This issue of “Comunicazioni Sociali” is devoted to the exposition of the body in the society of images, spectacle and social media, and is divided into two sections, critical and experiential.
Four critical papers deal with the dehumanising consequences of (a) the gaze, which can be irresponsible both seeing and being seen, as stigmatised already by the Early Christian Fathers; (b) the human-informatics hybridisation, which prejudices the body’s responsibility, uniqueness and irreducibility; (c) the commerce, use and permanence on the internet of “electronic bodies”, different from virtual bodies as the former belong to real individuals who have a legal right to be forgotten; and finally, (d) the media, becoming during times of crisis a form of Black Magic with persecutory and sacrificial tendencies, reinvented and modernised, according to Karl Kraus, with the advent of the press (“Slap the Monster on Page One”).
The second part of the issue, “Bodies at play”, illustrates the possible cure for the ailments of the exposed bodies, victims of mimetic desire, through six significant experiences of social and community theatre. First comes an analysis of the positive mimetic games of children in nurseries, then the more complex cases of adolescents engaged in sexting and cyberbullying. The issue moves on to a study of how girls affected by eating disorders deny their bodies, and to a reflection on disabled people, caught between the doctors’ representations of perfect bodies and the media’s pitiful ones; to end with the experiences of the women of Forcella, a deprived urban area in Naples. Finally, the significant case of the Punta Corsara theatre company in Scampia, a famous crime district in the same city, provides an attempt to recreate the fusion of life and theatre, of the aesthetical and social dimensions, similar to what actors De Berardinis and Peragallo did in the industrialised town of Marigliano in the Seventies.
In the contemporary anthropological scenario of dualism between body and mind, exasperated by the general exposure to the mimetic desire of a divine body and of a body that is plastic, manipulable, replaceable, interchangeable, the theatre and the performing arts have the double function of criticism and of proposal, in which the development and the care of the individual people, of the community and of the social body are pursued through work with the body and on the body, singular and plural.
L’esposizione dei corpi nella società dell’immagine, dello spettacolo e dei social media, viene trattata in questo numero di “Comunicazioni sociali” in due sezioni, una critica e l’altra esperienziale. Quattro saggi critici mettono in luce le conseguenze disumanizzanti dello sguardo irresponsabile nel vedere e essere visti, già denunciato dai Padri della Chiesa nei primi secoli del cristianesimo; dell’ibridazione uomo-tecnologia che pregiudica la responsabilità, l’unicità e l’irriducibilità del corpo; del commercio, dell’uso e della permanenza in internet dei “corpi elettronici”, distinti dai corpi virtuali perché si riferiscono a individui reali e quindi aventi diritto all’oblio; della “magia nera” con tendenze persecutorie e sacrificali dei media nei momenti di crisi, reinventata e modernizzata secondo Karl Kraus con l’avvento della stampa (“sbatti il mostro in prima pagina”).
Nella seconda sezione, “corpi in gioco”, si illustra, con la presentazione di sei significative esperienze di teatro sociale e di comunità, la possibile cura dei mali dei corpi esposti, vittime del desiderio mimetico. Si parte dai positivi giochi mimetici dei bambini nelle scuole materne per arrivare ad affrontare i casi difficili degli adolescenti alle prese con il sexting e il cyberbullismo, delle ragazze affette da disturbi dei comportamenti alimentari che negano il proprio corpo, dei disabili stretti tra le rappresentazioni del corpo perfetto dei medici e quelle pietistiche dei media, e delle donne di Forcella, uno dei quartieri difficili di Napoli. Ancora in questa città, nel quartiere malavitoso di Scampia, la compagnia Punta Corsara ritenta, come fecero, negli anni Settanta, gli attori De Berardinis e Perla Peragallo nel paese industriale di Marigliano, il connubio tra vita e teatro, estetica e sociale.
Nel contesto antropologico contemporaneo di dualismo tra corpo/mente esasperato dall’alta esposizione di tutti al desiderio mimetico di un corpo divino e di un corpo plastico, manipolabile, sostituibile, intercambiabile, il teatro e le arti performative svolgono un doppio ruolo di critica e di proposta, in cui la costruzione e la cura delle persone, della comunità, del tessuto sociale passa attraverso il lavoro con il corpo e sul corpo, singolare e plurale.
