The regenerative ruination of Romeo Castellucci
Faculty of Arts. Linguistics and Literature
Performance research : a journal of performing arts. - London, 1996, currens
, p. 18-28
University of Antwerp
This article proposes an expanded understanding of Romeo Castellucci's radical performance work as a genuine theatre of ruins. While various scholars have already addressed the iconoclastic desire of Castellucci and his company Societas Raffaello Sanzio to break with existing traditions in the history of art and theatre, less noted is the manner in which they exploit ruination not only as a gesture of destruction but also as an act of creation. In this essay, we uncover this often overlooked aspect in Castellucci's oeuvre by demonstrating how his reliance on ruins as a structural element of creation goes against the prevalent view that ruination equals the disintegrating loss of a material world. We first undertake a critical reading of the dominant discourse on the theatre of SRS, highlighting those ideas that may be suggestive of a more ambivalent model of ruination but which need to be further elaborated in order to understand how Castellucci's work discloses a particularly constructive side to the notion of the ruin. To this end, the notebooks of Castellucci provide crucial yet largely unexplored resources that, by charting the preparations and conceptions of his pieces, exemplify what role the ruin plays in Castellucci's aesthetics. Analysing a representative sample of Castellucci's notes, we elucidate how these documents visualize what Castellucci calls the via negativa of his creative process. As a sculptor who chisels statues out of stone, he works according to a procedure of elimination, filtering out those scraps and fragments that eventually make up the ruinous landscapes of his productions. In Castellucci's hands, we argue, the ruin becomes profoundly ambiguous, as it hovers between the hostilities of destruction and the potentialities of resurrection. But it is precisely this complexity that may explain the powerful appeal of Castellucci's ruinous theatre to contemporary audiences.