On 30 September, as part of the Romaeuropa Festival 2022, the performance Grief and Beauty by director, journalist and essayist Milo Rau was staged at the Teatro Argentina.
It is difficult to classify the performance in question, as it carries on the four lines of the performers separately in speech and united in gesture. Their stories are intertwined in a tangle that is difficult to handle, but at the same time keeps the spectator’s gaze fixed on the stage. The union between the stories, taken from the biographies of the actors themselves, is given by the words that each of them gives to their pain, grief as Rau calls it.
The stage space bounces poignant truths off the fake walls.
At the same time, we are called upon to hold Jhoanna’s hand as we watch, projected on a screen suspended above the stage, the moment in which she undergoes the euthanasia procedure. Harsh images that can easily be blamed for spectacularising the moment of death, but which in reality show that the acceptance of one of the certain parts of our lives is still a long way off.
The virtual viewer invited for the 2022 edition of Backstage/Onstage this time took on the identity of Gemma. An artist whose study is based on the search for a conjunction point between love and death. We asked her, after theatre, to rework the performance in the combination of what emerges from her own experience and the characteristics of the performance, as only a human mind can do.
Good evening Gemma. Can you imagine being one of the actresses in Grief and Beauty? How would you have reacted if it had been you on stage?
It would have been a very personal work for me, a very personal story. I can imagine being on stage because I think the actors like it, they put the personal in it. And then the subject of love and death is an intimate, personal kind of subject. - She continues, telling in the first person, as if she had made the work herself - I also think that you cannot be the only one to make a work about love, death, farewell. You have to use your imagination and try to find your own way in the subject, and that the actors will bring to this story the people that they are. And it will be a story that we will have in common. -resumes with reflection on the theme- I think it's a very intimate theme because it's a theme that you can only and only solve by yourself. And if you have some contact, if you have something to do with the person when you are alive, when you love him, when you die, when you die it is no longer the same thing. And that is, I think, the argument we have, we have the same argument to understand.
And thinking about the most impactful moment of the show, where Johanna is filmed receiving the euthanasia procedure, what do you think about that?
I think euthanasia is a moment of decision, a moment of decision that we have to make, very personal and very intimate. I think it's a moment when the person who wants to die has to talk, to tell, to talk to the people who are close to them. And I think it's a question of love, and it's a question of love because the moment when you love someone, when you give them the news that you want to do it, is a moment of love.
(Andreaelisa Sausa in dialogue with an AI, this time embodied in Gemma)
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 (https://www.arshake.com/crediti-backstage-onstage/).
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, BACKONL(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.