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double theater

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Curio's Double Theater
The consideration of such prodigality as this quite distracts my attention, and compels me to digress from my original purpose, in order to mention a still greater instance of extravagance, in reference to wood. C. Curio, who died during the civil wars, fighting on the side of Caesar, found, to his dismay, that he could not, when celebrating the funeral games in honor of his father, surpass the riches and magnificence of Scaurus--for where, in fact, was to be found such a stepsire as Sylla, and such a mother as Metella, that bidder at all auctions for the property of the proscribed? Where, too, was he to find for his father, M. Scaurus, so long the principle man in the city, and one who had acted, in his alliance with Marius, as a receptacle for the plunder of whole provinces? --Indeed, Scaurus himself was now no longer able to rival himself; and it was at least one advantage which he derived from this destruction by fire of so many objects brought from all parts of the earth, that no one could ever after be his equal in this species of folly. Curio, consequently, found himself compelled to fall back upon his own resources, and to think of some new devise of his own. It is really worth our while to know what this devise was, if only to congratulate ourselves upon the manners of the present day, and to reverse the ordinary mode of expression, and term ourselves the men of the olden time.
He caused to be erected, close together,, two theaters of very large dimensions, and built of wood, each of them nicely poised, and turning on a pivot. Before mid-day, a spectacle of games was exhibited in each; the theaters being turned back to back, in order that the noise of neither of them might interfere with what was going on in the other. Then, in the latter part of the day, all on a sudden, the two theaters were swung round, and, the corners uniting, brought face to face; the outer frames, too, were removed, and thus an amphitheater was formed, in which combats of gladiators were presented to the view; men whose safety was almost less compromises than was that of the Roman people, in allowing itself to be thus whirled round from side to side. Now, in this case, which have we most reason to admire, the inventor of the invention? the artist, or the author of the project? him who first dared to think of such an enterprise, or him who ventured to undertake it? But the thing that surpasses all is, the frenzy that must have possessed the public, to take their seats in a place which must of necessity have been so unsubstantial and so insecure. Lo and behold! here is a people that has conquered the whole earth, that has subdued the universe, that divides the spoils of kingdoms and of nations, that sends its laws to foreign lands, that shares in some degrees the attributes of the immortal gods in common with mankind, suspended aloft in a machine, and showering plaudits even upon its own peril!
This is indeed holding life cheap; and can we, after this, complain of our disasters at Cannae? How vast the catastrophe that might have ensued! When cities are swallowed up by an earthquake, it is looked upon by mankind as a general calamity; and yet, here we have the whole Roman people, embarked, so to say, in two ships, and sitting suspended on a couple of pivots; the grand spectacle being its own struggle with danger, and its liability to perish at any moment that the overstrained machinery may give way! And then the object, too, of all this--that public favor may be conciliated for the tribunes harangues at a future day, and that, at the Rostra, he may still have the power of shaking the tribes, nicely balanced as they are! And really, what may he not dare with those who, at his persuasion, have braved such perils as these? Indeed, to confess the truth, at the funeral games celebrated at the tomb of his father, it was no less than the whole Roman people that shared the dangers of the gladiatorial combats. When the pivots had now been sufficiently worked and wearied, he gave another turn to his magnificent displays. For, upon the last day, still preserving the form of the amphitheater, he cut the stage in two through the middle, and exhibited a spectacle of athletes; after which, the stage being suddenly withdrawn on either side, he exhibited a combat, upon the same day, between such of the gladiators, as had previously proved victorious. And yet, with all this, Curio was no king, no ruler of the destinies of a nation, nor yet a person remarkable for his opulence even; seeing that he possessed no resources of his own, beyond what he could realize from the discord between the leading men.
Pliny (Bostock and Riley translators), Natural History Book 36, chapter 24 (London: Henry G. Bohn, 1892), p. 350-52.

1999.04.14
an alter-ego for Quondam
...utilizes the same collection and themes as Quondam, but nonetheless affords Quondam a "place" to be much more liberal, uninhibited...


1999.10.13
Quondam on/off
...yesterday...the notion of an on Quondam and an off Quondam. The on Quondam is the regular Quondam and the off Quondam is where the museum will be experimental and offer an alternative history (of architecture).


2000.08.09
the new Quondam
...tapping into the "virtual's" greater potential, that being the ability to create something completely other in all respects. It's like the more unreal I make Quondam, the more something really other it becomes.


