If Andy (aka Trouble) were a spectator’s dream, waking up would have been the end. The stage floor is carpeted with heavenly clouds and a large reflecting silver ball rolls to the front row. The spectator plays with it, mirrors himself in it, watches himself become a form and part of what he has just seen: it is an open work.
I’ll be your mirror… reflect what you are.
The proscenium is populated with the queerest and most eccentric figures from New York City, contemplating the works on display at the Green Gallery. It is suddenly 1959. Andy still wears his hair short and buys art. He wants to become a painter. He would become much more than that, but he did not know it yet. Perhaps the awareness of his deep faith, given that he was a practising Catholic, really led him to choose Campbell’s Soup as a symbol of an indelible rupture: art comes so close to life that it can no longer be separated from it. Soup is also a happening, in its own way. Andy ate it as he painted it, reproducing it in its advertised accuracy and multiplying it serially in thirty-two copies, all placed next to each other.
I’ll be your mirror… reflect what you are, ripete Nico.
It is the beginning of everything.
In those days, bringing art and life closer also meant buying shops – I am thinking of Claes Oldenburg’s paradigmatic Store – or setting up shop windows. In this sense, the fourth wall becomes a New York shop window, as a crowd of witty critics stops to look at it. The emancipated spectator does not yet have the ball in his hands, but is inevitably actively stimulated by making eye contact with the characters. He is closely observed, understood in his human imperfections.
The spectator is a painting.
To be more precise, it is a photo-serigraph by Andy, who rejected advertising perfection, the contours outlined. He loved the imprint of the matrix but without commercial ends. Rather, it was a sensory exasperation. He worked hard with Gerard to turn the photograph into a painting, perhaps to suspend it in time, to make it sacred. In the same way, by transforming himself into an image through his gaze on a reflective surface, the spectator makes himself sacred, a part of the work. But if looking is the opposite of knowing, what happens when we look at ourselves while watching, in this case, a play?
Texts and videos narrating each show are the outcome of an active relationship which has been established with the spectators, in search of the identity of the “emancipated spectator”. The students of the Academy who created the project built a relationship with some of the spectators chosen from those present at the events, using post and email. They later created a translation of the show which took the form of words and images suggested by the spectators.
Who is the “emancipated spectator”?
According to Jacques Rancière, you are. It is us who, with “stories and performances, can help change something in the world we live in”.
AUDIENCE ON STAGE is the fourth edition of BACKSTAGE / ONSTAGE, a multimedia editorial project realised in a partnership between the Rome Fine Art Academy, Romaeuropa Festival and Arshake.
For the 2021 edition, BACKSTAGE / ONSTAGE, has moved its focus to concentrate on the spectators of the Romaeuropa Festival, their behaviour and way of relating to the performances, their interest and the effect that this produces. The survey was carried out transversally, covering the different performance genres at the festival, from dance to drama and music. AUDIENCE ON STAGE examined the entrances, lobbies and corridors of theatres, stalls, boxes, mobile phones and online event screens, searching for the gaze of the so-called emancipated spectator, i.e. he or she who finds a new kind of contact and closeness with others in the theatre, but also discovers a new connection with their own active existence.
Backstage / Onstage: progetto nato da una partnership tra Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma, Romaeuropa Festival e Arshake
Crediti 2021- AUDIENCE ON STAGE: Video: Walter Maiorino, Eleonora Mattozzi, Alessia Muti, Francesca Paganelli; Eleonora Scarponi. Testi: Chiara Amici, Domiziana Febbi, Alessandra Gabriele, Martina Macchia, Alessia Mutti.
images (all): Gus Van Sant, «Trouble», Teatro Argentina, Roma, Romaeuropa Festival 2021, ©brunosimaophotography