LAUREL JAY CARPENTER
A site-specific, durational performance, “Charme” explores the themes of illusion and truth for both a whole city and a woman alone. The title refers to the well-known Italian fotoromanzo, a type of published soap opera. In this case, however, the exploration of love and desire in midlife, and in “real life,” gains focus. “Charme” further pays tribute to the dual nature of the city of Terni, Italy as it attempts to redefine itself in a new era. As the historic hometown of St. Valentine, with the tallest waterfall in Europe that was once a stop on the Grand Tour, Terni’s legacy seems to contradict its present as an industrial, working-class city.
Burdened by the clichéd tokens or charms of romance, the woman—no longer an ingénue—wears a white gown of ribbons heavy with 300 little, red gift-boxes tied on with bows. She walks the city streets for four hours, and one by one, unties and offers a box to any curious viewer. In each box the recipient finds a handmade souvenir of the city: a historic etching of the waterfall on thick, mirrored glass. One side is a romantic memory, the other a true reflection. And as the boxes are relinquished, the woman’s dress cascades, turning her into an image of the waterfall, free and unfettered at last in the twilight city.