by Ilenia Caleo and Enrico Pitozzi
The logic of the possible is the formula on which to focus a discourse about the second day of The Battle for Theatre¬01 October, which opened to the words of Carlo Quartucci and Carla Tatò, leading figures in the experimental theatre that, in the Conference held in Ivrea in 1967, found an opportunity for experimental performing practices to achieve a synthesis and develop a common vocabulary. A future was and is possible for the theatre, although to take shape it must be fuelled by living memory – as Quartucci and Tatò teach us in their theatrical journey that coincides with life itself –, a future that is also a future present. It is a fine, poetic thread that these two avant-garde artists unfurl in their narration of anecdotes and creative rifts, in which the urgency of creation may still be perceived across a distance of many years. A “collectivity of future possibilities” thus appears through the graces of Tatò/Quartucci to fill the space on this second morning, transfigured into a sailor from Amsterdam – “or was he from Hamburg?” – or into a portable Mayakovsky, wishful figures who travel in a suitcase that is also an archive that is also an atelier.
This daydream, a working search for a future, illustrates the different ways in which an operative practice may be established. And so the field titled “Creating Institutions” takes shape, curated by Ilenia Caleo, in which Giuseppe Allegri, Livia Andrea Piazza, Marco Baravalle in the room, and Cristina Kristal Rizzo and Federica Giardini from a distance, reformulate the points of connection that can cement aesthetic considerations with their political dimension. They deploy a vocabulary that, like Deleuze, seeks to delineate reflections about institutions – in the plural form– as places in which trends and desires can influence reality, and in which the world opens up as a space for action. For concrete, generative action, which can filter down into collective behaviours and endeavours, because we share not only things, but attitudes, pre-conditions, languages, situations and environments in which the body is a central factor: what we come into contact with shapes us and makes us think, as Sara Ahmed sustains.
Instituting practices, in the sense that we mean here, are non-statutory public spaces that originate in the capacity of communities (as fluctuating as they may be) to be constituted on the basis of shared practices that generate systems of proximity, in which variation/codification are always reconsidered. The proposal that gradually emerges across the two days of the conference is to rethink the category of the common not as a “legacy” or a “cultural object”, but as an “instituting process”, as acting in common. A process of transformation and relation, which by its very nature tends to fade away with time. How can it acquire substance? How can it become an accessible repertory of gestures, postures and inventions? Practices may be approached with an exercise in “retrofuturism” (as Allegri calls it), to gather materials that can be recombined in new assembled configurations. To reverse the discourse about the underdevelopment of southern Europe, seen as dependent and deprived, it is important to remember that Italy has been an extremely rich laboratory of spaces and forms of life – from artistic experimentation, feminism, social invention, to the most recent occupations of cultural spaces – and that we should draft an initial improvised catalogue that might serve as a handbook: in-between spaces, reconstructing their theoretical genealogy and inventing narrations that can liberate fictional displacements. This is when artistic thought – which must maintain a critical position towards its own platforms of production – is grafted in: the political dimension of art that does not stop at the logic of a preconfigured social order, but immediately offers models, tools, concepts and scripts for possible actions. Actions already underway.
And it is precisely the strict relationship between bodies and knowledge that can give rise to the “new alliances” that Stefano Tomassini places at the centre of the considerations for his field, calling for a direct dialogue between theory, political/institutional action and artistic practice. In Butler’s political glossary, assembly means convening but also assembling, bodies coming together as a gathering of perspectives and gazes, with no hierarchy. Can we not attempt a synthesis or the formulation of unitary thought? How can we all think together in this gathering of bodies in one place? Certain proposals are tried out, and Marco Pustianaz, Carlotta Scioldo, Chiara Frigo and Francesca Corona question each other, unexpectedly, continuously repositioning experiences, critical nodes, references, dis/organizing the pre/ordered talks in the field by speaking all together and little by little expressing an open and plural thought.
