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Forum Italicum
2018, Vol. 52(3) 824–843
Carmelo Bene and ! The Author(s) 2018
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DOI: 10.1177/0014585818781823

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Giulia Vittori
Independent scholar, USA

Abstract
When Italian actor, director, and writer Carmelo Bene conceived Lorenzaccio (1986),
under the same title he created a philosophical tale and a performance about
Lorenzino De’ Medici. In these works, Bene offers a provocative reflection on the relation
existing between the presentness of the act and the historiographical attempt to account
for it, once it has passed and been deemed historical action. Questioning representation
as a tool of historiography and an instrument of psychological investigation of the subject’s
intention, Bene places the act within the domain of performance and removes it from the
domain of history. Hence, he shifts his focus from the historical action to the performatic
experience embedded in the actor’s gesture. In this article, the author shows how Bene
offers a theatre as philosophy in performance, where the actor contributes to under-
standing the intellectual reach of the act of performing and seizes its potential in critiquing
humanist models of subjectivity and history.

Keywords
act, aesthetic of the vain, experience, history, Lorenzaccio, phenomenology

‘‘I stood out as the only wrecker of modern theatre.’’


‘‘From this moment, European theatre can restart from zero.’’
Carmelo Bene

Carmelo Bene and Lorenzino De’ Medici


Italian director, actor, and writer Carmelo Bene wrote and performed Lorenzaccio in
1986. Lorenzaccio is a two-part work that includes both a staged performance and a

Corresponding author:
Giulia Vittori, 2 Handel ct., Irvine, CA 92617, USA.
Email: giuliavit@gmail.com
Vittori 825

philosophical essay (or a ‘‘tale,’’ as Bene defines it, emphasizing the literary quality of
the content and its narrative structure). In both versions, Lorenzaccio is a sophisti-
cated and provocative reflection on the question: what is the act of performing? As
the performance and the essay are created in the form of an experimental historical
tale that offers a singular portrayal of Lorenzino De’ Medici and his deeds, through
Lorenzaccio Bene also asks: how can the act of performing challenge the humanist
ideas of historical action and historiographical representation? Lorenzaccio is a two-
fold work that offers a reflection on the relationship between history and perfor-
mance. Both history and performance tell events—whether real or fictional—and
aim to reconstruct the chain of causes and effects leading to their final accomplish-
ments. Bene questions historical and narrative recounting as primary instruments of
reconstruction—both of what happened in the past, and what happens to the actor
when performing. Ultimately, with Lorenzaccio, Bene aims to critique the epistemo-
logical logic of humanist models of history and subject.
In addressing the concepts of history and performance, Bene engages the rela-
tionship between time, actor, and gesture in paradoxical yet illuminating ways. The
essay and the performance follow a similar exploration of the relationship between
performance and history through the concept of gesture, but find very distinct forms
to accomplish it. In both works, Lorenzino becomes the vehicle of Bene’s voice:
while in the essay Bene narrates the tale of Lorenzino De’ Medici in the third
person, in the performance Bene himself plays Lorenzino. Where the essay is extre-
mely rich in its language and digressions, the performance grants limited space to
spoken language and focuses on the relationship between the three characters:
Lorenzino, a white man dressed in drag; Duke Alessandro De’ Medici, a half-
naked man of color, performed by Isaac George; and Contini the rumorista, a
white sound effects technician, dressed in noisy Renaissance armor performed by
Mauro Contini.1 Throughout the performance, Contini mirrors and interprets
Lorenzino’s actions through amplified sounds, performing each noise just before
Lorenzino makes the action that appears to cause it. Lorenzino engaging in a blind
race of impromptu gestures with Contini constitutes the heart of the performance.
For example, we hear the sound of dishes crashing to the floor an instant before
Lorenzino can reach them—as he throws the dishes a moment later, they fall silently
on the carpet. In turn, Duke Alessandro responds to these noises with a soundless,
erotic, and animalistic excitement—once more, only Contini is permitted to make
these actions audible and amplified.2 Because the three characters share different
spaces on the stage, they cannot see each other. In this way, close listening is crucial
to the success of their performances.
Grounded in the idea of listening, Lorenzaccio examines acting in the very process
of performing the actor’s gesture, promoting it as the milieu for an embodied
thought. Where the essay does so by posing a philosophical question regarding
the difference between act and action, the performance shows Lorenzino’s frustra-
tion in enacting such a difference, which implies the suspension of the principle of
cause and effect. When performing Lorenzino, Bene attempts in vain to catch up
with the sonic effects of his actions, as if his gestures are out of sync with his
826 Forum Italicum 52(3)

intention. In this paradoxical conception, the gesture cannot pursue the end origin-
ally planned because the effect comes first. Even if Bene recounts a historical event
and its context, Lorenzaccio’s very theme is the subject’s experience in the enactment
of such historical gesture before it is deemed historical. As Bene points to the incon-
sistency between intention, gesture, and result within the action time frame, he ques-
tions the interpretation of the Aristotelian idea of drama as narrative and
chronological action. Ultimately, Lorenzaccio is a critique of the representational
frame through which theatre history and the dramatic repertoire are often written
and staged.
The strict link between critical thought and artistic practice on which Lorenzaccio
is built is still relevant today, some 30 years after its creation. The two works reveal a
vision of theatre that is inherently a forma mentis, an enacted philosophy deriving
from the theatre as a philosophical mode of operating. Through a critical language
reshaped for the theatre field that draws on history and philosophy, Lorenzaccio
contributes to the field of performance philosophy. Bene is an actor who thinks
deeply about theatre, and his perspective is crucial for those studies that derive
from theories elaborated upon by actors. In particular, Lorenzaccio adds perfor-
matic and theoretical insights about the actor’s perception of her gesture. To reject
representation and destabilize it as the method to analyze action and narration, Bene
conceives of the actor’s act of performing as a temporal gap. Such a gap acts as a
suspension of consciousness, capable of nullifying pre-intentionality. Accordingly,
in Lorenzaccio, this type of gap informs the actor’s gesture. Through his performatic
concept of the gap, Bene defines the actor’s experience of the gesture as ineffable in
nature and provides a way to talk about it solely via negativa. In affecting the relation
between act and action, such a gap also impacts the relation between gesture and
narrative text, actor and spectator, and, ultimately, performance and history.
Although sometimes returning to the performance of Lorenzaccio to illuminate
Bene’s project, this article focuses primarily on Lorenzaccio in essay form, to reveal
Bene’s ability—as a performer himself—to speak in crucial ways about the per-
former’s practice. His double work demonstrates that their reciprocal autonomy is
gained through theoretical meditation on practice. The specific theoretical and cri-
tical language in Bene’s essay guides this analysis of his vision of performance
beyond his refined experimental stage and actor language. Choosing to focus on
the essay by no means attributes less importance to the performance, which finds
autonomous language and style to address the themes posed in the essay, and would
merit close analysis elsewhere. Rather, the analysis of this article aims to emphasize
Bene as a writer, an artist, and a philosopher of theatre.

