interview about Facing the sculpture

by CORALIE STALBERG les Bains::Connective Bruxelles – September 2009

Coralie Stalberg: Could you describe how Facing the sculpture came in being and also the direction the work took afterwards? In particular, where did your research during your Bains Connectiveresidency ultimately lead?

Rémy Héritier: Facing the sculpture followed on from my last group piece to date, Chevreuil (Deer), which premiered in March 2009. A crucial element in Chevreuil lay in presenting or showing documents (choreographic, textual, sound and iconographic documents), and this presentation was envisioned as the spectacular moment, shared with spectators in a theatre — i.e., in an almost traditional stage-auditorium set-up.
So Facing the sculpture is a continuation of some of these interrogations — namely questions tied to the ‘venue’ or, rather, to the conditions of presentation of a choreographic object. The question of space — of the three dimensions in which dance is inscribed — is central, and the title underscores this point by extending it to the question of “the work” at large, which I wish to conceive as a volume, rather than in linear terms that induce a continuity or discontinuity.
In order to create the possibility of a volume, I apprehended the work, in practice, as being about concretely setting two documents (sequences, materials, however you wish to put it…) against one another. One document derived from a previous piece and the other was a new element, created in Brussels, whose function was to act as a witness of the older document. So two things were performed simultaneously but in different modes. This creates a gap, and the resulting third term can be explored from various perspectives: through comparison, association and differentiation. Whatever the angle, the space created is the site of production of Facing the sculpture, and the site of the singular and autonomous production of each spectator…
This work ultimately developed into an approximately hour-long piece in which there is no privileging of any particular point of view. There are always two documents activated at the same time, in distinct areas of the space. I invited other artists to perform autonomous works in parallel with my own, self-authored documents. These artists included jeune fille orrible (Frédéric Danos, Janin Benecke, Olivier Nourisson, Audrey Gaisan) and Eric Yvelin. Each artist presented a musical piece or a piece that included a sound dimension.

Coralie Stalberg: The piece “developed from the vacancy of previous projects”. Could you explain the methodologies and strategies you use to produce this singular choreographic object? And the implications for exploring temporality and space?

Rémy Héritier: A project that develops from the vacancy of those preceding it is, first and foremost, a horizon of work I feel particularly drawn to. More concretely, I would like to find ways of developing strategies (to borrow the term/expression you use) that enable me to create something out of what I’ve already created. I like the image of someone digging a hole: while they pull up the earth and place it to the side, they simultaneously perform, through the same gesture, the action of covering over. To open up one thing is to cover over something else. You can, however, stop digging at any point, and you can even start digging the mound you’ve just started to build up.
So, the basic strategy is to isolate a document derived from a previous piece. You then need to understand what this document means in the now. Rather than beginning by asking yourself what it used to stand for, you need explore what it interrogates today. To this end, you describe it, and then sort this description into categories (which can sometimes send a chill down your spine): association, connotation, differentiation, suggestion, conjunction, comparison, Truth. Categories can help to understand, but they can also imprison the work and you can become single-minded and obsessive out of an overly keen desire to sort things into such and such specific box. Still, it lets you get to work…
As a result, new issues and objectives emerge that enable you to start working on a new object. This new object will be performed alongside a version of the older one. I say ‘a version of the older one’ because I quickly realised that, as far as I was concerned, there wasn’t much point in reconstructing a past document, but a great deal more in producing a new one.

Coralie Stalberg: What are the theoretical references driving or inspiring this work?

Rémy Héritier: The references for Facing the sculpture are the traces of previous works, i.e., what has already been metabolised — what I believe is the fruit of personal reflection but which is very often closely tied to existing reflections. These references might be theoretical, artistic or even self-references to my work itself. So I can cite Giorgio Agamben’s Remnants of Auschwitz and The Signature of All Things, Pierre Bourdieu’s Pascalian Meditations, Aby Warburg’s “A Lecture on the Serpent Ritual”, as well as selected chapters from The Coming Insurrection by the Invisible Committee. There’s also Joseph Beuys’ performance “I like America and America likes me” — the coyote performance that, ultimately, we know very little about. We have images of the gallery but scarce information about the rest of the performance — the plane journey, the ride from the airport, etc. It’s the same problematic as for the Russian Ballets that I explored in Chevreuil. In my view, all these books and works deal with and combine the notions of witness, event, environment (in the sense of a non-distinction between subject and environment).

Coralie Stalberg: What is your stand on the hybridisation of artistic practices?

Rémy Héritier: I don’t have a stand, I don’t even think I want to take one. What I observe is that very often this kind of position-taking breeds standardisation — I mean the kind of flag-bearing, theoretical-political position-taking, be it oral or written. However, I am not at all opposed to putting it in the service of my works. For a long time I thought that my work derived from dance and choreography and that this was the basis from which I wanted/ought to apprehend my creative work — working in a way that pushes back the “walls”, from the inside, rather than bringing in external objects. And I believe I still think that today. And artistic practices are far more porous than we tend to imagine, I’m sure of it.

Coralie Stalberg: Can you tell us about your personal trajectory? Why dance? Which encounters or approaches have made a mark on you? What do you consider to be the turning points in your career?

Rémy Héritier: I danced when I was child, between the age of 9 and 11, then stopped and started to do a lot of riding instead, for at least 10 years. I see horse-riding as my first dance training. Not in its formal dimension, but in the close correspondence that can be drawn between the respective vocabularies. The words you say to a rider in order to get them to do something with their horse are the selfsame words you’d use in any contemporary dance workshop. The sense of space you need on horseback is the same as on a stage or dance floor. The various qualities of the look, whether peripheral vision or “fixation”, are also the same. Riding is a system of constraints in which the weight transfers you perform as a rider enable you to perform simple things like walking or galloping, as well as more complex things like walking backwards, or asking the horse to shift its weight to the back in order to turn on its haunches.
I also have a (very brief) university training in the social sciences — i.e., two years of study that involved reflecting on various issues through a set of disciplines such as sociology, psychology, history and law. We would work on the same subject for three months, across the various disciplines. And, in fact, that was the period I started dancing again. Then I enrolled in the EXERCE programme at the Centre Choréographique in Montpellier, in 1999, and started working straight away. First with Mathilde Monnier, then with a number of other choreographers.
Of course, I learned something with every choreographer I’ve worked with (I have never been involved in a project without good reason!). I started to work independently in 2003, after having, that same year, worked consecutively with Laurent Pichaud and Jennifer Lacey. Their particular approaches are not entirely unrelated to this shift.
I consider the major turning points in my work (apart from the first projects, that are always very important) to have taken place when I was associate artist at the Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers, a period that ultimately lead to the creation of Chevreuil. Chevreuil is an extremely important piece for me — it’s as if it enabled me to understand my work through the very process of work itself. For this I am indebted to the (exceptionally positive) working relationship I had with Yvane Chapuis and Rebecca Lee at the Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers, and also to Anne-Lise Gobin and the performers I worked with on this piece and the previous ones.

Coralie Stalberg: What motivates your artistic practice? How do you apprehend the social and ideological implications of your approach?

Rémy Héritier: I think I’m motivated by processes of recognition — what is it that makes me recognise what I’m doing? It has to do with presence. It provides a basis from which to implement a whole range of systems that bring this question into play. Well, it’s not quite that straightforward. I don’t know how to answer the rest of the question: I may be wrong but I think that it’s the job of the people observing the work to answer that question — the observers being the spectators, whoever they may be.
Thank you.

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