Romeo Castellucci has poured his personal inspirations and philosophy into this remarkable abstract production, but ultimately viewers must determine its meaning for themselves. To this viewer, the piece is a resounding “NO.” Mark Rothko’s “No” to the commercial immoderation of the Four Seasons Restaurant provided aesthetic and political inspiration and the title of this piece. The massive black hole that opens and closes this installation with loud aggressive vibrations is a “No” that negates billions of worlds. An ensemble composed exclusively of women is Castellucci’s “No” to the Greek tradition of all-male performances. It’s “No” from women who, having cut off their tongues, speak anyway. The “No” from the philosopher Empedocles, as encountered in Holderlin’s unfinished poem, is presented as the women act out his death in excruciatingly slow scenes. So die already.
Supertitles in English translate the Italian as the women’s voices lose correspondence with the movement of their mouths. Their clothing is lost as they are birthed, and they walk away naked. This long middle passage of the work takes place in a stark white room with flat lighting. As they speak, the women repeatedly make the kind of sweeping arm gestures Shakespeare once railed against. Castellucci says this part is “like Japanese Noh Theatre, which is beautiful, just very very boring.” Finally, strains of Shubert accompany thunderous noise and an ultra bright light that usher in the spectacular and shuddering visual and aural effects of a violent maelstrom within which at some point a figure seems to wave a flag, as if to say, “I am here.” Supertitles repeatedly say, “no, no, no.” And “do not leave me.” But things go black except for a tiny bright edge. And we are left. [23rd Street Armory, 22 S. 23rd St.] Sept. 11-13, 2014. fringearts.com/the-four-seasons-restaurant.
See Chris Munden’s review here.