È speciale il primo numero 2014 della rivista Comunicazioni Sociali (gennaio-aprile), è infatti un numero monografico intitolato Il teatro verso la performance e curato dalla prof.ssa Annamaria Cascetta. Raccoglie i saggi che rielaborano gli interventi presentati dagli autori al Seminario di studio “Il tempo della performance” ed è la prima tappa di un work in progress in dialogo con varie voci internazionali sul tema. Come scrive la curatrice nella nota introduttiva: "Si tratta di definire i confini dell’esperienza teatrale all’interno dell’istanza performativa, di individuarne i connotati, di vederli all’opera in alcune significative realizzazioni scelte come limitato campione", e continua: "si tratta di cogliere lo spessore di senso e di pensiero, l’efficacia e la lucidità intuitiva e anticipatrice di una tendenza culturale [...] nell’interpretare i segni dei tempi e le istanze di progettazione antropologica dell’uomo moderno". Tra gli autori analizzati ricordiamo Jerzy Grotowski, Samuel Beckett, Erika Fischer-Lichte, Hans-Thies Lehmann. Vi è poi una sezione dedicata ai momenti di teatro performativo sulla recente scena europea e un’altra, denominata Intersezioni, che raccoglie saggi con diversi punti di vista sul binomio corpo-performatività. Chiude il volume un’appendice iconografica.
Ludwig Flaszen, literary consultant and co-founder of Grotowski’s Teatr Laboratorium, provides direct, lucid and moving testimony of the path that led Grotowski to explore the terminology of “performer”, “performance”, “performing arts” and “performative structure”, but also to emphasize a difference compared to the broad meaning that the term performance has acquired today. Flaszen clarifies that the core of Grotowski’s idea is rather that of “art as vehicle” and “meditation in action”. And in this there is no gap between early and late Grotowski, but a substantial continuity, although the full awareness of this position developed in the years of his maturity, when the concept of spectacle was completely effaced.
Among the fundamental models that have most influenced contemporary theatrical practice, Samuel Beckett clearly occupies a prominent place. His example is of paramount importance for the trend towards the conception of performance that favours the actor’s experience of being on stage before the audience at the expense of the narrative and mimetic elements, and of the canonical conventions regarding duration, characters and a plot that has to be unfolded. With a useful comparison with performance art and artists and theatre theorists and an emphasis on Beckett’s true medium of theatrical expression, the body, the essay highlights how prophetic as well as influential Beckett’s radical exploration of the expressive potential of the body on stage, at the limit of “torture”, has been. The argument is developed by following Josett’s Feral’s scheme of three distinctive features of contemporary performance which the author shows are central to Beckett’s theatre: the manipulation of the body, the manipulation of space and the relation between the artist and the audience.
The paper, rich and highly articulated, surveys the international bibliography of recent decades, touches on experiences and perspectives central to contemporary theatre, investigating relations between theatre and performance and showing the complex ties between them and their implications. Performance appears to be a conception both more general and more specific than theatre. Theatre can be seen as a type or kind of performance, or performance can be considered a theatrical or artistic-theatrical genre. The performative perspective may be a way of conceiving spectacle. If it is true that one can speak of a “performative breakthrough” in theatrical practices of the twentieth century, starting in the sixties, it is equally true that we have to speak of an analogous breakthrough with regard to theatre studies, in continental Europe as well as Britain and North America, enrolled under the banner of Performance Studies. There also exists a dramatization of performance and performing, because even where true pretence, characters and dramatic situations are lacking, the stage remains the jeu understood as self-representation.
This paper presents a number of topics related to the aesthetic model proposed by Erika Fischer-Lichte’s book The Transformative Power of Performance: A New Aesthetics. The first part illustrates the transition from an aesthetic of the artwork to an aesthetic of the event. Particular attention is devoted to some of the book’s basic concepts: the concept of the performative, developed using Max Herrmann’s idea of Aufführung (performance) and the concept of autopoetic feedback loop, used to describe the performative process in which the artistic event is constituted. In the second part I investigate the scholar’s themes of corporeality, presence and production of meanings. The paper shows the distance between the aesthetics of the performative and hermeneutic paradigms. The paper concludes with the exposition of the idea of the transformative power of performance (Aufführung) and notes the question of the philosophy of history underlying it.