Methods are also varying intensities of thought. The questions and issues that surface in the game are forms of mobilization: intelligence and expertise – even when apparently irreconcilable –, forms of life and aesthetics that summon the activism of the viewer, who can no longer claim to be politically uninvolved in his state of receptive passivity, as his lack of action exposes him to the gaze of the Other, and to the institutions that must experiment with dynamic re-compositions capable of transformation and renovation. Political choreographies of gazes projected into a self-summoned viewer body. While this was the first interpretation to emerge from the speakers, there is on the other hand a practice – the alliance of bodies – through which new themes and guiding principles are claimed as levels of interrogation and/or resistance to the homologation of the aesthetic and political practices of the present; incandescent situations that redefine spaces and communities as places for new gatherings, as well as gender identities that find forms of expression in art, which then open and spread through the spaces of the social. This is a true poetic action enacted as a practice of dissent, which for Rancière “shows what should not have been seen, shapes into a discourse something that was only heard as noise”, and thus inverts the hierarchy of the stories, weakening those which are heard with such clamour and giving strength to those condemned to be underestimated.
In this sense the Ivrea conference was a turning point that raises urgent and relevant questions today, about the way in which the creative practice of “new theatre” fits into the awareness of the social fabric as a political element. In the language of theatre, a founding action to be brought back into the present is the definition of a “dramaturgy of sound”, in which the acoustic element is conceived strictly as a musical and vocal emission, that can influence and hence orient the viewing and interpretation of the image on stage, thereby establishing a relationship with the territories of “new music” and “new theatre”. In this horizon of meaning, the approach that Enrico Pitozzi brought to the discussion – along with Veniero Rizzardi, Roberto Paci Dalò, Daniela Cattivelli and Enrico Malatesta – delineated a story of intersections and returns, of common and shared sensibilities, sometimes separated in time, and observed in the recent history of experimental music and theatre.
What emerged is a musical thought that the theatre elaborates in connection with thought about sound, stepping away from the mere use of music as a corollary to the regime of vision. In this direction, one of the aspects that theatre and dance produce is a renewal of the practice of composition, at the centre of which we find “the dramaturgy of sound”, understood as a latent device that makes it possible to orient the perception of the images.
From the perspective of composition, there is a process that develops around a double regime of images, that is to say the “acoustic image” – which also includes the vocal register – and the “visual image”, determined on the basis of the quality of the former. In other words, the sound acts discreetly and latently on stage, determining the meaning of what appears on the stage: the visual regime of the image is therefore the counterpoint to the regime of sound and music.
Consideration is given within this field to the material of sound, created with instrumental sounds and with materials elaborated with the help of technology. An exploration into the territories of the contemporary must necessarily include considerations on the spectator’s reception, in particular the redefinition of his capacity to listen, a theme that – once again – strictly correlates studies in music and in theatre when they conceive of an environment in which the spectator is immersed, as he was on the closing night at the S.a.L.E. Docks, surrounded by the images of Disappear one, a film by Grame Thomson & Silvia Maglioni, followed by the sounds of Daniela Cattivelli, Giulia Vismara and Richard Crow.
“It’s still wonderful to dream of the unexpected”, and so to prefigure possible alliances of bodies, which are already beginning to happen over the course of these two days, and may only be consolidated in shared practices of the sensible, that is of something that is shared because it originates in a common understanding. So what is common is first and foremost an atmosphere, an air you breathe, in which the conditions foster encounters and exchanges, based however on a shared though unstated principle: the trust on which friendships rest. Because that is what we are talking about. And we are well aware of it, there is no such thing as friendship at first sight, it is a slow process over time, an intensive engagement – sometimes blunt and even fierce – but loyal and honest, calling for virtues that have often been lacking in current behaviours and practices. And so we must decide to take up the challenge of grammars of optimistic passions if we want this to be a basis for a logic of the possible that becomes the world.