Interview Dorothea von Hantelmann – Xavier Le Roy
09.11.2002 / version 30.01.2003
DOROTHEA: You seem to address a variety of issues in your works. There is the reversal of body images and representations in “Self-Unfinished”, the fragmented, researched and narrated body of “Product of Circumstances”, the mediated body in “Giszelle” and the collective body in “Project”. At the same time each of these pieces has a different format. Do you think of your work as an oeuvre? What is your relation to the idea of an oeuvre?
XAVIER: When I started to produce and present my work I didn’t think about building a coherent oeuvre. I don’t I have this awareness about the different works I produce creating an oeuvre or “gesamtkunstwerk”.
Maybe I have an anecdote relating to this. I remember that when I decided to do choreography, I said: “I have four ideas, so I will have to do four choreographies and than I will stop and do something else”. Now I can only notice that I didn’t respect these plans. Of course this understanding changed since than.
Lately I think more about the relationships between the works I did and how this is inscribed within our socio-cultural rules of production.
When I work on a production, most of the time, something from the previous work didn’t work out, a kind of failure or a question is rising, which becomes more or less the reason or a part of the motor for other works. This started to become conscious after “Narcisse Flip” and “Blut et Boredom”.
For example I was working a lot on fragmenting, dismembering, deconstructing and reconstructing my body mostly to explore what the limitations of my body can produce. I used this strategy to create movements to transform some ideas about handicap and limitation into illusions or other physical abilities. One aim was to look for another understanding of the relationship between body, movements, and technique (not technology). I also thought that it’s a way to work about the embodiment of some social and cultural rules. Something like exploring how the rules of society are producing specific bodies or body images by transposing some rules directly on how a body can move within created constraints. At the same time the reception of my work seems to emphasise the idea of a body in parts and created an image or a metaphor for a schizophrenic body which was not my purpose. That pushed me to think about how to escape the production of metaphor and to look for ways to open up the possibilities of perception. That’s a part of what I tried to do in “Self-Unfinished”. I decided to question more precisely the modes of perception of the body more then producing certain movements as an answer to my questions.
After these productions (the first I produced with some financial support 1996) I also had questions about the idea of collaboration, about my position as an author and at the same time what I would call today a kind of “director of a small enterprise”.
There were a lot of discrepancies between our understanding of collaboration and how this was acknowledged by the media and the dance business. That’s why I decided to work on “Self-Unfinished” completely alone without asking anything to anybody so that I could experience a work in an exclusive collaboration with my self and see what it produces.
So to come back to your question about the idea of oeuvre in my work, I don’t know but I have questions between the productions like: how do I continue to work? What do I have to transform? But this doesn’t really build an oeuvre in the sense we understand it. Does it? Is it unconscious? What do we understand by oeuvre or coherent oeuvre? Is it something that we see as being one identity? How would you define this?
D: As a relation between the works and the concepts or ideas that connect them. But then it’s also about style and signature…
X: …maybe my “early works” looked for a signature. But now I try to constantly escape a signature and for this I have to reconsider each format of my productions. I think this is clear since “Self-Unfinished” each production tries to escape an aesthetics established by the previous one.
At the very beginning I wanted to produce only very short pieces because I was unable to develop things. Like at school I could not write more then 10 or 20 lines on a subject. But finally my 3 first pieces produced a full evening performance (“Narcisse Flip”). This triptych had been developed with: same kind of movements, similar costume, same composer for the music, same light designer. I was trying to affirm a certain kind of movement, a “language”, a signature (?) as the first step requested by the usual development of a choreograph career. If this is accepted the next step is to extend and transmit this “language” to others in order to do group choreography, like some kind of clone of yourself that allows your signature to establish itself and to get recognised. After that you have access to bigger means of production (from solo to company director in a Stadtheater for example). “Blut et Boredom” was the second step of development of the “small enterprise” from 3 to 6 workers. This was a painful experience and after I had to rethink my role and position. These methods of work were not fitting my need for resistance or for a critical approach.
In our society it is easier to communicate an idea identified to a person then an idea or a concept in itself. This works better on the market. But it implies a certain ideology or ethic of life and that’s why I want to resist to this idea of signature.
