BEYOND THE THEATRE
For a Dramaturgy of the Arts
By Massimo Zanasi
1. The impossible theatre.
Everything has already been said, everythings has already been written. Everything and its opposite. Contemporaneous theatre goes on by will, as life, and so it participates in a continuous growing of needs, a spiral of anxiety for their satisfaction and a dull pain for their ineluctable persistence.
After the false joy of the past years, after the anaesthesia of fear and after the hedonistic fulfil of the purposes, which allowed the will to still, here the boredom of the existence, even more destructive than the will.
Most of the contemporaneous theatres participate in this failure, where men and poetry meet in a vain competition of overpowering, unable to remove the sand from the eyes, continuously thrown by the present.
Can the theatre be different from all this stuff, without hoping rationally for a positive result of its own existence?
In three words, a Theatre without Show,
theatre finally aware of its absurdity? By the way, some details. Theatre does not involve will, it is an adventure in space, time, causelessness. Even when it tries to create a world, theatre loses itself; it is a degeneration which prevents from serving a will, that is typical of the knowledge coming from the show-performance.
Theatre is a poetic transfiguration, not a postal communication.
So, the intuitive contemplation of the theatrical genius sets itself against the rational knowledge, which is always involved with the hidden purpose of the will.
It is this kind of useless knowledge
which differentiates the theatrical composer (The Artifex)
and makes a special kind of him, his admiring is deconditioned by the common representations, it is a long and winding exercise of Silence.
But silence has to be said, so that it can be heard. Silence must be tuned so that you can listen the noise of the universe, like human poles. And here the theatrical accent falls on the notion of epoche’
: word which literarily means suspension
and that, in philosophy, of course not in the performances of the petty politicians, shows the attitude to the not think, the behaviour, which suspends the obvious reality of the world, also of the words in their daily meaning, to try to catch the ways and conditions of its giving.
It is like a coming back to yourself to understand the real meaning of the experience and lose yourself inside it.
But theatre as epoche’ is not the way to put the subject to the centre of the everything, the same subject that, after Descartes, has turned the world into an handling object and itself as an handling function.
Making theatre, taking care of it, really handling (from the inside of the thing), can be a static experience, taking the individual to the dejections,
to the chatting, to its miserable being an artist or, on the contrary, theatre can be an experience coming from an opportunity that the artifex finds in himself.
In this case the artifex
goes beyond the conditions of the artist, of the author and the director together, to resume them on himself to bring his own project, his own scenic s-composition: he goes out of the anonymous people say
(what is commonly said, and done), and tries a real experience.
Insisting on the ethical and aesthetic aspects of the epoche’,
it is not only a cognitive reflection but first of all withdraw from the anxious game of the daily interests, this blessed (when properly said) theatre
could offer many reasons to look over its own language and, more in general, to review the radicalism of what the artifex has to say to whom is not involved with it.
2. The possible scene
Theatre does not exist, has never existed. Theatres
exist and they build the wider ground of linguistic interactions,
synthetized by the word scene
exactly as philosophies
exist and not only one way of thinking.
Talking about theatre nowadays means finally consider all the specifications that are part of it, all the languages, codes, poetry (that compose it), to throw it on the dimension of a continuous overcoming, beyond the traditional political, technical and economic limits which have conditioned it over the time.
It is extremely reductive and misleading to think to the theatre only through the ways of the director’s theatre
, that specially in Europe, from the twenties until now, has brought the meaning of any staging on the tracks of a convention which shows the passage from a palaeocapitalistic management of the theatric performance to another which tends to its industrialization.
In this passage is concentrated the nucleus of the artistic problem
which is born with the modernity, not only concerning the languages of the performance.
Together with the growing of the great artistic international vanguard of the 20th century, infact, was developing the figure of the director
as general co-ordinative of the performance, respecting the script and the needs of the author, considered as the more authentic expression of the middle-class market through dangerous authoritative methods and protectionism1
Maybe the destruction of the figure of the spotlight chase actor (actor-author-director-performer) represents the highest price the present theatre has paid for its industrialization and modernization.
