by Silvia Bottiroli and Piersandra Di Matteo
The first day of October. The Battle for Theatre¬01 opened, following the introduction by the six curators, with the electro-acoustic concert Madrigali sul mentire by the Venetian musician and composer Federico Costanza; the focus on listening was further developed in the conversation between the composer, performer and writer Alvin Curran and the scholar Valentina Valentini. The session then proceeded to explore three “fields”, dedicated respectively to the “Aesthetics of the Common”, “Speaking Up”, and “Prefigurative Practices”.
The Aesthetics of the Common, curated by Annalisa Sacchi
The field opened by evoking a figure who was absent at Ivrea, Aldo Braibanti, who that same year, 1967, would be arrested and tried for plagiarism. In 1967 Braibanti was working on his great unfinished theatre project, Virulentia. A friend of Bussotti’s and considered by Carmelo Bene to be “Italy’s greatest intellectual”, Braibanti had gathered together a community of artists in Rome that included, among others, Patrizia Vicinelli, Lou Castel and Alberto Grifi. Despite the atmosphere of a witch-hunt that was rising against him, a former anti-fascist partisan, anarchist and homosexual, Braibanti was able not only to create a remarkable artistic community that would rally against his arrest, but to establish an open and inclusive field within experimental theatre for artists from the most diverse disciplines.
This field is therefore implicitly dedicated to Braibanti: subtle threads run through the themes that sediment in his poetics with contemporary experiences, thanks to the contribution of artists and theorists of the arts, who have presented experiences, complete or ongoing artistic projects, experimentation and wide-ranging critical perspectives. Specifically, artist Anna Rispoli, with her work Les Marches de la Bourse created for the KunstenFestivaldesArts in Brussels in 2015, initiated a reflection on the possibility of reactivating in the work the forces and the forms of struggle and resistance, while Cecilia Guida, curator and director of UNIDEE at the Città dell’Arte, spoke about criticism of the hidden power of persuasion in reference to the experiences of the historic avant-garde movements. Carla Bottiglieri, an independent researcher, presented the work of the Brazilian company UEINZZ to introduce “schizoscenic” practice as the possibility for theatre to become a field for forms of impairment, and finally Cosimo Terlizzi, a visual artist and filmmaker, showed several excerpts from his work on Aurora by Alessandro Sciarroni, underlining the possibility for the work to become an open and inclusive territory, that could be explored by many artists.
Speaking Up, curated by Piersandra Di Matteo
In the preliminary materials handed out for the Ivrea Conference, particular importance was given to Playwriting and Sound (phonetics and translation into sound). In discussing the notion of “playwriting”, the promoters of the Conference asserted the “refusal to give pre-eminent value to the written word”, and suggested considering the linguistic element not in terms of content, but “in relation to the acoustic dimension of the spoken word”; on the aesthetic level, this demand becomes manifest in the “use of the word in a deforming, imaginative, anti-lyrical sense”. By placing the tip of the compass on this problematic nexus, subjecting it to the test of time and positing the fact that the dialogical word has settled into the heart of the “loquacious factory” (Marazzi, 2016), the field titled Speaking Up has evoked a series of practices that interrogate the pulpit instituted by the stage of the spoken word, confront language as an event rooted in the body, explore the speaker as a carrier of the power of the spoken word, and the position of the speaker in his relationship with a word eclipsed from both the rules of mimesis, and the chronicles of everyday life.
Art critic Francesco Bernardelli reviewed critical moments in the life of Carmelo Bene, one of the signatories of the Manifesto and participants at the Ivrea Conference; from his decision to eliminate every trace of his participation, through the following years when he abandoned the stage and through his controversial directorship of the Biennale Teatro in 1989, he sought to contextualize the sense of profound otherness and opposition to a figure who, in direct collision with the contexts and parameters of institutional representation, pushed the spoken word, on and off the stage, into territories of aesthetic and political reinvention.