So after these experiences I wanted to reconfigure the modes of production I use. I started to be aware about the relationships between the questions initiating a production, the means to do it and the format used to present it. In short the processes of production affect the products and vice versa. How to change the usual chain reaction of production? That’s why I was very interested in the proposal of Jérôme to do a piece in his place under his authorship which he titled “Xavier Le Roy”.
So to come back to the idea of “my oeuvre”, I think now I try to be aware about it as being a continuity of discontinuities. I work always on similar questions in each production but I try to change the format to blur the normative modes of recognition which creates one understanding of oeuvre using exclusively the power of authorships and signature.
D: You describe your work as a production of discontinuities, as an avoidance of a signature but on the other hand there is this personal “signature”, a sort of meta-narrative which laid the ground of your reception: The scientist turned choreographer.
X: that’s true, that’s true … when you try to escape from something you are grasped by another norm… by escaping this identification I create another one which actually was present from the beginning.
D: what’s the story of this image?
X: The first time I presented my work publicly (“Things I hate to Admit” in July 1994 at the Fondation Cartier in Paris) I was working on ideas in a studio and sometimes showing to friends. But I was not sure if I needed to show the work to a larger audience. Then I got this proposal by Denise Lucioni at the Fondation Cartier in Paris. She heard about what I was doing from a commune friend who thought my work would be interesting for her program “Les soirées Nomades”. So we met, I talked about the piece and she asked me to show something in her program. Of course I was very flattered and exited about this proposal.
So the whole thing started, I had to give pictures, a video, and a C.V. It was the first time I had to give a C.V. in the dance business and I only wrote about my experiences as a dancer excluding my past as a biologist. She used the information and rewrote something. The first sentence was: “Xavier le Roy: atypical dancer coming from the molecular biology…” or something like this – I said to her: “hey this is not what I wrote in my c.v.” and she said: “yes I know but it’s better for you, it’s going to be your image.” I thought about changing it but anyway it was too late, it was printed and I said: if you say so… I thought I could still change it the next time. The bad thing or the good thing or, the thing which made the continuation of the story or, which build the fate, is that an article was published in “Libération”. Usually you don’t get a review so quick, the first time you show a piece. Of course the journalist reproduced exactly the sentence which was in the C.V. and from then on it was impossible to go back. Like she said, this became my identity, my trade mark, my currency on the market. So what can I do about this, I have no choice, I have to use it.
D: it was a “product of circumstances”, a coincidence and at the same time a decision taken by someone in a certain situation.
X: Yes exactly and that’s what the title says very clearly. I could have told this anecdote about the C.V. in the piece. It is one of the circumstances but dramaturgically it was not fitting the piece…although it is an important dramaturgical effect on my biography.
If you think about, David Bowie for example, something I admire a lot about him is that each album or each show he produced was each time another try to do something else with the music. Using this strategy he was working on questions related to change and identity “change, changes, face the strange…”. At the same time he affirmed himself as a person promoting as much an idea of change as he questioned and used the power of identity. I like what it produces.
It’s something that goes against the fact that the image is the person is the identity.
But to come back to your idea about change and meta-language, I never thought about this in this way but I think it’s true. In a lot of projects I have this desire to work on how to change, or how to produce a feeling or a sense of change and maybe this can only happen between the projects and not within them.
D: the fact that you changed from science to choreography is of course already coming from the idea to keep things in motion, but now it seems that exactly this motivation is on the other hand fixing you to something else.
X: yes and that’s producing the following question that I heard many times already: what are you going to do next? Are you going to do something else? Does this mean I should do something like fashion or cinema or constructing tables or whatever…?
Sometimes I thought about changing medium. But if I do this I am exactly reinforcing this idea. So for now I have decided to work on change within the medium I choose. I remember that before I was very happy to have been involved in this double activity working in the lab and dancing intensively. For me it was like a chance a luxury not to be constrained to one activity. I could understand the practice of one through the lens of the other and I thought that it was really a big luck to live this exceptional situation. At this time the modes of production valued a clear separation between working and leisure time. To have two different practices with similar importance was not so easy, and it was a kind of resistance to a system. Lately I noticed that in our time this has changed drastically. Most of the time you are obliged to have one or two extra jobs in order to be able to do what you really want to do…I realized that what I estimated as a choice for a better life became an obligation for an unsatisfying way of living because it is not a choice anymore. That’s also why I decided to continue my activity within the medium choreography. I have the feeling if I would change that it would be to escape and at the moment I think that the strategy of escaping is failing…
Carsten Höller says something very interesting about this in this book “Production” I have it in my notes: “Even when I have taken significant step in my life such as the change from science to art (beside me, no one could have driven me there), it was a being-driven from the moment that the crossings were set. Because we let ourselves be driven, we also constantly drive another so that the self-perpetuation state of “driven-drivers” grows into a collective mass hysteria.” and after, there is this remark from Daniel Birnbaum saying: “being driven is also a form of driving.” And he adds – this is really brilliant- he says: “A questionable post capitalist state. Those who withdraw from this interaction between driving and being driven are the subversive ones.”
