For Cathy J. (on someone who dances)
Writing by Beppe Sebaste
For the exhibition on Cathy Josefowitz, The Thinking Body, on view until 19 June 2022 in the ARRHYTHMICS section, we present a text written by her companion Beppe Sebaste for a small catalogue produced in 1994 for the exhibition organized by the Department of Culture of the Province of Florence in Palazzo Pinucci.
FOR CATHY J. (ON SOMEONE WHO DANCES)
“Suspension of disbelief” is a phrase utilized in relation to storytelling, where readers willingly abandon themselves, transported by the narration like clouds driven by the wind, without resistance of a cultural nature or other “attachments”. It can be said in other ways, but I am grateful to this formula that dates back to Keats and Shelley, and has reached me by way of Gianni Celati, who recently put it to use. While he was making me understand how scarcely capable I am of putting it into practice, he was filled with admiration and wonder at the sight of several reproductions of paintings and drawings by Cathy J. What he was trying to explain to me – criticizing, as a reader, my “irreverent”, perhaps “transgressive” (with respect to what?) way of writing, in any case still connected to a project, or a presumption – was already there, before our very eyes.
Now, almost every day, I experience the difficult and marvellous position of bearing witness (testimony) to Cathy’s painting (I will refrain from underscoring the philosophical significance of the word “testimony”), and I understand that what irritates me in the fascination I feel is precisely its clear, joyful, sober and wise “suspension of disbelief”, the suspension of the presumption of knowing, which Cathy J. puts into practice in her gesture of drawing and painting, and which requires an equal faith, an equal “abandon” on the part of the viewer. (And it is true that in her paintings it is a bit like what happens in the photographs of Luigi Ghirri, friend and exemplary creator: who honestly sought to believe and make believe the enchantment of the figures he encountered as a child, visiting museums – and nothing else).
Were I capable of doing so, I would like to bear witness to the contentment, the serenity of Cathy’s gesture of painting, the impossibility for her not to paint, the necessity and destiny for her to paint: suggesting, in each of these formulations, the action of a “double genitive”, subjective and objective. As if, since ever, Cathy J had been becoming what she is. How it was possible for her to become what she is… well, that would be a fine tale to tell.
I can say only that Cathy J., before reaching the age of 3, flew from America to Europe, from the English language to the French, though immersed inside domestic walls in a linguistic ebb and flow that included nursery rhymes in Russian and German. Cathy thus invented a language of her own, a private language, and began to paint just after that first flight, driven by the stimulus and pressure, far from the last, of a cumbersome and merry family featuring a sculptor grandfather, a painter mother, an orchestra conductor father, along with various art collectors and “amateurs”. For a not-so-short period of her life, Cathy J. chose to dance, creating and performing over twenty choreographies in various places in the world, often as silent and intense as a mass, but cheerful, as if conducted by Chagall.
Having said this, I cannot refrain from calling to mind, altering but one word (“painting” instead of “literature”), a passage written by Kafka in a letter regarding those Jewish writers straddling many, too many languages, thus plagued by the impossibility of writing, but also of not writing: a mixture, Kafka continued, of language on paper and in gestures, “an impossible painting in all respects, a gypsy painting which had stolen the child out of its cradle and in haste put it through some kind of training, for someone has to dance on the tightrope. (But it wasn’t even a child, it was nothing; people merely said that somebody was dancing)”.
Thanks to Beppe Sebaste his kind permission to use this text.