The experimental interview by Valeriana Berchicci to CRiB continues today with the second of three acts, a theatrical dialogue that deepens the ideas underpinning the show and project U* created by CRiB, which was performed on 10,11, 12 January, 2019 at the Carrozzerie n.o.t. in Rome. The interview is divided into five paragraphs, published on Arshake in three acts, the second of which is the one you read today. You can reach here, the first part of the interview, published on Arshake on March 5, 2019.
Main characters of the dialogue:
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*
…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, part of the Terreni Fertili Festival in 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*.
Paragraph Two: an unusual experience
Before reporting the interview in more detail, in which each member of the collective examines the crucial stages of the project’s development, I would like to concentrate on my experience as a spectator not only from the point of view of the contents dealt with, but also taking account of the way in which they are staged.
The title of the paragraph, in my opinion, reflects the fact that this was a really unusual experience. I am a seasoned theatre-goer but, in this historical moment, I can safely say that I have never had an experience quite like the one offered by the CRiB project.
Different aspects contribute to this unique experience: the project consists of several different disciplines. Within it there are contemporary art elements with references to Pina Bausch, verbal and gestural elements from the theatre that include the actress’ performativity at the limits of that corporeality represented by the biomechanics of Vsevolod Ėmil’evič Mejerchol’d and the choreography of the contemporary William Forsyte. The set design consists of multimedia elements and projections, using communication technologies that are essential today for human beings: from a new polaroid model to Skype calls.
One of the really unique aspects of this experience is that the actress tries to actively involve the audience, even though the first attempts at interaction are hardly noticed and spectators do not feel as if they can speak or contribute to the story, either through their presence on stage or by giving an opinion verbally or through gestures. The audience interacts while the text, which was not designed to develop in clearly defined ways, gives spectators the opportunity to take part in one way or another, performing actions that are shared with all others present through a single and final interpretation of the cathartic experience. Through this show, CRiB elicits unusual emotions due to the fact that the text, in key moments, is treated randomly.
VALERIANA: I would like the readers of this interview to understand what intentions, interests, needs and responsibilities you felt when choosing to undertake this project.
U* is the first project arising from our common need to translate our social and political engagement into art, by bringing together different artistic languages.
U* conveys the need to destroy the categories we think represent us but, rather, imprison us, restricting our freedom at a social and interpersonal level.
U* is also an attempt to rupture that which has strongly conditioned – and continues to condition – art, particularly literature and theatre: the autobiography. Especially where gender identities are concerned. We find that limiting the right to speech and storytelling exclusively to real personal experiences extremely sterile. We believe, instead, that it is precisely at this junction that the force of our show is located, providing a diverse and unexpected perspective.
U* is CRiB’s unconscious art manifesto because, being our first project, it is a kind of unplanned declaration of intent, taking its inspiration from our different artistic backgrounds.
Finally, the validity of U* has been confirmed by events. After the show, we were happy to learn that in different states (New York, Germany, California and others) the possibility of not specifying the sex of an individual on their documents had been legalised.
VALERIANA: What were the key stages in the production process? In other words, what definitions, research and reflections can be seen at the start of the journey you embarked on for this project.
BEATRICE:In 2016 I started to play male roles and it was during this time we learnt the news from Canada that the first baby in the world had been registered as U-Undetermined. These things connected, not by accident. We had to express the feelings we had on hearing the news and, above all, understand more about it. We had to try and answer universal questions, learn not to use stereotypical categories and explore a dark area we still knew little about, but sensed could tell us a lot. This very brave “non-choice” interested us, as well as the attempt to create an in-between space.
With plenty of questions, therefore, we started training and gathering information, in the first place by examining the protagonists of these experiences and then studying the great philosophers, such as Michel Foucault and Judith Butler. We went back to history books: we realised that 5,000 years ago, words sounded differently to how they sound today. Things had different values.
Contemporary society imposes certain canons and categories on us which we wanted to show the public and, subsequently, destroy until a positive hollowed-out status was attained in order to return to a zero degree of form, as Kazimir Malevich said.
Answers are still open and not fixed. For this reason, we bring our doubts and our entry points onto the stage and, together with the public, we rethink how perspectives can change, the other questions that must be confronted and the new places we can imagine.
