Interview about Chevreuil

  • by YVANE CHAPUIS,  Journal des Laboratoires 2008

Rémy Héritier’s approach initially operates at very elementary level — it is grounded in experimentation, in the idea of dance as act. This simple basis enables him to then work up more complex relations, with a form of choreographic writing that produces meaning beyond the discrete elements of which it is composed.
With Chevreuil (Deer), he builds his choreographic project around two central notions: context and archeology. They function as project orientations rather than questions to be solved in a head-on manner. Thus, the project is not constructed around a theme, nor can it be reduced to these two issues. Chevreuil is not, say, a piece on the history of dance, nor is it even a piece on life in the specific sites where the project took shape.
Rémy Héritier’s interest in the notion of context lies in establishing a work method that attempts to take into account the outside, the near and the far.
As for his interest in archeology, it revolves around its being a science which, in interrogating the context of appearance of a found object, also points to the notion of successive layering that can be likened to the process of socialisation of the body — to incorporation. Chevreuil thus deals with the issue of layered experiences but also with the conflicts between these experiences. How do these conflicts orient the choreographer’s and dancers’ choices — i.e., the writing, on the one hand, the performance, on the other?

The team took the Ballets Russes as the point of departure of their archeological inquiry, grounding their approach in the hypothesis that if, from the space that they occupy (i.e., dancers and a choreographer living in 2008) they were to start excavating the ruins, in contemporary memory, of what is considered the birth of Modern dance, they would thus traverse an entire century of dance and choices and contexts, and in this way bring to light and ‘update’ both the survivals and conflicts therein. Another element is the fact that once a Ballets Russes piece was completed there were virtually no visible traces left behind. Chevreuil thus appears as an articulation of the documents exhumed and created through this process. The piece’s choreographic writing brings two regimes of representation together: one that shows the document and one that presents it — a document being at once a source and the outcome of a creative process.
The following interview documents the creative process of Chevreuil. The interview was conducted over two separate periods (between September/October 2008 and January/February 2009).

#1 – SEPTEMBER 2008

YVANE CHAPUIS How did you arrive at the title Chevreuil (Deer)?

RÉMY HÉRITIER So far, a title has never served as the trigger for a piece — not the way it can for writers, for instance, who might have a title in mind that contains the seed for everything they will subsequently go on to write. Finding a title is never a straightforward affair for me: I’m always torn between the idea that I don’t need to have one at too early a stage in a project, and the feeling that having one would mean having a concrete element to organise the project around. For one thing, a title can serve as something concrete for my collaborators — and it is also a way of avoiding lugging around expressions like “the next project” for too long. This kind of hesitation tends to go on for a long time — too long a time even. I make lists of possible titles which, for the main part, are cursory descriptions of what the piece could potentially develop into. I’m always aware that these titles fail to cover what I’m looking for, but that’s all part of the process.
Whenever I’m looking for a title for a new piece, I always, systematically, go back to the previous project’s title and ask myself how I arrived at it and whether I ought to take a similar trajectory to arrive at a title, and so on. Over the years, the list of titled projects has got a little longer, and I realise that, placed one after the other, they (also) inscribe a perspective on the work. And a relatively important perspective for they are written and therefore remain inscribed. In this sense, the titles will be viewed far more than the pieces.
Choosing a title is thus the outcome of a process, just like the various sequences that make up a piece. Chevreuil — with no article and in the singular — pertains, in my view, to a process of abstraction, to “thingifying” a human being, not being able to link ‘it’ to what you see on the stage. The effect is also, and principally, of making the deer paradigmatic of “this thing” of which we know not whence it came, nor where it is headed — this thing that is part of the world but of which we know only its sudden emergence.  An experience of the present lived on each occasion as a stroke of luck, a chance glimpse at a slice of wild nature, at little cost.
In the end, the title Chevreuil emerged after repeated experiences of witnessing deer (literally) caught in the headlights of a car in Washington State, USA.
Washington State is home to grunge music and Nirvana. In Utero was recorded by producer and musician Steve Albini, who also recorded the French guitar-drums duo Chevreuil. My title is therefore a loan. It’s not just an exotic story to romanticise the process. It actually occupies a relatively important place within certain layers of my work — “it” meaning my relationship to certain intense moments during my adolescence: there’s a connection between riding in a car through forests near Astoria, Aberdeen or Sarajevo, and the forms that I produce. And you yourself talked about adolescence after seeing Atteindre la fin du western (To reach the end of the Western).
If I feel satisfied with this title then these are the reasons, as much as the power of association the title affords. I am satisfied that Chevreuil allows an association with Faun, and that gradually the title will enable me to concretely work on related notions like the mark, authorship/signature, archeology, the ruin. Chevreuil is linked to Faun, and the title lends a tangible dimension to these notions as well as opening up a field of study and creation.