A tale of history and performance


With its subtitle al di là di De Musset e Benedetto Varchi (beyond De Musset and
Benedetto Varchi), Lorenzaccio the performance provides some details about the
frame of its critical project, which is clarified in the essay. This title announces how
Bene’s Lorenzaccio avoids the Romantic vein of De Musset’s play and supersedes
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Varchi’s critique of Lorenzino De’ Medici’s inability to concretize his proclaimed


republican faith. A fine reader of Medici’s history, Bene draws upon the inability of
historiographers—from Varchi (1503–1565) to the present day—to explain the
motives behind Lorenzino’s murder of his cousin, the Duke of Florence,
Alessandro De’ Medici.3 Even in his time, Lorenzino was believed to have no
political or personal motivation for murdering the Duke. Though he depicted him-
self to the Florence tribunal as a defender of the founding republican values and a
supporter of the political fringes who fought for them, the court judged this defense
as inadequate. As Manfredi Piccolomini (1991) reports in The Brutus Revival,
historians have focused on the ‘‘inconclusiveness of Alessandro’s murder, an act
without finality enacted simply for the act itself’’ (Piccolomini, 1991: 86).
Apparently, Lorenzino planned and carried out the assassination with no known
motive: he sought neither inheritance, nor power, nor the ideal of the restoration of
the Florentine Republic.4
This enigma in the person of Lorenzino specifically attracts Bene. He reads the
gesture of the actor through Lorenzino’s anti-historical gestures. Through such an
overlap, Bene establishes a parallel between history and theatre. As Bene elaborates
upon Lorenzino’s presumed lack of intentionality, he depicts intentionality as an
inconclusive component in the actor’s work and denounces the principle of cause-
effect as an insufficient guide for historiography.5 In Lorenzaccio, Bene criticizes
history and theatre as vehicles of representation that rely on intentionality and cau-
sality to recount a chronology of events based on the reconstruction of actions. To
Bene, the idea of a reconstructed and planned action (both in history and in the
theatre) fails because it finds no correspondence in the experience of the subject
accomplishing the action. With a narrative trick, Bene demonstrates such a theory
as he reverses the position of cause and effect in describing the performer’s expe-
rience of her gesture. This way, he creates an impasse regarding the subject’s
intention. Yet, as the performatic gesture becomes an opportunity to dismantle
representation alongside intentionality and causality, it also provides the subject
with a chance to de-think. To Bene, the idea of de-thinking constitutes an attempt
to walk away from the type of representational logic upon which most western
philosophical systems are based. Lorenzaccio is a step towards this plan.
The following passage exemplifies the narrative trickery Bene (1995) uses in
Lorenzaccio the tale. Specifically, it reveals how he envisions the actor’s gesture as
performed out of chronological time and in the absence of consciousness. In the
passage, while seated behind the Duke Alessandro on the same horse, Lorenzino De’
Medici attempts to stab the Duke from behind. The attack fails, because the blade of
his dagger breaks upon the Duke’s coat of mail. Bene describes the historical episode
in a long passage; the excerpt below recounts Lorenzino’s memory of the event:

On his side, Lorenzino remembered the splendid harshness of that assault. Even from
within the market’s despicable uproar in the background, he heard the amplified ru-
stling in between the folds of his bodice; the shrill shriek and the hiss of that dagger
extracted from its sheath; the blow the iron inflicted against the ducal steel; the bending
828 Forum Italicum 52(3)

of the weapon; the loud cracking. He remembered until this point: then, he had acted.
(Bene, 1995: 34; translation mine)6

As he describes the effect of such an action on Lorenzino’s mind and memory, Bene
continues to describe the episode by tracing a parallel to his concept of the actor
performing an action.

He perfectly remembered everything but the act (the quick, clumsy execution of the
assault) in which he got lost after having heard the amplified resonance. Therefore, as
the listener, he remembered that act from the future: an accident is never present, and
the concept of the actor needs to be completely revised. Subtracted to the statute of the
action, the actor is she who eludes the project and the reproduction of sense. (Bene,
1995: 34–35)

Bene distinguishes the act from the intentional action, extrapolating it as a space of
oblivion that arises in the very instant of the actor’s gesture. For Bene, in the very
moment of accomplishing the intended action, the actor is oblivious of her gesture
and freed from any dependence on the action’s purpose. Although examining very
closely the phenomenon of the actor’s gesture, Bene does not aim at the actor’s
subjectivity. On the contrary, he envisions a type of theatre against the cult of sub-
jectivity around which social life, drama, and media communication are organized in
western society, and against the representation it produces. Moreover, Bene con-
ceives of Lorenzaccio as a work that goes beyond not only modern theatre but also
concepts of identity, otherness, and alternative narration of post-modern perform-
ance. When presenting Lorenzaccio the performance at a press review, Bene claimed:

I only care for language’s short circuits. If representing nothing is possible, then this is
the occasion to do so. . . . [Lorenzaccio] checkmates theatre. . . . I pass over the post-
modern to arrive at a post-theatrical de-conceptualization, and I deal exclusively
with that. . . . It is a theatre without spectacle. I made the impossible possible.
(Vagheggi, 1986; translation mine).