The question of the relationship between the dramatic text and spectacle has bulked steadily larger in the theatrical debate in recent years. The affirmation of epic theatre, Szondi’s studies on the decline of “absolute” drama, the emergence of performance and the happening, the reinvention of the formal paradigms created by authors such as Samuel Beckett, Heiner Müller and Sarah Kane, and experiments in collective creation bring out the need to rethink an active role for the viewer in the theatrical event. Against this backdrop there appears the drift of so-called dramatic theatre, theatre conceived as a function of the performance of a written script. The theory of theatre, seeking an appropriate vocabulary to define the phenomenon, has not yet settled on a single solution. The most successful suggestion is that by Hans-Thies Lehmann, who speaks of postdramatisches Theatre (postdramatic theatre).
The essay analyses the question of performance in philosophical-anthropological terms, setting it within the framework of the “end of metaphysics”. Drawing on the work of some of the most important interpreters of this line of thought, the essay explores the art of performance from the point of view of the expression of the human subject, in the light of the revolution of so-called post-modern upheavals. The work of Artaud, Derrida, Lacan, Lévinas and Grotowski are explored for what concernes the relations between subject and meaning. If the “classical representation” (“metaphysics”) suggested a subject as in some way dominated by an external and superior meaning text, how it is possible to conceive of a non-alienating mode of expression that speaks authentically to another subject and that truly rehabilitates the body?
ANALISI: MOMENTI DI TEATRO PERFORMATIVO SULLA RECENTE SCENA EUROPEA
The article analyses performance by Stefan Kaegi (Rimini Protokoll) Bodenprobe Kasachstan. By putting ordinary people on stage, not professional actors (so-called “experts”), the Rimini Protokoll art collective creates performances in which reality invades the theatre and narrative structured as monologues takes precedence over dialogue. Stefan Kaegi’s Bodenprobe Kasachstan (2011) explores the theme of the migrations of people (and the parallel migration of oil through the Kazakh steppe) during the twenthieth century: five experts on stage recount fragments of their personal history, their narrative monologues being accompanied by projections of videos, photographs and other iconographic documents. Politics, the economy, and war have shaped the experts’ lives. The creative process is collective and collaborative: the experts have an active role and discuss with the dramaturg and the director. So in this type of performance, the notion of the author is complicated and open. The customary mechanism of representation and interpretation give way to the performative dynamic of presence. The audience is personally involved in grasping the meaning of the difficult balance between authenticity and representation.
Jan Lawrens’ theatrical journey has been marked by constant reflection on performance since the beginning of his carrier in Belgium in the late seventies. Starting from the well- known spectacle Isabella’s Room (2004) we can identify the core elements that mark his current thinking on performance and theatre. The paper highlights the tension towards narrative, but with reference to the influence of the visual arts, brings up the concept of the “border image”, a key expression to understanding the genesis of the spectacle. The aspiration to a theatre that is “the most human possible” results in a strongly political art focused on the life of the polis as a community of human beings. The first scene in particular brings out the idea of the actor supported by Lawrens and his striving to overcome the crisis of performance observed by some authoritative scholars.
This paper seeks to bring out the distinctive qualities of the Flemish artist’s aesthetic through the analysis of Isabella’s Room: a performance which experiments in constantly varying and radical ways with the relations between stage and audience, the relations between the visual arts, dance, drama, written and acted word, live song and music. Through the narration of the stories woven into the performance, the paper illustrates and analyses the particular stage design, the contribution of music and the chorus, and the verbal element. Above all it brings out the significance of the paratactic arrangement of the elements and the presence of multiple “centres of energy”. The search for an ever-changing relation subtends the idea dear to Lauwers of performance as “presentation, not a representation” by the performer as an active, thinking presence, a true artist. The message of a final hope, the ethical response that the beauty of art can give to the falsehoods of life and history, the collective experience that the performance produces, make it this artist’s work even more intense.
Using death as a lens to look at life in a different way, or constantly aspiring to a post-mortem stage of life itself. At the centre of this reflection is the female body in all its resplendent beauty and unacceptable perishability. This essay insists on the possible interpretations of the body on stage, reading a solo for dancer or performer by Jan Fabre, visual artist, playwright, contemporary director and even entomologist, who terms himself a consilience artist. Fabre’s work can be considered an exclusively performative event, since it is based on bodily writing unrelated to any written text before or after it. The viewer is engaged in an effort of understanding, imagination, genuine empathy and com-passion.