I like this idea very much; it’s somehow what I try to do: this reflection about driving and being driven and how you are active and passive…
D: and how you’re active in being passive or passive in being active.
X: it’s a mixture of choices, decisions by yourself and others.
D: you have in many times occasions explained how you became interested in dance but why were you interested in biology or molecular biology in the first place?
X: I never had a clear and define interest in biology at the first place. At school I was lazy and science was easy and biology less difficult then physics. When I had to make this choice I was actually only interested in girl friends and sports. So it’s another product of other circumstances, biology was never a clear and strong centre of interest, especially before my last years at the university…
D: but dance neither… more basketball…
X: sports, sports, football, basketball, skateboard, windsurfing this were my interests actually … so games and physical activities.
D: I would like to talk about “Self-Unfinished”. Could you say something about the dramaturgy of the piece? How does the dramaturgy relate to the images of the body that you produce?
X: one interest in self-unfinished was to look for zones of indecisiveness. For example places or moments where you don’t know anymore if you are going forward or backward, if it’s up or down, if it’s right or left … or another example in the beginning section when I do what is often called the robot or the machine part. I was actually looking for movements during which I would never know if it is the sound which produces the movement or if it is movement which make me produce this sound? I was looking for a state where I didn’t know what decides to produce what… I started to use these ideas and to think what it means if I do this, in terms of duration and that’s how the structure or the dramaturgy was constructed.
At the beginning I wanted to make a piece where the order and the presence of the different “body-situations” would change every time. A kind of structure where it could be one time A becoming B becoming C becoming D or the piece could be D-A-C, or E-B-F-A-C etc… Actually I worked a lot on the idea of transformation from one thing into another and the different possibilities to go from one situation to another. For example I had calculated that if I had let’s say, 5 different “body-situations”, I would have 20 transformations from one to another, a kind of endless production of movements to transform one thing into another that I could develop during the performances.
But this turn out to be quite impossible when I started to use props. The props determined an order. I could not do something from naked to completely dress without dressing one cloth after the other determining certain kinds of body appearing in a certain order. Plus I could not take my trouser off before I took my shoes off for example.
So I failed in my original project. After this I somehow followed what order this dressing and undressing made able. And as I said at the beginning I looked for a way to confuse the understanding of what’s before what’s after what’s going back or forward. I used daily life movements that we see and recognise as being performed backward or forward and insert some other moment where it is only the personal decision of the audience to see it as going back or forward. For example during the section where you can imagine that I am 2 pairs of legs. Backward is then transformed into what we recognise as being forward. Do you wind or rewind the movie? So the dramaturgy was made to extend the idea of indecisiveness from what you perceive in a moment to the all duration of the piece.
D: Carsten Höller talks about doubt and indecisiveness as sort of liberated states of mind, liberated from the authority of fixed and fixing categories like right or left beginning or end, backward or forward.
X: Yes, this is what I wish to propose to each spectator, …the possibility to contemplate a field of decisions creating doubt. Actually when I perform it’s completely confusing; I might know in a way what I do but not completely what I produce. Maybe it’s creating a doubt to question the processes of perception…
I found it very interesting, what you are referring to from Carsten, because it’s very similar to this idea of indecisiveness I was looking for when I was working on “Self-Unfinished”. … it is also close to the wish of not representing something in a singular way or not proposing a fixed body-image … it always moves, it always changes and it’s never a fixed moment that’s what I want to point at … it always appears and it always disappears. Each spectator has this process going on. So it’s you with your imagination creating this … I don’t decide what is to be seen … there are some proposals and then: things appear and disappear in a va et vient … it’s oscillating.
D: You cannot separate the representations of the body from the representation of gender. “Self-Unfinished” seems to oscillate between images of femininity and masculinity. But what does this mean for you in your daily life? Which idea of masculinity are you interested in?
