May 6, 2009 - May 8, 2009 19:00
Petronius’s Satyricon is one of the main works of the classic Latin world; in what remains of this great novel, which reached us unfinished, we find a picture of an everyday world that starts from and returns to Suburra, a place as much in the mind as in the body, where attraction and desires explode furiously the instant they need to satisfy their primary needs: sex, hunger, sleep. The young protagonists, Encolpius, Ascyltus and Giton pass through the instability of an evolving society, the transformations of which they do not consciously perceive otherwise than through the restlessness of their adventures and their search.
Tradition has assigned the title of “arbiter” to the mysterious author of this masterpiece, arbitrator of stylistic research first of all and, in other opinions, of elegance of dress as well. In the first place the term seems to allude to the admirable skill in organising the chaos of vital impulses in a life which is continually changing its sign and its sense, where the rich rapidly become poor and the powerful lose their all in a tempest, like the fearful pirate Lichas: after terrorising the Mediterranean, he drowns in the wreck of the ship that symbolised his power. As on the slave ship or in the brothel in a night plagued by illusions on eyes and heart, at Trimalchio’s banquet there is in fact one single theme: the central position of art. Narration is indeed a saving remedy for the ills of a violent existence where instinct is ever active. The matron of Ephesus, in the best-known story, has no hesitation in giving away her own husband’s body to save the handsome soldier whom she distracted while he was guarding the gallows of a hanged man. In that gesture of hers we find the primary meaning of this text, which celebrates the instinct of creation as a weapon to describe the world and keep it under control.
The “first chapter” of this stage project is on the episode of the Pinacoteca, with a text by Antonio Tarantino and a prologue by Luca Scarlini: a show of images where Encolpius, the young protagonist, inconsolable for the absence of his beloved Giton, goes to the picture gallery like the hero of Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill to find respite from his own grief; here he encounters Eumolpus the poet, spokesman of the author’s thought, interpreted by Massimo Verdastro. The works these characters see are video portraits of those taking part in the project, who appear in relief on the marvellous pinakes decorating the Fayyum mummies, a wonderful series of fragments taken from life, ‘live’ instants from the last years of the Empire, for ages entrusted to the sands of time.
Luca Scarlini and Massimo Verdastro