By mining the concepts of identity alongside those of consciousness and narration,


Bene disrupts the foundation for the formation of characters and de-conceptualizes
standard notions of drama. Accordingly, he bypasses the idea of spectacle, for his
type of performer cannot even watch (spectate) herself in her own doing, of which
she remains unaware.
The actor’s gesture becomes, for Bene, the occasion to speculate, via negativa,
about the most inner experience the actor undergoes in her work. In point of fact,
since there is no possibility for the actor to perceive herself during the accomplish-
ment of her gesture, entangled as she is in her lack of consciousness and memory, no
spectacle exists in the gratuitousness of the actor’s gesture. Such a speculation on the
actor’s gesture offers an occasion for a vision of performance informed by the know-
ledge the actor derives from the act of performing. Where previous artists, such as
Vittori 829

Barba and Grotowski, have demonstrated the actor’s central role in understanding
the intellectual foundation of performance, Bene emphasizes the philosophical side
of such intellectual reach. More specifically, he seeks an alternative system of critical
thought which opposes western aesthetics and its concepts of representation and
subject. His intellectual attempt has its roots in Antonin Artaud’s anti-metaphysical
argument and embraces Gilles Deleuze’s theories of difference and time. Bene locates
in the actor’s gesture a unique opportunity to bypass the representation of perfor-
mance and its chronology and to gain a state of difference in the instant of the event.
He opposes the staged action—usually reconstructed from the text, planned with the
director, and composed of a set of actions during rehearsals—with the instant in
which the gesture happens. Writing about Bene and his legacy in ‘‘Attore del
deserto’’ (‘‘Actor of the desert’’), Italian theatre historian Antonio Attisani (2014)
states:

The most relevant question that he poses—one of the most compelling for the present
and the future of theatre—is that of the actor as a herald of difference: ‘‘author’’ and
performer of difference, passeur, yet not on behalf of any third party. (Attisani, 2014: 2;
translation mine)

Bene shifts the attention from the spectator’s gaze and the director’s design, as well as
the playwright’s text, to the actor’s embodied knowledge. Bene’s performer thinks, or,
in better words, de-thinks, through her experience, by enacting her gesture.

A tale of paradox
In Lorenzaccio, Bene describes a paradox in the performer’s gesture through the
historical figure of Lorenzino De’ Medici. Lorenzino De’ Medici gained the deroga-
tory suffix -accio, to form Lorenzaccio, because he vandalized ancient monuments in
Rome, which Bene interprets as the deeds of an anti-humanist and a history felon. In
the essay, Bene uses the word Lorenzaccio not only as a nickname for Lorenzino but
also as an attribute: Lorenzaccio, when used as an attribute meaning
‘‘Lorenzaccian,’’ defines the quality of the actor’s gesture in Bene’s post-theatre.
Before narrating the murder of Duke Alessandro, which occurs at the end of the
essay, Bene pauses on one historical fact and speculates upon its meaning through-
out the work, focusing on its Lorenzaccian quality. He narrates Lorenzino’s damage
to the statues on the Arch of Constantine in Rome, explaining how Lorenzino’s
vandalism was undertaken as if in preparation for the murder of the Duke.
Damaging a central symbol of the prestige of the Roman and Christian political
power from the past connects to attacking his contemporary Renaissance political
power, the aesthetic of which takes inspiration from the Classics.
Bene’s reinterpretation of Lorenzino’s story as an actor’s story fully unfolds in its
paradox when Lorenzino cannot perform his plan. At each attempt, the object that he
is about to destroy makes a sound as if shattering only seconds before he strikes them:
830 Forum Italicum 52(3)

Under the Roman moon of that night, armed with a random tool, he [Lorenzino]
started at those petrified heads: his gesture was anticipated by the noise produced;
the tuff crushed down before it was hit. Lorenzino, bewildered, struck a second and a
third time, and again the statues crumbled into ruins in the form of an amplified sound
before being hit by his barbaric intent. The sonic happening preceded the gestural
dynamic. (Bene, 1995: 11)

Illogically, sound and objects seem to escape the mind’s control, showing a slight but
implacable asynchrony, a gap well described in the phrase now-then. Such a surreal
situation provokes for the perpetrator a ‘‘strange disconnect, a caesura’’ (Rayner,
2013) in the time and consciousness of the action. As sound stands for intention,
what is missed in such asynchrony is the consequentiality between intention, gesture,
and result within the same action. This temporal gap in respect to the principle of
cause and effect opens a paradox that becomes the main argument in Lorenzaccio:
the very moment of performing escapes consciousness.
By speculating upon Lorenzino De Medici’s perception, with an explicit leap,
Bene expands the territory of history into that of phenomenology and performance
theory. With a narrative trick that shifts the linear principle of cause and effect, Bene
removes the moment of performing from chronology and history, emphasizing its
phenomenological foundations instead. Unrepresentable and unattainable, the
actor’s gesture lives in the very instant of its processual development; the sense of
its act is not to be found in the representation derived from the sequence of the
actor’s juxtaposed actions. In other words, for Bene, performing lives in the event,
not in the action. The difference between event-act-gesture and representation-
action-narrative is perceptible by detecting the process of the actor’s Lorenzaccian
gesture, which defines Bene’s vision of performing as a critical phenomenon.
Such theory on the gesture as missed action is concretized in the performance. In
enacting Lorenzino, Bene must act in time before the sound produced by Contini
occurs. However, Bene’s attempts are all in vain, and he becomes increasingly lost in
the asynchronous happening of his gestures. Creating real-time asynchrony within a
limited time frame is not a simple task. To enact Lorenzino’s asynchronous gestures
and consequent bewildered oblivion, Bene never took part in the rehearsals.
Although he conceived and directed the entire performance, he wanted to perform
in a bodymind state that was not prepared to respond to the reverse of the cause-
effect principle. Therefore, a body double attended the rehearsals for Bene, and
prepared with the two actors performing Duke Alessandro and Contini. For his
role, then, Bene chose a specific actor training consisting of the absence of rehearsals.
Recalling his performance on a popular Italian talk show, the ‘‘Maurizio Costanzo
Show,’’ Bene recounted:

I had to be after him [Contini]. Staying after him without coinciding for large intervals
of time prevented me from thinking about where I was, about my embodiment, who I
was. There was no time because I was forced to grab any object! I heard so, and I would
Vittori 831

do that, but casually [I heard a sound, and I would make a gesture connected to this
sound, but I would pick the gesture casually—author’s note] . . . casually, like in life.
(YouTube, 2015)

