootings before the group photo, and I and Tamu would have been the last two.
I posed and I watched. I did not know if I had to look at the camera; sometimes I centered the lens with my eyes; sometimes I looked elsewhere. For each shot, a flash and my eyes could not stand and closed. I don’t know how long I stood in the corner between the two mirrored walls…
But I never felt I was “nude”.
 But I never felt I was “violated”.
 The shooting for the group photo was the first time I really felt part of a group of living art.
The artist chose our positions.

I was in the front row, on the right of the viewer. To my right Tatiana, another of the five “Dolls”; to my left Julia, the only one wearing white veils in counterpoint with Paola, dressed in black and placed on the other side of our set-house-no-place.
 We followed carefully the directions and regulation that we had previously signed. We did not talk, do not we moved theatrically, were natural, detached and simple, we did not feel attractive and tried to constantly stay focused.

VB74 Copyright © Vanessa Beecroft, produzione MAXXI. Foto Musacchio, Ianiello e Napolitano, courtesy Fondazione MAXXI

We knew that the evening of 29th at the ”Acquisition Gala “, on the opening of the exhibition “Bellissima, high fashion 1945-1968 “, curated by Maria Luisa Frisa, Anna Mattirolo and Stefano Tonchi, all the people would be there: all the biggest names in the world of fashion, art and the arts. We knew that on that occasion we represented the contrast between being and appearing in a gentle movement of art and fashion.
What would our head think for all those hours? Would it wander or would it remain motionless next to our fixed feet?
Neither of us said she was going to think about her nakedness. None of us in fact thought about her nakedness. On one thing we demonstrated to be absolutely right.

While the MAXXI was still closed, we came out from the auditorium to take place on our “pedestal”. The transformation was now reaching its fulfillment.
I remembered my position. I remembered the guidelines. The first guest to come in and take a picture, that she could not take, was Suzy Menkes.
 Everyone else followed her. Past the red carpet, inside the door and after the first glass of champagne, the view of the special visitors was captured by “VB74”. In front of us strutted Corrado Augias, Eva Cavalli, Alberta Ferretti, Carla Fendi, Matteo Garrone, Stella Jean, Margareth Madè, Achille Bonito Oliva, Diego Perrone, Miuccia Prada, Fausto Puglisi, Jane Reeve, Ermanno Scervino, Carlo Verdone… (only to name a few).
 I could not say anything. I stood still. I could not smile, I could not introduce myself.
I was aware, however, and their eyes confirmed that, that the other 29 women and I were able to induce in viewers an uncontrollable Stendhal Syndrome. 
I will never forget that.

VB74 on Instagram

We were the noumenon watching the Schopenhauer’s phenomenon in the hope that someone could look beyond the veil, could pierce the veil of Maya, and discover us and find out more.
 While waiting, I decided to sit down. I moved my legs and tried to stretch a bit. On the first day I never lay down, on the second I gave in. I lived the moment. I experienced the artwork. I learned to experienced myself a little more.
When the last guest had left the entrance hall, I felt wearily my adrenaline spiking. I was beaming, despite the signs of fatigue. I was sad, despite the great happiness, because I knew that the next day would be the last day of VB74. The last day as work of art, the last hours together with 29 other beautiful women, my life friends.

VB74 Copyright © Vanessa Beecroft, produzione MAXXI. Foto Musacchio, Ianiello e Napolitano, courtesy Fondazione MAXXI 2

On the 30 November, everything was repeated according to the proven ritual, according the organized sequence of time-no time. I knew that there would be a group photo again, I knew we would pose for the series of artistic polaroid. Even though I knew I have become for those two days a Vanessa Beecroft’s creature, the artist had been always far away as a perfect observer deity. During the last series of shots though, Vanessa Beecroft was moving among us as if she were among pawns on a chessboard. I was captured by a particular Stendhal syndrome. I had donated my body and she was immortalizing it, raising it to her creation by means of her work and to her likeness.

VB74 on Instagram

The three hours of the second performance came quickly and we now proved to be experienced veterans in our world-not the world.
This time, I could not recognize the faces of the spectators, probably I was lost mostly in myself than in the research of the other. I felt my breast, I felt my legs, I felt my hands falling asleep, I felt my nose and my mouth almost without saliva. This time, I noticed the obsessive insistence of curious gazes and I felt a bit of fragile indisposition. So I decided to turn my eyes away, watching others, watching other. I invented stories that started from the feet of the people in front of me, I imagined ties and relationships, drew short stories, as my mind is used to do when lost in the crowd. I felt Tatiana’s leg, so I moved mine. The space was beginning to seem narrow. When I lay down, I felt the earth but did not see the sky. When I finally got up, I felt the weight of fatigue no more. Nothing had now weight.

Despite the absence of limits, I perceived the distance from the public. Despite the absence of frames, I perceived the ideal presence of the glass. In the interplay of looking, there were no obstacles to hinder the use of the artwork by the viewer, there were no barriers to close the eyes of the artwork towards the watcher.
 But throughout the construction of light and reflections, of gestures and non-gazes, of feet, of hands and non- voices, I felt alone.
 The fact is that during those evenings nobody ripped the veil. This is my naked truth.

#VB74  #followtheartgirl

VB74 Copyright © Vanessa Beecroft, produzione MAXXI. Foto Musacchio, Ianiello e Napolitano, courtesy Fondazione MAXXI 2

Special thanks: Vanessa Beecroft, Art & Vibes, Giulia Lupo e Teresa, Gloria Maria Cappelletti, Sabrina Querci, Marco Biaggi, Alessandro Floris.

photo: VB74 Copyright © Vanessa Beecroft, produzione MAXXI. Foto Musacchio, Ianiello e Napolitano, courtesy Fondazione MAXXI

dresses: Atelier Bomba
make up: il team della Simone Belli make up academy