Massimo Conti spoke of the central role of language in the work of Kinkaleri, which has become the field of activation of devices in which the dramatic word (The Maids by Genet) ends up swallowed in the glottis of a ventriloquist in I AM THAT AM I, or, like in the All! project, a field of invention of a code that transcribes the alphabetical symbol into the body, generating “corpographies” as tactics to assert the radical nature of presence. The video-interview with Anna de Manincor of ZimmerFrei, centred on the Family Affair project, focused on the experimentation of a participatory format about the contemporary family, with the creation of a living archive founded on a chain of live dubbing, in which each participant becomes responsible for the words of the other. And finally Simone Derai, director of the Anagoor company, reviewed the trilogy Lingua Imperii, Virgilio Brucia and Socrate il Sopravvissuto/come le foglie in video form, pointing out the sources of inspiration borrowed from classicism, the composition of the text as an assembly of disparate materials, the attention to individual/choral speech, the singing performances with the echoes of a Babel of dead and living languages.
Prefigurative practices, curated by Silvia Bottiroli
The field referred, starting with the title, to the text Prefigurative Practices: Raw Materials for a Political Positioning of Art, Leaving the Avant-garde by Valeria Graziano, and as such to a shift from the avant-garde paradigm to the prefigurative approach, to delineate aesthetic and political practices in the contemporary arts and to reconsider certain trajectories and operational modes. Valeria Graziano, a researcher at Middlesex University in London, placed the accent, starting with her essay, on prefiguration as an imaginative constitution of alternatives and on the enactment and symbolization of new ways of being of the arts. Whereas Cesare Pietroiusti, artist and founder of various collective experiences including the Fondazione Lac o le Mon, focused on the need to rethink the extension of the work of art in time, to shift from what it is to what it is becoming, and therefore to open an excess in which the spectator might find a different position. Luigi de Angelis, artist and director of the Fanny&Alexander company, examined the case of the recent discovery of mineral chlorophyll in a cavern in Vietnam, to shift the accent onto the specific dimension of the act of creation: a solitary dimension in which something from the outside does reverberate, a practice of immersion into the absolute present that brings with it a symptomatic awareness of time and hence a form of production of the future to which the term prefiguration refers. Offering a curatorial and institutional perspective, Umberto Angelini, Sovrintendente of the Teatro Grande in Brescia and curator of the Triennale Teatro dell’Arte in Milan, gave some perspective to the meaning of working within the institutions today, understood as spaces in which one can act without being recognized, eschewing conformity and building new alliances; while Linda Di Pietro, director of the Terni Festival and president of RENA, spoke of her experience of working on and with the territory, underlining the need to establish several elements of method: create new assemblages, invest in prototypes, start from practices, build new narrations.
Forms of labour and artistic production. A public discussion coordinated by Ilenia Caleo
Towards the end of the evening, the approach changed, with an invitation to start with one’s self as subject, to take on the issue of labour and precarity, to bring to light a material fact that usually remains hidden in the abstract dimension of the theoretical discourse. The point of departure is here and now, as theatre teaches: the politically active opportunity is precisely that this gathering – now – has brought together a disparate aggregation of subjects who in various ways have become casualised over time. The here is Venice, inside the university, as we attempt to collaboratively inhabit the spaces that the knowledge market would prefer to individualize, and turn them into places that generate practices and thought. Biographies emerge that instantly become, social biographies, symptomatic, traces of enquiries that start with the self and succeed in becoming landscape: understanding the many forms of autonomous and sporadic work, engaging in critical fields of knowledge that have no place in academia, feeling constrained by the demand for a continuous social and relational performance. A state of mind, a state of minds emerges: a widespread and pervasive anxiety, that becomes hard to dismiss as a question of character or individual ineptitude – could it be instead that the world is unwilling to become a space for relationships based on satisfaction, fulfilment? Desires emerge that – who knows – may already prefigure exits or excavated tunnels: grow potatoes but also refuse to grow potatoes, call yourself an artist or curator or researcher, but also stop performing these functions, re-politicize the area of affective ties but also intercept the connections activated on digital platforms. This is the snapshot of an emergency, yet its temperature is that of a convivial encounter that can become community.