Working on unpreparedness in such a way allowed Bene to experience each event as


a surprise, and with a lack of pre-intentionality. In this way, he aimed to dismiss
intentionality from performance and to experience the act in its performatic
outcome.
In Bene’s view, this type of un-acting becomes instrumental in criticizing history
and theatre through de-thinking the western coordinates of logical thought. He
attempts to find a way to dismantle the representational systems in which history
and theatre maintain the Hegelian subject: Bene’s actor finds a different agency that
eliminates intentionality by counter-acting chronology and narration, and also by
disrupting consciousness and identity. In representation, the consequentiality of
cause and effect composes the subject’s action. By displacing such consequentiality,
Bene exhibits the performer’s experience as a negation of the subject.7 In describing
the actor’s bewilderment at the asynchrony and oblivion of her gesture, Bene negates
the possibility of accounting for the experience of the actor’s gesture. As the actor
builds an experience that cannot be recounted, what she brings forth in performing
as a herald of difference (to once more use Attisani’s words) emerges precisely in
losing consciousness of herself: the difference is the emptiness the actor finds in such
an experience.
With Lorenzaccio, Bene envisions a post-theatre that attempts to rethink per-
formance. This vision includes getting rid not only of representation as the founda-
tion of modern western theatre but also of the post-modern offshoots of western
theatre. Being post-, the category of the postmodern still depends, albeit in critical
contrast, upon the values of modern tradition, whereas Bene designs a post-theatre
that attempts to de-conceptualize modernity and its derivatives. In other words, a
theatre that is done with theatre altogether, as informed by the modern tradition. By
investigating the act of performing instead of the performed action and by doing so
through the actor’s gesture in place of her psychology and identity, Bene displays a
theatre that un-does representation. De-thinking actions, he creates a post-theatre of
the void, made of gratuitous acts. Bene identifies in the actor’s gesture the potenti-
ality of envisioning a non-representational model for the theatre. The actor is the
repository of this embodied philosophy. As theatre becomes an instrument of cri-
tique derived from enacted thinking, the de-thinking quality of such a critique ends,
we will see, with the actor’s bewilderment.

From history to the phenomenology of performing


In spite of his argument for a post-theatre which witnesses the impossibility of
describing the performer’s act, Bene allows us to dig into the actor’s experience of
performing and its gratuitousness. The gestural phenomenon in which the effect
precedes the action constantly repeats throughout Bene’s Lorenzaccio, serving his
832 Forum Italicum 52(3)

conceptualization of performing. The actor catches her gesture inside a gap where
the logic of chronology and intentionality cracks, allowing us to indulge in her
missed experience. ‘‘Lorenzaccio is that gesture that disapproves of itself in its hap-
pening. He disapproves of taking action,’’ writes Bene (1995: 9), aiming to theorize a
total disconnect between intention, gesture, and effect. Lorenzino’s failure in experi-
encing his actions gives Bene a via negativa to create a language that philosophically
engages the actor’s very moment of performing. By interpreting the concept of acting
as oblivion and absence instead of identification and embodiment, Bene pursues a
theatre of emptiness.
Reflecting upon Bene’s work as an ambitious project that addresses performing as
pointlessness—as if in a constructive aesthetic of the vain—Maurizio Grande (1986)
asks in ‘‘La grandiosità del vano’’ (‘‘The grandeur of the vain’’):

Can that which is vain be grandiose? Does greatness exist in not striking, in failing the
target, in missing the strike? Moreover: does greatness exist in the clamorous gesture of
which we miss the consequences? Does it exist in an action that doesn’t reach its end?
Can we call action the gesture that affirms its pointlessness [vanità]? Not only its insuf-
ficiency, its crisis, its negation, but its pointlessness; that is, its gratuitousness, the
renunciation to subscribe any project, and, above all, the renunciation to be responsible
for the modification of the situation, maintaining ourselves responsible exclusively for
the moment of the act? (Grande, 1986: 87; translation mine)

The word Grande uses is vanità, which refers to the pointlessness of doing something
in vain. Bene’s work is a renunciation of representing and interpreting what is
intentional. In his vision of theatre, intention, gesture, and effect do not meet in
the action and signal their disappointed effort through asynchronous gaps. It is an
aesthetic that accepts failure as a process of making, and an occasion to think,
through this making, about the lack of full consciousness performing implies.
Bene speculates on the experience of the gesture from an actor’s perspective. His
actor does not seize the representation of the action by going after the integrity of the
gesture necessary to accomplish the action. She endeavors to find the experience of
the gesture by catching its performatic process. However, as a result, she misses it,
becoming lost within a fuzzy temporality. As Bene talks of gesture and act, he
captures the experience of the actor as lack of being, lack of memory; non-act,
non-place, utopia—events that are not. He writes:

Removed from the statute of the action, the actor is the one who removes herself from a
project, from the reproduction of sense . . . All the rest is theatre. It is a spectacle of
memory, without the gratuitousness of the unavailable act, which is inappropriate to
action and its concept. (Bene, 1995: 35)

Theatre conceived as spectacle, which Bene identifies as the tradition of most


western theatre, obscures the event of the gesture. In the event, the gesture is per-
formed and envisioned beyond the action it serves. Because of the mastering of
Vittori 833

gestures that actors gain during their actor training, Bene understood that perform-
ing is an excellent subject within which to speculate upon the significance of its live
event. This way, the gesture becomes a tool to critique readings of performance as
(mere) representation. Connecting Giorgio Agamben’s concepts of gesture, lan-
guage, and experience, and drawing on Gilles Deleuze’s ideas of the event, coun-
ter-act, and time, will help illuminate how Bene’s vision of performing goes beyond
the representation of actions.
Defining agere as the actor’s gesture, in Potentialities: Collected Essays in
Philosophy, Agamben (1999: 78) observes: ‘‘Gesture is always the gesture of being
at a loss in language’’. Through gestures, the actor experiences a linguistic loss that
takes her beyond language and makes her enter the domain of experience.8 For both
Agamben and Bene, the actor’s gesture becomes the milieu of experience in place of
language. It is interesting to read Agamben’s concept of experience alongside Bene’s
idea of onnipotenza bambina, ‘‘child omnipotence’’. Talking of his Pinocchio during
an interview held on November 22, 1998, Bene (2010, p. 15) stated: ‘‘It is a speech on
child omnipotence. In Pinocchio, there is nostalgia for what never was’’. The phra-
sing ‘‘what never was’’ can be associated with Agamben’s theory of the lack of
language in infancy—a forgotten experience for the adult. In Infanzia e Storia:
Distruzione dell’Esperienza e Origine della Storia (Infancy and History: The
Destruction of Experience), Agamben (1993 [1978]: 57) observes: ‘‘In terms of
human infancy, experience is the simple difference between the human and the lin-
guistic. The individual as not already speaking, as having been and still being an
infant—this is experience’’. By linking the two passages from Agamben, we can
identify in the gesture a trace of the experience of infancy—when the child is pre-
cluded from the ability to speak—whereas Bene uses a Lorenzaccian gesture to resist
the rhetoric of the discourse. They both find in the gesture the potentiality to detect a
quality of experience precluded from experiences depending on representational
languages and chronological narratives.
Lorenzino De’ Medici’s case provides Bene with the occasion to speculate on
the nature of the gesture accomplishing the act—two words that complete the
larger concept of action. To Bene, the act seizes the action in its process; specific-
ally, the act occurs through a performatic gesture detecting a moment in which
the subject is outside of her consciousness and left without memory or language
ability. The action is the intent-and-result of that act. The action is what is left:
the linguistic part that gets represented and historicized. Thus, the act (intended
as the performatic gesture in the action, its crucial moment) and the action
(intended as pre-intention carried to its completion) are part of the same project
including two different principles. They are the principle of existence, or, we
could say, existence in vain, and the principle of representation. They are oppos-
ite systems because, to Bene, the act happens as soon as the project embedded in
the action falls short of its intentionality: following the aesthetic of the vain, it is
de-projected.9 The actor deploys the event of her gesture in vain.
In place of historicized representations, Bene’s Lorenzino enacts events per-
formed without memory and beyond the analysis of the subject’s identity; events
834 Forum Italicum 52(3)

