In the turbulent years of social dissent that would lead to the protest movements in 1977, two atypical artists from Rome, Claudio Remondi and Riccardo Caporossi, distinguished themselves from the very start with an operative experimentation that, while conceived within the context of the cultural and political demands of that historical era, traced a different direction – in some ways solitary and independent, leading to some conflict with the more radical fringes of the movement –, a direction that addressed the “political” issues of theatre in a new form, and personally engaged in revitalizing the languages of the theatre. This conception of social commitment was not explicated in their work by staging fragments of everyday life, but in a radical and original revitalization of the languages of performance, including the role of the actor who becomes a performer in his own right, in the sense of someone who, with no need to be linked to a character, performs actions on stage, in the here and now of everyday time shared with the spectator1.
In other words, if theatre is to become a decisive tool in developing a model for a new society, it must establish a new dialogue with reality: without falling into the clichés of documentary theatre or civil commitment, it must elaborate ethical and political practices that have a real impact on society, founded on a new conception of the languages with which to express and to share the issues underlying a new awareness of existence. This specific aspect of Remondi and Caporossi’s theatre led – in one of its many manifestations – to a veritable redefinition of the performance space, which invaded the urban context2. Rotòbolo is a work that clearly bears witness to this new idea of public space, within the context of how a city is used – specifically by moving into Piazza Vetra in Milan – offering a basis for a new understanding of both the city and the relationships that the citizens establish within it. At the centre of the city square, the two artists installed an enormous steel cylinder, designed by Riccardo Caporossi as a result of his thesis in Architecture, resting on another metal structure. The theatrical action lasted 45 minutes and the architecture was divided into five independent structures. The spectators walked into the cylindrical structure, twenty-five at a time; once inside, they made the five sections rotate, producing various sounds, like the industrial machines that alienate human workers, the theme and critical target of the work. As the performance developed, two assistants loaded one of the spectators on a gurney and moved him out of the structure, as if to signify that the work was done and the audience could leave the engine room.
This gigantic machine installed in Piazza Vetra spurred a series of acts of vandalism and the protests of the antagonistic movements, which less than a year later, in his non-introduction to the book dedicated to L’avanguardia teatrale in Italia, Franco Quadri remembered in these terms: “Because there was no festival to question or Triennale to occupy, the artistic protest, now manoeuvred by the youth base, took the more general and generic route of self-reduction. By confusing structure and superstructure, demanding bread and cinema, extolling libertarianism and imposing the moralistic intransigence of new censorship, like the feminist crusade against pornography, the demands of one’s own private creed can also deviate into an intolerance that denies the Other, and in the case of Autonomia Operaia, channel their hatred towards everything that at first glance they cannot, or will not understand, into purely destructive impulses. I was wrong before, because it was during a festival that the autonomist protest first ran up against theatre, in Milan, during the Confronti Teatrali in May 1976. They were not protesting the event, but a duo of self-taught artists, of outsiders like them, Remondi and Caporossi, who had recently been presenting examples of absolutely situational theatre –work, in which the intellectual references were not essential to the communication, because it is entirely possible to be unaware that the antithesis tormentor-victim and the concentrationist meaning of their compositions is rooted in Beckett’s work, that the figurative advancement of their immediate and almost always silent performances is inspired by the comic strip, and that the language of the materials they use hoards memories of arte povera […].3
Rotòbolo (1976) by Claudio Remondi and Riccardo Caporossi.
Performers: Riccardo Caporossi, Sabrina De Guida, Lillo Monachesi, Claudio Remondi.
Milan, Piazza Vetra, 1976