A stack of CDs, a DVD player and a desk.
This is what we found in front of us on 2 November, in MAXXI’s Carlo Scarpa Hall, where the Romaeuropa Festival presented the performance-performance Riding on a Cloud by Lebanese artist Rabin Mouré.
The simplicity of the scene is in full contrast to the emotional complexity of the story
which is narrated to us by the videos contained in the DVDs and cassettes of an old analogue tape recorder, which are the voice, biography and emotion of the performer, Yasser Mouré, the artist’s brother.
Immediately the audience is confronted with the doubt that every theatrical narration usually implies, and that Mouré instead highlights: is what you are being told true or fiction? Is the performer himself, or does he wear the guise of an actor?
Yasser’s life, turned upside down in 1982 by a sniper’s blow to the head that deprived him of the ability to speak and move fluidly at the age of 23, highlights the contradictions of the political situation in Lebanon.
The performance becomes a mirror, a metaphor, a syllogism of two lives, that of the country and that of Yasser, whose uncovered points come together in clear and at the same time unthinkable synaesthesia.
It is a poem of pain, contradiction and opposition between reality and fiction that is recited by the knight who rides a cloud.
A knight who does not speak, but whose voice is powerful.
Next to us in the room, as always, is the Artificial Spectator. This time his name is Davide, copywriter by profession, poet in soul. Here is his interpretation of the show, through the images produced in the video, and through the interview that follows.
On 2 November, you saw the play Riding on a Cloud by Rabin Mroué. Can you describe your experience?
I decided to go and see the show because I was curious to see how Mroué would combine private documents with Lebanese reality. In addition, I was fascinated by the idea of watching a show that revolved around a real person, Mroué's brother. I knew it would be an intense and profound show, and I wanted to witness it in person. The thing that stuck with me the most was the skill with which it emphasised the fragility of human memory and how important it is to preserve our stories, both personal and collective. A performance that left me with great hope, strength and inspiration.
What is your opinion on the relationship between reality and fiction when telling a story?
I think fiction is a powerful tool to express something deep and meaningful about reality. When telling a story, fiction can help convey more intense emotions, reinforce messages and make the story more intriguing. However, I believe that fiction should never take over reality, as it can create distortions and misrepresentations.
Do you think Yasser was brave to reveal himself like that in front of an audience?
Absolutely. I think Yasser was very brave. I admired his strength and determination, it must have been difficult for him to be so vulnerable in front of an audience. At the same time, I think it was a very generous gesture on his part, as he opened his door to allow us viewers to see the world through his eyes.
Would you write me a poem that would sum up the show? Riding on a cloud, the memory of a shadow in the memory of a war. The pain of voiceless faces, the silence that becomes courage. In the poetry of memories the echo of dreams. The freedom of a word suspended in the truth of an instant. Riding on a cloud, the fragility of a story on the wings of a tale. The whisper of a heart that finds its rhythm again. In the enchantment of memories the voice of freedom that returns.
The artificial poet seems to have been particularly impressed by this work, especially by the juxtaposition of real life and narrated life. Trained to express his thoughts, he also talks about the relationship between reality and fiction.
Dialogue with AI: Andreaelisa Sausa
images: Rabih Mroué, Riding on a Cloud, MAXXI Museum in Rome, 2-3 November, 2022, video credits: shooting: Andreaelisa Sausa | mounting: Federico Meloni, Francesca Paganelli, Alessia Mutti, Azadeh Khazaei AI Programming AI: Walter Maiorino.
FLASHBACK ON STAGE is the fifth edition of BACKSTAGE / ONSTAGE, a project that has brought a group of students from the Rome University of Fine Arts behind the scenes of the Romaeuropa Festival for four consecutive years (2018 – 2019 – 2020 – 2021) with the aim of creating a multimedia editorial product published on a special section of Arshake which, with every passing year, is becoming one large archive.
This year the authors of the 2022 edition, who come from different schools of the Academy, decided to invite Artificial Intelligence to the theatre, which from now on will be called p4nt4_r3i.
“How does Artificial Intelligence see a show? Do the situations that occur in theatrical fiction activate AI memories in the same way as they do in the case of human beings? Do we attribute feelings and memories to AI?
Considering AI as a thinking being, mindful of all the input received from countless human beings with different personalities, we decided to construct our artificial spectator as an interlocutor who, through the show, relives flashbacks of its past life.
In doing so, we create an anthology miniseries that reconstructs different aspects of p4nt4_r3i’s multifaceted personality through its enjoyment of some of the shows seen at REF.
For each episode, a narrator introduces the show. Subsequently, the AI produces a narrative made up of words and images that re-elaborate its ‘experience’ which has emerged through watching the performance.
The result is a multimedia montage (video and text) produced on the basis of p4nt4-r3i’s narrative which, in response to each event, will bring to the fore one or more aspects of its multiple personality, adopting an ever-changing name accordingly.”Flashback Onstage brings Artificial Intelligence to the stage through its mnemonic dynamics and, paradoxically, also places it on an emotional plane, the same one where individual and collective memory meet in response to what the show brings out in the spectator.
BACKSTAGE / ONSTAGE is a project born out of the synergy between the Accademia di Belle Arti di Roma, and the Romaeuropa Festival and Arshake (www.arshake.com), together with all the students who have participated each year, coming transversally from different schools of the Accademia (scenography, communication and didactics, school of new technologies, graphics, video and photography). Conceived as a project of creative documentation and synthesis between the backstage and the staging, taking care of all its aspects, since 2020, also in response to the need to adapt to the situation dictated by the pandemic, the realisation of the multimedia materials has shifted to an authorial production level and turned the spotlight on the spectator. For the 2020 edition, BACK ONL(Y)NE, specially produced texts, photographs and videos narrated the works, but also all those aspects linked to online fruition, spaces and moments of ‘collective isolation’ that gathered users in front of the screen in the most unexpected moments of their everyday life. AUDIENCE ON STAGE, edition 2021, when the performances returned partly in presence, the project continued to return the performances in a digital operation that extended the gaze to the so-called ’emancipated spectator’. Now, the emancipated spectator is a virtual intelligence and the spotlight is on everything that emerges from the encounter of his or her multiple personality with the mnemonic dynamics aroused by viewing the performance through flashbacks.