of which there is no experience left for the performer to recount the (hi)story of.
The very moment of performing, as an act, overcomes the attempt of recounting
it, thus revealing history as a receptacle of actions emptied of the subject’s expe-
rience. Defining the event, in Logique du Sens (The Logic of Sense), Deleuze (1990
[1969]) emphasizes the process instead of the result of an action. He writes: ‘‘The
event is not what occurs (an accident), it is rather inside what occurs, the purely
expressed’’ (Deleuze, 1990 [1969]: 149).10 Such processual temporality applies to
the experiential quality of Bene’s type of gesture. The event, and with it the
gesture, stresses the transformational experience that performance initiates in
place of discourse.
In Bene’s interpretation of Lorenzino De’ Medici’s deeds, Lorenzino acts in a
temporality that, rather than being sequential, infinitely splits itself into past and
future, thus negating the subject’s consciousness of the present moment. Talking of
Lorenzino’s assassination of Alessandro De’ Medici, Bene (1995: 10) writes:
‘‘Infinite future past perfect; never present. There is no criminal. To commit a
crime is to miss. A crime is the emptiness of the project-crime. The reality of the
project is its vertigo, ultimately unthinkable and empty.’’ This paradoxical percep-
tion of time in performing shares the Stoic concept of the aion, which Deleuze draws
from to describe the temporality of the actor’s act (a time perceived as an expanded
present). Deleuze locates the extended present of the aion in the instant of the event:
‘‘It is no longer the future and the past which subvert the existing present; it is the
instant which perverts the present into inhering future and past’’ (Deleuze, 1990
[1969]: 165). Deleuze opposes aion to chronos, offering us a way to detect the instant
that Lorenzino attempts to grab.
The now-then that Bene is after can be identified with the temporality of the aion:
‘‘This present of the Aion representing the instant is not at all like the vast and deep
present of Chronos: it is the present without thickness, the present of the actor,
dancer, or mime—of the pure perverse ‘moment’’’ (Deleuze, 1990 [1969]: 168).
Deleuze describes the time of the actor’s act as counter-action, which well expresses
Lorenzino’s intent to counter-act representation and historicism: ‘‘It is not the pre-
sent of subversion or actualization, but that of the counter-actualization’’ (Deleuze,
1990 [1969]: 168). In Lorenzaccio, Lorenzino counter-acts the Hegelian subject as the
main actor of a capitalized history, its narrative of power. In the asynchrony of the
instant-aion lies a resistance, in which both Deleuze and Bene see the actor’s agency,
her ability to enact the very essence of performing: its gratuitous gesture. Since ‘‘the
Aion endlessly subdivides the event and pushes away past as well as future, without
ever rendering them less urgent,’’ writes Deleuze (1990 [1969]: 150), ‘‘the actor
belongs to the Aion . . . It is in this sense that there is an actor’s paradox; the actor
maintains himself in the instant to act out something perpetually anticipated and
delayed, hoped for and recalled’’. Where the actions of Deleuze’s actor develop
through acts that deploy a non-linear time—the compositional time of poetry and,
potentially, performance—the time of Bene’s actor is an anti-time that passes
through emptiness. Accordingly, although existing in the present, the actor cannot
recount that event-like experience, for the event of performing her gesture escapes
Vittori 835

her consciousness. In this way, Bene demonstrates to be far from bestowing onto-
logical principles on performance: unable to be grasped in its essence, performing
escapes further definition. The gesture is the phenomenon of an experience that is
chronologically and ontologically impossible to account for, blocked forever within
a temporal gap, where the performer indulges in the experience of a lack of
consciousness and intention.

And back: From the phenomenology of performing to history


Since the experience of the act leaves no trace for the performer herself, Bene, in
describing Lorenzino’s impressions and thoughts, writes as an omniscient narrator
for the performer. Yet he is implying that no one should talk about such a gesture but
the performer who experiences it.

Taking Lorenzaccian actions means to disregard intention, not, beware, to hinder the
result, but to support it [secondarlo]—second, in any case. The act is neither first nor
second, for it has no place in the world of the actor. The actor is out of place in her
effort. (Bene, 1995: 33)

By experiencing the temporal gap as a lack of memory and consciousness that


nullifies any historical reconstruction, Lorenzino ends up disapproving of taking
action.
At such an impasse, the gesture serves to reveal the complexity behind the action.
Because Lorenzino’s actions involve historical facts and monuments, and because
the concept of the action itself is ultimately history’s primary material, in
Lorenzaccio such gratuitousness in the actor’s gesture also applies to actions that
form the construct of history. Thus, writing from the perspective of failure, loss, and
emptiness inherent in the aesthetic of the vain, Bene negates the utility of historio-
graphical reconstruction. Bene’s Lorenzino, a performer on the stage and in history,
cannot but find history to be meaningless: history is but a container for actions that
have lost any trace of their experience in the moment they were accomplished.
History emerges as a representation of actions that force a linking-together of
empty gaps in which the experience of each action had once resided: ‘‘What is left
is the ‘misdeed,’ of which all historicism is proud: the misrecognition of each fact,
delivered from the void to the heresy of the unreal history of being’’ (Bene, 1995: 10).
A deluded and deceiving project, history loses the experience of the facts it narrates.
Monuments exemplify such a loss: though attempting to recall the past, they often
represent a partisan vision and make a rhetorical report that is empty of the wit-
nessing value experience grants. Thus, in destroying monuments, Bene’s Lorenzino
acts against the cult of historicism.11
Such a leap from history to phenomenology—and vice versa—ends with a provo-
cation. Since we cannot be present in our actions, the chronological line of facts
history traces turns out to be a chain of aborted intentions: ‘‘Every action, albeit
comprehensible, is unthinkable, and History is a hypothesis of the antecedent, or the
836 Forum Italicum 52(3)