2000.10.16 19:10
baroque (cyber?) theater
The following is a passage I first read over 23 years ago. It comes from Timothy K. Kitao, Circle and Oval in the Square of Saint Peter's: Bernini's Art of Planning (New York: New York University Press, 1974), pp.22-23. I was reminded of this passage after some reflection upon the recent bit of cyber theater that occurred here a month and a half ago.
"In the well know production of the Due Teatri, first given in 1637, Bernini developed a simulated amphitheater of a very elaborate kind. This is, of course, the best known of Bernini's theatrical works, but a recapitulation is in order.
According to Massimiliano Montecuculi, who witnessed the performance, the stage was prepared with "a flock of people partly real and partly feigned" so arranged that, when the curtain had fallen for the opening of the play, the audience saw on the stage another large audience who had come to see the comedy. Two braggarts, played by Bernini himself and his brother Luigi, then appeared on the stage, one facing the real audience and the other the fictitious; and recognizing each other in no time, they went on to claim, each in turn, that what the other saw as real was actually illusory, each firmly convinced that there was no more than one theater with its audience in that half he was facing. The confusions of realities in mirror image thus heightened, the two firmly decided "that they would pull the curtain across the scene and arrange a performance each for his own audience alone." Then the play was performed to the real audience, that is, the main act to which that preceded was only a present prelude. But through the play another performance was supposed to be taking place simultaneously on the second stage introduced by Luigi; the play was, in fact, interrupted at times by the laughter from those on the other side, as if something very pleasant had been seen or heard.
At the end of the play, the two braggarts reappeared on the stage together to reaffirm the "reality" of the illusion. Having asked each other how they fared, the impresario of the fictitious performance answered nonchalantly that he had not really shown anything but the audience getting up to leave "with their carriages and horses accompanied by a great number of lights and torches." Then, drawing the curtain, he displayed the scene he had just said he had shown to his audience, thus rendering complete the incredible reversal of reality and illusion to the confused amazement of the real spectators, who were now finding themselves ready to leave and caught in the enchanting act of feigning the feigned spectators."

2000.10.27 12:43
Baroque ending (for sure)
Although most of the current discussion at architecthetics deals more or less with theorizing of how 'style' (might) come to be, generally how things/styles emerge, I nonetheless offer the following as an example of how (a) style ends, in this particular case the Baroque style.
The following is a passage I first read over 23 years ago. It comes from Thomas K. Kitao, Circle and Oval in the Square of Saint Peter's: Bernini's Art of Planning (New York: New York University Press, 1974), pp.22-23. I was reminded of this passage after some reflection upon the recent bit of cyber theater that occurred here at design-l [i.e., the email list I first sent this post to on 16 October 2000--design-l and architecthetics are the double theaters I play in] a month and a half ago.
"In the well know production of the Due Teatri, first given in 1637, Bernini developed a simulated amphitheater of a very elaborate kind. This is, of course, the best known of Bernini's theatrical works, but a recapitulation is in order.
According to Massimiliano Montecuculi, who witnessed the performance, the stage was prepared with "a flock of people partly real and partly feigned" so arranged that, when the curtain had fallen for the opening of the play, the audience saw on the stage another large audience who had come to see the comedy. Two braggarts, played by Bernini himself and his brother Luigi, then appeared on the stage, one facing the real audience and the other the fictitious; and recognizing each other in no time, they went on to claim, each in turn, that what the other saw as real was actually illusory, each firmly convinced that there was no more than one theater with its audience in that half he was facing. The confusions of realities in mirror image thus heightened, the two firmly decided "that they would pull the curtain across the scene and arrange a performance each for his own audience alone." Then the play was performed to the real audience, that is, the main act to which that preceded was only a pleasant prelude. But through the play another performance was supposed to be taking place simultaneously on the second stage introduced by Luigi; the play was, in fact, interrupted at times by the laughter from those on the other side, as if something very pleasant had been seen or heard.
At the end of the play, the two braggarts reappeared on the stage together to reaffirm the "reality" of the illusion. Having asked each other how they fared, the impresario of the fictitious performance answered nonchalantly that he had not really shown anything but the audience getting up to leave "with their carriages and horses accompanied by a great number of lights and torches." Then, drawing the curtain, he displayed the scene he had just said he had shown to his audience, thus rendering complete the incredible reversal of reality and illusion to the confused amazement of the real spectators, who were now finding themselves ready to leave and caught in the enchanting act of feigning the feigned spectators."
Here's my analysis:
Of course, the Baroque style continued beyond Bernini--I believe even the double porticos of St. Peter's Square were done after the above performance. All the same, Bernini's theatrical performance manifests the Baroque's consummate ending. Within his double theater Bernini capsulized the beginning of Western culture's new bifurcation of the real and the illusory, introduced mirroring as a henceforth dominant Baroque (stylistic) theme, and, at base (or should I say at the ultimate end), inverted reality into a reenactment of its own illusory mirror (--is this perhaps also the genesis of historiography?).
Essentially, beyond the Baroque (and still often in our own modern times) architecture at its best is very sophisticated theater, keeping in mind that theater is one of the earliest forms of (man made) reenactment.

2000.11.01
quick idea
New history of the Baroque (fortifications to double theaters).


2000.11.02

Nicolas Poussin   The Arcadian Shepherds   1638
Et in Arcadia Ego
reality reenacting its own illusory mirror
double theater


Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini
Piazza San Pietro
1656-70

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