X: tough question! What can I say? I’m interested in the representation which is not the one imposed to me, something else then the role that I am suppose to fulfil. It’s again like creating confusion between these understandings, between what I am supposed to do as a man and what would I do if I was a woman. I’m very influenced by feminist writings, describing how much the role of a woman can be understood as a performance. This is very important and it helps me a lot to think about many different questions, not only the gender question. This would be my idea of masculinity, as a question how to play this role which is of course not loaded like the one of being a woman.
It relates as you mentioned before to my try to work on what we understand as representation. There’s always a clear link between the facts that formulizing representation in whatever form means at the same time fixing something. That’s what I tried to experiment in “Giszelle”. Try to find this relationship between movement and representation. Does something only exist in terms of representation? What is it? This represents that, it stands for this, I do this (X makes a movement) and it represents for example a ballerina, or (X makes a movement) a man, or (X makes a movement) a monkey, they are movements in terms of dance but it is fixed when we perceive it and understand it as a representation. These were questions for the piece Giszelle and I thing that’s how I try to question my understanding about my masculinity.
D: one last question to self-unfinished: this must be one of the most and widely shown pieces in the last years. What is your relation to reproduction? Or what is the productivity of reproduction in dance?
X: First of all it’s business isn’t it? My relation to reproduction is business. It’s about economics. Maybe a bit cynical answers but according to what makes a piece be repeated, it is part of it… it’s the way I live… To reproduce the piece, more precisely to repeat it, I get money… It’s one form of exchange which is at stake in this situation.
But of course that’s not the only kind of exchange. If you reproduce or re-perform it’s never the same, that’s why performing is never a reproduction but a repetition. It’s always by definition different, the audience is different and you do it differently. That’s another very interesting aspect of “reproduction”, it define the piece more and more as a product but it never becomes 100% an object. In self-unfinished this idea is very present since I started to work on it. Since I perform or re-perform it over and over it will never be finish. Like us, we are never complete and our subjectivity will never be a finitude. …
I cannot say that I like to perform … I don’t need this contact with the audience … in the beginning it’s important: a piece is never finished before you show it to an audience. It does allow some answers or other questions, this reflection which make you understand and complete your questions. Or make you produce another work.
The changes appearing by repeating pieces are not always interesting but the fact that it changes is very interesting. It reinforces the idea that performing is about transforming and this at different levels, during the present of the performance by performing (which is an activity in a moment, and its production in this very moment) and by reproducing the performance in relation with the last or the first time you performed it (which inscribe the activity over a duration putting in relation 2 moments in time as being production by a duration). These 2 kinds of production are what the spectators and the performers have to deal with within a performance.
D: So we are back at the question of production.
X: Yes but it’s also a decision to have the work available as long as possible and to be able to give the opportunity to people to have access to the piece. If people are still interested in showing it, than I have to show it. This is also, a strategy related to economics and the desire of the new. I cannot survive if I try to answer to the inflation of the production of something new.
Lately I am invited to show some works in places where they never invited me and they show all the three or four pieces in 4 or 5 days.
D: like a retrospective…
X: yes sort of.
This experiences start to be very interesting because the audience is confronted to this in a series and they see things I have done in the last four years over 4 or 5 days. The reception or perception it proposes for those who see all is also taking place between the different works. One piece is always an incomplete answer. And it allows not emphasizing the value of the new as being better. The new never satisfies.
D: Why did you choose the self interview as a format to talk about your work?
X: After E.X.T.E.N.S.I.O.N.S#1 I tried to reflect on the project and asked myself many questions. What did it produce or reproduce? Why couldn’t we escape to have expectations? Why my position as an initiator was assimilated as the one of power? Why the set up didn’t allow most of the time to change our method of work? Why did we have to reproduce typical group power games although there was no goal to reach, to produce, or to deliver at the end? Why did we fell into the clichés produced by collaboration? Well I had many questions to my self and that might be where an idea of self interview merged. I had things to say, but how to say them?
These questions were actually part of the project and I thought it was interesting to share them because they were products of the project.
At the same time I wanted to look for a form of presentation which would allow to displace myself as the one supposed to have the knowledge, a form which would reflect or implicitly present the fact that of course I cannot escape my position and the roles that stick to it. But which at the same time could emphasise that the knowledge, ideas or discourses are something that you don’t possess and that is circulating, it has a subject but it is subjective. It is something which exists before you use it and transforms when you use it. So I think all this made me decide to write a self-interview where I would be different “Is”, different roles, where I could develop different perspectives on, during, after and about the project.