dictionary of the never happened’’ (Bene, 1995: 10). To Bene, history as temporal
and cultural reconstruction is inherently a fake project, and a project conducted in
vain because it relies on gaps in the consciousness of its subjects. Bene’s provocative
statement has the role of destabilizing at its root the humanist conception of history
as a rational progression of causes and effects, as an explication given from an
external position, and ultimately as an analysis made from a dominant point of
view—who writes history? Bene’s pessimistic perspective on history, historicism,
and historiography promotes a philosophy of present and presence: ‘‘Numeration
and nomination are what history is; historiography of the dead, which excludes me.
Alive, I am incomprehensible to history, in the same way that history does not
concern me’’ (Bene, 1995: 10). Lorenzino cannot ever be aware of what he is
doing, thinking, or feeling in the very moment of his acts. His intention dazes him
and leaves him alone in his gesture, as much as being in the act confounds his
intentionality. Bewildered at the clash between intention and gesture, effect and
movement, and sound and thought, Lorenzino cannot be aware of the process of
his action in its entirety: he executes his acts in full oblivion. Thus, if the past
is impossible to reconstruct, the present is also impossible to detect. This latter
impossibility causes the former.
Although both conceptually and perceptually there is no way for Lorenzino to
avoid such an impasse, Bene theorizes a possibility by further speculating upon
Lorenzino’s deeds. Obsessed with history’s failure in reporting the experience of
his actions, Lorenzino discovers a provisional way out of the impasse. He finds a
solution in carefully studying the asynchrony of his gestures while performing them,
precisely as he tries to catch up with such asynchrony:

As if he were playing for the Florentine copies [paintings], he damned himself to run
after his steps, his movements, his gestures hesitating at their own resonance, trying in
vain to diminish the interval of his already unsustainable delay . . . If, for example, he
heard, the amplified crushing of a plate on marbles, he would grab the closest object
and hurl it onto a deaf carpet: he deluded himself of decreasing that delay . . . He yielded
to the already done, the already happened (in his mind, elsewhere), to resist on the stage
at all costs. What an incredible movie, if the shooting followed the already dubbed.
(Bene, 1995: 28)

At this point, anything that is at hand becomes the source of a gesture: paintings,
silverware, furnishings. In the micro-action of reaching the objects, the gap con-
tinues to widen for Lorenzino, as he relentlessly and compulsively tries to catch the
sound with his gesture. In vain, he attempts to set intention back as the leading
principle of his actions, before its sound effect reaches him. In its gratuitousness,
the gesture becomes ahistorical.
Valuing such asynchrony as the very core of the act of performing, Bene (1995: 27)
is ‘‘interested, about the Lorenzaccio case, in what of the fact was not, the never
happened, instead of the fact sheet of its redacted misconstructions.’’ Performance
becomes a zero point, a tabula rasa that, to overcome the modern tradition of
Vittori 837

intentionality and its (impossible) representation, should remain as such—gratuito-


us and unplanned. To Bene, this reconstruction of the process of the gesture is
possible only through performance. Such reconstruction is not a domain of history.

Act as gap
In recounting a paradoxical version of Lorenzino De’ Medici’s life, Bene offers a
reflection on the gap existing between the present tense of the act and the attempt
history makes of reconstructing it as an action. Bene looks at history as an
external construction, as a representation that misses both its object and the
subject of its object. His intervention, however, is not limited to merely offering
a critique. His critique of history focuses elsewhere: on the domain of perfor-
mance. Bouncing back and forth from history to performance, Bene speculates
upon the phenomenological process of the gesture inherent in each act. He ana-
lyzes the performer’s bodymind state in which the gesture is created—its sound,
form, rhythm, and the real-time thoughts that belong to that event. For Bene,
there is no barrier between thought and act, or between sound and gesture. What
occurs is their failed timing: as Lorenzino goes after his gesture and attempts in
vain to catch it before its sound effect, he finds himself in a syncopated rhythm.
Here the sound starts in levare, and the gesture always strikes the beat too late,
albeit immediately afterward. This time-lag syncopation separates intention from
the action, dismantling in the act stable distinction of the Subject and the Other.
In La Syncope: Philosophie du Ravissement (Syncope: The Philosophy of Rapture),
Catherine Clément (1994 [1990]) observes that the term syncope identifies an
interruption of natural time.12 To her, syncope is linked to the idea of breaking,
leaving, and yielding. Such interruption also carries the idea of renouncing the
subject, letting go of the coherence of one’s identity. Syncope can only be hinted
at; it can never be described except in negative terms. Likewise, although the
gesture of Bene’s actor is ineffable for lack of memory of its experience, its
syncopated asynchrony contains the key to approaching its essence.
The syncopation that Bene describes in Lorenzaccio serves to reach a forma mentis
inviting to transhumanize—Lorenzino aspires to exist in his ecstatic perceptions and
aesthetic reasoning, beyond being coherent to his identity and social role. As Attisani
writes in Un dio assente: Monologo a due voci sul teatro (An absent god: A two voices
monologue about theatre), ‘‘Above all, [Bene] talks of theatre as an occasion to
transhumanize: the passing beyond the human condition, which is considered . . . as
an inescapable starting point to reach elsewhere’’ (Attisani et al., 2006: 12; transla-
tion mine).13 Lorenzino’s attempt to dwell consciously in the act of performing aims
to transhumanize. However, the syncopated gestural process becomes increasingly
mechanized and less conscious in the race against time, as Lorenzino exhausts his
energy and ability to repeat and vary his gestures. Intentionality is weakened and will
be finally lost. Ultimately, the slight asynchrony detected in the gesture that
Lorenzino desperately attempts to fill up is revealed to be insolvable, increasingly
838 Forum Italicum 52(3)

expanding the difference in time into a relative absolute, as we find in Zeno’s paradox
of the tortoise and Achilles.
After countless spasmodic attempts, Lorenzino can find a way out of the synco-
pated mechanism of missing his gesture only in fainting. Again, unconsciousness
clashes with history’s pretense of detecting the logic of facts and the intentions of its
main characters. Through syncopated gestures that help him transhumanize,
Lorenzino ends up fainting. As Dante repeatedly faints in front of the divine mani-
festation, so Lorenzino-Bene cannot but faint in front of the incommensurability of
his gesture. Passing over the arc of time that goes from pre-modern performance to
contemporary attempts of going ‘‘post,’’ the tradition of fainting speaks to the ineffa-
bility of present and presence via transhumanizing gestures—over and over again.

