On the occasion of the exhibition “Dancing with Myself,” the Teatrino organized <i>Myself is Another</i>, a cycle of talks and screenings co-curated by Annalisa Sacchi, dedicated to performance as an opportunity for invention, proliferation, incarnation, and camouflage of identity.


Romeo
Castellucci
<a class="switch">Text</a><br> <b>Annalisa Sacchi</b><br> <span style="display: none;"> Teaches Esthetics of Contemporary Theater at<br/>IUAV </span>



<span class="alinea"></span>There are few events in the history of contemporary western theater as influential and notable as the founding of the Socìetas Raffaello Sanzio, in 1981, by Romeo and Claudia Castellucci with Chiara Guidi. Few people have been able to come close to the radicality with which they approached not only theater, but also visual arts, cinema, philosophy, and music. And no one has so thoroughly examined the representation and production of the subject. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>In the summer of 2008, having appeared onstage in his own productions for close to thirty years, Romeo Castellucci appeared onstage alone in the Cour d’Honneur of the Palais des Papes in Avignon, to present his take on Dante’s <i>Inferno</i>. He pronounced only a few words: “My name is Romeo Castellucci”. Then he was attacked by a pack of dogs, who leapt, one after the next, from the <i>Inferno</i> of the piece’s title. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>The extraordinary quality of Castelluci’s work stems from his use, onstage, of images with rich literary references. In this piece, the artist lets himself be devoured, like Orpheus or Dionysus, and in so doing, annuls his own name, his own signature—to put an end, in a way, to the self at the core of his work. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>Performance—all performance—exists in the suspended space between the material, physical spheres and the psychic and symbolic experience of embodiment (that is, of the representation, inevitably, of an <i>other</i>). Onstage, a performer always belongs to both of these spheres, and it is precisely in this split that the act of presence is “performed,” or temporarily made visible. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>Here, the concept of “Dancing with Myself” leads to a difficult question: who is the “self” in a scene whose ontological status is fictional, in which the correspondence with the self creates a fundamentally unstable situation? In Castellucci’s work, this instability is made possible by shame, the backbone of his work; it is through an awareness of being exposed to shame that the exhibition and representation of the self is made possible. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>“Performing is the most beautiful defeat of the body,” writes Castellucci. “It’s a punishment, because the burden reveals itself. To give oneself. To degrade oneself. To give oneself by degrading oneself, as the passion of passivity sees the light of day. When one appears in the rictus of suffering and exposes oneself, naked and pitiful; when one openly shows suffering; that’s when the problem of theater is loudly revealed. The other face of the face. It’s a shameful theater. A theater of shame. Shame as sensation. Inalienable. A sensation. A mask of truth. A theater worthy of shame, in which a final appropriation of personal destiny becomes possible.”<sup>1</sup> <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>Confronted with shame, the rhetoric of the self is reframed. Castellucci was the first person, in the history of Italian theater, to notice that the word “palco” (stage) is an anagram of “colpa” (blame): the stage is not a setting to exacerbate an actor’s narcissism or exhibitionism, but a gallows platform, a venue to expose a fault, whether it be private or universal. But it goes beyond that, because shame functions, as an emotion, in a way that elevates the theatrical relationship (between actor and audience) to an unprecedented degree. Shame, within the landscape of emotions, has a paradoxical structure: although it is an intimate reaction from the subject, it manifests itself only when witnessed by an observer. In this way, the logic of shame catches in the same net the person experiencing shame and the person witnessing that experience. Beyond that, shame is uniquely “contagious”: actor and spectator are united in experiencing the same emotion. We experience shame “for” the person in the shameful situation. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>So going to see a play by Castellucci implies participating in an implicit agreement: the actor agrees to lay himself open, makes himself worthy of that heightened emotion, shame, and the audience accepts to witness it, to shoulder this pitiful condition. <br/> <br/> <span class="alinea"></span>Through his radical refusal to make a spectacle of himself, by his negation of a “theater of the self,” by embracing shame, Castellucci welcomes the presence of the audience in his subjective exhibition. In this way, he is one of the artists who best embodies the idea that “Myself is Another,” chosen as the title for this cycle of events. <br/> <br/> <div class="notes"> 1 — Romeo Castellucci, <i>Masoch. I trionfi del teatro come potenza passiva, colpa e sconfitta</i>, 1993, excerpt from the program notes. </div>
 
 

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