YC When I saw Atteindre la fin du western, the piece did indeed strike me as a poetic image of that perilous moment of existence: adolescence. Perilous because it is a stage of transition, a transition from childhood to adulthood, a period when you discover — and must no doubt negotiate — ‘responsibility’.  This is the point when “I” emerges as a relevant voice…
What brings me to speak of a poetic image is the fact that nothing in the piece intrinsically points to adolescence. There are no figures and no narratives directly linked to the theme. It emerges exclusively through the treatment of the elements that make up the show: the stage, the lighting, the sound, the set and the performers.
For instance, the treatment of the stage floor is significant. Frequently empty, fully lit, it offers itself up to the gaze like the opening of a place to be occupied. Being empty, it beckons to be filled, and in this way marks a threshold, a passage towards another state.
The relationships between the protagonists (both tender and indifferent), their gestures (at once solemn and playful), and their movements (that follow an oblique rather than a rectilinear course), are all elements that establish an indeterminate kind of presence or one in a process of determination — precisely like the period of adolescence.
But let’s get back to the connection you make between Chevreuil and Faun. Is it a formal connection: the goat hooves shape? Or is it choreographic: Nijinsky?
Is this the route that ultimately leads you to signature, archeology, the ruin? Could you unravel these associations a little, and explain what mark, signature, archeology and ruin mean for you?

RH The formal “goat hooves” link is not my conscious point of focus — I concentrate on the choreographic link with the Ballets Russes, more than the Nijinksy link in fact. This helps me to articulate a thing or two about associations, but it means going back to the very early stages in the development of a project.
I start to become aware that I’m working on a project at the point when I realise that various areas of interest — seemingly discrete and remote from one another, and most often expressed in the form of rather abstract notions that have no immediate ties to the field of choreography — can in fact be linked to one another through the creation of a piece. By ‘linked’ I mean that the process of relating these notions that have not yet been formulated as choreographic questions enables me to envision the potential for a choreographic piece.
I should explain a little further the reasons (objective and otherwise) that ultimately make me settle on a particular set of notions. For the main part, the choice of notions has to do with the direct intellectual satisfaction they give me — I simply enjoy reflecting on them. In other cases, the process is more arbitrary as I only have a vague idea of what is involved. Some notions stem from previous projects and yet others seem completely new for me. New and unprecedented in my work but not necessarily in the history of art!
For Chevreuil, I drew up a list in December 2007 of the following notions: translation, obstruction, connection, duration, context. You can’t do much with that, yet I find it very illuminating. Illuminating because it is the starting point for a number of associations — a relatively objective mode of association (i.e., not the ‘free association’ mode). Retracing the trajectory of the various associations here and now would mean performing an archeology of a work in progress. So I’m not going to go into detail here. Associations are the necessary articulations for communicating the aims and implications of a project to its collaborators. At the same time, these articulations are likely to provide very concrete elements, substance even.
I can try to present a chain of associations yet it would still involve making great leaps. We took ‘translation’ as our point of departure and ended up asking ourselves what ‘translating translation’ might represent, and this brought us to realise that ‘translating translation’ brought to light and updated (mettre à jour) an alteration, and the trajectory of this alteration. Then the notion of History surfaced, which led to a desire to “bring to light and update” History. Indeed, the expression “mettre à jour” simultaneously suggests the act of updating and revealing. Hence reading Agamben’s The Signature of All Things, which then led me to archeology — the science of ruins. Archeology and context belong to the same family. “Archeology” is on the verge of replacing “translation” in the research we are pursuing for Chevreuil.
Concretely, Chevreuil and Faun are choreographically related because the Faun and its inscription in the history of 20th-century dance points us towards a concrete archeology, at least in order to access the next excavation level. Over the next few weeks the physical work could revolve around identifying the signs of authorship, the markers of the Ballets Russes — which would amount to digging the ruins of Russian ballet exclusively to retain such markers. What quintessentially defines the Ballets Russes? The hands, the leaps, the use of space, etc.? It may initially seem like a good idea to compose dances exclusively based on these markers — but what goes on between two leaps if you don’t happen to be Nijinsky?

