When Life is Silent is a short dance film exploring Monte Verità in Ascona, Switzerland, a life-reform colony and a significant site for the development of early modern dance. The narrative unfolds against the backdrop of early 20th-century Europe, a period marked by societal disillusionment with modernity. This unique place drew in influential figures such as dance artists Mary Wigman and Rudolf Laban, poet and novelist Hermann Hesse, and psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung, forming a crossroads that laid the foundation for avant-garde movements blending philosophy, psychology, and art.
The film centres on dance artist Mary Wigman, celebrated for her choreography Hexentanz, a piece that was developed at the site. Through an exploration of Wigman's experiences at Monte Verità, the narrative widens to include the broader impact of other luminaries, highlighting the symbiotic relationship between early modern dance and developments across various genres in the early 20th century.
The film takes inspiration from archival materials, including objects, testimonials, photographs, and artworks originating from the site. It explores everyday practices that defined the colony's identity, including dance, vegetarianism, and harmonious living with nature. These practices, reflecting a pacifist and libertarian ideal, tackled the challenges posed by industrialisation, urbanisation, and societal divisions
In the face of contemporary ecological and political challenges, When Life is Silent sheds light on the transformative power of artistic communities.
Funded by Wicklow County Arts Office Strategic Project Awards 2024 supported by The Arts Council, and developed in partnership with Mermaid Arts Centre and Fondazione Monte Verità.
Áine Stapleton is a dance artist and filmmaker from Wicklow Town. Her work has a particular focus on biographical subjects, and since 2014, she has been developing film productions based on Lucia Joyce, daughter of the Irish writer James Joyce. Her Arts Council-funded feature, Horrible Creature, examines Lucia's time in Switzerland and premiered at The Irish Film Institute. Other screenings include Riffraff Kino in Zurich, Yugoslav Kinoteka as part of Belgrade Irish Festival, and the Council of Europe as part of Ireland's Presidency to the European Union. Her recent Arts Council-funded work, a stand-alone film installation based on Lucia and Finnegans Wake, titled Somewhere in the Body, premiered at Project Arts Centre and screened as part of Dublin Dance Festival. It was recently presented as a solo installation at Château Hornegg au Lac in Zurich, curated by Kunsthaus Aussersihl and supported by Culture Ireland, and at Limerick City Gallery as part of the Light Moves Festival.
Find out more HERE
Horrible Creature, Aine Stapleton, 2021. Image courtesy of the artist.
Somewhere in the Body, Áine Stapleton, 2022. Image courtesy of the artist.