When the audience is no more satisfied with the individual performances
and pretends, conditioned, some mise-en-scene of a whole cast, it always coincides with those inexperienced trials to raise an everlasting industrial revolution, and more in general with a decline of a certain kind of a poetic individualism in a complex system that comes off as a mass society2
1 see The big slaughter by M.G. GREGORI in The lord of the scene, Milan, 1979; and Theatrical industry in Italy is born: director against actor, by G. LIVIO in Fourth Wall, Turin, 1983.
2 see Theatre as difference by A. ATTISANI, Milan 1978, and Ravenna 1988; and Scena Occidente by A. ATTISANI, Venice 1995.
3 see After modern Theatre, by V. VALENTINI, Milan. 1989.
But art, as anything developing into the stratified societies of our planet, is also inserted in a system of interdependence: like the oxygen cycle is connected with the cycle of carbon, so the cycles of theatre are strictly connected with painting, music and literature. In the era of the swift moving, of information in real time, of the multiethnic areas and of the cultural exchanges, scene communicates with sounds, images and concepts travelling more or less contemporaneously.
Of course, an art does not wait for another one, evolution or modifications of an art do not necessarily depend on the other, but if these expressions feel each other, they cannot pretend to feel isolated.
This gives to the one working in the different fields an interactive awareness, which is not translated into rough formulas like the fashionable one of contamination.
It is in this case necessary to distinguish the phenomenons of avant-garde entertainment, fundamentally scenographic and gaudy from the real researches, compositions, possessions and de-constructions, which are transversally made on the languages of the art by poets, quacks, people who do not belong to any trend (fashion), but simply for the strength of their work and of their peculiar procedures3.
InterActions is the project we inserted in the programms of study and artistic research of the Cultural and Theatrical Association ARKA (H.C.E.), has been worked out because of a need to compare side by side on the different languages of the contemporaneous art which inspire theatre as scenic writing cheerful and worrying and not only as entertainment element.
This idea of a lasting laboratory of scenic thoughts and works, has needed till now the definition of steady contacts and extremely stimulating with other artistic managements with whom it is possible to rewrite (not only in Europe) the result of a particular field of experimentation, which almost never makes products of immediate use.
Therefore the choice to propose periodically to an open audience the researches of artists coming from different fields but speaking the same artistic languages, compared with the current institutions become a political choice in favour of the cut tongues and of the great minorities of history (not only in the artistic area).
The common levelling on artistic production standard which homologate the research to the old assembly chain, bring to the exhaustion of the peculiarity of each author and of every area of thought and existence and to an irreversible loss of identity, whatever it is. With regard to this Jean Baudrillard, in a quick transaesthetism, suggested a summary, even emphatized, of the present situation, where you play the game of the difference without believing it: …it is important to notice how the artistic utopia has materialized everywhere under an operational cover. Therefore art is compelled to become minimal, to disappear, and act its own disappearance. And more: It is the same plan of the fractal and is the present plan of our culture. And inside our individual research of identity and difference. We do not have time to look for our identity in the archives, in a memory, in the past, not in a project or in the future. You need an instantaneous memory, an immediate connection, some kind of an advertising identity, which can take place in the same moment 4.
4 see The disappearance of art, by J. BAUDRILLARD, Milan. 1988.
5 For the complex relation between theatricalism and modern imaginary, see Rhythm and Voice by U. ARTIOLI, Milan, 1984; and relative appendix by F. BARTOLI Kandinsky between apocalypse and abstraction.
In our case, as it has been underlined more times, the theatrical parameters of the visual arts, music, poetry and literature are insufficient if considered individually and when used it is necessary to connect them continuously by an approach even anthropological not only aesthetic, because the artist of the present, who often moves in the sunset and in the art decline as, specific phenomenon, drawn in a general aesthetism of the existence, beyond the knowledge of the language, is able to test old and new ways to testify the present era, to discover constantly, what has to be said.
