The apocalypse according to Hofesh Shechter

Grand Finale sounds like an apotheosis. In reality it’s a compilation, some enlivened Shechterian abstract. The Israeli choreographer gathered all of his distinguishing features including his very Rabbi Jacob-esque moves in this testament. War and violence, both recurring themes since Political Mother in 2010 are explicitly referred to through images of terrorism. There are very few moments without bodies dropping or corpses being dragged. In case one had forgotten what the world looks like in this early XXIth century, Grand Finale is a heavy reminder.

Hofesh Shechter, Grand Finale, illustration by Araso
Hofesh Shechter, Grand Finale, illustration by Araso

One can argue that Hofesh Shechter doesn’t renew himself much. But is it necessary? Upon seeing these bodies convulsing over highly saturated basses, this oven-sky night club, these dancers over performing a physical exuberance, one  is tempted to think they could die after spending just one night dancing like that.

Over the thick black walls ready-to-print gravestones, beyond the live orchestra hopping on stage in a hotchpotch of sounds of the world: there they are. Precious moments of wild, tribal and uncompromising dance.  


Hofesh Shechter, Grand Finale, world premiere in La Villette with the Théâtre de la Ville until June 24th 2017 

Illustration © Araso


Ali Charhour's ballet of shadows

Each and every move happens on the dot in this performance. Everything is under control yet reeks of freedom.

With May he rise and smell the fragrance, Ali Charhour glorifies the voice of a woman in mourning while playing with the codes of a both traditional and modern Arabic world. She sings the lamentations as her son (Ali Charhour), still warm, is laying convulsing at her feet. Her phenomenal vocal spectrum covers lullabies and the barking of a bitch with equal grace. The body is uncensored, but by its own hair. The thick, black hair of stunning Hala Omran cascades down her naked breasts in the same way that Abed Kobeissy’s covers his face. The latter forms the musical Two or The Dragon with Ali Hout, also performing on stage with his hair down to lower back. 

Hala Omran in May he rise and smell the fragrance by Ali Charhour, illustration © Araso
Hala Omran in May he rise and smell the fragrance by Ali Charhour, illustration © Araso

Traditional dances find a second life nested in Ali Charhour’s frail yet grown masculine pelvis. His slender silhouette beats the floor to the rhythm of the percussions playing live or to the silence of his own body hitting the surface.

A series of incredibly poignant images are put in depth of field with cinematographic aesthetics thanks to a brilliant kaleidoscopical light design.

Somewhere between dream, death, femininity and poetry, a male raises from of the ashes. 


Performance seen on June 6th 2017 at the Théâtre de l’Aquarium within the June Events Festival.


Nicht Schlafen: Alain Platel's plea for the 21st century

The style of Alain Platel’s dance company, the “ballets C de la B”, has grown so familiar we tend to forget that once upon a time the Belgian choreographer was starting off as a self-taught-man. Those pelvis, legs and feet are the anchor of explicit movements, those arms cutting through the air, those grabbing, caressing and tearing hands are as many shades of the sublime.  

Nicht Schlafen plays with all of the above-mentioned codes. By way of introduction, please find attached some torn gunny  walls and a strange altar of dead horses. The decor makes a unique time zone happen, where the early years of an uncertain and shaky 20th century and the beginning of this century with its load of bucked up nationalisms, Trumps, Daesh and Brexit overlap.

Nicht Schlafen, Alain Platel, illustration Araso
Nicht Schlafen, Alain Platel, illustration Araso

Steven Prengels’s musical landscapes, the dangling mikes amplifying mouvements on the set and the beasts gasping beyond the grave create panoramas for archaic beauties and anxiety. The implicit words of historian Philipp Blom about Europe between 1900 and 1914 resonate through Gustav Mahler’s most famous symphonies including the masterful tear-filling 5th.

One could not have dreamt of a better way to re-open MC93 after the venue had shut down for three years to undergo major transformations. Those caravagesque images, flamboyant bodies, tribal incantations sung and knocked on the floor by voracious animals with absolute abnegation lay the foundations for tomorrow. 


Nicht Schlafen, performance seen at MC93 in Bobigny between May 24th and May 27th 2017.
Currently on a European tour


Damien Hirst Palazzo Grassi (c) Araso

Damien Hirst knows how to build a brand

With his current exhibition at Palazzo Grassi in Venice, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, Damien Hirst positions himself not only as a visual artist whose creativity blossoms in many ramifications but as an expert in story-telling

The concept is rooted in a real legend: the tale of Cif Amotan II, an emancipated slave of the Roman empire. His fortune made, he gathered his wealth amongst which an army of artworks and artefacts and loaded it on his boat the Apistos. The ship wrecked whilst sailing towards a temple where the collector intended to store his treasure. 

Damien Hirst, Demon with Bowl, Palazzo Grassi, Venezia

In the show, it’s incredibly hard to tell the true from he fake : from the Demon with Bowl, an 18-metre high resin sculpture of a giant without a head, supposedly a copy of an original piece found onboard, to the wonderfully detailed documentaries, everything is larger than life.