This paper aims to analyse how, from the second to the fifth centuries AD, Christian thought redefined the dynamics of the human gaze through a dramatic device that put forward a profound argument about the individual’s identity in the context of their relationship with other individuals. Through the writings of the Church Fathers set against the spectacular system of the ancient world – especially as expressed, for example, by Tertullian and Augustine – this paper will highlight how the unity of the Christian “dramatic” has proposed a revolution in sight, which implies not only a new way of seeing oneself and the other but also a new order of desire, and especially of action. At the centre of this revolution is the body of the God-Man on the cross: that specific exposed body transforms the idea of “to see and to be seen”, a concept that no longer represents a game of appearances and images but real relationships between and among human beings, thus offering the contemporary debate on visual culture an innovative, original interpretation of the meaning of performativity of vision.
The essay offers an analysis of body and body performances in the informatics era, based on the film Her by Spike Jonze (USA, 2013) and according to the philosophical works by Jean-Luc Nancy. In Her, the meaning of body seems paradoxical, because of its absence from the scene and through the use of voice. According to this “phenomenology of voice”, body is interpreted neither as a medium for an ideal meaning nor as an inessential signifier. Indeed, it is presented as the place where sexuality and otherness are linked to the problem of loss, failure and weakness. Thus, the human-informatics hybridization prejudices the properties of uniqueness, irreversibility and responsibility that are intrinsic to human experience in its involvement with body.
This essay springs from a recognition of the various uses of the ‘virtual’. This is fundamental to understanding that the Net is not a virtual world like Second Life. Indeed, many authors emphasize the risks of Internet addiction, and ‘misuse’ of the Net may result in the commission of crimes. Among the legal risks, those related to the ‘electronic body’ are especially significant, and the situation is still evolving. The doctrinal notion of an ‘electronic body’, a non-physical corpus of information, differs from that of a ‘virtual body’. An ‘electronic body’ also includes images, such as those of bodies exposed – as user-generated content – in inactive profiles. This kind of image is very interesting from a legal perspective. In particular, images – digital representation of real bodies – published in indexed web pages may create many problems surrounding ‘personal identity’, which is protected by the Italian Constitution. In order to minimize these problems, the images, although lawfully published, may be removed from the search engine results through enforcement of the right to be forgotten. Google and Microsoft provide online ‘modules’ to support this, but the notion of the right to be forgotten on the Net is different from the traditional one. The images published in inactive profiles – old and new alike – may not be easily deindexed, despite the use of the ‘modules’, which offer the simplest way to exercise the right to be forgotten on the Net.
At the height of his legendary attack on the press, Karl Kraus (1874-1936) used an alienating metaphor in his writings several times that compared the newspapers’ effect on Viennese society to “Black Magic”. This image was broadly developed in an essay published in his magazine The Torch in December 1912, significantly entitled The End of the World through Black Magic. Here, in his style – at once grotesque and apocalyptic – the writer presages the immense tragedy that would soon devastate Europe. The essay’s content and tone anticipate the structural themes and typical elements of his great dramatic masterpiece, The Last Days of Mankind, written during and after World War I, containing his revolutionary description of the nature of the conflict, focusing on those not at the front, who ‘fight’ through the news published in the newspapers. This essay analyses the function of the “Black Magic” metaphor in Kraus’s writings and contextualizes it in historical and anthropological terms in view of a mimetic theory, in order to assess its significance and usefulness as a tool for interpreting some of the phenomenological functions of the media in the international crisis. Kraus sees “Black Magic” as a technique, involving phrases and preconceived representations repeated like mantras and disseminated by the media, for controlling the fears and desires of the masses, taking advantage of their innate characteristics and sacrificial nature. As Roberto Calasso remarks in the stage directions to The Last Days of Mankind about the news arriving from the front, the expression “They are gathering in groups” often recurs, referring to those who make these clusters of people do it in obedience to an “officially powerless, essentially persecutory power: the press”. They crowd frantically around an empty space: “long ago there – René Girard reminds us – you could see the tortured body of the victim of the original lynching”.
Mimesis is an innate feature of human beings. It manifests immediately after birth and constitutes a very early form of learning, substantiating interpersonal relationships, fostering empathy, and facilitating self-awareness, together with many practical and operative notions, through mirroring oneself in the significant other. The mimetic dimension evolves into fictional and symbolic ludic forms, which we have called dramaturgic, and which constitute a crucial socio-relational and cultural resource in infants’ development. These findings, backed by numerous studies, prove the need for a new attention to subjectivity in the education of pre-school children. From an operational viewpoint, these considerations offer countless cues for drawing new hypotheses about the pedagogical function of theatrical practices to support the development of young children individually and in groups. Specifically, using field research conducted among toddlers in a nursery, the paper establishes the hypothesis that direct theatrical practice, following precise methodical guidelines, accompanies and fosters the natural evolution of mimetic dynamics into dramaturgic play. It does so by developing the children’s ability to creatively rework their experiences through the co-construction of imaginary worlds and their bodily and kinetic experiences. Direct theatrical practice also facilitates the growth of abstract thinking and nurtures pro-social and cooperative behaviours.
