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Virtuality and Performativity: Recreating Rome's Theatre of Pompey

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Abstract

PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art 24.1 (2002) 25-43 Walk through the narrow streets from the ancient temples in Largo Argentina to the open-air market in Campo dei Fiori, enjoying the characteristic Roman patchwork of architectural gems and mediocrities as you go. At the near end of the Campo, the seventeenth-century façade of the Palazzo Pio juts out (Plate 1), overshadowing a small courtyard to one side. Entering this courtyard you go past Pancrazio's Restaurant, then follow the dark, covered passageway down a slight incline until you emerge into a sunlit street where the buildings curve around on either side in a wide crescent of faded Renaissance elegance (Plate 2). Taking out your guidebook, you discover that you are standing in the auditorium of the Theatre of Pompey—the largest and one of the most historically important and architecturally influential theatres ever built. Pompey the Great, Julius Caesar's political ally—later mortal enemy—created this grand triumphal edifice in order to celebrate and commemorate his military conquests in three continents. Completed in 55 B.C. and consisting of a number of discrete zones, it served for several centuries as one of the prime playgrounds for the citizens of Rome (Plate 3). Not only was it a site of performance, it was also performative in its own right: adorned with treasures and costly marbles from around the world, it was an unparalleled display of the military, economic, and technological greatness of Rome, and of Pompey's pre-eminence. A Senate House—or curia—overlooked present-day Largo Argentina. Its portico boasted a massive painting of a warrior by a fifth-century artist, Polygnotus, calculated to remind the viewer of the scope of Pompey's achievements. Pompey would have been even more gratified by his creation had he lived to see Caesar assassinated at the foot of his statue on the Ides of March just eleven years later, in 44 B.C. (Caesar's adopted heir, Augustus, later pointedly transformed the site into a public latrine.) A second section of the complex was a vast and splendid enclosed park—or quadriporticus—containing gardens, fountains, leafy walks, trophies commemorating military victory, and sculptural masterpieces from around the Mediterranean world. Richard Beacham writes: [Begin Page 27] Finally, the whole monument culminated in a grand, architecturally unified, theatre-temple (Plate 4)—the first stone theatre in the city of Rome. Although the theatre was built upon the flats of the Campus Martius, its highest point—the temple of Pompey's patron divinity, Venus Victrix—was second in height only to the capitol (Plate 5). According to our research, the stage of the theatre was almost 290 feet across, and the auditorium—or cavea—may have accommodated some 25,000 spectators. Some years later, Nero himself performed upon this stage, much to the disgust of the senatorial class and the delight of the masses. As late as the sixth century A.D., Cassiodorus, Chancellor to the Ostrogoth King Theodoric, described: "caves vaulted with...

