SLAPSLIFE (documentary)

SlapsLife* – Roxy in the Box life and works

Director: Massimo Andrei
Artists: Roxy in the Box
Nation: Italy
Year: 2008
Production: Mater
Runtime: 17′

Bright acid, artificial colours which speak of contemporary consumerism and malaise, chocolate, detergent, fruit and the important issues of our times. In brief, these are the central elements of the works of Roxy in the Box, a modern-day artist. A mixture of videos created by Roxy and the video of her own story in an attempt to merge this coloured image into the images she has painted: this is the manner which Massimo Andrei chose to use in depicting Roxy, not through her works but in her works. There are no cryptic messages or complex conceptualism, but rather unadorned narration and, frequently, confessions which touch upon issues and problems regarding Naples, the city where the artist lives and works.
The film never loses contact with the two characteristics shared by the painter and the director: playfulness and irony. Perhaps because people need to seize upon rather than protect themselves from external input, those opportune blows in life, stimuli and, when necessary, “schiaffi“ (Italian for slaps as in a slap in the face or humiliation)… Schiaffilife which obviously is in reference to a lifetime of slaps or humiliation, but not in a metaphoric or even existential sense. In the film, slaps are expressed as action, used in response, or used like punctuation.

«I was slapped without interruption from three in the afternoon to nine at night. And each one was real, mind you!!», stated Roxy in The Box, keen to make this point clear. The 13th Artecinema Festival will close with “Schiaffilife”*, a documentary filmed by Massimo Andrei about her art life and her love of art.  In effect, she’s had her share of pitfalls or slaps in the face, and perhaps even more in light of the “difficult” city (Naples) and the “extreme neighbourhood” where, after a nomadic adolescence, Roxy has chosen to live.
This 17-minute mini-film originates in the “silence of visual art which comes straight from the gut », but is also a polyphonic work: the off-the-scene voice conducting the open-hearted, no-holds-barred interview is that of the director: the other voices are those of Julia Draganovic (Director of PAN) and Gennaro De Masco, singer-performer and accomplice in many other projects including “T’aggia scassà ‘o sanghe” song which, despite all the trappings of one of those annoying summer hits, is actually a hard-hitting reflection on the “global” violence which afflicts the modern age. Roxy’s works on the “individual” are this way: transformist, garish, desecrating yet permeated in pain and solitude because – as the artist explains – «once you take away the colours in my paintings, what remains is black». There were many facets of this artist that Massimo Andrei wanted and was able to capture and was assisted by this rare form of empathy he shares with the artist. It all started with a virtual encounter when he saw one of her paintings on a computer screen. … «The painting – recalls the director – was “Il basilico di Stephanie” and my curiosity was aroused by the very bright colours and the protagonist’s expression. More than anything else, I felt and understood the irony of the assembled concept– rendered pictorial … which, in effect, is something I can easily identify with: the expression of a social, universal concept through a moment or a common figure. And then, it made me laugh which is fundamental! Many of Roxy’s works are bitterly comical ».
“Love at first sight”?
«Not really, but I made a discovery and embraced it. I did not let it overwhelm me, but it was clear to me that we shared similar visions. Then we met and I learned that she had identified with the style and the bitter-sweet humour of “Mater Natura”, a film I had recently released.  Once we began to speak, I once again felt the desire to minimize yet reveal the state of mind of those who live in this area. The depth of certain works, characterized by strong colours and a graphic, almost cartoon-like style, the legacy of almost any contemporary media, or certain film cuts, certain figures almost seemed as if they had come right out of TV. Symbols, icons, personages ranging from Hitler to the Smurfs or Saint Sebastian to Spider Man … I am what I am, that is, a fusion ».
Had you ever filmed other documentaries on contemporary artists?
«No, this was the first time. I had only recently started working with documentaries when I produced Mater which came about during the camorra wars and blossomed during the period the city was submerged in trash. I have always dealt with social issues.  When I was at university, I filmed a video-document on Franco Carmelo Greco, the professor who got me started in this profession and who has been the leading promoter of various cultural initiatives in Naples, including the university chair of History of Theatre at “Federico II” University. More than an artist, I would define him as a mine of art ».
What is the slant on this “short film”?
«I didn’t place emphasis on the encounter between two artists, nor on my style as a director: this would have come automatically, because Roxy and I are in tune with each other. More than anything else, what I wanted to emerge was Roxy who has so much to say in addition to what she reveals in acrylics and on the canvas. I don’t like the idea of having her speak and showing the works full screen, as is generally done when dealing with painters, photographers, photographers and other artists… a shot of the work and another of the artist speaking. No: I wanted her and her works together,  Roxy re-painted by me, with the colours that we both like, over her works, in her works. This is why when the scene becomes more confession-like, Roxy is framed completely submerged in her works. My intention was to re-situate her from where she had broken off, from her imaginary world which she has denounced and painted, Roxy who is personally and iconographically the daughter/mother of her figures ».
Why the title “Schiaffilife”?
«She spoke of painful events she had personally experienced which are part of the society we both live in … and then it seemed like her entire journey was made up of slaps in the face, or rather, a life of slaps … “Schiaffilife”. But my intention for the video was not to make metaphor but to use real slaps and do it personally. It was an real life exercise in exorcism which became comical ».
Do you feel an affinity between Roxy in The Box’s work and your own?
«Roxy uses symbols and real elements of daily life, from the news or modern day consumerism (even the documentary has an expiration date: 2013) to make us reflect or to provoke … In the theatre, fables and cinema, I also express myself in this manner. It may be a more cultured slant, but it is, nonetheless, pop, but pop also intended an abbreviation of the word popular … that is, that can be understood by all, even those without deeply rooted culture who might otherwise have difficulty decodifying these messages».
What impact do you think this “short film” will have in other Italian cities or abroad?
«In my opinion, it will have quite an impact, or perhaps, this is only what I would like to happen. Nonetheless, I think it will have an impact … because it is current and immediate; because it is sincere and not fictionalized; and, above all, because it is enjoyable which is always an important factor».
Do you have any plans to work together with Roxy in the future?
«Undoubtedly: I feel very close to her, even though I wouldn’t want to any of this to go to her head».

(Rome, 19 October, 2008).

Roxy in the Box - Video Still from SchiaffiLife

*SchiaffiLife – a life of slaps???