D: in between “self-unfinished” and “Giszelle” there seems to be a difference in the way you approach discourse, or the way discourse becomes present in the piece.
X: Do you refer to language in the sense of speaking language? I don’t know? Do I make this difference? Do I have decide this in advance? I think it’s a decision made by the subject I work on. Does this difference allow me to be more discursive in some projects then in others?
D: “self-unfinished” seems to try to go beyond limits of language and notions. It’s more about the virtual in a Deleuzian sense, more about potentialities…
X: …maybe, because the question is more about movement and perception … or the relationships between movement and pictures or images…
D: and the visible and the invisible, and actual and the virtual.
…Tell me about your interest in Harry Potter…
X: when I started with one, I read the four in a row…
D: what is your interest in magic?
X: magic is the possibility of another world, another possibility between human and objects or human and everything else. It’s a try to look for another world. Because, I’m not satisfied with this one and that’s also a motor for doing what I do. If I would think everything is fine and works out very good in our world I would simply use it and do it. But it’s not what I experience. I am not satisfied, I want to escape, and I want things to change. So there’s this need of building another world. It’s stupid and naive but in Harry Potter I see a parallel.
This other world where they go when they run in this station straight forward into a wall, Bang and Psssshhhhh they land in this other world where things work another way. It is a big hope. They escape something. And what I found interesting is that they never can escape completely. J.K. Rowling describes a world which is still very in relationship with our codes. Of course, you can not do it in another way. But that’s also what I’m interested in the way she is doing it. She follows the idea that there is not such a thing like new and completely different. Nothing is completely new it always refers to the things you understand which construct you understanding of the world. I think that the way she writes and the way she puts it. For example inventing a new sport and talking about it like if it is a big mass sport event, like football is … and … creating balls able to move by themselves. It’s a completely other understanding of what is an object for us. The object is a thing that you have more or less control of…
D: all the sudden it’s the other way around: the objects control you…
X: … which is also a feedback on what we have and produce in our life? The objects are also controlling us, but we like to think the opposite. Let’s say that we lost control of our relationships with objects. At first I think we created objects that we control and we like to play with the idea of loosing a bit of control. The football is not something you control 100% especially with your feet but it is also not something which will go by itself from still position to fly in the sky at 500 km/hours.
…I think Harry Potters stories propose to reflect on our relationships to objects and similar problems we can have with the society we live in and construct.
D: so would you say that this magic other world is a tool to grasp aspects of reality in this world? …to grasp the virtual in the actual reality?
X: ..it’s another point of view it’s an interesting perspective that she proposes… It’s not a revolution, but I think it’s very interesting
D: Do you see an idea of critique in that? What kind of critique would that be?
X: Yes in a sense it’s another way to relate to critique because it is associated with a proposal. It’s resistance. It’s not a critique only talking about good or bad. It uses our understanding about good and bad. It’s more like: it’s good, it’s bad but I propose to do it like this… or see it like this. It is not cynical or fatalist like criticism can quickly become.
D: I wanted to come back to “Giszelle” and to the question of the change of medium.
Yvonne Rainer once said that one reason for her to stop doing dance was that she didn’t want to collaborate with the space anymore. Therefore she did film in which she could create her own space. In “Giszelle” you seem to use this filmic possibility as a “technique” or dramaturgical element for dance. In certain parts the movements seem to blend into each other as if connected by the lens of a camera. You translate a filmic perspective on the body into choreography.
X: It’s interesting that you talk about the use of cinema in “Giszelle” this way; I never understood this method as creating a space.
There are two major things related to cinema that we used for “Giszelle”. On one hand the point of view of a camera. On the other hand all the machinery to edit and produce effects, things you can operate on a film after you register it and before you project it.
I was interested to use the understanding of movement that film has within its medium. Actually I think film or more widely video is very used for dance, for example to transmit and learn or reproduce movements from improvisations. I think our actual understanding of movement and the representation we have of it is very influenced by the moving pictures on the screen, and by all the effects like playing backward, forward, slow motion, acceleration, frame by frame or also by some defects like when a digital camera is not working well. It is amazing sometimes you can see this little squares rearranging with delay deconstructing and reconstructing bodies in movement making very complex and impossible choreographies, an arm can be detached from the body and reappears where the head is or things like that.