YC What sources do you use for your work on the Ballets Russes and History?

RH The chain of associations I’ve been discussing was based on the notion of translation and the source is directly linked to a book of conversations between Judith Butler and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Who Sings the Nation-State?. They discuss the undocumented members of the Hispanic community of Los Angeles who took to the streets to demonstrate for their rights — in 2006 I believe. They exercised their right to demonstrate in the very place they had no legal right to be. This is already noteworthy. During the demonstrations, and as a testament to their sense of belonging to the American nation, they sang the American national anthem, translated into Spanish. The crucial element was precisely this translation because it meant Bush had to make a clear-cut decision on whether one may sing the national anthem in any language other than English. His response was that it is not possible to sing the American national anthem in a language other than English. I took this issue of translation and put it into play last April — inviting Yannick Guédon and Éric Yvelin to work within a 24-hour relay system based on the instruction “translating translation”.
Through this experiment we discovered that to make the statement readable we needed to find a way of showing a referent, a translation, and a translation of this translation. What interested us was the process of alteration, the trajectory from one point to another. This trajectory led me to want to explore the concept of History, and I subsequently invited Aude Lachaise and Ondine Cloez, last July, to follow this same intensive relay principle (but over a 12-hour period this time) in order to start working on and putting into effect the idea of “bringing to light/updating History”. This generated propositions tied to the notion of academicism. What would a dance composed of academicisms look like? I was thinking that academicisms were the most visible or identifiable aspect of dance history. But we reached a standstill with this because it proved difficult to negotiate any kind of interpretation of the series of gestures and movements we produced. We didn’t take it any further because I wasn’t able to respond adequately to the different propositions. I read The Signature of All Things: On Method at this time, which discusses the notion of paradigm, signature, archeology. Reviewing what we had done, I came to the conclusion that I needed to identify a stable point from which to investigate these questions — I wasn’t looking for some a priori foundation to attach myself to but rather for something concrete I could return to. Without any documents, armed solely with my very confused knowledge of dance history, I decided (alone) that our paradigmatic Early Modern piece would be the Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. The piece in progress was titled Chevreuil (Deer) and there is only a slight difference between Faun and Deer — so surely this proves we were on the right track! However, I quickly realised that there’s not much relevance in focusing on a single piece but considerably more in exploring a constellation of pieces, which ultimately led to my choosing the Ballets Russes.  I don’t know much about the Ballets Russes and the idea is not to undertake extensive, meticulous research to learn more about it. I limit myself to what I hear, to what I read in Philippe Le Moal’s Dictionnaire de la Danse, to the information given in the French and English versions of Wikipedia, to my memories of a fragment of the Faun danced by Loïc Touzé when we were rehearsing Love in 2003 and to a photo of Emmanuelle Huynh in a mini-market during the Albrecht Knust Quartet’s reworking of the piece. That is about it. I stick to my own references on the subject, which continue to expand as I pursue my reflection. The other six artists involved in the project have their own references. The confrontation between the various ideas will enable us to establish a specific typology, and I hope this typology will also inform us on how to go further with our exploration of archeology and History.
Cecchetti taught in Diaghilev’s company, and that happens to be the only classical technique I’ve had any contact with — through Janet Panetta’s teaching. These last few days I’ve been trying to put my movements through the Cecchetti filter and observe what this connects me to. Can a very remote practice help me find a line of physical reactivity as a choreographer?
Before all of this, I had already become attuned to the aims and implications of the archeological approach by reading the chapter on Foucault in Richard Shusterman’s Body Consciousness: A Philosophy of Mindfulness and Somaesthetics (more through knowledge association than through the actual content of the book), and also to the physical issues of “bodily knowledge” that Bourdieu discusses at length in his Pascalian Meditations. In fact, the latter book has been with me ever since Atteindre la fin du western. This “bodily knowledge” is knowledge contained in the body — layers of knowledge, like geological layers, that the body can reestablish by traversing them exclusively, or almost exclusively, through processes that involve physical modalities. This is also a commonplace notion in contemporary dance and one I find particularly compelling.
So you can see there’s been a diversity of sources at work, and the point is not to work “on” sources but “with” them. This is an important distinction in my view because I fear the work will be interpreted as a study “on” such and such… This fear stems from my desire to be “understood”, not in the sense of a “univocal art” but because I feel it necessary to draw a distinction between associating oneself with a source and a show’s reception in light of this selfsame source.

