Life lessons from Eleonora Duse

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She may have died 90 years ago, but the gospel according to the Italian actress Eleonora Duse still rings true. Dazed charts the top ten pearls of wisdom to take on board from her illustrious life, including what to do to get over your ex and how to handle the press.

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JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE A CHILD STAR DOESN’T MEAN YOU HAVE TO LOSE YOUR SHIT

Before you shed a tear for the corrupted youth of today’s child stars, spare a thought for Eleonora (Bieber–take note). The daughter and grand-daughter of impoverished Italian actors, Eleonora was only four years old when she joined her family’s acting troupe and began a hefty work schedule that sent her touring across Europe, South America, Russia and the United States. She managed to pull it all off without any known criminal convictions or rehab stints. In her adult life she used her experience of early fame to become a mentor for younger stars.

THE BEST WAY TO GET OVER SOMEONE IS TO GET UNDER SOMEONE ELSE

Eleonora didn’t have the best luck in love – her first lover, journalist Martino Cafiero, left her mid-pregnancy and she tragically lost the child. This didn’t perturb her, and she engaged in numerous passionate affairs with men and women throughout her 65 year life. Her lengthy list of lovers includes writer/prince Gabriele d’Annunzio and Italian feminist/cross dresser Lina Poletti.

PAY YOUR OWN WAY

Eleonora shirked tradition at a time when many women relied on pocket money from their husbands. She established her independence early on in her career by setting up a theatre company and taking on the roles of manager and director. During her affair with d’Annunzio she provided more than just creative support – she also paid all of his bills, including the rent.

GET OVER YOURSELF

Eleonora coined a new acting technique that she described as an “elimination of self”. While other actors in the period were dependent upon a set of over the top stock expressions and lashings of make up for their portrayals, Eleonora internally connected with her characters to enable her performances to come to life. She shunned make up and opted for subtlety over artifice. She has been described as “the first modern actor” for her pioneering performance technique.

DON’T TAKE CRAP FROM ANYONE, EVEN IF YOU ARE SLEEPING WITH THEM

She had a long standing rivalry with actress Sarah Bernhardt. When Eleonora’s lover d’Annunzio cast Sarah in one of his plays over her, she promptly ended the affair. Although d’Annunzio had already written four plays for Eleonora, she wasn’t willing to stick around for such insolence.

NEVER COMPLAIN, NEVER EXPLAIN…

It’s working for Kate Moss, and it worked for Eleonora. While rival Sarah Bernhardt relished in the public gaze, Eleonora refrained from interviews and let her performances do the talking. Her elusiveness contributes to her legend – all that remains of her is one short film, Cenere, and the accolade of others.

…BUT ENJOY IT WHILE IT LASTS

Not all publicity is bad publicity, as Eleonora discovered when she became the first woman and first Italian to be on the cover of Time Magazine in 1923. She enjoyed reverence from the likes of Charlie Chaplin, who described her as “the finest thing I have ever seen on stage”. Anton Chekhov noted “I’ve never seen anything like it. Looking at Duse, I realised why Russian theatre was such a bore.”

GET SOME FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES

Eleonora got herself some loyal followers in the shape of President Gover Cleaveland and his wife during her tour of the United States. The couple were in such awe of Eleonora that they attended every single one of her performances. This led to the controversial decision on Mrs Cleaveland’s part to host the first ever white house tea for an actress.

BUT DON’T FORGET TO KEEP IT REAL

Eleonora stuck by her pals in their hours of need. When her close friend – American dancer Isadora Duncan – lost both of her children in a car accident in the river Seine, Eleonora rushed to her side. She spent several weeks counselling her at a seaside resort in Viareggio.

LEAVE YOUR MARK

Eleonora has been a muse to many artistic geniuses. A young James Joyce kept a portrait of Eleonara on his desk and modern dance pioneer Martha Graham worshiped at her alter. Her influence continues to flourish as Dazed takeover star Stacy Martin picks Eleonora as her definitive acting inspiration.

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Squatters’ Paradises

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The coalition government has launched a ferocious war on squatting. In September 2012 a law was passed to criminalise squatting in residential buildings. Aside from the sometimes fatal implications (as was the case with the death of Daniel Gauntlett) the new law disregards the extraordinary contributions to British culture – check out the achievements of Bristol’s ArtSpace Lifespace and Peckham’s Lyndhurst Way.

The latest example of squatters fighting for their right to shelter is occuring at the Hart Gallery on London’s Islington Upper Street. As the gallery is a commercial property the squatters have successfully avoided eviction, and to mark this, Dazed celebrates our top ten most defiant squats, from 70s gay lib to 00s art parties.

