Maja Bajevic, Sing Me a Song And I Will Tell You Who You Are, 2002, interrupted outdoor performance.
Exhibition view: The Big Social Game, Biennale di Torino, Turin, Italy (Curators Michelangelo Pistoletto and Giancinto di Pietroantonio), 2002.
Photo documentation: Emanuel Licha


Sing Me a Song

The performance took place at the open market of Turin, Porta Palazzo, a market that is a symbol of northern Italian immigration problems.

The ‘old’ immigrants are those from the south, themselves Italians, but considered in the north as newcomers. The ‘new’ immigrants are those from other countries: Maghrebins, Romanians, Albanians, etc. The old and new immigrants have a difficult relationship; old immigrants make the new ones suffer as they themselves suffered upon their arrival. That is often the case in many countries where old immigrants become the worst enemy of new immigrants.

We had been warned about this situation, a situation so difficult that our project was tossed between different institutions like a hot potato. We asked for help in contacting the people from the market, but finally found ourselves almost completely alone in trying to realize the project.

The project was about immigrants both old and new. We were supposed to sing the anthem of the country where we came from and then the Italian anthem, or in my case the French anthem, showing in that way that the feeling of belonging to a nation or a country is hard to define in today’s world — a world in which many people live in more than one country. Singing different national anthems breaks the myth of the “one and only.” Can an individual, or should an individual, define him or herself through a state, a nation?

Alone in our “struggle for contacts,” we managed over seven days to initiate beautiful relationships with the people from the market: one young Tunisian man; another Moroccan; a Romanian father of a family all working on the market; an Italian from the south. We were very happy to see that these two ‘sides’ were ready to work with us, and even enjoyed it. The performance started as planned, but then a third force came in, one we did not count on, the “force of order.” Apparently, although the chief of the police had given his word that we would not be disturbed, he forgot to write this down or even inform his employees. We were never provided with written permission, though we asked for this before starting. The force of order came in the form of seven policemen that did not want to know anything about art, about BIG Torino, or about singing. What they did want to know is if we were drunk… We had to stop everything after 45 minutes and canceled the performance that was supposed to take place the next day.

Sometimes a situation that is considered to be difficult happens to be difficult, but for a completely different reason. It is a big social game after all.  (April 21, 2002)