Moses Pendleton has the sun behind him as he receives our call in Connecticut, where he lives. “Usually I like to talk on the phone with the sun in my face – he tells us as if we were there – but there are works in progress and I had to change location“. The nature that surrounds it, among woods, lakes and sunflower fields, is its source of harmony. But it is also inspiration for his performances. THE Momixthe most important dance theater group in the world, from September they return to Italy with “Alice”. But it would be better to say “Alice in Momixland”, Thinking of the visionary contribution of the artist, son of the love generation. And to his global creativity. Psychedelic. “Both titles are fine,” she replies. Lights, costumes, projections, music, movement and special effects: “Alice” will be a journey into the states of consciousness: dream and nightmare, lucidity and hallucination. In fact – do you remember? – Alice ingests a mushroom.
Moses Pendleton, who is Lewis Carroll’s Alice?
Alice is Lewis Carroll himself. She is the character that emerges from his imagination. She and she is of that imaginary that we still talk about today.
There are many symbologies related to the characters that appear in the book. Who did you give space to?
To the main iconic characters traced by Carroll in the book: from the abstract Cheshire Cat to the White Rabbit to the Mad Hatter. But on the show, Alice multiplies. She grows up and becomes many herself. From the beginning of her journey, underground, she changes. Until it returns to the surface. It is a very fast and dynamic show, in which we have also added characters that do not emerge from the writer’s pen.
From the promotional images you can see a giant spider. Is he a newcomer to Alice’s world?
Exactly. But I’m sure if Carroll lived today he would add it to the story. It’s part of the little girl’s journey in the dark. She belongs to her discoveries and her fear of the unknown. And it is an example of how we work. On the impressions that arise from the story more than on the faithful reading of her. After all, the book was originally distributed with illustrations by Sir John Tenniel. And the children of the time read it and watched it. Then there was the Disney movie that influenced generations to come. And me too. So ‘Alice in Wonderland’ was meant to be interpreted visually as well as in literature.
Tell us about the giant spider….
We already had it in the studio. But it was perfect for Alice’s trip. She, in a white dress, wakes up imprisoned in her trap. There is also a Kafkaesque reminiscence in all of this. From the Metamorphosis. After all, everyone has the freedom to draw on Carroll’s novel. Even Salvator Dalì made paintings inspired by Alice. We wanted to express that journey to Wonderland in our own way. Leaving the public the freedom to identify as they see fit.
“Alice” tells us about a visionary journey. Pure dimension of a childhood dream or a path of self-knowledge?
Both of them. Through the dream one enters the depths of one’s own reality. And he builds his own conscience. Alice’s is a journey into horror, beauty, mystery. There is nothing logical in any of this.
Tell us about the White Rabbit, a key character …
Few today know how to live in the present. The White Rabbit is the example of contemporary life. We are always late. Projected into the future. We always think about what we want to do next. But this is a stressful state of mind. Terrifying. We never grasp the present, the moment.
In addition to the psychological reading of the passage from childhood to adulthood, there is one linked to the alteration of states of consciousness, given by the ingestion of a psychoactive mushroom: do you consider it valid?
Everything we touch, eat, drink and breathe affects our being. The psychoactive mushroom that Alice ingests takes her into a deep dimension of herself. From which she comes out changed. This is just a symbol, of course. But there are studies on the benefits of hallucinogenic mushrooms on people with cancer or depression. The scientific community today is taking this research very seriously, as there are many studies showing the benefits of these mushrooms. Have you read the book ‘How to Change Your Mind’ by essayist Micahel Pollan? He reminds us that the mind is the greatest mystery in the universe and that we humans spend too little time exploring it. The controlled use of psychedelics can help us open ourselves to the essential mystical experiences of life.
He stated that in the 1970s, at the time of the founding of the Pilobolus group, he used soft drugs and was in favor of legalization. Have you ever taken a trip to states of consciousness?
My drug is nature. Biking, swimming, yoga, meditation, walks in the woods. All day. You have to take care of your body to have balance. I have no problem saying it: I did some psychedelic trips in the 60s and 70s. But I don’t remember anything. Let’s do this: if something comes to mind, I’ll contact you.
When does he compose his direction and choreography if he is always on a bike, in the lake, in the woods?
I always work. But on the move. I record ideas and thoughts even on a bike. At any time, even in the middle of the snowy forest. I live this extreme physical life of the body to empty the space of the mind, so that it can be filled with new creative thoughts.
As a son of the love generation and the hippie movement he contested the Vietnam War and believed in the possibility of creating a world away from materialistic interests. Did he succeed?
The legacy of the generation I was a part of is the understanding of spirituality as an integral part of life. Energy, relationships, music, art, poetry. If you follow your passions you will find balance. Life is also practical, of course, and you can’t give up the economic aspects to survive. But if you also cultivate other sides of existence, moment by moment, step by step, everything becomes harmonious. There is no contradiction.
He recognized his good fortune in sharing the dream of a way of life animated by ideals that matter more than money. Today his company is famous all over the world and makes money. How do you experience economic success?
I am happy with the success and recognition of the public. But, I repeat, we did not choose it. We have created our shows to carry our vision around. Fortunately, there was interest in our work. But doing this also means dealing with money. We employ 22 people. Each tour costs. But our mission is not to make money with Momix but to make Momix.
Graduated in English literature, passionate about Leopardi, Calvino, opera. What enchants you about our country?
Italy for me still represents the Renaissance. When I visit your country as a tourist I am enchanted by the architecture, the design, the landscape (capable of producing incredible sunflowers). And of course from good wine and food.
What do you think of the war in Ukraine?
War brings out the worst in humanity, but sometimes it can also bring out the best. Because he brought out great courage, wit and heroism and brought together a people in their struggle to regain freedom. I have the constant and burning hope that an agreement will be reached.
As a man who lives surrounded by nature: did you consider the imposition of the anti Covid vaccine as forcing?
No. It was necessary. I considered the period of isolation, even when vaccinated, as an opportunity to focus on creative work. Only with my thoughts.
But not everyone has his luck …
Very true. But we can all change our attitude and perspective, always. Looking at what makes us happy, even at the worst.
How do you perceive the Italian political situation from Connecticut, with the umpteenth fall of the government?
I’m finding out now from her. I just knew that she is changing leadership. Italian politics, well, I joked about Berlusconi and the bunga bunga… which are not for me. One consideration: today no one is able to understand what really happens. Also on the political front. The use of technology blurs everything. There are fake news. There is a lot of information manipulation.
Let’s go back to Alice: could her trip today be compared to a teenager’s trip to the metaverse?
Lewis Carrol has never known the metaverse. Alice’s is not a virtual journey. A sunset seen from the screen or in reality are not the same thing. Not even a dream. We must ask ourselves: do we want to become machines too in the future? AI can have a downside: it’s forcing us not to experience real life (real eye contact, real people and relationships). Now the machines are composing the music too, tomorrow will a computer create the Momix shows?
As I talk to you, it occurs to me that I could create a ‘Pinocchio’ to make its debut in Italy. But when I think about it, I realize that my nose is growing!