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THE SOUTH LONDON GAY COMMUNITY CENTRE, BRIXTON

In 1974 a squat formed on 78 Railton Road, Brixton. This squat offered a communal space for individuals wishing to openly express their gay identity. It was a haven for gay people from all walks of life to unite in social activity and political action. Railton Road became a hub of activity for those wishing to challenge social injustice. It boasted two women’s groups, an Anarchist News service, a union for people on welfare benefits and Icebreakers (a gay liberation counselling group). The squats were eventually swallowed by the Brixton Housing Co-op in early 80s.

EILEEN HOUSE, LONDON

The Self Organised London collective began occupying this former university building to fight the “gentrification” and “social cleansing” of the area. The squatters sought to prevent the redevelopment of the building into luxury flats. In spite of a petition with 50,000 signatures and a campaign spearheaded by the nearby Ministry of Sound, planning permission was accepted by the Mayor in December 2013 to construct a 41-storey tower on the site.

AGNES SQUAT, LONDON

The Victorian terrace began its life as a squat in 1969. The council bought properties with the aim of tearing them down and extending Kennington Park. After the council’s plans were scuppered, the houses were left to the squatters to rebuild. It wasn’t until 2005 that Lambeth Council was successful in removing the squatters. It took 200 riot police and bailiffs to get rid of the residents. The only property that survived was a Rastafarian temple, said to have been visited by Bob Marley in the 70s. The temple was also eventually closed in 2007 after supposedly being taken over by drug dealers.

GROW HEATHROW, LONDON

Grow Heathrow evolved out of a desire to prevent the construction of Heathrow’s third runway. The occupiers have taken over the former site of an illegal car breaking yard. From this focal point a community has blossomed that lives without dependence on fossil fuels. In spite of the imminent threat of eviction, Grow Heathrow continues its peaceful occupation.

!WOWOW!, LONDON

The art collective kick started in Peckham in the early noughties as the result of a surge in numbers of art graduates without employment.“After I left college I lost my job and decided I didn’t want to pay rent anymore,” says former Camberwell graduate and artist, Matthew Stone.“So I researched it and start squatting in Peckham with my friend James Balmforth. That’s how !Wowow! began.”The !WowoW! movement helped to launch the careers of Stone, fellow artist Balmforth, fashion designer Gareth Pugh, and video artist Adam Faramawy.

BITCOIN SQUAT, LONDON

In a former Buddhist temple in London the creators of the Bitcoin movement reside. The crypto-anarchic, enigmatic movement is using radical technology to topple the role of government and banks in our financial affairs. This hacking fraternity is cloaked in secrecy. Only the hacker name of the creator – Satoshi Nakamoto – is widely known.

PARK LANE, LONDON

In 2009 a group of squatters with expensive taste moved into two seven storey houses on Park Lane, each worth £15 million. The houses boasted views of Hyde Park and the chance to rub shoulders with the oligarchs and Sheikhs of Mayfair. A group of 30 artists, students and musicians inhabited the buildings, even having their own keys cut, until sledge hammer yielding bailiffs turned them out.

CLIFTON WOOD HOUSE, BRISTOL

After weeks of camping out on a public green on behalf of the Occupy movement, these squatters decided it was time to move up in the world. The protestors found an abode in a property that was once Bristol’s most expensive house. The empty £3 million, 8 bedroom dwelling is located in Bristol’s most affluent area and comes complete with indoor swimming pool. The inhabitants were eventually kicked out by the police, much to the delight of hostile local residents.

HOBO HILTON, LONDON

In 2012 50 activists occupied an abandoned BT building in High Holborn and christened the space ‘Hobo Hilton’. Contrary to its name, Hobo Hilton was not set up as a residency for homeless people.  As part of the Occupy movement Hobo Hilton offered a space for education, creativity and revolutionary group work. Participants included Green Peace and key figures from the Bitcoin movement. The group was conveniently evicted on the eve of a 100,000 strong anti-cuts demonstration.

THE REALLY FREE SCHOOL, LONDON

The Really Free School set itself up in Guy Ritchie’s £6 million home on London’s Fitzroy Square. Dubbed the ‘middle class squat squad’, the group aimed to re-imagine Gove’s free schools and provide ‘a collective learning process directed by your own desires’. Lessons on offer included ‘Spanish for activists’ and ‘Skill up on tax havens’. They were reluctantly evicted after losing their court battle, while wearing Vinnie Jones masks.