Damien Hirst, Andromeda and the Sea Monster, Palazzo Grassi, Venezia
Damien Hirst, Andromeda and the Sea Monster, Palazzo Grassi, Venezia

Next to hyper realistic piece, a seashell Mickey amongst other works sets the visitor thinking. Damien Hirst follows the logic endlessly with copies of fakes and fakes of fakes.

Damien Hirst, Mickey, Palazzo Grassi, Venezia
Damien Hirst, Mickey, Palazzo Grassi, Venezia

A stroke of genius, the exhibition attracts growing crowds and has already become viral. DNA, indefinitely declinable codes, an element from the past, a glamorous character and the treasure hunt as a hook : all of the ingredients for success are aboard this ship. 

Contact us for a more detailed analysis.


Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable, at Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana in Venice, until December 3rd  2017  

Images © Araso and Mathieu Dochtermann


The 4 unmissable Pavilions of the Biennale di Venezia

Germany : Faust

The Biennale has just opened with an endless line outside of the German pavilion. For her Faust, the whole concept of which is a performance, Anne Imhof was awarded the Golden Lion of the 57th contemporary art Biennale di Venezia.

Around the building two young Dobermans, their ears and tails still untouched, quiver behind a several-feet-high wire meshed gate. They yelp while playing with pet toys with enough enthusiasm to scare away the adventurous few or the distracted strollers. They seem harmless but one can never be too cautious. 

It turns out humans are wilder than animals. An army of performers with icy faces on androgynous bodies evolve both in the inside and the outside spaces, climbing up fences, perching.

The pavilion’s brilliant scenography puts the spotlight on voyeurism. Glass is the main component of the premisses including a false floor, podiums and culminating platforms. The performers subtly navigate the space under people’s feet and up in the air across three different rooms. A corridor connects the main room to its two annexes where fire hoses, soap and towels lay on the floor. In a corner a black leather mattress, some knives and harnesses can be found.  

Biennale-all

Androgynous icons, part gothic, part SM, part sportswear, actors are elevated to the rank of idols. Each of their single move -often sudden and abrupt, gives rise to a wave of excitement and admiration in the room. The master to slave relationship shows in the hand to hands, a savvy dosage of love and war making. A girl with a deep voice sings to a piano melody. 

The movements of the crowd are as fascinating as the performance itself. The human tide moving up and down becomes the piece.  

It turns out humans are wilder than animals.

Beyond voyeurism, the project questions the objectification of men. The watcher becomes the watched, exposed and photographed. The observer becomes the subject without knowing. Smartphones scrutinize the crowd taking unwelcome shots and videos of stranger faces. Below the see-though floors, the professional photographers taking millions of pictures may or may not be part of the show. The performance erases the notion of the spectator as we know it. One has to be ready to become the subject of a live experiment anywhere anytime. But are we really up for it ?

The audience’s behavior highlights another societal phenomena known as Fear Of Missing Out or FOMO. Ironically in Faust, the best strategy probably is to stay in one spot. The experience is then amplified by enhanced observation and goes way beyond just looking. Through its constant movement, the piece forces the viewer to position themselves. Seeing everything in a click of the mouse or the slide of a thumb is impossible. The visitor with this standpoint will only be frustrated, stressed and ultimately evict themselves. To appreciate is to make choices. 

Greece: Laboratory of Dilemmas

With a classic yet efficient plan, video artist George Rivas turns the Greek pavilion into a smart allegory of today’s scientific, geopolitic and demographic issues with a clear allusion to migratory flows. 

Buried in a dark yet extremely circumscribed environment, the visitor encounters retro video tapes and audio recordings. The premise of the installation, a well-known technique, is that a series of documents related to a secret research on hepatitis cells dating back to some unspecified long time ago is finally uncovered and introduced to the public. Starting from the paradigm of the king’s dilemma in Aeschylus’ play Iketides (the Suppliant Women), the piece is asking whether one should save the natives or welcome the newcomers.

The Laboratory of Dilemmas relies on a double deck maze of screens and recordings punctuating each angle. On the first floors, films, on the ground floor, sounds, in the exiting room: THE film. The public follows the peregrinations of the research team like a mini TV show. Upon discovering the molecule that should eradicate all forms of hepatitis forever, the scientists realize that the new cells, the product of their experiment, can only survive if they cannibalize the stem cells. From then on they are faced with a cornelian choice: extract the new cells and breed them separately with nearly no chance of success, or let them kill the stem cells, thus throwing away years of research. 

In the corridor one can hear the advocates of pros and cons debating. « If we kill the original cells, we just throw away all those years of research » then « we should give this new form of life a chance! ». Can the old and the new live together? Do the tradition, the familiar and the known have to make way for progress and its compulsory share of uncertainty? 

