The punctum, then, is a kind of subtle beyond
Roland Barthes

This web site is an affective archive, a kind of atlas. The site collects the results of the PUNCTUM project, creating a random constellation starting from the materials produced by the participants involved in the project.

This project was born on the invitation of Be SpectACTive!, a large-scale European cooperation project including project partners such as European festivals, theatres, cultural organisations, universities and a research center.

Within this frame, Salvo Lombardo conceived the PUNCTUM project, in collaboration with Fabritia D’Intino, with the aim of developing a relational practice that would investigate the theme of "spectatorship". The different groups of spectators were invited to experience this practice as part of the 2021 edition of European Spectators Day, a digital and community-based event that every year involves and connects the local groups of active spectators.

PUNCTUM project is aimed to broaden the possible questions on the role of the spectator and on the role of the gaze observing a live artwork; the project proposes a relational and partecipative experience based on the activation of a form of “embedded look” observing a live artwork.

Why does my gaze on an artwork involve me? Why does it excite me? How do I interact with that work and how does it interact with me? How does that work look back at me? What happens when I am confronted with something immensely beautiful, challenging, or puzzling? How does a work trigger spectators’ perception and memory? What kind of new dynamics or imaginaries an artwork can really activate?

In his beautiful essay on photography entitled “La Chambre Claire” (Paris 1980) Roland Barthes investigates the very essence of the artwork (using photography in this specific case), trying to go beyond the ideas of illustration and representation. In this Barthes’ reflection, the subject who observes a photo (spectator) animates the photo, and in the same way the photo animates the spectator: this happens through a punctum.

Therefore the punctum is a very particular detail that escapes the general gaze and that “stings me.” It leaves me a wound or runs through me. It is a detail, even a minimal one, that activates my system of memories, of analogies, of associations, of perceptions and that stimulates the subjectivity of my gaze until it becomes a kind of “re-action”. The same also happens when I find myself in front of a live artwork: a performance for example.

The famous artist Marcel Duchamp claimed that the gaze of spectator complete an artwork as well: “the creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act” (M. Duchamp, The creative act, 1957).


The PUNCTUM project’s process has been divided into 3 phases:

PHASE 1 - TASKS (September 2021):
Salvo Lombardo sent to the several groups of the network Be SpectACTive! a kit with a series of sensorial e perceptive tasks in order to stimulate an “embedded look” seeing a live performance.

PHASE 2 - MATERIALS (September \ October 2021):
Each group of involved spectators chose a performance programmed in their city. After the performance Salvo Lombardo invited the spectators to find they own Punctum connected to the performance they previously saw, using the task proposed in the kit as starting point. Each spectator has been consequently invited to privately reflect and produce their own material (an image and text) related to the observed performance and to their way of perceiving it, freely moving between personal references, associations of ideas, intimate memories, public memories.

PHASE 3 - ENCOUNTER (November 20, 2021):
On the occasion of European Spectators Day, on November 20, 2021, each group meet live in their project partner’s venue. in the same digital and common framework Each group is invited to trigger a discussion in which people can present, inside the small group, their own PUNCTUM about the observed performance showing the content produced at the end of phase 2.