It is not a matter, as many think, of a lasting restore of the three Wagner argumentation (before) and Kandinsky (after) one, about the Wort-Ton-Drama and all its derived, but about an even more materialistic connection between philosophy and art (theatrical and not), between fate of the individual, and destiny of the community5.
Therefore has been coined also a real formula which resumes a wide range of contrasting tensions regarding ways and forms of the present-day artistic expression on and off stage: Dramaturgy Of The Arts, to underline a hypothesis of developing and deepening of the so-called Poetry Theatre; through compared researches, open to comparison and cooperation, for the development of the poetic, ethical and linguistic relations among word, vision, writing and movement.
It is a question of developing the same notion of scene to discover, beyond the limits of the <performance>, what happens when a voice enters the image, when music gives sound to poetry, painting gives image to music and movement gives shape to voice, until the crucial point (one of the possible theatres) of an author’s voice which becomes echo of all this in a dramaturgical global project.
From a privileged observatory as an island like Sardinia, in the heart of the Mediterranean Area - a passage place of races and different cultures -, it seems that, on the trail of these InterActions also other organisms (scenic, musical, poetic, visual ones) are moving for some time in these directions, finding with surprise the courage to risk.
But while in Italy the most meaningful experiences of the last 15 years where bound to the theatre-ensembles (or meta-theatrical), and, less, to the visual artist who implicitly refereed to the wide mental territory of the last seventies, Europe of the beginning of the third millennium resumes the fragments of itself exported all over the world since the beginning of the modern era.
The great wrecks towards Asia, Americas, Afrika, Middle East and the cosmic space, return us the sublime wreckages of our cultures, like out of time and history, out of itself.
But it is not a question, in this case, of a simple refluence of summons and attitudes, and not of a coming back home, because in the meantime it has been destroyed, but of a real ultraideological rendez-vous on the ruines of our Troade. The works of the ultra-artists - of the artifex, who are beyond the listed kind for the overcoming of the traditional administrative limits among word, body, sound, image, concept, show that the impossible coming back home does not condemn us only to a knight errant life, perpetual wayfarer, but it turns us, as artists and poets, into witnesses of a repeating Final, demiurges of the Nothing, angels without aureole.
Here is also the absurdity of the theatre, the impossibility of the Tragic. Therefore you can talk about the scene and its beyond especially when the conventional vision fails, the same one that theatre imposes as the only interpretation and organization of events.
We pay attention to the words of Camille Domoulie’: Dramaturgy has always been a therapeutic technique: catharsis, exorcism, dread and mercy, castigat ridendo mores, brechtian estrangement: everything announces that theatre is made for ill, wakened and incurable convalescent people. Even Nietzsche, after believing in a rebirth of the tragedy, was disgusted by all this theatercracy and defined himself as an essentially antitheatrical nature. He wrote, that an artist contributes to theatre only with the most vulgar part of himself, you become a neighbour, flock, females of the harem. Theatre is a plebiscite against the good taste6.
6 see Theatre Without Show, by C. BENE, Venice, 1990.
In other times, the great italian actor-performer (matador) Ettore Petrolini thought to a realization of a Pavillion Of The Wonders, against the pedantry of the officials and the strictness of the aesthetic classes. Well: again involved on an anthropological ground, often unhooked from wrong progressive trusts, this new kind of planners of worlds represents, best hypothesis, an overcoming of the stylistics previous formulas in favour of a planning visionary which finds the edges of the absence again, thinking not only on themselves but finally against themselves. Making this, and therefore confined to their areas of problematic art, the researchers moving to the direction of a possible (because very ancient) Dramaturgy Of The Arts stay - as we said at the beginning - and listen patiently, like human poles trying to decipher the background sound of the Universe. And the most touching hearing, as in Samuel Beckett, Francis Bacon or Joseph Beuys, always happens halfway among ear, eye and heart. Between mind and sleepwalker feeling for a scene beyond shapes and criticism.