Paragraph Three: interactivity and sharing
The project U*, in its conception, represents one of the features of interactivity: the text is partly created by spectators, in the sense that by gradually enacting one of the options put forward by the actress on stage – such as, for example, deciding to intervene by analysing some images projected on the screen or choosing to say something offensive or not – in the end the audience will assemble a story that belongs to them as much as it belongs to the authors. The authors have devised this product as a machine that can generate textual variability, starting with a single text which then undergoes a series of transformations on the basis of answers and the participation of a “particular” public, which varies according to the context in which the show takes place.
Interacting spectators thus find themselves in a strange situation: they can, and must, get involved in a normal activity of interpretive cooperation, assembling the text only after the interaction has taken place. Only after having assembled the text, in other words, will spectators find themselves in the position to try to understand, and feel, what they have slowly contributed to. This is similar to what happens in bricolage, improvisation or in certain forms of artistic production which follow the principle of “making up rules as you go along”, as in action painting, for example. In the end it is you – the bricoleur, improviser or action painter – who is able to understand the needs of what you are producing and what you perceive and feel during its production. This is the point: what if it is in this “posterity” or in this “delay” (in this “Nachträglichkeit” as Freud said with regard to the work of the unconscious) that one of the significant effects of interactivity, in general, can be found (Montani, 2019).
VALERIANA: How does the THEATRICAL medium, the chosen performance allow you to engage with the themes examined in the show?
ROBERTO: The collective’s main intention is not to limit itself to one sole artistic field, but to try and include a range of artistic forms – either by experiencing these separately or by mixing them together.
The choice of the theatre as the first “stage” of U* was a natural one for different reasons. First of all because, as we’ve already mentioned, all this started with Beatrice’s latest experiences in the theatre. So we simply tried to continue along the same path. We also wanted to stage a performative act in line with Judith Butler’s claim, according to which we all continuously “perform our identity”. Then, we believe that the theatre encompasses, in the best of ways, a diverse range of languages: the body and, therefore, dance and movement; the spoken word, verbal exchanges and poetry; images, videos and lights; a ritual that has always been historically based on collectivity and the acceptance of diversity. But it is, indeed, only the first stage.
VALERIANA: How did you organise the space on stage, the personal corporeal space surrounding the actor and the places in which the show was performed, where the space was changed or reinvented?
CAROLINA: When we started working on the production, it was immediately clear how the structure of the show had to reflect its contents: a fluid substance implicating a fluid form! For this reason, with theatre still in our minds, we decided to incorporate languages related both to performance – in the broadest sense – and art. This, inevitably, influenced the quality of the space dedicated to the action on stage, transforming it into an almost entirely white surface on which moving images and warm monochromes could be projected. In addition, ever since the national premiere at the Teatro Sociale in Gualtieri last July right up to our show at the Carrozzerie n.o.t. in Rome this January, the set has gradually changed to reflect the features of the spaces that were hosting the show and the different technical means at our disposal. If, for the first dates in Gualtieri and Reggio Emilia (in October as part of theFestival Aperto ), we opted for a frontal staging which was undoubtedly impactful in its dimensions, in Rome we tried to create a more intimate and quiet space where the relationship between Beatrice and the spectators could be more direct: a white cube surrounded by the public. Finally, it’s important to highlight the versatility of U* as an artistic approach that has also been designed to work in museums and the urban space. Last December, for example, we created a performance and a site-specific installation (IN-trans-ITION) as part of the photographic exhibition dedicated to Lisetta Carmi at the Museum of Rome in Trastevere and we are now thinking of new stagings in the same style.
… to be continued.. tomorrow on Arshake’s channel, the last part of the dialogue (Please visit here, the first part of the interview)
images: (cover 1) IN-trans-IZIONE. Performance al Museo di Roma in Trastevere, Dicembre 2018. Foto di Mattero Nardone ©2018 (2) Logo CRiB (3) Beatrice Fedi come maschio. Foto di Elena Ovecina © 2016 (4) U_Teatro Cavallerizza – Festival Aperto, Ottobre 2018. Esempio di Installazione frontale. Foto di Alfredo Anceschi ©2018 (5) U_Carrozzerie n.o.t., Gennaio 2019. Esempio di installazione angolare. Foto di CRiB ©2019