Peeping Tom: in Mother's name

Moeder. The Mother. There always comes a time in life when parents and children switch roles. The parent becomes the child with that same need for care and support till the end of life. In the meantime, one may try to be building their own life, sometimes whilst giving birth.

Following Vader (Father) in 2014, which takes place in a nursing home, Peeping Tom dance company reaches a new level of creativity with this new opus, characterized by a wild sense of humour and enhanced by their usual creative genius. They establish a compressed time zone that puts each generation and their neurosis on an equal footing.

Moeder, Peeping Tom, illustration by Araso
Moeder, Peeping Tom, illustration by Araso

A museum attendant just like his father who also works with him, the boy has to face simultaneously his mother’s death, his father’s widowhood and the birth of his first child, a daughter permanently placed in an incubator, a box that becomes too tight as the girl turns seven.

In this quicksand of hospital and museum, anything can happen at any time. A drawing of a heart suddenly starts bleeding from the wall, a living sculpture turns into a zither player and a kleptomaniac heiress makes mad love to the coffee machine.

In the world of the Peeping Tom, shady and sparkly are never too far apart.

Moeder was seen at the Théâtre de l’Onde in Vélizy-Villacoublay on April 22nd 2017.

Carte Blanche César Vayssié à la Ménagerie de Verre: Volmir Cordeiro, Julia Perazzini, Raphaëlle Delaunay et Dominique Gilliot by Araso

The happy marriage of art and technology as celebrated by César Vayssié

Cocking a snook at the electoral holograms in the last runs of the French presidential race, César Vayssié’s carte blanche at the Ménagerie de Verre, of which he is an associate this season, is a select apéro with handpicked friends. Its symbol is the Spritz, with its ice cubes and orange slices calling out for summer.

Dancers and non-dancers, performer/storyteller and actress engage in à deux or groups silent conversations through live screens. This is exalted generation Y, a larger than life snapchat or skype.

Carte Blanche to César Vayssié at the Ménagerie de Verre: Volmir Cordeiro, Julia Perazzini, Raphaëlle Delaunay and Dominique Gilliot by Araso
Carte Blanche to César Vayssié at the Ménagerie de Verre: Volmir Cordeiro, Julia Perazzini, Raphaëlle Delaunay and Dominique Gilliot by Araso

Volmir Cordeiro’s long silhouette plays hide and seek with a hoody, Raphaëlle Delaunay in mini-short and multi-coloured pants moves in a slow-motion kind of hip hop, Julia Perazzini, with her red lips and her trickling hair embodies melancholy with grace and Dominique Gilliot brings in some comic relief at the mike. Meanwhile, host César punctuates the show with out of sync interventions, either in a tuxedo or a t-shirt whilst appearing pregnant with a balloon.

A sublime light design enhances the primary colours, flashing greens, flamboyant reds and intimate blues giving to the party, besides a hangover after-taste, its population of lonely souls looking for a new kind of collective harmony.

Carte Blanche to César Vayssié, performance seen at the Ménagerie de Verre on April 21st 2017, with Volmir Cordeiro, Raphaëlle Delaunay, Julia Perazzini, Dominique Gilliot and César Vayssié.

Illustrations © Araso

Karin Viard's humanity lesson

We would have loved an even more radical, truer, freer Vera. Karin Viard’s version of her character is delightful yet too light although a tiny over loud-mouthed. An archetype in due form, she doesn’t go in for subtleties.

Perched on her patent leather pumps, hugged in her red leather pencil skirt, her lips painted in eternal red, she wears her blond hair braided in a crown, a striking resemblance to Ioulia Tymochenko. Vera is the epitome of the self-made lady with an iron will. Compassion has deserted her breastfed by the most violent kind of ultra-liberal capitalism body.

Vera is the epitome of the self-made lady with an iron will.

Karin Viard in Vera. Illustration © Araso
Karin Viard in Vera. Illustration © Araso

As she started her casting agency, Vera made success her new religion, and consumo ergo sum her credo. And yes, she goes as far as counting the roses on her father’s tomb – just to make sure she didn’t get swindled. And so what? An even bigger corporation bought out her company. The world is at her feet.

It’s never too late to walk away.

It turns out the war machine that’s just swallowed her and her business is even greedier that she is. And they are quick to be rid of the old school tyrant.

As the system spits her out like an undigested molecule, Vera recalls with emotion France, Karin Viard’s character in Cedric Kalpisch’s movie Ma part du gâteau  (My piece of the pie).

We all have known at least one Vera. We might even have been in her shoes for a while. Either way, it’s never too late to walk away.

Vera was seen at the Théâtre de la Ville – Les Abbesses in April 2017

Vera is a play by Petr Zelenka, translated from Czech by Alena Sluneckova, stage version by Pierre Notte, stage direction by Élise Vigier & Marcial Di Fonzo Bo assisted by Alexis Lameda, decor Marc Lainé, Stephan Zimmerli, costumes Anne Schotte, make-up and wigs Cécile Kretschmar, images Nicolas Mesdom, Romain Tanguy, Quentin Vigier.

With Karin Viard, Helena Noguerra, Lou Valentini, Pierre Maillet, Marcial Di Fonzo Bo, Rodolfo De Souza.