This article introduces and discusses how social theatre can be used in preventive healthcare in a new methodological framework including peer & media education and digital literacy. The essay begins at the gap between the new risks affecting adolescent behaviour (new addictions, gambling and online pornography) and health services’ strategies for preventing them. While youngsters are online, chatting and dating, health professionals are ready in their offices: service is not matched to need. They must provide a new methodological framework for prevention that is underpinned by an understanding of youngsters’ practices and can make sense of what they do on social-networking sites and digital media in their daily lives. Peer & media education – originating in a meeting between peer education and media education – seeks to do just this. Peer education traditionally entails training young people to educate their peers. Media education, meanwhile, aims to develop critical thinking to enable youngsters to become aware of media messages and to produce and publish their content responsibly. The result is a joint preventive and educational framework in which critical thinking is developed and fostered through peer activity. In collaboration with partners from health prevention (Contorno Viola), teen education (Informagiovani) and social theatre (Industria Scenica), CREMIT recently ran an action-research project on sexting prevention (Image.me). It was a good opportunity to test the peer & media methodology. Social theatre was conceived of (and used) in two ways. First, it provided a form of social care and web risk prevention. The methodology entailed choosing the best performing arts for the context, focusing on the project’s target audience, and trying to imagine how to tackle sexting effectively. The result was a new mascot, OPS!, a puppet that the researchers used to meet youngsters in schools, discos and other informal contexts. OPS! was also involved in peer video making, as the young people created videos aimed at preventing sexting in their own communities. The second way in which social theatre was used was in communicating the research data at the project’s conclusion. A dramaturgical framework was devised for commenting on the data and facilitating understanding and participation. These activities are part of a wider research project on theatre and scientific communication at the Università Cattolica, Milan, run by Claudio Bernardi and Pier Cesare Rivoltella’s research groups.
Eating disorders are a complex and constantly growing phenomenon; there are several therapies designed to treat this disease. But what do we mean when we talk about disease and treatment? What is an eating disorder? Is it a clinical disease? A psychological ailment? A reaction to difficulties encountered in particular socio-relational environments? Behind the symptom is always a person who, consciously or unconsciously, is the cause of their own discomfort. The symptom is a symbolic representation of an inner conflict, betraying difficulties in relating to oneself, to others and to reality. A valid method of treating eating disorders is the theatre experience, primarily in workshop form. Theatre experience is inherently about openness to others and to oneself; it can be tool for developing a new perspective, for looking after oneself, for discovering one’s body as an authentic, deep and healthy interface between an individual and the world, which is necessary for constructing a positive self-image. Through play, and in an environment perceived as safe and removed from everyday reality, the individual can follow a process of experimentation, creation and expression (perceived as impossible in ordinary life) which can lead to a new way of living. Starting from current studies on eating disorders and their connection with social dynamics, and based on personal experience in leading a theatre group of girls with eating disorders in a collaborative project with the medical team of therapeutic communities in Asso (at Sant’Anna Hospital, Como), this essay aims to evaluate theatre’s potential as an effective, long-lasting treatment for eating disorders, one that gives the individual a chance to extend this potential to their own everyday life as the foundation for broader social change.
Initially, medical models tended to regard disability as an individual problem. By linking disability to therapy or treatment, they only reinforced the idea of the perfect or normal body. Disability studies began to propose more radical concepts, shifting the emphasis away from the medical model to a more social construction of disability. Following the social-model approach, the normalization practices produced by the medical model go a long way towards creating social representations based on such dichotomous concepts as able/disabled. Thus, the authority of the medical model means that the disabled subject is commonly seen as someone in need of help and pity, while our medicalized society responds by providing special treatments increasingly based on the promise of normalization. The media also use images that reproduce the medical model, conveying a message of compassion to the viewer. But more recently, the media have also begun to propose a different form of representation, perhaps the most popular and famous being that of athlete Oscar Pistorius. The prosthetic body transforms the image of the disabled subject into a “supercrip”. It is in this fusion between biology and technology that the science-fiction vision of the cyborg re-emerges. The imperfect body has prompted a third way of looking at disability, which we might define as “fashioncrip”. Here, the prosthesis has been created as part of the overall design, now becoming a work of art, not simply an artificial device to replace a body part. To underline this new trend, I analyse the video clip “Prototype” by Viktoria Modesta, the first “bionic pop artist”. In this video, pop culture meets the physical reality of amputation as a “poetic” concept, rather than a medical procedure, in a transition from what we might define as prosthetic to pro(ae)sthetic, in which the body’s fragility is transformed into beauty.
