This article will strive to explain the ideas underpinning the show U* created by CRiB, which was performed on 10,11, 12 January, 2019 at the Carrozzerie n.o.t. in Rome. The show and its themes are structured around an imaginary experimental interview, divided into five paragraphs, and carried out in a metaphysical space between me (the writer) and the members of CRiB. On Arshake they will be published in three acts.
I would now like to introduce the first few sections of this metaphysical interview where the roles are defined as follows:
Carolina Ciuti: co-author and artistic director of U*
Beatrice Fedi: co-author of and actress in U*
Roberto Di Maio: co-author, and director of U*
Valeriana Berchicci: interviewer and audience member of U*
Who are we?
CAROLINA: When I was young and couldn’t read yet, one of my favourite pastimes used to be inventing stories by looking at the colourful illustrations inside the children’s books my dad ‘catalogued’ in the bamboo library in the living room. I wasn’t fully aware of this at the time, but I was attracted by the magnetic power of images as an immediate vehicle for potential stories and worlds – real and imaginary. Over the years, I suppose this strange fascination with visual creations never left me and, at university, I found myself naturally choosing to study art history: I interpret the production of images as ‘the [most direct] shape of time’ we inhabit, as Kubler said. Seven years ago I left Italy for London in search of a creative vitality I felt was missing in our country and, after specialising in contemporary art, flew to Barcelona where, for the past four years, I have been in charge of the artistic direction of the LOOP Festival on video art. I love reading, I adore bread, I am easily excited and just as easily bored. I like to pretend that I can sing and I regret never having completed my piano studies. My favourite colour is orange.
ROBERTO: Hmm… good question. I couldn’t say “who”, but I could try to explain “what” I am or, rather, “what I’m trying” to be. I’m definitely passionate about theatre, music, cinema and art. These four fields are unique and the real reason still tying me to a life in a metropolis… dreaming of a house in the mountains with books and a fireplace.
I’ve loved every art form so much that, since I was young, I’ve tried to create art. In music, to begin with – a passion that is still ongoing – followed by cinema which in turn led me to my greatest love… theatre.
BEATRICE: My name is Beatrice Fedi, born in 1990. I’m from Tuscany but have lived in Rome for ten years now. I’m an actress, a performer. I studied theatre a lot and worked with fine artists who gave me a lot of their time; for example, in the theatre, Daria Deflorian taught me what an “opening” is for an actor while, thanks to Biagio Caravano and dance (which I’ve now been studying for six years), I’ve learnt to love my body. At a certain point I felt the need to create what I performed in order to take care of myself, grow and achieve emotional and artistic independence. This is how the idea of CRiB emerged. I strongly believe in joining forces and connecting ideas. By standing on the shoulders of giants, I try to go my own way, on my own terms. I look for personality and originality, kindness and gifts. Authenticity, listening and silence. The highest form of creation, in my opinion, is poetry. Emily Dickinson is my guiding enchantress.
VALERIANA: I was born on the coast of Molise, the Italian region that “does not exist”. I have been living in Rome for the last seven years and I’m an artist. I carry out research involving different disciplines that help me to explore the behaviour and perception of human beings using tools derived from art.
I was brought up in a family that gave me the freedom to express myself and to make choices in the fundamental stages of my development. Ever since I was young, I’ve had a very clear idea of how to perceive myself and my behaviour but, at the same time, I was unaware of how I managed to do this. At high school, I loved Dylan Dog and my psychology Professor was worried about me. These were the years when I also grew obsessed with horror films, to begin with, and then classic “art films” which today influence everything I do – knowledge that also comes in handy in relationships when in need of a catch phrase adapted to dramatic moments. I spent a lot of time with groups of young people who were much older than me and my nickname at the time was “SuperJean” (from a slang term Super Youth). They were amazed that, at the age of 16, I knew Marillion and other niche music groups ranging from hardcore to punk, including stoner, psychobilly and other spin-offs. I have two recurring dreams: the first beginning in childhood, in which I’m chased by a screwed up piece of paper in a two-dimensional maze – a blackboard full of traps and moving floors, to be precise. The other, a more adolescent one, is where I save a new-born baby by pulling it out of a burning car, the only surviver of a disaster, and I bring him up as my son. His name is Thomas.
Paragraph One: starting from the “end”.
The title of the paragraph already reveals the end, in an unusual way.
From the start of the show, my thoughts were focused on reaching the end, arriving at the moment in which my emotions would cease to be affected, an emotional moment that I would define with one word, “catharsis”.
The theme addressed in the show is the question of gender, a topic far removed from my own studies and research interests. Nevertheless, in this context, I find myself writing about it because the experience of the show gave me a lot of material to reflect on.
