Theatre of The World

Hortense Archambault

Round, curved, circular, spherical; the ideal city has the beauty of blossoming. Square, linear; the ideal city made up of perspective lines. Triangular, pointed; the ideal city is made up of viewing ‘angles’. All the paths and roads of the ideal city lead more or less directly to its centre, where there is a ‘theatre’, open day and night. For the ideal city watches over the daily staging of a performance of the world, its own performance, in order to share it. This seems easy but it isn’t. The ‘theatre’ allows the ideal city to reconnect with its Greek origin and with democracy.

Franz Hogenberg: «Mapa de Avignon», en Civitates Orbis Terrarum, ca. 1575. George Braun & Frans Hogenberg, Zúrich.

Franz Hogenberg: «Map of Avignon», in Civitates Orbis Terrarum, ca. 1575. George Braun & Frans Hogenberg, Zurich

‘And it was true. I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams …’
The Little Prince, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

‘Act in your place, think with the world.’
—Edouard Glissant

Round, curved, circular, spherical; the ideal city has the beauty of blossoming. It is made up of a string of stories, of the traces they have left behind them and which often emerge fortuitously, involuntarily; of rhythms liberated in the collisions between time and matter. Its architecture is ingenious, malleable and surprising. It is alive, and is continuously reinventing itself in order to adapt to possible future uses.

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Olafur Eliasson: The Weather Project, 2003. Tate Modern: Turbine Hall, London

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Michael Nyman: Man and Boy—Dada, 2004. Almeida Theatre, London

Square, linear; the ideal city is made up of perspective lines. It provides itself with rules that its inhabitants regularly call into question, challenging them through a participative democracy that is undergoing constant change, based on the representation of elected citizens who work beside those who have elected them. It is thus able to confront issues such as poverty or exclusion, though it is not vulnerable. Awarding a place to each of its inhabitants, and leaving free spaces that may be filled in future, and during this long wait remain as imaginary points in which to create utopias, the time of an instant, that of the time we need to trace our steps.

Triangular, pointed; the ideal city is made up of viewing ‘angles’. It has corners that favour meditation and that safeguard ephemeral urban creations; corners to stop and meet up again. Open, crisscrossed with paths and intersections, it postulates the equality of its inhabitants like a horizon in constant movement, where strangeness can become commonplace.

All the paths and roads of the ideal city lead more or less directly to its centre, where there is a ‘theatre’, open day and night. For the ideal city watches over the daily staging of a performance of the world, its own performance, in order to share it. This seems easy but it isn’t. The ‘theatre’ allows the ideal city to reconnect with its Greek origin and with democracy.

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Donmar Warehouse Theatre, London

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Peter Brook: Mahabharata, 1987. Theatre des Bouffes du Nord, Paris

The ‘theatre’ is a large space consisting of different rooms with varying capacity. It’s a place where crowds can gather but where intimate conversations can also be held. It’s a factory of spectacles, closely linked to contemporary creation and to the exercise of spectators, where popular movements and the artistic avant-garde come together. A laboratory of new forms, both on the stage and in the stalls, that introduces the history of public theatre deeply influenced by the emancipating utopia of art, based on the symbolic force of its artistic programme. Conceptually, it follows two paths, one for artists and one for audiences. As a place, it is coherent, interlocked and free, and enables us to experience new forms of creation and original ways of approaching works. This, of course, is the place where all the residents of the ideal city come together, at the heart of the inhabited ‘theatre’, a meeting for which the internal area and circulation are prepared. It is the heart of the city, the place of the people and for promoting their perception.

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Palais des Papes: La Cour d’Honneur, Avignon, France

There are spaces devoted to creation, secret places that are relatively protected from the exterior. Other adjoining spaces are those of the school of the gaze, the place of words, of transmission, of work, confrontation … all at once. Artists and spectators moving in orderly fashion, either together or separately according to what they want to do. The idea in these places isn’t so much to gather around works of art as to create a common space in which citizens who share the same aesthetic experience can live together and face up to their differences in order to smooth them over and thus reduce them. The ideal city is necessarily complex, full of friction, of different cultures and of generations in conflict. But at heart, through catharsis, it has a chance to experience contradiction sweetly and to transcend the accepted violence of the past.

The ideal city looks out to sea, towards an endless horizon of changing colours in which land and sky meet.