by Alessandro Fabrizi
Photo by Selena Franceschi
“NOW”, this is astrophysics Aurélien Barrau and actress Juliette Binoche call for action that has led to a collective response by artists, writers, philosophers and scientists from all around the world.
A call for global business and governments to acknowledge and take responsibility for what scientists have called ‘the climate change disaster’, that sounds even more relevant now in the post-covid19 era: global warming, the progressive reduction of livable areas, abrupt biodiversity losses, water, air and soil pollution... the end is slowly approaching.
As citizens, artists, curators, institutions, researchers and members of the civil society, we should respond collectively to this call for action by imagining new practices and suggesting innovative ways of looking at the world around us differently, that is not as predators but as interlocutors, establishing a dialogue between man and nature, human and non-human.
As Bonnie Marranca reminds us in her book Ecologies of Theater, the word ‘ecology’ derives from the Greek oikos, meaning 'home' or 'place to live' ".
We want to elaborate new practices by which oikos - the ecos, our home - is not meant as a place to conquer, but as an intelligent and provocative interlocutor.
Photo by Dreamstime Archive
Logos, the language of art, sciences and news media is the shared element that brings together everyone who claims an active role in our society. The logos of art and sciences may become a valuable instrument to reimagine the use of spaces and facilities that have been ruined and discarded by the thoughtless pursuit of progress of the past few decades, and to claim the crucial role that these realities play in the most fragile and vulnerable communities.
The Eco Logical Theater Fest is a 10 day symposium of performing arts and science, literature and journalism, conversations and actions that wants to investigate the following 5 issues:
1. ECO-LOGY, establishing a dialogue between Logos and Ecos.
Every year, the Eco Logical Theater Fest brings together artists, scientists, journalists and philosophers, writers and humanitarian operators, presenting them with a theme or a challenge to explore according to their area of expertise.
All events and panel discussions are offered to the public as ‘unplugged’, that is to say without making any use of electricity for sound amplification and lighting. This implies an exposition of the artistic, scientific or philosophical discourse carried out by each speaker/performer to the will of the elements.
Nature plays the role of director, enhancing, disturbing, enriching or making it more complex to carry out the performance.
Sometimes, it is possible to inscribe nature’s intervention in a temporal frame – so the end of a dance performance coincides with the moment when the setting sun touches the sea horizon (this was the case of the performance by the Cuenca- Lauro dance company, Stromboli 2017).
Photo by Alessandro Fabrizi
Sometimes, the working of Nature is unpredictable and yet still appropriate, as when a sea wave washed over spectators and actors during a site-specific staging of The Tempest by William Shakespeare (Stromboli 2016).
The artists are offered the chance to play with no scenery, no flats, no artificial lights and no light or sound effects – just an open space exposed to Nature’s mostly unpredictable will: sometimes it is a beach where people are sunbathing or enjoying a swim, sometimes it is a grove where children are playing.
The entrances and exits are suggested by the location, the same is for the proxemics and the relationship with the audience.
Tourists and locals are free to join the rehearsals or to cross the stage during the performance as they are free to become a part of the play itself. “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players”, as players are the wind, the sun, the moon and birdsong.
The audience is invited to be distracted, to look around themselves, to build new connections. Theater becomes a landscape – as Gertrude Stein wished so much for – so that the performance does not monopolize the attention of the public but rather invites them to edit what they are seeing and hearing with what the spectacle of art and nature is evoking.
Gertrude Stein’s challenging idea of wishing for a "play as landscape" is inherently present in the work of some of the great masters of the Twentieth century, from Robert Wilson to Luca Ronconi, who repeatedly claimed that the long length of his shows was specifically designed to allow the spectators to distract themselves and to re-edit the play in their mind.
This chance at getting distracted, at establishing a dynamic and open relationship with the play, finds its roots in the tradition of the Greek tragedies, with three or four days entirely devoted to theater during which the spectators used to eat and sleep – it is nothing unusual if we think back also of Shakespeare’s time, with people coming back and forth from the Globe during each performance.
Theater has never asked to monopolize the attention of its audience. It has always been challenged to seduce them...
The Eco Logical Theater Fest in Stromboli encourages this approach, inviting the spectator to become a landscape designer and to trace the relationship between the human logos and the natural element.
Photo by Selena Franceschi
In doing so, the human being is put back at the center of live performance and integrated in a larger context, as if to become yet another element in the all-encompassing landscape of Nature.
Consequently, the human being is invited to listen to the environment, to the non- human. ‘Can the non-human speak?’ This is the recurring question in Amitav Ghosh’s writings and conferences.
A paradox that is also one of the most essential questions in a time of accelerating man-made global warming. Looking back at the history that brought us on the verge of a planetary catastrophe, we cannot but recognise that our plight is mostly due to the ways in which certain human classes have actively muted all other beings.