So those ideas about techniques in film in relationship with movement are some stuff we used to reverse the way we are informed about movement to actually produce movements.
But I would be interested why you think in terms of this method as creating a space?
D: … I saw a relation to what Yvonne Rainer said, but whereas she actually decided to change the medium, you stick with the same medium, dance, but within it you insert a different medium without de facto using it in the piece, you translate it into a choreographic method.
X: Yes it is a try to stay as close as possible to the specificity of the medium and use it, explore it and experience what it produces already as such. But it doesn’t mean that a medium is closed on itself. It is not hermetic; by definition a medium mediates which is to say it allows certain kind of exchanges. So I am interested in experimenting how this medium is influenced or affected by the understanding from another one but I am not interested in what is called multi media. I think that’s what Mårten Spångberg and Tor Lindstrand did brilliantly in the show “I. e. All All Over Over All All et. al.”
D: How has your relation to dance changed from “Self-Unfinshed” to “Project”? What did dance mean to you then and what does it mean now?
X: I think at the very beginning, when I started, it was very linked to physical activity, going to dance classes was another possibility to have physical experiences and I loved that, it meant moving in a certain way, it was moving to move and not to put a ball in a basket. I had first to think how I was moving before forgetting it or something like that. That’s the first aspect. The second link with dance I had and what it meant to me was related to the diversity of the dance performances I saw at this time: Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, Mark Tomkins, Dominique Bagouet, François Verret, William Forsythe… They made me curious and I wanted to see and experience more.
The third thing; at that time being a professional dancer or choreographer meant another way of living than the one I had, working in a laboratory from 9:00 till 19:00 5 or 6 days a week having 32 days of holidays. It meant somehow a confusion between the idea of leisure time and working time, another role and a different mode of living which I imagined being a different understanding of society.
D (new): After 10 years of being a dancer and choreographer, did it became what you imagined?
Yes it’s quite close to what I have desired. I somehow accomplished this choice. I am lucky to be able to say this. I have a very privileged position not to say a luxurious one.
But lately I realised that actually this mode of life made of activities where the border between, work, leisure, productive, unproductive are confused, became a mode of life imposed by the transformation and the development of what Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiapello call the “new spirit of capitalism”. According to them capitalism has changed during the last 40 years and has created other norms which change our relationships to work, money and production. For example, we talk less and less about work and more about activity without making a clear distinction between there personal, “playness” and professional aspects of it. We have to control our production ourselves; we have to be mobile, to be autonomous, to take risks, to be organised in networks, to be enthusiastic, to give from ourselves, to be communicative, to be innovative, our work should assure the development of our personality… These are the new norms, the ones imposed, something that we have to embody.
We are not more or less involved in the production of something to enter the exchange market we are the producer of ourselves as a product. This kind of new norm is pretty close to what I wanted 12 years ago when I did the big jump to resist to a system. Some of these concepts are also close to ideas that I would usually use and defend. But if this is actually imposed to us and not a choice, than it is difficult to accept and practice.
D: I think choice and imposed are not binary opposites, to choose is an action as well as a reaction, active and passive.
X: Yes exactly that’s what I realised. Although I have understood since a long time that freedom exist only within restrictions. It is again about the “driven-drivers”.
D: Production and subjectivity seam to be two notions that we come back to all the time. How are they related? Or, to bring in Carsten again, in which way is the subject-object relationship an economy of creating?
X: what would you say?
D: maybe a way to begin is to ask if and why dance could be an interesting medium to work on it. The first and obvious answer is that you cannot separate the production from the product and its reception. A piece is produced and performed out of a certain subjectivity and in being performed again produces some kind of subjectivity in the viewer. At this point we should talk about “Project” which is based on games and will take place in the theatre, since the concept of the game as well as the dispositif of the theatre each propose very different notions of production and subjectivity.
X: That’s exactly the way it works. It’s always the question of how these two things are articulated. I think my work is very often to try to understand the articulation or connection between production and subjectivity. Exactly like you pose the problem, a dispositif produces a product, which produces also a kind of subjectivity which in return produces also specific ways of production and products. It’s a kind of a Foucauldian circle.
