“Ticino is Burning” is a movement born in 2020 thanks to five independent artists from Ticino, reflecting on what it meant to exist as artists in a small territory geographically separated from the rest of the country. Supported by Pro Helvetia, the movement’s primary thrusts are to ask questions, to learn and to stretch the boundaries: to ask questions about issues of being artists in Ticino, to get to know the realities beyond the Gotthard Massif by meeting theatre directors, artists, people connected to cultural institutions and performing arts, and to share experiences by creating collaborations. The members of “Ticino is Burning” illustrated their intentions at the M2ACT event of the Percento culturale Migros, held at the Gessnerallee in Zurich in 2021, but also with the “TIB meets FIT” project, an exercise in co-creation and horizontal collaboration between the artists of the movement themselves and the FIT Festival (Theatre and contemporary scene International Festival) direction, with the support of the LAC of Lugano in a relationship that is still active and in evolving.
You recently received the Swiss Performing Arts Award from the Federal Office for Culture. Congratulations. What does it mean to you?
SW: We are happy about this award, but also very surprised since it is usually given in recognition of careers or paths that are already structured.
CP: We want to take this award as encouragement, as an incentive, with respect to a proposal which is emerging and still has a way to go. It’s a good signal from the Federal Office for Culture, which has also decided to take a risk in awarding something that is just being born and not yet so defined.
You call yourselves “Ticino is Burning”: why “Burning”? What is burning?
SW: It is a name that was given to us in a joking tone during an exchange project between artists of the various language regions of Switzerland (“Handle with care”) in which I had participated. We were talking about our respective home Cantons and when the topic switched to Ticino I got very heated, describing a more peripheral and complicated situation than the ones of other participants. Someone in the group then said: “Damn, Ticino is burning!”
CP: Ours is an inner fire: we deeply feel the need to exist as artists within a territory that, yes, is Ticino, but is part of something bigger, Switzerland. We feel the need to move and to claim what is still not working as it should, so that we can do our best work. Ours is not a destructive fire – we don’t want to keep complaining – but a fire that creates fertile ground so that we can build more viable bridges to the rest of Switzerland and make our roots in Ticino more solid.
This year marks two years of activity. What have you achieved so far?
SW: To be more visible in the rest of Switzerland – not so much as individual artists, since this movement is not about self-promotion, but as a territory. We have also opened up collaborations with artists and institutions in and outside Ticino, with unprecedented opportunities to work horizontally between artists and institutions or between artists, such as with the FIT Festival thanks to the support of LAC and with Theatertreffen.
One of the objectives is network not only in Ticino but also beyond the Gotthard Massif. How is this initiative being embraced by your colleagues?
CP: The idea of moving beyond the Gotthard Massif arose from a personal need to know and understand how things work outside Ticino. Therefore, we took many trains and drank many coffees, talking to people with the intention not only of creating a network, but even of getting to know them in more depth. This initiative has always been embraced with great openness and curiosity. At some point rumours about us reached places before we did. Perhaps since the movement was born during the pandemic, we were an expression of a more collective need to get out, move, meet, share questions. What we are now reflecting on is the “return in Ticino”, opening up dialogue with local realities.
A passage in your manifesto reads: “is a creative act”. Has “Ticino is Burning” also become art?
CP: As much as we pursue cultural policy discourses, we are first and foremost artists, so we tackle them using our own tools and skills. We always focus on process, not so much on an agenda of the goals; we move in the present, in relationships, trying to understand what is happening, and we see this as an artistic act, a creative act.
SW: “Ticino is Burning” is a creative act as a whole, but also through small, concrete interventions during events such as FIT and Theatertreffen – occasions in which we expressed our message through performative acts, unrelated to our individual artistic practices.
What are your current projects?
CP: We curated the performing arts programming for “La Straordinaria”, which will take place from December 28th to March 28th in Lugano, in the temporary space of the Tour Vagabonde. We started from our need for openness and welcome, activating the network built up to now and inviting artists from other language regions to come in Ticino, to appreciate it not only as a holiday destination but even as a place to have cultural exchanges – something that is very important for us artists.
SW: This is part of a broader intention to invite artists to Ticino to make art, and thus make the Ticino area more interesting for them too. We also have other projects in progress that we are working on, which we hope will soon see the light of the day.