The essay analyses the production of Gólgota Picnic by the Spanish artist Rodrigo Garcia, seen in the context of the 2011 Festival d’Automne in Paris. The paper describes the structure of the representation and its relations with the non-dramatic monologue written by Garcia out of which it freely develops. The essay highlights the elements which justify its inclusion in the context of performative theatre, that is the subject of this special issue of the journal. It also seeks an interpretation of the ideas and values inspiring the work and clarifies the reasons for its strong impact on the audience.
Far from being the completed outcome of a historical and critical stocktaking of the over twenty years of work by Armando Punzo and the Compagnia della Fortezza in Volterra Prison, this brief paper presents a possible reading of Hamlice - saggio sulla fine di una civiltà in the light of the characteristics of performative theatre hitherto identified in a number of theatre productions believed to be significant in Europe. It therefore seeks to analyse the imprisoned stage of the performances by the Company of actors, comprising both convicts and outsiders, through a particularly successful example. Punzo’s prison theatre, conducted in the extreme and unusual context of a prison, focuses on the education of the actor and the active involvement of the audience in an educational and cathartic rediscovery of the self.
The essay focuses on the project Syrma Antigones by Enrico Casagrande and Daniela Nicolò, founders and leaders of a theatre group called Motus. Tracing the creative path of the project’s four performances ‒ Too Late!, Iovadovia, Let the Sunshine In, Alexis. A Modern Tragedy ‒ from Sofocles tragedy Antigone to modernity, the essay highlighs the connection between the Motus and the Living Theatre, particularly on Antigone’s historic model Judith Malina. In addiction, the essay outlines the core of Motus’ performing theatre: its connection with the audience and its way to structure the space. It also considers two of the key characteristics of Motus’ experience: its relationship with the socio-political context and its theatre as a civil commitment. Finally, based on this analysis, the author defines the Motus’ new way of ‘‘political theatre’’ that Daniela Nicolò herself calls ‘‘sociological theatre’’.
Contemporary dance and performance are art forms whose boundaries are blurred, elusive and often overlapping. This is evident in S, the spectacle by the German choreographer Sasha Walz which focuses on sexuality and dream, forming a link between two other works by the same artist (Körper and noBody) and presenting interesting meta-choreic elements. The paper shows the ecstasy of the body above all by following the subject in three different scenographic settings that mark the development of the piece, then identify as the motif running through the expressive-choreic score a pair of keywords beginning with “s”. The objective is to follow the associative mechanism and avoid, in line with Freudian teaching, an all-encompassing symbolic and rigid interpretation of this “danced dream”. The path of interpretation does not lose sight of the structural diversity and inexhaustibility of the object of analysis and its ability to question and express the body and the unconscious that inhabits it.
Nothing seems more remote from politics than dance. Yet when a body is capable of occupying a cultural space, such an action is already dense with political implications, with an ideological or anti-ideological matrix. The art of dance in fact can be considered the confirmation or questioning of cultural images of the body and the lexicons and syntax that affect these structures. The translation of gestural language into verbal language entailed in every communicative operation inevitably involves a manipulation. This paper addresses some elements that constitute the complex relation between dance and politics by analysing a recent work by the little-studied Algerian artist Rachid Ouramdane: Exposition Universelle (2011). Particular attention, in line with the theme of this issue of the journal, is reserved for the performative devices devised by the artist to reveal the power exerted by art and technology in shaping the processes of perception and representation and therefore the construction of identities.
The paper presents a reading of Gina Pane’s work related to the seventies and explores aspects of it related to the function of the body and performativity. In an attempt to move beyond the “classic” interpretations of the artist’s work, related primarily to Body Art, the paper explores the possibility of analysing the same formulations with discursive elements of her visual language, which have found one of their fundamental embodiments in performativity. Through the analysis of Action Autoportrait(s), an action dating from 1973, it focuses on the visual and semantic composition of the photographic images and objects, public participation and the nature and function of signs.
In recent decades, new medias and the theatre have revealed numerous elements of contact and divergence analysed at a general level on several occasions, including some studies on the theatrical elements in videogames. The article examines the performative presence in the field of gaming focusing on a single case study: Paper Mario 2: The Thousand-Year Door (Nintendo 2004). For its explicit performative and meta-theatrical elements the game analysed in a certain sense breaks down the fiction, making it possible to effectively reflect on similarities and differences that are most often not immediately obvious. In a semiotic perspective, but not without descriptive traits, the analysis of Paper Mario 2 presents various insights into the value of interaction, reproducibility, the relationship between spectator and performer and performative gestures, as well as the paper element of the game and its affinity with toy theatres.