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... Moreover, it may become possible for the visualised construct to assume the cultural status of a physical (re)construction, as Denard states, " [v]irtuality, by default, is the primary reality since it is the only "reality" in which the information structure and appearance of the whole objects now exists." [5] Therefore, in practical terms a three-dimensional visualisation may represent not only the researcher's argument for a prior/unrealised structure, it can also provide the academy with a model for investigation, and a flexible, autonomous tool for learning. The visualisation of the new Meyerhold Theatre provided an exemplar of this virtually concluded phenomenon. ...
... Computer-based 3D visualization can be used to produce highly complex and visually seductive imagery, animations, and real-time models. In relation to this, visualization [Beacham 2008, Beacham and Denard 2003, Denard 2002]. Ryan's [1996] work on Roman buildings in Canterbury represents the first visualization project that attempted to thwart the deceptive qualities of computerbased 3D visualization. ...
Thesis
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... A digital model that is the means and outcome of a scholarly programme of research into an historical performance space is, at its simplest, a critical historical 'text.' As Denard has argued, the 'textuality' of Virtual Reality ('Virtualilty') offers unprecedented possibilities for archaeology and theatre research:Virtuality can enable the formation of new knowledges: by making knowledge visible (for example, by translating archaeological survey data into three-dimensional form), it offers new ways of knowing; and by making visible the unknown (for example, by enabling researchers to hypothesize, in three dimensions, possible reconstructions of lost or hidden areas of a structure), it promises to make knowable things that hitherto were unknowable.13 Modelling past performance spaces is therefore a means of engagement with past material culture that is new, distinctive, and requires new methods of 'writing' and 'reading' historical 'texts'. ...
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Research
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Despite being one of the most notorious and monumental building programs of the Late Republic, the theatre and portico of Gnaeus Pompeius Magnus in Rome’s Campus Martius continues to elude archaeologists and scholars alike. Though official excavations of the site have occurred on and off since 1835 and mention of it in ancient sources date back to the construction and opening of the theatre, relatively little is actually known about it. Considering that the area of Pompey the Great’s theatre, portico, curia, and gardens has been repurposed and integrated into the urban fabric of Rome since the Middle Ages , hidden by plazas, houses, and restaurants, and inaccessible due to electrical and plumbing systems and heavily-trafficked roadways, large-scale and thorough excavation is incredibly difficult, if not impossible in many areas. Many of the uncertainties of Pompey’s great monuments may never be put to rest.
Article
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Thesis
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Chapter
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Chapter
This chapter begins with a review of significant pedagogical and scholarly applications of computers to performance, and then turns to artistic applications. The projects considered in the chapter rely on the multimedia capabilities of computers, that is, a computer's ability to store and retrieve text, images, and audio. Other projects have exploited the power of computers to generate complex simulations of 3D reality. Computer simulations of performance spaces and performers are powerful research and teaching tools, but carry inherent dangers. Performance reconstructions can encourage a positivist conception of history. Computer‐controlled lighting and scenery changes are simply automated forms of pre‐computer stage technologies. Telematic performance acquires its greatest impact when spectators interact directly with people at the remote site and experience the uncanny collapse of space first‐hand.
Chapter
This chapter discusses the emergence of virtual reality (VR) technologies which have advanced the understanding of ancient structures. In 1998, through the funding of the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust, a project on determining the structure of Rome's theatre Theatrum Lapideum was started. This Pompey Project benefited as well as contributed to a wider programme of digital research through the application of virtual reality. The VR-enhanced research project contributed to the understanding of the parts of the structure and the aspects of the post-antique history of the Roman theatre. Through VR technology, a graphic reconstruction of the site, 3and D computer models, the digital modelling of the structure and its artefacts were attained. In addition to developing research processes, virtual reality technology has revolutionized the ways in which knowledge is produced. It enables the formation of new knowledge and information by making the knowledge visible.
Chapter
Database AnalysisHypermediaTheater ModelsPerformance SimulationsComputers in PerformanceTelematic PerformanceConclusions and Queries
See Ann Kuttner's discussion of the program of sculpture, etc. in the Porticus and Theatre in "Culture and History at Pompey's Museum
See Ann Kuttner's discussion of the program of sculpture, etc. in the Porticus and Theatre in "Culture and History at Pompey's Museum," Transactions of the American Philological Association Vol. 129 (1999), pp. 343-373.
Ars Amatoria 3.387; Martial
  • Ovid
Ovid, Ars Amatoria 3.387; Martial, 11.47.3.
Spectacle Entertainments of Early Imperial Rome
  • Richard Beacham
Beacham, Richard, Spectacle Entertainments of Early Imperial Rome (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 69-70.
36.115) but this has long met with critical skepticism
  • Pliny
Pliny, in fact, claimed it sat 40,000 (N.H. 36.115) but this has long met with critical skepticism.
Eke out our performance with your mind: reconstructing the theatrical past with the aid of computer simulation Information Technology and Scholarship: Applications in the Up-to-date information about the team and their work can be found at the Theatron web-site
12. For a recent overview of this work, see Beacham, Richard, "Eke out our performance with your mind: reconstructing the theatrical past with the aid of computer simulation" in T. Coppock (ed.) Information Technology and Scholarship: Applications in the Humanities and Social Sciences (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 131-154. Up-to-date information about the team and their work can be found at the Theatron web-site: http:// www.theatron.co.uk. The author of the present article was Research Fellow for the Pompey Project 1999-2000.
1. The Theatre Marcellus may have been being built at the time he wrote De Architectura, but it was, in any case, closely modeled upon the Theatre of Pompey
  • De Vitruvius
  • Architectura
Vitruvius, De Architectura, 5.9.1. The Theatre Marcellus may have been being built at the time he wrote De Architectura, but it was, in any case, closely modeled upon the Theatre of Pompey.
Eke out our performance with your mind: reconstructing the theatrical past with the aid of computer simulation
  • Richard Beacham
For a recent overview of this work, see Beacham, Richard, "Eke out our performance with your mind: reconstructing the theatrical past with the aid of computer simulation" in T. Coppock (ed.) Information Technology and Scholarship: Applications in the Humanities and Social Sciences (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 131-154. Up-to-date information about the team and their work can be found at the Theatron web-site: http:// www.theatron.co.uk. The author of the present article was Research Fellow for the Pompey Project 1999-2000.
the exercise of developing technical solutions to humanistic research problems-the need to conceptualize the problems of one discipline in the terms of another-extends the territory of both
Or, as John Unsworth has put it: "the exercise of developing technical solutions to humanistic research problems-the need to conceptualize the problems of one discipline in the terms of another-extends the territory of both." "Not Your Average Fool: The Humanist on the Internet," Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, 1994: http://jefferson.village.virginia.edu/~jmu2m /nih.html. 15. "Virtual reality is a popular metaphor that, like all metaphors, can lead us astray if we are not careful about what we mean. It suggests that we are taking reality and creating a representation of it in a computer, whereas the computer itself may be creating new realities
Heterotopic Spaces Online: A New Paradigm for Academic Scholarship and Publication
  • Jeffrey R See
  • Joan Galin
  • Latchaw
Skagestad notes: "the two definitions coincide in the case of virtual reality-the information structure of reality as a whole includes its look and feel." (20th World Congress of Philosophy, Boston, Massachusetts: August 10-15, 1998: http://www.bu.edu/wcp/Papers /Cogn/CognSkag.htm). Re. Michel Foucault's notion of heterotopia as applied to Cyberspace, see Jeffrey R. Galin and Joan Latchaw "Heterotopic Spaces Online: A New Paradigm for Academic Scholarship and Publication." http://english.ttu.edu/kairos/3.1/coverweb/galin /toc.htm.