YC You mention Love, presented by Loïc Touzé in 2003, and his performance of the Faun in the Albrecht Knust Quartet’s 2000 reworking of the Nijinsky piece. And one of the first images to spring to mind when I first came across the title Chevreuil was precisely the figure of the horned creature you performed in Love. My question is again tied to the sources issue, and they can indeed be apprehended as constitutive layers. What do you retain from your work with Loïc Touzé? And, more broadly: what, in your view, are the founding experiences of your dance training?

RH When I performed the “stag” in Love (that is what we called the sequence), I was also playing the dog and cat in This is an Epic by Jennifer Lacey. The stag figure, part of a longer sequence, was a personal contribution.
What I retain from my experience with Loïc is the extremely precise dancing and the great precision of movement. I would even say I admire this kind of corporeal knowledge that opens out onto other fields. He formulates choreographic questions that are always solved through dance itself. I believe he truly embodies this famous “bodily knowledge”. My training was swift: I discovered dance in 1997 and by the end of 1999 I was already working with Mathilde Monnier. I actually started dancing by attending workshops run by Mic Guillaume — a choreographer, but mainly a pedagogue. Issues tied to in situ work were central to his teaching. This continues to be the case in my own work even though I don’t strictly work on site-specific pieces. What interests me is the point where the in situ gets localised around the function occupied by the dancer, in the sense that if you were to define presence through two broad categories, you would have the dancer/performer as centre of the event on the one hand — i.e., all the understanding goes through them — and on the other, the performer as one centre of the event, i.e., their function is to serve as a kind of interface between the various centres and thus facilitate the spectator’s interpretation. This is what I learned with Mic Guillaume and then reencountered and developed with Laurent Pichaud and Loïc Touzé while working on their projects.
Another founding experience — because it was my first encounter with a technique — were the classes I took with Louise Burns who teaches Cunningham Technique. I discovered what a dance technique could be as well as something that is still with me today: my understanding, projections or fantasies about Cage-Cunningham work. I danced an Events when I was training and this is my only repertoire experience to date. The first piece I took part in with Mathilde Monnier was commissioned by the ImpulsTanz festival in Vienna as a tribute to Cunningham. All this meant that Cunnigham became quite a firm anchor for my work.
Another significant experience in my training as a dancer were the classes and workshops I attended with Thierry Baë. These were a very singular mixture of various corporeal practices and techniques, ranging from Qigong to arm movement techniques drawn from German Expressionist dance and, somewhere between the two, some very impressive, quite explosive exercises. In the latter we would spend our time alternating between a released yet alert state and a very concentrated deployment of energy in order to go, for instance, from lying on the back to lying on the abdomen via an intermediary, upright position.  This is an application of the techniques tied to the three centres of energy as conceived in the Tai Chi system, for instance.
I had similar experiences with Lluis Ayet who, like Thierry Baë, had danced for Catherine Diverrès in the 1980s.
As for my founding experiences as a dance spectator, they are rather different. I was learning the Cunningham technique at a time when the shows I was going to see were publicly challenging it, shows like Xavier Le Roy’s Produit de circonstance (Product of Circumstances), for instance. Yet I never felt schizophrenically split on the issue. Although I started dancing at the very same point when movement in dance was being forcefully questioned, I have always believed that training in dance movement was crucial for me, simply because immobility is always linked to the possibility of movement.