The “f. pl. femminile plurale” association was set up in Naples in 2008. Its principal interest is in training and developing a “theatre pedagogy” using its members’ broad and deep theatre experience. Its various aims include promoting different cultures through the performing arts. In the firm belief that theatrical language can develop expertise, bridge distances, integrate diversity, and improve relationships between individuals and the community, the working group has been running the project called The Scene of Women in the Forcella public-housing district for many years. The workshop-based activities identified areas and situations where we can observe a complex, problematic female universe of extremely rich expressive potential, from young girls and teenagers to women of all ages, interacting dynamically. All projects gave special attention to working on the body, to knowledge of its material essence, with awareness of its physical nature to explore creatively, in order to expand the meanings of interpersonal relationships in an area, in a peculiar place that becomes a theatre set, a deeply intimate confessional space. This essay explores the educational and social work done by “f. pl. femminile plurale” with non-professional actresses, showing what can be done on several creative levels, all focused on how the body becomes an expressive medium through theatre. The study identifies the moments in a theatrical and existential journey (drawing on techniques derived from mime, dance, fiction and the psychomotor field) that leads women to the simple yet sensational discovery of their own body, over and above the aesthetic rules, social roles and skills. This “found” body becomes a means of knowledge, communication and expressive truth, a body that attributes to the magic of the scene the exceptional nature of its revelation.
The theatre offers profound potential for contact among bodies. Without contact, there is no theatre, understood as the art form whose defining principle is being tied to one space and one time, leading to the need to build a community. We analyse the analogies and differences between two important experiences in Campania. These experiences are based on a theatre project that is also a social project to build a temporary community. In this perspective, the two experiences are exemplary cases in which the community is built like a choral community, like events in which singular bodies aspire to a particular kind togetherness that philosopher Jean-Luc Nancy terms singulier-pluriel. First, we examine the work of Leo de Berardinis and Perla Peragallo between 1967 and 1976 in Marigliano to show how the teatro dell’ignoranza or teatro del grado zero, as the director defines it, was a prototype of choral theatre that feeds on diversity to transcend the limits of the theatre space to become integral with the social fabric. The second experience that we consider is the company Punta Corsara, the culmination of the Arrevuoto project that started in Scampia in 2005. Arrevuoto is an educational initiative based on Marco Martinelli and Ermanna Montanari’s non-scuola concepts. Non-scuola is not a drama/art school but a workshop for developing new models of social living. Punta Corsara’s work is based on reconquering suburban space as a choral space. With these two experiences, we define a new theatrical space intended as a choral and community space that encourages contact between bodies.
This essay investigates the historical role of play in computer history, drawing on the main studies on play conceived as an essential feature in human culture. The analysis of the relationship between play and forms of human-computer interaction falls into two main phases: phase 1 (1950-70), when computers were conceived by scientists as the main tool for the advancement of research and as an alternative intelligence to be educated, and phase 2 (1970-90), when computers were appropriated and domesticated through hacker cultures. The analysis of the historical role of playing as essential to the exploration and appropriation of computational technology is interpreted here as a crucial step towards fully understanding the contemporary gamification of everyday life.
The essay offers a new reading of the “masterwork of Renaissance drama”, “the perfect comedy”, namely Niccolò Machiavelli’s Mandragola, where the character of Lucretia emerges as the symbolic satirical double of the Prince, who can “bene usare la bestia e l’uomo” (“well use both beast and man”) (XVIII, 4). A dialogue between the Florentine writer’s comedy and his political works is outlined, in order to clarify the meaning of the metamorphosis experienced by the most “anti-canonical” person in the play, and to elucidate its disorienting denouement,which many scholars have termed enigmatic, ambiguous and puzzling. The ending does not resolve but underlines the antinomy between politics and morals, because we – like Machiavelli – cannot justify an act that may be both politically necessary and morally wrong. The study of dramatic writing is complemented by a review of the play’s fortunes when staged from the Renaissance to the present age, specifically dwelling on Guicciardini’s (1967), Missiroli’s (1983) and Chiti’s (2010) versions. Ugo Chiti’s recent staging (for Arca Azzurra Teatro), still unexplored by theatre scholars, stands out for its originality and neatness, as it paradigmatically developed both the dialogue between realism and symbolic suggestion and, on the other hand, the play’s folk and carnival components. A survey of both the text and the staging suggests a possible new and different reading of Machiavelli’s dramatic works.