Conclusion, with a coda


In the end, the assassination of Duke Alessandro seems to take place. This time,
instead of indulging in describing the gap between the memory and consciousness of
Lorenzino’s actions, Bene narrates with very few words how Lorenzino murdered
the Duke in his bedroom. Once more, Lorenzino loses consciousness while perpe-
trating his action. The reader has by then gained the (a)logic of the process.
Unexpectedly, an abrupt ending to the essay complicates the conclusion. In a post-
modern coda to the tale, Bene places Lorenzino inside a museum, standing in front
of a work of art. While staring at the portrait of Duke Alessandro De’ Medici by
Bronzino, with a pair of scissors in his hands a Lorenzino-performer living in 1986
realizes that the Duke is dead—yet his memory survives safe and untouched behind a
window in the Uffizi Gallery.14 Thus, in the structural time leap which seals the
metatheatrical goal underlying the entire piece, the grand finale of the murder is
announced at first but finally suspended. Such a suspension this time occurs not
because of the asynchrony inherent in the action, but because of the role that the
system of representation performs in Lorenzaccio. Representation subtly transverses
Bene’s philosophical tale, from a monument to be destroyed to the undefeated sub-
ject of a painting; in disenchanted reflections on the legacy of humanism and theatre
history; and through the Medici history until the economy of museums. Likewise,
performing withdraws in a mirror maze that confounds the plans of subject and
history, act and representation, and (de-)thinking and intentionality.
In spite of much syncopation and fainting, at the end of Lorenzaccio, the repre-
sentational apparatus supporting history is ultimately restored. Still, the restoration
occurs after such a dense critique that the power of the system diminishes. Written
during the rise of postmodernism, Bene’s Lorenzaccio looks at historicism with a
critical approach. It ridicules evolutionary and universalistic claims, emphasizing
what historicism leaves buried: the subject who experiences the actions constituting
history in favor of the subject who writes history. Alongside historicism, Bene—as an
actor, director, writer, and intellectual—criticizes the superimposing roles of plot
and character that modern theatre and theatre historiography cultivate in place of
Vittori 839

the actor’s experience of performing. Lorenzaccio is the tale of an actor caught in his
philosophical speculation about the meaning of the performatic gesture.
Yet with his idea of post-theatre, Bene’s Lorenzaccio ultimately aims to go even
beyond the postmodern emphasis on the process. Although in describing
Lorenzino’s dismay Bene shifts the substance of performing from the outcome of
the action to its process, his attempt to describe the experience lived during such
process is destined to fail. In doing so, Bene brings the attention to the act. Its
mechanism is first studied in the enactment of each gesture, then forgotten in the
oblivious repetition of such gesture, and finally reported on, exclusively via negativa.
Lorenzaccio offers an anti-humanist memorandum: the impossibility of recalling
experience. Bene’s post-theatre is a theatre of the immemoriale (that which cannot
be remembered).15 Through the immemore (without memory) quality of his gesture,
an illuminating idea of performatic act finds existence: the empty act, the act without
a subject. Performance is a philosophical praxis that unfolds in the act rather than
the subject. The actor stands in place of the subject. There is only the actor, who acts
without memory and consciousness. This type of actor constitutes the performance
sine qua non. Playwright and director yield to her.
Proposing the actor as the filter for understanding the action’s phenomenology in
a world where information is shaped by media and where knowledge is structured
by-and-as power, to follow Foucault, has its implications. Where media and power
manipulate the telling of an event, the actor possesses the ‘‘secret’’ way of acting it
out. Thus, as Bene denounces historiographical practices of reconstructing, inter-
preting, and narrating the events to be vain and misleading endeavors, he invites
concentration upon the making as failure and dismay and encourages analysis of the
qualitative difference brought in by such making. With Lorenzaccio, Bene reclaims
for the actor her essential contribution to the understanding of performing as
philosophical and critical praxis. He not only promotes a singular philosophy of
performance but also builds a philosophy in performance, that is, a philosophical
vision which unfolds from and while performing—through performing. It is a vision
nonexistent without its praxis.
Bene’s critical construct mines the reading of Aristotelian drama as the represen-
tation of the subject’s action, upon which western modern drama and theatre are
built. It is worth clarifying how Bene’s theatre of the gesture does not embrace avant-
garde theories of a theatre of experience. For the Lorenzaccian actor, no memory
exists of her performatic act—whether discourse or experience. Only an abyssal
vertigo remains to be interrogated. This is the only part of the performance that
can be represented. This way, performance is the milieu of an ineffable experience.
Only failing the repetitious attempts of catching it, as it forces the performer to
deconstruct her process, gets her closer to its description. The actor becomes a
new type of subject: a powerless one, isolated within the confines of her act. Such
isolation makes of her a thinker. The gap in the consciousness that her gesture
provokes works as a tabula rasa from which the actor-thinker can start to formulate
questions. The subject of the empty act is performatic: the passage goes from being
and remembering to doing and interrogating.
840 Forum Italicum 52(3)

Bene’s post-theatre is post: post subject and post memory. In this vision, the
ancient Greek word drama means action solely to the extent of a verb deprived of
subject, complement, and contextualizing adverb: an act. This act eradicates the
spectator’s judgment on the actor and the action, as well as the actor’s subjuga-
tion to her viewer and the obligation to represent. It enables a type of autopoietic
thinking, of which the actor becomes the first witness—that is, the first spectator
and theorist. In a time where landmark works—such as The Show Must Go On
(2001) by Jérôme Bel or Electric Party (2009) by the Workcenter of Jerzy
Grotowski and Thomas Richards—have marked performance through pedestrian
actions ironically emptying them of any commentaries, or have used performance
as a vehicle for what Grotowski and Richards called ‘‘a transformation of
energy,’’ the critical thinking deriving from Bene’s syncopated gesture is eloquent
(Workcenter of Jerzy Grotowski and Thomas Richards, n.d.). After all, the post-
theatre which Bene envisioned might have finally begun its transhumanizing
agenda.

