on the watch…

  • FLORENT DELVAL – mouvement.net – 2009

In 2005, Rémy Héritier, who had been working exclusively as a performer up to then, began creating his own choreographic pieces. His nascent body of work, that articulates the problem of renewing choreographic writing following a period of glory, is emblematic of an emerging generation trying to feel its way — between continuation and radical break — and which perceives itself adrift in an exhausted landscape.

Two young adventurers explore an open space…or perhaps they have come to fight a duel (Arnold versus Pablo, as the title indicates)? These plot outlines are activated by a single object, a knife carried on the belt. Yet this sign is but the ghost of itself: the object will barely be used, just once or twice, and, crucially, without occasioning any kind of consequence, the same way a line on an immaculate surface gradually fades away when exposed to a dazzling white reflection.

Rémy Héritier’s characters move through an emptied-out landscape and interactions operate at the most basic level: they either attack one another or patrol.

He therefore shares the same perspective as his contemporaries, and, like them, tries to grapple with this ‘post-everything’ world (post-narration, post-representation…). But rather than formulating this reality (by pointing a finger or designating verbally) he chooses to explore it via choreographic propositions. This movement allows him to step back a little, to distance himself somewhat — like the distance one establishes when speaking about the theatre from within the theatre. And he chooses, conversely, to explore this desert on foot, to inhabit it rather than sweep over it. In other words, the work is located at the level of the body of the text and not of the metadiscourse.

Rémy Héritier did his training with a generation of choreographers who used idiocy as a means of protest . The absurd blockbuster in which explorers jumped from a helicopter to explore the territory of their own limits comes to mind here, and Jennifer Lacey’s 2003 This is an Epic was a crystallisation of the major trends that marked the beginning of the decade.

But Rémy, out of courage or obliviousness, left the group to drift through an open landscape, traversing even more arid terrain : there is barely any form of scenography, or only as a sort of implicit feature serving to sketch out and activate a horizon or an outside.

In this rarefying process the bodies are not leaden but, on the contrary, shed weight. Héritier’s choreographies do indeed invoke figures characterised by prevention or conflict, but they never stage bodies collapsing on themselves. Even if the dancers’ bodies never manage to get off the ground, they jump, nonetheless. This is even a recurrent figure in his choreographic writing. The ground may have become barren but the bodies have not exhausted themselves. Herein lies the paradox of the generation of emerging choreographers to which Héritier belongs.

Without cultivating a radical break, it is likely his emerging body of work will elude the burden of its influences through its very vitality. The very title of This is an Epic still contained the act of designation and was, moreover, a closed affirmation. But Atteindre la fin du Western (To reach the end of the Western) is an infinitive form — therefore, a verb to be conjugated and an action to be performed. It is no longer enough to simply affirm. Moreover, a slip of the tongue could easily give this journey an entirely different meaning: Attendre la fin du Western (To wait for the end of the Western). But the point here is, indeed, to reach — and thus, despite everything, a movement still persists.

In March 2009 I met Rémy Héritier at the Vides exhibition at the Centre Pompidou. We wandered through the empty, immaculate white cubes, discussing his new piece Chevreuil (Deer), which, on the contrary, overflows with heteroclite imagery. Perhaps this brief interview will help to ascertain whether or not we have gone down the wrong track in our interpretation of his project, which some find hermetic.
Indeed, this is one of the main criticisms that tends to be made of his work: although each piece seems to be grounded in an unquestionable internal logic, the spectator feels kept at an unbridgeable distance from their workings.

The problem is that we have lost track of the reason why such an aesthetic — which in fact seeks to open up the work to the greatest extent possible — actually emerged as a necessity at one point. Chevreuil presents images that seem to have been picked at random from Google, but surely what the choreographer is depicting here is a world in which information and documents are already completely open to all manner of interpretation?

How, then, could he stretch the meaning any further? And, crucially, to what end? This was the point at which we reached the Yves Klein room — and that is when the penny dropped: Héritier, like Klein, belongs to the group of artists that seek to create the conditions of an appearance. He refers to his piece as a “documentary”, and might, in this way, be apprehended as the kind of filmmaker who endeavours to capture Reality rather than construct it. Consequently, we can begin to understand the spectator’s discomfort: they are constantly on the watch — eyes agog, neck craned — yet despite all their efforts may never see that deer cross the road…

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