These emotions linked to the “sense of an ending” (Kermode 2004), which Aristotle already addressed in his concept of “catharsis”, refer back to the whole tragedy rather than single sections and better describe how spectators experience the entire performance. Many authors, including Gadamer (2000) in an impactful excerpt from his most famous book, insist on the fact that the use of cathartic feelings, linked to a sense of an ending, is represented by a specific ethical connotation: those who experience catharsis are aware (emotional intelligence) that they are undergoing an essential change in their ethos (Montani P., 2019). We realise that we are no longer the same. It is interesting to note that this change, according to Gadamer, coincides with the principal meaning of the concept of “experience” itself, Erfahrung, one of the most obscure concepts which must be dealt with by thought.
In Psychology of Art, the great psychologist Lev S. Vygotskij (1975) reconsiders the Aristotelian concept of catharsis. Only when I have fully read a text (or watched a film until its conclusion) does it become clear (“clarification” is one of the meanings of the Greek word) what my feelings were really about, those opaque, ambiguous and even contradictory“pathe” that I felt, without understanding them fully, while I followed the development [of the narrative]. I only become aware “nachträglich”, once it’s over (Montani P., 2019). Aristotle, Kermode, Gadamer and even Freud would agree on this point.
CRiB’s initial idea for creating U* came from a news item published in November 2016 when the sex of a baby born in Canada was recorded as “Undetermined” on their identity card. After some research, starting with this case, it emerged that other US states have changed the law, favouring a new attitude towards gender with the intention of eliminating the concept of “diversity”. In January 2019, Germany also introduced a third gender, now recorded as “intersex”.
I would like to quote two key sections from the final monologue, where the words performed by the actress are synaesthetic, connected to corporeal movements and hand gestures:
“The Dorland Medical Dictionary, in 1901, defined heterosexuality as the <<abnormal or perverted appetite toward the opposite sex>>. Even if the division hetero / homo appears to be a timeless and everlasting fact of nature, this simply isn’t the case. It’s only a recent grammar which men invented to express what sex means to them. Heidegger said ‘words cannot express thought, but they are the condition on which thought is based’. Thought is impossible without words.”
“In 390 AD, Christian Emperors condemned homosexuals to death by burning.
In 218 AD, on the other hand, the Roman Emperor Eliogabalo tried to surgically change his own sex. He was the first transgender person in history. Etymologically the term ‘transgender’ means “beyond gender”. It could, therefore, also refer to those people who are not exclusively male or female, that feel they’re not represented by gender stereotypes. “What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal: what is lovable in man is that he is an over–going and a down–going”, Nietzsche wrote. As bodies engaged in the continuous process of becoming – molecular, biological, physical, epidermic, in their ascribed identity, intellectual, emotional and cultural – we are all ‘over-going’ individuals, in transition. Without exception.”
VALERIANA: In April 2018 I was in Barcelona and, during one of my excursions around the city, I came across the administrative headquarters of LOOP, a festival devoted to video art which organises exhibitions, fairs and conferences in the city of Barcelona. It’s an annual itinerant festival which lasts 2 weeks, involving galleries, museums, restaurants and shops in the city.
I met Carolina on that occasion, who has worked as an artistic director of the Festival for many years. We grabbed a coffee together and spoke at length about our projects, establishing a friendship that continues to this day. Carolina then told me about CRiB, announcing the dates of the premiere which would take place in July 2018, within the fifth edition of “Direction Under 30 mutuo soccorso teatrale” at the Teatro Sociale in Gualtieri (RE). She didn’t disclose anything about the project because it was still in the production stage but, from that moment on, I started to follow your progress. In July, following you from a distance, I enjoyed the first images and interviews published online and on social media. It was difficult for me to reach you, but I was completely seduced by your desire to mix various areas of study and condense them into a theatrical experience. Straight away, at the premiere, you won the Festival’s Critics’ Prize. I would like you to talk to me together about CRiB.
CAROLINA, ROBERTO AND BEATRICE: CRiB was established in 2017 out of a shared passion for theatre, the visual arts and performance in general. We’ve been friends for a long time and the desire to get to know each other professionally guided us, as well as having the opportunity to see a shared, collective and personal project come to fruition, one that mirrored our different personalities and backgrounds. So, in a totally spontaneous way, we established an intimate space where we could create ‘hybrid’ schemes, overlapping different disciplines, leading almost a year later to the ‘birth’ of our first project: U*.
… to be continued.. (tomorrow, the second of three acts, here on Arshake’s web channel)
images: (cover 1) CRiB – from left to right: Beatrice Fedi, Carolina Ciuti, Roberto di Maio(2) Carolina Ciuti, photo: Marta Lallana ©2018 (3) Roberto Di Maio, photo: Marta Lallana ©2018 (4) Beatrice Fedi, photo: Marta Lallana ©2018(5) U* Teatro Cavallerizza – Festival Aperto [Open Festival], October 2018, photo: Alfredo Anceschi ©2018 (6) U* Teatro Sociale Gualtieri – Direction Under 30, photo: Riccardo Paterlini ©2018