#2 — MARCH 2009

YC I would like to go back to the animal figure which seems to occupy a particular place in your work, be it in the actual title of the piece you’re working on, Chevreuil, or the stag figure you contributed to Loïc Touzé’s Love, and the cat and dog in Jennifer Lacey’s This is an Epic. In the history of literature the figure tends to be linked to a critical approach to humanity. What function do you give it, personally? At what point do you choose to use it and what motivates this choice of figure?

RH The last two examples you give differ somewhat from the way I use “the animal figure” in my own pieces because they were performance responses. For This is an Epic I was responding to the invitation to reenact both a film sequence (the opening scene of J. Carpenter’s The Thing) and Manga comic strips. In Love I was adding myself to a situation during an improvisation that interconnected the stage and a very large-scale photo of a forest hanging above it.
Chevreuil is my second piece with an animal-related title. The first, domestiqué coyote (coyote domesticated) was commissioned by the Plateau art centre and the Parc de la Villette in 2006. The commission was simply to produce a piece that would be performed three times a day in the park during the “Pelouses Autorisées” (Permitted Lawns) event. I accepted, and started to reflect on what a park is, its function in a town or city, the rules that govern it, and so on. This being about city planning, I was tempted to make categories such as “left-wing park” and “right-wing park”, for instance. This led to various reflections: that parks are conceived as specific spaces that serve power and that, in the negative, parks stand for a great deal more than the mere pleasure of “a little greenery in a space crammed with cars”; that public authorities seek to attenuate the visibility of their real functions by fostering confusion between notions such as nature, the natural and the vegetal. Further, by extrapolating a similar line of thinking, we might regard dogs in parks as wild animals (or almost).
I got interested in Beuys and his performance I like America and America likes me (1974), and I tried to reenact a part of his experiment by living in a kennel for a few days with some very young puppies who had, consequently, had very little human contact. The experiment was not long-lived because a dog, even a very young one, is born “socialised”, it is already a cultural being. I think this is precisely what interests me with animals and everything connected to nature. Whatever it is that makes every single thing, or almost everything, on the planet always-already socialised. It is ultimately quite naive of me, but the idea that everything, everywhere, is domesticated, continues to alarm me. Discussing landscape, Gilles Clément claims that the entire surface of the globe has been domesticated or cultivated with the exception of a few, rare sites he refers to as “third landscape” (tiers-paysage) — unreachable mountain peaks, for example, but also the spaces between two tower blocks. Rekindling this awareness is an initial element.
But watching animals move is also a commonplace notion in dance training, if not a wisdom… Béjart claims to have learned to dance by watching his cats. And Nijinsky no doubt watched young goats…
Last year, in response to Philipp Gehmacher’s invitation to take part in the Walk+Talk series in Vienna, I created a performance piece and half of it dealt with the connections I perceive between my ten years of riding training and my subsequent training in and understanding of dance several years later. The two disciplines share a common vocabulary, and employ similar principles of abstraction.
So you could also see another motivation there, one tied to personal experiences, to my life story.
There is also a third motivation and the most interesting in my view for it creates a blind spot (it is not really a conscious thing) and is therefore more easily deciphered by the people observing the work than by myself. Like many artists at different points in time and in different parts of the world, I engage with this figure. “The animal figure” is not simply an artistic expression pertaining to one or various epochs but the symptom of something else. What would it take for there never again to be any need for “the animal figure”? I should specify that I have just started reading Aby Warburg’s “A Lecture on the Serpent Ritual” so these issues have not really been properly digested as yet and are still a little exotic to me.
This third aspect also points up an interest, I didn’t realise I had, in certain art forms that involve the notion of ritual. I remember how moved I was by Ana Mendieta’s works in a retrospective I saw at the Whitney Museum in 2004. This also reminds me of the connection Loïc Touzé made (in a previous interview for the Journal des Laboratoires) between the absence of hierarchy between things in my work — animate or inanimate — and animism.
But when you look at the literature, are you thinking of La Fontaine, or those medieval tales about heroes striking down monsters, or Moby Dick, or Buridan’s ass…? I haven’t read any of that.