Notes
1. The irony through which Bene addresses gender and race identity in Lorenzaccio consti-
tutes another way to critique history and humanism. This aspect of the two works is not
addressed in this article because it departs from its main argument, but it could be analyzed
in a separate article.
2. Reading the characters’ roles in the performance from this perspective, they stand in a
reciprocal relation: Lorenzino enacts the subject’s consciousness and its failures,
Alessandro De’ Medici embodies the subject’s emotions and affects, and Contini stands
for the subject’s body.
3. Under the Medici House Regency, Florence passed from being a Comune to a Signoria,
witnessing the fights between the Holy Roman Empire, the Catholic Church, and Florence
republican revolutions. Benedetto Varchi, a supporter of the Republican cause, wrote
about Lorenzino in his Storia Fiorentina: ‘‘As much as no conjure was ever better thought
before the event or more plainly accomplished during the event [than Lorenzino’s conjure],
none was ever so poorly or cowardly handled. Never from any conjure did come out more
opposite or harmful effects for his designer that were so prosperous and fruitful for his
enemies’’ (Varchi, 2003 [1547]: 260–261; translation mine).
4. Piccolomini (1991: 87) further explains: ‘‘Despite his passionate, although problematic self-
defense, history has not been generous to Lorenzino, who is most often remembered by the
disparaging name of Lorenzaccio. Indeed, his plot against the Duke, conducted as it was in
great secrecy and without any preparation for political decisions after the murder, has been
considered as a futile and meaningless act. In fact, it achieved the result opposite to the one
for which Lorenzino claimed it was intended: it strengthened the Medici rule over the city
and eliminated any possibility of rebellion. With Lorenzino’s failure, all hopes of restoring
Florence to the Republican rule died forever. The question then remains: why did
Lorenzino do it? Why did he attempt such a dangerous act while probably knowing that
no practical results would come from it? If no answer to this question can be found in
history, if events as they were remembered by witnesses and recorded by historians do not
offer any plausible explanation for Lorenzino’s act, then our explanation must be found in
the psyche of Lorenzino himself.’’
Vittori 841

5. Bene seemingly provides a Benjaminian critique of the system of representation support-


ing theatre and history. Assessing historicism, Benjamin (2013 [1969]: Section A)
observes: ‘‘Historicism contents itself with establishing a causal connection between var-
ious moments in history. But no fact that is a cause is for that very reason historical.
It became historical posthumously.’’ Where Benjamin argues against the partiality of
historicism and its presumption of objectivity, emphasizing the need for clarifying the
historiographer’s experience in her presence, Bene negates the chronological mechanism
of action that enables the recounting of experience. This way, unlike Benjamin, Bene’s
argument aims at no conciliation for historical materialism, using a paradoxical narrative
to reject historical projects entirely.
6. Bene’s works have currently not been translated into English. Therefore, all translations
of Bene’s texts in this article are my own.
7. Such a vision characterizes the aesthetic of Bene’s whole oeuvre, which is inspired by
philosophers, from Meister Eckhart and John of the Cross, to Arthur Schopenhauer and
Gilles Deleuze, via Martin Heidegger and Jacques Derrida.
8. Speaking of gestures, in Potentialities, Agamben distinguishes between three different
ways of saying to make in Latin—agere, facere, and gerere—and designs agere as the
actor’s gesture. He writes: ‘‘Precisely for this reason—insofar, that is, as gesture, having to
express Being in language itself, strictly speaking has nothing to express and nothing to
say other than what is said in language’’ (Agamben, 1999: 78). Bene defines the actor’s
gesture as loss of identity: it is an experience of losing perception and memory, and
therefore a loss of representation. A possibility of acting beyond one’s represented iden-
tity resides in the gratuitous act of the performer, in the gesture that is forgotten.
9. Talking of this difference on the ‘‘Maurizio Costanzo Show,’’ Bene (YouTube, 2015) asks
his audience: ‘‘Think for a moment about the un-thinkability of the act and tell me how
could it [the act] exist, after the historicization of the act, which is a de-project of the
project: it [the act] is a denial of the action, which instead would appropriate it as its apex’’.
10. In ‘‘Un manifeste de moins’’ (‘‘One manifesto less’’), an essay that analyzes Bene’s
aesthetic through his Riccardo III, Deleuze reinforces such an idea and observes:
‘‘What is interesting is never the way someone starts or finishes. The interesting thing is
in the middle, what happens on the way’’ (Deleuze, 1993 [1979]: 207).
11. Lorenzino’s action recalls Benjamin’s apocalyptic landscape where debris accumulates, in
his reading of Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus, as a metaphor for history and progress. Since
Lorenzino damages monuments, he adds to the wreckage that constitutes the past. His
gesture has a double significance. On the one hand, by damaging monuments, he rejects
an idea of history told from the victor’s point of view; on the other, by describing the
puzzlement at the failure of his gesture, he transfers the focus of the event from the content
of the action to its process.
12. In Syncope, Catherine Clément reflects philosophically on the syncope as a systematic
practice of resistance. The author employs the syncope as a trope for developing ideas
about the non-even, non-straight, non-male. Instead of writing a system of thought on
the syncope, the author provides autonomous paradigms that demonstrate the con-
stant presence of the syncope model in human behavior, over history and across
different cultures. To Clément, the concepts of Vertigo, dance, night, theatre,
female, abandon, illness, love, ecstasy, forest, poetry, creation, Eleusis mysteries,
dance, psychoanalysis, murder, depression, and laughter constitute points of
842 Forum Italicum 52(3)

syncopation and resistance that Western thought has marginalized. Fainting could be
added to the list. Clément insists on their syncopated qualities as a creative potential
and non-violent point of interference, which ultimately can become political. As
Verena Andermatt Conley writes in her foreword to Clément’s book, ‘‘Clément
writes a history of philosophy, a negative history of all sorts . . . . Indirectly, syncope
opens the way to social change . . . To create is to resist’’ (Clément, 1994 [1990]: xi, xv,
xviii). Bene, through his strategic use of the syncope, proposes a vision of theatre that
radically challenges its modern humanist perspective.
13. The reference is to Dante’s Paradiso: ‘‘Trasumanar significar per verba/ non si poria’’,
translated into English by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1997 [1867]: 70–71) with ‘‘To
represent transhumanise in words/Impossible were.’’
14. Bronzino made a posthumous portrait of the Duke dated circa 1565–1569, now at the
Uffizi Gallery, Florence.
15. Bene uses the word immemoriale as a substantivized adjective: l’Immemoriale (that which
cannot be remembered); immemoriale is a rare and obsolete form of the Italian term
immemorabile.

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