When faced with change, one gets carried away by two opposite streams: the Ancient has to go causing some incompressible pain whilst the New asserts itself bearing the promise of something better. The hardship of giving up customary comfort adds to the mourning of past accomplishments. In Laboratory of Dilemma the scientist in charge of the experiment is torn and desperate. « I cannot personally make this decision! »

The hardship of giving up our customary comfort adds to the mourning of past accomplishments.

The last room is a short film about the last executive committee’s meeting. Gathered around a rectangular wooden table presided by Charlotte Rampling, the stakeholders argue about the experiment’s outcome. Whilst the finance guy standing for the capital insists on showing the investors reassuring figures, the president shifts the debate down to the individual:  « Our objective when we started this experiment was very specific and cannot be altered. (…) You cannot personally make the decision to change the world ».

Korea 
Counterbalance: The Stone and The Mountain

The Korean pavilion is hard to miss with its huge neon billboard Venetian Rhapsody, a combination of American motels, Las Vegas and contemporary urban Korean landscape inspiration. Its claim: « Pole Dance, Free Video TV, Free Narcissistic People Disorder, Free Peep Show, Major Credit Cards, Free Orgasm ». What a heavy schedule. 

Brilliantly designed by artist Cody Choi the place is a burlesque mausoleum echoing the Korean war in which 200 000 soldiers died. Packed with postcards, small altars, prayers, objects such as a pair of latex slippers that used to belong to a 100 year old lady, medallions, identity pictures and family portraits, press covers of president Kim’s death, the walls call for intimacy. 

The place is undoubtedly a tribute to the dead of Korean’s no man’s land viewed though the lens of today’s contemporary culture. Cody Choi, known for his acid-kitsch pop aesthetics, furnished it with toilet paper sculptures, embedded nude photographs and a lonely pole dance in a red light looking as though it’d just been dug out in an archeological search, just like its nearby companions, an old couple of TV monitors on top of each other. 

Welcome, Pole Dance, Free Video TV, Free Narcissistic People Disorder, Free Peep Show, Major Credit Cards, Free Orgasm

This half museum half curiosity lab contrasts with the proposition made by Moon Kyungwon & Jeon Joonho two years ago, all in futuristic immersive video installations. It lacks neither intelligence nor humour nor depth. 

Japan: Turned Upside Down, It’s a Forest

Plastic artist Takahiro Iwasaki showcases an abstract of Japanese culture in line with his work on the way we look at objects and symbolism. Turned Upside Down, It’s a forest is an ode to wood and obsession to detail. His temples hanging up in the air reveal their hidden half, as if their reflection on water was made tangible. It looks as though a fairytale had unveiled its psychology with some extra care for miniaturist things and particularities. 

japon

One walks in like in a sacred place, disturbed by the pile of clothing shaping a well to the floor below. The visitor is invited to glance at the installation from under, with their eyes at feet level casting an astounded glance behind the scenes.

Somewhere in an angle, an oil slick awaits to be wiped out by the neighbouring detergent and broom.

Opposite is an altar where books pile up, a summary of Japanese culture through litterature from spiritual to erotic to manga.

This vernacular immersion is less spectacular, maybe less poetic than Chiaru Shiota’s odyssey two years ago, whereby hundreds of old keys were tied to hanging red fishing nets, but it is not less noticeable.


La Biennale di Venezia, Giardini, until Novembre 26th 2017, Venice, Italy. 

Images © Araso & Mathieu Dochtermann


Love of Grandeur

pascALEjandro is the artistic fusion of Pascale and Alejandro Jodorowsky, the « perfect alchemical androgynous », a combination of the best of femininity and masculinity. As close as it may sound to Barjavel’s The Ice People, the concept has given birth to a prolific artistic collaboration, of which the backstage is being unveiled. There is no way around their special wedding announcement that summarizes in itself the beauty and megalomania of the project.

To love is to create something together

@Galerie Azzedine Alaia
@Galerie Azzedine Alaia

Images (Happy End, La veuve, Sous le sable…) and film excerpts (Poesìa sin Fin, La Danza de la Realidad) are as fascinating on a psychoanalytical level as they are strong and moving, one of Jodorowsky’s trademarks. The feminine figure is both caring and threatening by turns, like in Picasso’s work, whereas man oscillates between the cherish child and the hunted animal. Entire parts of the exhibition including Le poids du passé, Allegria !, Allegria !, Allegria ! break away like particules of Dune. 

It is not love that unites us, you and I were united before we were born

@Galerie Azzedine Alaia
@Galerie Azzedine Alaia

One enters the den feeling like a distinguished guest called in with great simplicity to decipher creative intimacy, as one reads tarot cards.


The Azzedine Alaïa Gallery exhibits PascALEjandro’s work, Alchemical Androgynous, until July 9th 2017 everyday from 11 am to 7 pm. Free entrance – 18 rue de la Verrerie, 75004 Paris

Visuels @Galerie Azzedine Alaia