YC The literary examples that come to mind are mainly Homer’s oeuvre and La Fontaine’s fables. In The Illiad and The Odyssey, the figure of the animal mainly emerges during metamorphoses. The stories intermingle gods, men and animals, and these images show us that human beings are very closely linked to the animal within, to the point of changing species or experiencing a variation in figure. If there is going to be a change, then the animal figure is almost invariably chosen; it’s as if, outside of mankind, in the wider environment, animality were the only available figure — at least the one most often evoked. At that time, animality and its “figures” were apprehended as a constant, enclosing structure — enveloping, nurturing and soothing Man. These metamorphoses are poetic, symbolic and religious explanations of the world. They stand for a justification of the familiar presences surrounding Man. They are an expression of Man’s deep-seated relationship with nature — precisely, a trace of animistic belief.
Prima facie, the way the animal figure is used in fables seems quite different. The purpose is to tell singular stories that can then be generalised. To achieve this the fable must stage nondescript characters, seemingly individual but essentially substitutable. Animals offer this potential — behind the species as trope for the generic lies a singular individual. The anthropomorphism of La Fontaine’s fables is a fixed element, unlike the fleeting metamorphoses you find in Greek mythology. The animal functions as a disguise. It serves to fool the political or social censorship at work for “the poet cannot be held accountable for the talk of animals”. Nonetheless, the recourse to animals is in no way a neutral choice: beyond the critical intentions, it presupposes a kind of implicit theory that is not necessarily naive. It expresses the idea that Man is an animal among others, privileged through his intelligence, but who must be attentive and respectful towards all other species. In both cases, the animal figure points to Man’s attitude towards his surroundings.
In his lecture on the serpent ritual, Warburg precisely shows how the will to master Nature is negotiated differently among Native Americans and modern man. The former attempt to appropriate Nature through mimesis (this is the function of animal dances), while the latter set Nature at a distance through the use of instruments and technologies.
When one considers the animal figure in this way, when one notes its recurrent use in your dance and choreographic practice, it comes as no surprise that the notion of context also plays a part in your research. I would like to know how you applied the notion in the various work sessions you have had so far. And as I am especially concerned with the Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers context, I would like to ask you about your thoughts and observations on this specific context — what have you retained?