For me each product in the field of choreography could be understood as being the expression of the articulation between the modes of production and the subjectivities producing it and being produced by it.
You are 100% right to note that an interesting point about dance is that you cannot separate the production from the product. But the biggest problem is that these relationships with the subjectivities are very often pre-established and are difficult to change. That’s why we always produce the same. In a way it’s good for a feeling of security. You know what you get. But if you are not satisfied with the kind of products you get or produce it starts to be a problem.
Can we use and transform these relationships in order to produce other perceptions in the theatre?
The theatre reproduces a certain kind of subjectivity from the side of the spectators and from the side of the performers. What depends on these rules of production that we don’t agree with: the authorities, the frontal and central perception, the separation between the audience and the performers…?
We disagree with that, so what can we do? We can try to set up another dispositif and than we have a chance to change the relationships between the subjectivities and the productions, this was a big deal of the strategy for the “E.X.T.E.N.S.I.O.N.S.”.
D: What do you understand by strategy? Do you have some practical examples?
For example, we didn’t do a presentation which starts at 8 and finishes at 9 which is a code to get and define an audience. We didn’t work in a theatre, because we didn’t want the audience to see this as a product with the expectation that it implies (I pay this and I get that). Entrance was free of charge, and we worked from 10.00 a.m. till 5.00 p.m. five days a week. We didn’t work in a studio-rehearsal space; because we didn’t want that the audience had expectations of an open-rehearsal, or a work in progress.
The whole project should be understood as a production being a performance for other subjectivities, which is very pretentious and utopic as project. But we tried and we worked in a gymnasium which allows us to go out of some dispositifs attached to the production and the reception of choreography.
This project created also a certain kind of spectatorship because the modes of presentation were very far from usual ones. Maybe too far and it didn’t allow for example to have an audience like in a theatre. This was missing because the questions were coming from there and were addressed to the spectators who would go to a theatre to watch a dance performance. It might be a paradox but now we work on how to transform some aspects coming from this project into a theatre situation.
D: Tell me about your interest in games.
X: In our society in general games are understood as being a kind of second reality, something which is not really real or a bit unreal. But at the same time it’s completely real because the game exists only if you play it. It is telling a lot about how we understand reality. So it has a double sense which is also for the player, he or she has a role which is at the same time fake, like every role but also “real” for the duration of the game. This is also something we have in society in most situations of our daily life. That’s one major reason why I am interested in games. I try to displace into games these questions about society. I’m not interested in games as a metaphor of society, but more as a connection between different understandings about fake, real, performed, authentic… I try to use these ideas in my work.
D: There might be another aspect to mention: what does it mean to understand games as an aesthetic structure? Seeing art through the concept of the game could liberate it from many ideas that it is traditionally loaded with, being an exceptional, extraordinary object of understanding, which has to be interpreted and ultimately brings us to some idea of truth etc. Maybe the idea of games could propose, as Ruth Sonderegger wrote, a different idea of autonomy in art. Not autonomous from society, but autonomous in a sense that it produces a specific and singular aesthetic experience.
X: … yes, maybe.. I don’t have an answer but it makes me think about one aspect which might relate to this idea about autonomy and aesthetics.
According to some exchanges with some spectators during some experiences in “E.X.T.E.N.S.I.O.N.S.” or “project”, when you watch something which seems to be a game, most of the time you first try to understand the rules but why, don’t we do so when we watch choreography? In general spectators don’t look for the rules of choreography but rather look for an extraordinary experience or physical exception or illusion (this is of course a bit too general and too quick). So to bring an idea of games in a theatre and work on choreography about this has certainly to do with question about aesthetics of perception. But my goal is not to represent games or the aesthetics of games. Actually I think this relates to a question I have about the role of recognition in the process of perception. I am interested in the fact that if for the spectators something is represented that’s because he or she recognises something or constructs a recognition. At the same time as spectators we are also seeking for something new. So that’s a paradox or impossibility…
What interests me in using games is to trigger these different kinds of perception, the one looking for the rules to understand or using the rules to enjoy the dramaturgy and the one where you actually make your own rules. My wish is to set up a situation where actually the performers as well as the spectators come and go between these 2 activities. That’s what I wish the piece “project” will become.
D: I wanted to ask you other things but we probably have already too much material for the size of the text this should produce…
X: yes too much, but we can use it for something else.
D: shall we stop?
X: Yes, let’s stop here.