This paper explores the performance of the autonomous or self-referential model through two case studies that are set into relation to each other as conceptual and/or physical constructions of memory spaces, namely the performance ‘Bildraum’ (2015) by architect Steve Salembier and photographer Charlotte Bouckaert where the manipulation of an architectural scale model is at the centre of the live event producing uncanny memory spaces, and Giulio Camilllo’s theatre of memory as proposed in his treatise ‘L’Idea del Theatro’ from 1550.
Built first in Venice after the publication, and later, at the urgent request of Francis I, King of France, rebuilt in Paris, Camillo’s theatre aimed at the representation of all knowledge accessible to man through text, image and movement. In a curious entanglement of encyclopaedia and magic, the theatre would also contain man’s yet unknown inner or future knowledge and enable its articulation. The wooden miniature theatre promised to turn the single spectator into an accomplished orator on all possible topics in the tradition of Cicero.
Camillo’s theatre of memory is discussed here according to both autonomous and teleological models of the universe. The use of the term ‘theatre’ by scholars of the time, while on the surface primarily metonymical, relates in fact to central parameters of theatre, such as the act of looking, gestures of showing and demonstrating, and to spatial appropriations and variations of the Vitruvian theatre model.
The juxtaposition of ‘Bildraum’ and ‘L’Idea del Theatro’ will show the autonomous model’s inherent potential for the production of performative spaces in the interaction between model, participant, and spectator.