(Poetry | Wonders | Philosophy | The World | Visual Art)
Sonya Rapoport: "(in)AUTHENTIC" (2008)(Copyright Robert Edgar and Sonya Rapoport)
"Il Teatro della Memoria" ("the memory theater") was devised in the sixteenth century by Giulio Camillo Delminio (1480-1544).
The idea was to store in the rooms of the theater the entire body of
human knowledge and to provide connections among the concepts via
allegorical images and combinatorial techniques.
The goal of the Memory Theater was to allow anybody
to speak of philosophical or scientific subjects like an expert.
The theater was a seven-tiered auditorium (each tier representing a level
of knowlege). The "user" was not a spectator sitting on the steps, but the
protagonist, standing on the stage. The show, on the other hand, was not on
stage but on the tiers of the auditorium.
Tiziano's "Allegoria del Tempo" (Allegory of Time), painted in 1565,
was possibly originally conceived as one of the images of Camillo's Memory Theater.
He implemented two theaters, one in Venezia (Venice) and one in Paris (1530), and left a short instruction manual, "L'idea del Teatro" (published posthumously
The Memory Theater was, in many ways, a predecessor of the World-wide Web:
a storage of all knowledge with links and cues to navigate through it.
The way Camillo organize the knowledge base also reflected a cosmic-spiritual
vision, as he blended astrology, mythology, art and science.
Since medieval times Italians had produced works of encyclopedic knowledge
that, given the state of science at the time, incorporated everything from
alchemy to magic. Dante's "Commedia" itself (the "Divine Comedy") was, after
all, such a compendium of universal knowledge.
Camillo's theater, though, pushed the boundaries towards something that
resembled an automaton and embraced architecture.
His ideas were largely forgotten until
the most celebrated semiologist of the British historian Francis Yates rediscovered him in his 1966 book "The Art of Memory" and 20th century semiologists
such as Umberto Eco found affinities with his "theater".