The battle for theatre¬01 October – Introduction

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An Aesthetic Question

The battle for theatre¬01 October, part of the European research project INCOMMON. In praise of Community. Shared creativity in Arts and Politics in Italy (1959-1979), is the first in a series of public work sessions that will take place across the next four years.

This experience begins in group form, with an emphasis on its plurality. It is based on the acknowledgment of being different (a difference understood as a value to be cultivated, that will never give way to a magisterial position), because what is important to us in this meeting, here, today, is that it be transformed into a common that might ambitiously become the tool for a new policy towards scholarship, within an economy of knowledge founded vice versa on individuality and separateness. The plurality of directions, of positions, of generations, of practices represented both by the team and by the participants in the “fields”, by the discussants, the guests and all those who have answered our call – this plurality gathers to address a common question, an urgency to stop and take stock of the need and the forms of a “battle for theatre” rooted in the present and, at least for this first encounter, in the Italian context. The purpose today is to inaugurate a plural laboratory, if by that we mean opening to desire, to the aspiration to produce and weave together a common language and personal discourses. Energized by a festive vitality.

We looked to the New Theatre Conference held in Ivrea in 1967 thanks to the alliance with Olivetti, with an anti-monumental, non-commemorative attitude, so that the demands, the forces and desires expressed at that time might become the necessary, important, grounds for an appraisal of the present day, of artistic practices and its pronouncements, like the field of political, intellectual and amorous investments. The fiftieth anniversary of the Conference and of the Manifesto that convened it were thus a point of departure for an intellectual gesture that intends to make history not in order to celebrate, or to critically debate what has been, but to establish a course for the present, that will be mindful of the words and gestures that were once significant, that once transformed a landscape, and that continue to resonate and scrutinize the present.

The opening of the conference. From right to left: Enrico Pitozzi, Annalisa Sacchi, Carlo Magnani, Piersandra Di Matteo, Silvia Bottiroli, Ilenia Caleo, Stefano Tomassini

“The battle for theatre” is thus wedged into a story, conscious of the plurality of its layers and interactions, starting with the title which is a direct reference to the text of the Manifesto for a conference on new theatre that was held in Ivrea. It might be useful at this point to go over some of its passages, such as the [critics’] “primary obligation to experiment and interpret”; the feeling of being “extraneous to the modes, the mentality and the experiences of so-called official theatre and to official policy towards the theatre” and the fact that, while not being constituted as a group, “above and beyond all diversity, we believe nevertheless that we can find sufficient power of cohesion as we find ourselves facing fundamentally similar problems in our work”; the objective “to elicit, gather, cultivate and defend the new forces and trends in theatre, in a continuous exchange of ideas with all other artistic manifestations, to advance the needs of the new generations in theatre”; claiming the right to “ample margins for error”,  and rejecting “work that is officially defined as experimental, but must then align itself to the dominant positions”; and finally its nature as a “conference of openness and enquiry”.

And just as that Conference for New Theatre gathered artists, intellectuals, critics and professionals bringing out into the open a common horizon that may already have been perceived but was not yet practiced as such by the persons involved, we conceived this October Battle for Theatre as a time and place in which knowledge is not constructed in peace, but alternating between experience and theory, is presented as a critical space built with the stones that each of us brings – the image is Michel de Certeau’s – to build a common path that requires a certain dose of rigour and promiscuity. The artists, the critics, the theorists invited here today – for this first moment of encounter – have been asked to “start with themselves”. “Starting with one’s self” is not an invitation to remain narcissistically anchored to one’s individual specificity, one’s personal point of view, but on the contrary an opportunity to “depart from it”, to use one’s singular personal practices to give rise to a plural that is not established by the logic of identity, and can move forward within a state of contingency, by virtue of the interconnection between observed facts and subjective investment.We have invited all the guests we have summoned here to come together here for two days and take part in the discussions of the individual “fields” (these will be dense moments, in which the guests will speak and then engage in an open discussion, joined by the “discussants” and the participants), as well as in more collective and circular opportunities for discussion (and informal conversation). Taking time to be together is in fact a political gesture, now more than ever, and it is the only gesture that will make it possible for us, individually and collectively, to hold fast to the density and complexity of the words and practices that we are advancing.

 

Extract from the opening address of conference “La lotta per il teatro¬01 Ottobre”, written by Annalisa Sacchi together with Silvia Bottiroli, Ilenia Caleo, Piersandra Di Matteo, Enrico Pitozzi and Stefano Tomassini, who collectively curated the event.