Conversations on the nameless

The Constellation of the Nameless - Conversations

Presentation by Nicola Savarese

Port-Bou is the small Spanish town on the border with France where the German philosopher Walter Benjamin, hunted by the Gestapo, fled from France which was invaded by the Nazis. On the night between the 25th and 26th of September 1940, fearing that he would not be able to embark for the United States and join his already exiled friends, Benjamin committed suicide at the age of forty-eight by taking a massive dose of morphine.

 

As a Jew and as one who committed suicide, Benjamin is not buried in the beautiful cemetery of Port-Bou overlooking the waves. But about fifty metres away we find a strange downward slope to the sea, a tunnel supported by iron slabs corroded by rust and salt with steps, also in iron, which go down to the blue water. It is a monument by the Israeli sculptor Dani Keverian dedicated to the German philosopher, recalling one of the Parisian passages celebrated by Benjamin, rather than a descent into the abyss.

Fondazione Barba Varley Teatro e borse di studio

When we go down the staircase we suddenly face our own image reflected on a glass plate allowing us to see the sea, and on which the following inscription in German, Spanish, French and English is engraved in capital letters:

“”IT IS A MUCH HARDER TASK TO HONOUR THE MEMORY OF NAMELESS PEOPLE THAN OF CELEBRITIES. THE HISTORICAL RECONSTRUCTION SHOULD BE CONSECRATED TO THE MEMORY OF THOSE WHO HAVE NO NAME.” [Walter Benjamin]
 
Eugenio Barba recalled this place and inscription in the Italian journal “Teatro e Storia”, to honour the memory of one of its founders, Fabrizio Cruciani, who died in 1992. Barba recognised in him a historian who took upon himself the difficult task of remembering the thousands of anonymous artists who have contributed and still contribute to theatre history.
 
“Today theatre does not exist, there exists a plurality of different theatres, dissimilar in terms of techniques, purposes and spectators. They appear as an indistinct mass that seems to be drifting, an immense iceberg. The upper part of the theatre iceberg is known and its actors, on the top, are visible and present in newspapers, on social networks, on television and in history books. The submerged part of the iceberg – the most massive yet invisible part of its material reality – is made up of theatres done by the nameless. They represent the majority of the performances that take place on the planet. They are precarious refuges of hope and attempts at beauty, temporary dens of obstinacy, refusal and anger: germs of change.” [Eugenio Barba]
 
“Many anonymous women work with theatre in situations of social marginalisation, turning theatre into politics by other means. The relationship with the spectators gives meaning to what we do. It is a hope without illusions, but it gives us the strength to go forward in the midst of an army of the nameless.” [Julia Varley]

 

Brecht writes: “Who built Thebes with its seven gates? In the books are the names of kings. Did the kings themselves drag those blocks of stone?”

“Behind the names of kings, Brecht was thinking of the “nameless” who had obeyed their orders”. [Franco Ruffini]

 

The Conversations are conducted by Julia Varley, Claudio La Camera and Eugenio Barba. Simultaneous translation in Italian, English and Spanish is available. Participation is free and limited. Information and registration: fondazionebarbavarley @ gmail.com