The black stage. Spotlights illuminate three tables, the only objects to inhabit the stage. And then the three performers and their unconventional musical instruments: Morse code handlers, metronomes, balls, bowls, notebooks, pens, rulers, basketballs. These are the instruments of the compositions by Ryoji Ikeda, who for the Romaeuropa Festival staged Music for Percussion2, an ideal continuation of Music for Percussion 1, presented precisely at the Romaeuropa Festival in 2018, at the Sala Petrassi of the Auditorium Parco della Musica on 30 October.
The Japanese sound artist’s compositions are collages of primary sounds emitted by percussion and the manipulation of everyday objects. What amazes the audience is the sound produced by a notebook, the rhythm of its flipped pages, the stroke of the pen on the paper and the variation of the sound between circular and rectilinear patterns. The execution of the three performers has a mathematical rigour, they play with perfection in unison and in counter-tempo.
Exclusively acoustic compositions, an enthralling rhythmic research in the final part, the originality of which is, however, doubtful, as a long series of predecessors can be traced. And this time, the seat next to ours was empty, our artificial spectator was absent that day, replaced by dozens of luminous smartphones of human spectators.
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, 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.