RH We applied the notion of context in various ways which I could present as two relatively discrete modes yet interconnected because they stem from one another. Firstly, there are modes of experimentation that are simply not meant to be shown publicly. When I started working on this piece I hoped to revisit an experiment I carried out a few months previous which consisted in working, or at least being in a working state, over a 24-hour stretch. What interested me was maintaining this working state — like being on watch on a boat or watching over a fire to ensure it doesn’t go out (this is not a metaphor, obviously) — maintaining our work on a single question in a geographically circumscribed site. I was curious to see how it would affect the work, what we might learn out of living, and staying awake, for 24 hours in the Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers.
During the first work session, in April 2008, I had invited Éric Yvelin (music) and Yannick Guédon (dancer) to join me and we undertook the experiment with the following parameters: a random draw would determine who would be working, in which site and for which length of time. On the pieces of paper were our three names, written separately, plus all the possible combinations of duration (going from 7 to 120 minutes) and site (the studio, the Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers — the interior and exterior, up to the gate leading to the street — as well as the Quatre Chemins crossroads). The instruction we focused on was “translating translation”.
While this experiment was fruitful in many regards, everything tied to our knowledge of the context remained limited or anecdotal. During the following work session, with Ondine Cloez and Aude Lachaise (dancers), we drew up lists and tree diagrams that explored the notion of the Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers’ context, but we didn’t find a choreographic form to link it all to. A few weeks later, alone this time, I set myself the task of reading three daily papers per day (Le Parisien — the ’93’, Seine-Saint-Denis edition, Le Monde or Libération, and The Guardian) while pursuing my research on other aspects of Chevreuil. I started to collect images and establish links between them, I compared them with one another, the processing of these agency photos that featured in the three publications, I compared weather forecasts, I tracked the trajectory of the articles: from the margins to the front page, to oblivion, etc. What interests me with this experiment is the sense of being part of something global, even if this kind of press is a relatively superficial way of achieving this, and then there’s the additional condition of accepting to partake in “the feeling of inclusion”. This is the point at which I came to realise that my investigation of context was in no way connected to the idea of “portraying a place”, i.e., this piece would not take the Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers, or any other place we might go and work in (to rehearse or perform), as its “set” or “backdrop”. Through the collection of images I discovered that I wanted to work through analogy, to treat the specific context through comparison with other things and therefore attend more specifically to the space separating the content and the frame (the subjective values associated with the frame having been revealed and updated by the objective components of the visible — namely by the built environment).
In October I decided to leave the Laboratoires site once again. I proposed the following protocol to Audrey Gaisan (dancer) and Yannick Fouassier (light designer): after discussing everything I knew about Chevreuil, in the most comprehensive fashion possible, we would leave the work site for a predetermined stretch of time in order to come back with something (material or otherwise) — one single thing — that we regarded as having absolutely no connection with the work in progress.
Last November we began rehearsing, all together (a team of 7), and we developed the notions of context scenically, in three different ways. A process that puts into play two different spaces: the space that hosts the spectators and a contiguous space (the room next door). The dancers on the main stage (the one in view) process the data (essentially sound data) that come their way. This processing enables them to construct a relative structure (structure is synonymous with choreography here). The crucial element is the notion of relativity: the structure must accommodate the shifting, mobile nature of its own parameters.
A second option we’re working on is a process of iconographic documentation of a situation. The situation in question is a very concrete discussion (imagined with choreographic tools, which means we take advantage of the fact that we’re not specialists in the spoken word). Following each discussion, from memory I list the themes covered and find images on the internet associated with them. These images are an interpretation in that if one of the themes that came up in the discussion was ‘a car’, for instance, and the image I happen upon (and which I often choose on the basis of the pixel definition) is a photo of a damaged car, or an American or East German car, it doesn’t convey the same “unit of meaning”. In this way, I built up a collection of black-and-white images (which were mainly photos). One of us uses this store in order to document, via analogy, the discussions we have and will be carrying out in public. Every day a dozen or so images are added to the collection.
Other processes work on the differences and the choices between showing and presenting; these processes interrogate ‘the work’s artistic context of publication’ (as you rightly express it at the Laboratoires). Choosing between showing and presenting means deciding on how to address the spectators, it is a way of renewing an inquiry opened up in Atteindre la fin du western regarding the status of witness, or that of the spectator in a more reciprocal sense.

Comments are closed.