Theater, as any other kind of performative art, can help us revert the workings of the Anthropocene so to celebrate and restore a more balanced relationship between man and nature, the logos and the ecos, eco-logy as opposed to the most imposing aspects of human intervention.
The search for new findings and the constant sense of discovery and rediscovery stemming from the unicity of live events and encounters set in a natural environment are the true strengths that lie at the basis of this experience.
The dialogue between the human and the non-human element is not always easy: sometimes the two elements are working in a mutual enriching collaboration, sometimes they’re in stark contrast with each other.
However, imposing the logos over the ecos seems pointless: just look at where it brought us.
2. INTER-NATIONALITY, exploring what’s beyond nationality
The great value of international cooperation is also in shaping the landscape, in creating new spaces: what’s between nationalities?
What are the controversies, the similarities, the encounters that lie beyond such a simple word like ‘national’.
Debating over inter-nationality means creating dynamic spaces between opposite poles, uncertain realities, living and mobile communities and deal with issues that are not always easy to deal with.
To initiate a process of inter-nationalization today, especially after the global crisis led by the covid-19 medical emergency, means to cooperate, to create new connections to establish a permanent dialogue between communities and the broader socio-economic context of their local area.
It means that we need to give ourselves the time to experiment, to discover and develop new cultural models and practices that are also sustainable so to foster the creation of an inter-local space between nations of which actors are to be the cities, the suburbs, and the communities that inhabit it.
Cooperation means that different cultural features can enter into discussion much like actors in a play, each one embodying a different culture, a different approach, a different role in the development of the dramatic action.
To open and join a conversation means to explore that space between nations and communities where multiple realities as well as several different aspects of the same culture coexist, so to create the theatre of the world.
To be measured up against Nature, to be forced to walk on an uneven ground and through an uncanny territory - planet Earth - is a universal experience that calls for a different perspective on the natural environment.
3. INTER-DISCIPLINARITY, art - sciences - news media
One of the core elements of the Fest is inter-disciplinarity intended as the process of raising awareness about the network of connections that brings together different issues and different points of view in a perspective of mutual enrichment.
The historical perspective can help us discover the invisible connections underlying the relationship between various disciplines: for instance, was there something in common between the experiences of the Cubist movement and the researches surrounding the theory of relativity?
A feeling, some insight, a similar perspective on reality?
The idea is to perpetrate this exchange of opinions and to apply this interdisciplinary aesthetics to the understanding of more complex phenomena.
What is it that grants artists, scientists, journalists and humanitarian operators with their ability to capture the zeitgeist, the spirit of their age?
Isn’t it the ability to look at the world, to listen to its sound and to act accordingly without imposing the weight of their own choices?
To find, not to impose.
4. LOCAL CULTURES IN DIALOGUE vs. GLOBALIZATION, imitation-inspiration
The outbreak of the covid-19 pandemic has made us realize clearly that we are all part of a globally interconnected system and that cooperation is a fundamental element to make a better world.
This emergency has highlighted how the work of artists, institutions and professionals in the cultural sector is comprised both between global and local trends, in a renewed glocal space that relies on the huge variety of its elements and of its local realities, that are all connected like stars from the very same constellation. The all-encompassing nature of this space includes different characters, plot and sub-plots, strategies and objectives.
From the second half of the Twentieth century - let’s say the 1970s - the small island of Stromboli has been hosting a cosmopolitan community, revealing the potential to position itself at the centre of an even wider international network.
The artists, scientists, writers and journalists that are host by the Fest every year are all called to acknowledge the deep roots of its local community, as exemplified by the four thousand-year village that has been recently discovered by archaeologists and the marks left by the great wave of migration that struck the island almost a hundred years ago as well as some of its oldest tradition like the ‘majare’ (the term translates as witches in the local dialect).
This is meant to establish a dialogue between the historical customs and traditions of the local community and the culture and habits of the people that have come to the island during the centuries to shape its identity up to date.
The island’s volcano – Iddu – has a strong personality.
Once people reach the island, they are subject to its will. It is as if its very existence is there to remind man of its precarious nature.
Iddu doesn’t let anyone rule over him – attempting at imposing him anything would be pointless.
The island encourages people to meet the complexity of its materiality and history, and to find in that locality and geographical narrowness the starting point and the impulse to travel with the imagination and to gain a better understanding of a wider global territory.
In this perspective, we auspicate to foster and enrich a dialogue between the local community and the new hosts, so to develop innovative ways of appropriating and creatively rethinking the most discarded and degraded areas of the island.
5. NETWORKING, weaving the web
The web or network that structures this landscape is the result of the confrontation between local realities, including the broader cultural and socio-economic context of Sicily and the South of Italy, Europe and the world. A landscape indeed.