Saturday, 21 January 2012

history of avant garde theatre [pt. 1] @ london_resonance

1. Antonin Artaud ["Pour en finir avec le judgement de dieu"] and Carmelo Bene ["Majakovskij"]

words _ Gian Paolo Galasi

Antonin Artaud
“Every real effigy has a shadow which is its double; and art must falter and fail from the moment the sculptor believes he has liberated the kind of shadow whose very existence will destroy his repose. Like all magic cultures expressed by appropriate hieroglyphs, the true theater has its shadows too, and, of all languages and all arts, the theater is the only one left whose shadows have shattered their limitations. From the beginning, one might say its shadows did not tolerate limitations. Our petrified idea of the theater is connected with our petrified
idea of a culture without shadows, where, no matter which way it turns, our spirit encounters only emptiness, though space is full. 

“All writing is garbage. People who come out of nowhere to try and put into words any part of what goes on in their minds are pigs. ” (Antonin Artaud, from "The theatre and its double")

After the end of the II World War, the French radio attended to recast all the abolished voices of the native culture of that time. One of them was the surrealist poet, playwriter, actor Antonin Artaud, that between Nov. 22 and 29, 1947, recorded for the French ORTF Radio the broadcasting of "Pour en finir avec le judgement de dieu" ["To have done with the judgement of god", with the minor 'g']. 

In Artaud intentions, the broadcast would have been, finally, an attempt to fully realize what he was seeking in his quest for a theatre that, in fact, advanced every form of contemporary performance art. 'Cruel', since refusing to get to an esthetic rendition and to go beyond the 'force' of the actions, while on the scene. The recordings involved Artaud's partner Paule Thévenin, actress Maria Casarés - featured as 'the death' in Jean Cocteau's "Orphée", his close friend and actor Roger Blin, plus xylophones as an introduction to the 'Tutuguri's [mexican indians - ndr] rite of the Black Sun', the centre of the text. 

Even if the broadcast is in some way the zenith of Artaud's researches on the subjects of theatre, ritual, and the difference between reality and representation, it is in many way incomplete, putting again the stress on the meaning of the words, focusing only here and there on the sound itself and of his vibrations. Only partially this passage from words to sounds becomes clear: when Roger Blin reaches some primeval rhythms or ritual chants, or when Maria Casarés stresses the vocals, moduling the frequences and so trying to orchestrate the sound of the voice itself. 

Carmelo Bene
"Theatre is a non-place, it is under cover from every history. It is beyond the evidence. The audience is a martyr - etymologically, 'witness'. But despite every effort, audience would never been able to tell about what he listened to, what possessed it in its surrendering" Carmelo Bene (1937 - 2002) was an Italian actor, playwriter, poet, movie director. He debuted in 1959 with a Caligola that was very appreciated by Albert Camus himself. 

Close friend and also a collaborator of the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze - that gratified the actor with some beautiful pages from the second volume of his L'image-temps, and then wrote with him an entire book, Superpositions - and deep connoisseur of Pierre Klossowski, an intellectual at the border of official French culture but a pupil of Rainer Maria Rilke - Klossowski's mother was in a relationship with the poet - and of André Gide, Carmelo Bene was at the crossroads of the most important undercurrents of the 'alternative' culture of the 20th Century. 

Influenced by Nietzsche and structuralism, by the paintings of Francis Bacon and by James Joyce's Ulysses, in 1960 - and then again until the 5th edition in 1980 - he took the poems of Vladimir Majakovskij, the Russian revolutionary poet, as the starting point to his studies on voice, on voiding words from its meaning, and on using the voice itself as a full orchestra. 

Helped for the music initially by Sylvano Bussotti, and subsequently by his contemporary Gaetano Giani Luporini, Bene's quest for a theatre that goes beyond the meaning - representing the ego, betraying so his deep insights in Eastern traditions, but also the aesthetics in art - in 'Majakovskij' passes through the stretching of the dynamics and possibilities of the voice, emphasizing the words as a mix of gestures and phonetic elements. 

Through the years, Bene added to the 'theatre of the phoné' ideas taken from both structuralism and Nietzsche's philosophy about time. The result was a theatre in which every action were obstructed by every sort of empasse - Lorenzaccio - and in which an iconoclastic relationship with the image of the theatre itself pushed him to take some classics - Shakespear's Hamlet, Macbeth, Richard III and Othello - rewriting the texts so to get rid of some elements, displacing or stretching distinguishing marks of the dramas in order to distort the original meaning, leaving only a score of gestures rhythmically conducted through a scheme reminiscent of Gilles Deleuze's in his 'Difference and repetition'

So in his Othello as an example, Jago is jealously in love with Othello himself - but without any reference to homosexuality, while Desdemona's handkerchief becomes bigger and bigger turning into a net preventing the assassination - suspension of the tragic; in his Hamlet, the prince of Denmark wants only to go to Paris with an actress - instead of playing with her the death of his father, transforming the famous 'to be or not to be' into 'to have or not to have', while Desdemona dresses as a lay nun just to be constantly slapped and smacked - out of eros and into the obscene; Macbeth and his lady, finally, are making their bed with bloody blankets that leave no traces on the bed himself.

"Now's the time to really start and have confidence with words. I don't mean 'the Word', as in 'the Gospel', but 'words'. Language fuck with you. It drills you. Language pierce you and you don't even notice. You spit on Einstein, on the best Freud, on the beyond of the principles of pleasure. You take up and clap the obvious, and made a prick out of it, in return of yours. [...] Art is piping, it is the will of self-espression." -- Carmelo Bene

"Being a stranger, but in your own language. Stuttering, stammering within the language itself, not only with the words. Bene would add: talking to yourself, but in the middle of the marketplace. Stuttering usually is a disorder of the language, but stuttering the language is something different. It means to impose to the language, to all the inner part of the language, phonologicals, syntacticals, semanticals, the plotting of a continuous variation [...] being a stranger in its own language ... It doesn't mean to talk as an Irish or a Rumenian talking French [...], it is dictating to the language, since we're talking plainly and soberly, the line of variation that will make out of everyone a stranger in its own language; or, out of a foreign language, our own language; or, out of our own language, a permanent bilinguism for our own extraneousness".

Antonin Artaud, Pour en finir avec le judgement de dieu [Sub Rosa, 1996]
Carmelo Bene, Il teatro laboratorio Majakovskij e Garcia Lorca [LP RCA Edizioni letterarie, 1962, out of print]
Carmelo Bene, Carmelo Bene - Majakovskij [Double LP Fonit Cetra, 1980, out of print]

Antonin Artaud, 'The theatre and its double' - Grove Press, 1994
Gilles Deleuze, 'Cinema 2: The Time-Image' - University of Minnesota Press, 1989
Carmelo Bene Gilles Deleuze, 'Superpositions' - Les Editions De Minuit, 1979

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