Another distinguée: La Ribot’s pagan High Mass

Another distinguée is one of La Ribot’s wild escapes, the Distinguées, which the Madrid-born choreographer has taken around galleries and museums for the past 23 years. In this powerful sample, images explode in voracious desire, hungry for flesh and colors.

It all begins with the blind walk-in of a disoriented crowd pacing mechanically to the sound of transe music.

In the dark, the audience gets the notion of some vague mount covered in ugly tarpaulin. Two bodies, then a third come out of nowhere, their faces masked with black nylon, dressed-up in hugging black vinyle outfits covered in nude nylons, which they fanatically rip apart with insatiable snips of scissors. Bodies randomly crash into the crowd as they come, too bad for the voyeur whose eyes happened to be to close from the flying blades. A victorious La Ribot, the gladiator in the arena, uncovers her face and sways about before attacking her next victim.

La Ribot, Another Distinguée, illustration © Araso
La Ribot, Another Distinguée, illustration © Araso

The cutting is the red thread of if this itinerant black mass. Bodies marked with red and black felt pens, pieces of clothing chopped directly on the skins, La Ribot in an upside down position with her head buried in the tarpaulin recall the Chinese Revolution when the « extravagants » were chased down on the streets and their clothes ripped apart on the spot. For the victim: shame, often suicide. In Another Distinguée instead, bodies engage in a pas de deux for three rag dolls fucking whilst looking into emptiness.

The last image is addictive. « They have fallen asleep, we have to let you go now » the guard whispers to the last few hypnotized disciples.

Performance seen at the Centre Pompidou on April 7th 2017.

PERFORMERS: La Ribot, Juan Lo­riente , Thami Ma­ne­kehla

Illustration © Araso

Twerk: Josephine Baker’s secret children

Paris 1920s. Josephine Baker, lead dancer at the Folies Bergères, creates her famous Danse Sauvage, giving birth to the iconic banana skirt. Her unprecedented style, her erotic moves and her funny side shook up the old continent in its colonial vision of black culture. Joséphine, frowned-upon by puritan USA, propels on European scenes a great deal of glitz and glamour topped with her irresistible humor, which continues to inspire others to this day.

Her unprecedented style, her erotic moves and her funny side shook up the old continent in its colonial vision of black culture.

With Twerk, François Chaignaud and Cecilia Bengolea pursue their work on popular music, of which they accentuate the audacious, sensual and provocative sides with an outstanding physical performance. On DJ Sylvere’s overpowering blasting music, yellow lips suck on ice sticks whose colors match those of the outfits. Unbridled rhythms, freed bodies and an Ibiza-worthy light creation shine up to the last rows.


Anna Pi, Cecilia Bengolea and Alex Mugler in Twerk, illustration © Araso
Anna Pi, Cecilia Bengolea and Alex Mugler in Twerk, illustration © Araso

The backside muscles duo between a François Chaignaud in a nude thong crowned with a wig à la Afida Turner and an ultra-synchronized Alex Mugler in pink pants, both of them doing the splits, is the banana belt of the 21th century.

Performance seen within Répertoire, Carte Blanche to Cecilia Bengolea and François Chaignaud at the CND, on March 31st 2017.

Bertrand Lavier is the voice of contemporary art

In 800 Signs

It’s growing increasingly difficult to discuss contemporary art without mentioning Bertrand Lavier at one point or another. A little bit like the coats rack that Marcel Duchamp kept stumbling upon to the point he finally decided to nail it to the floor. The afore mentioned object, Trébuchet (Trap) is currently exhibited at La Monnaie in Paris where only a few months ago Bertrand Lavier’s solo show Merci Raymond took place (read on in French).

Why some keep on denying him France’s representation at the Venice Biennale remains to this day an unravelled mystery. Let’s move on to the meagre consolation that the artist will only be more available to fully explore other creative leads.

More Signs

There are several ways to explore his show, A cappella, at Almine Rech’s Gallery in Paris until April 15th.

Let’s opt for a first tour of the premises, rough and ready, devoid of any codes. It consists in wandering randomly through the works, driven by chance within the limits of our own intuition. Here, the coarsely shaped plaster statue, a corpulent silhouette in-between a Niki de Saint Phalle and a golem. There, two 170cm high stone columns, rather common except for two majors details both anachronic and antinomic: are those incrusted car lights?!

The following room is home to the first two copies of a strange series made of sinusoidal lines. We find out it’s Walt Disney Productions, a lineage started in 2017. Facing a triplet of monochromes (a heresy? a rupture in style?) signal panels announcing nearby points of interest : Paysages Aixois (landscapes of Aix) and Sombernon. If one can wonder whether in real life (meaning outside of MuCEM) they are likely to bump into a real signal for a paysage aixois, they get even more puzzled that a town with such an obscure name might exists except for a failed pun (“Sombre” meaning “dark” and “nom” meaning “name” in French). But still…

Let’s dare to take another look: the plate available from the gallery’s reception desk turns out to be a precious tool. Indeed, the Holy Graal reveals the titles of the exhibited works, an essential component of Bertrand Lavier’s art. And then we hear it: our own laughter reverberating on the white immaculate walls of the gallery.

The third walk-through takes us to the next level –if it were still necessary. The one where the passenger can fully enjoy the ride.

The statue of the lady with questionable proportions is la Venus d’Amiens, which Palais de Tokyo had already showcased in 2016 seizing the opportunity to interview the artist about the genesis of the piece. The original Venus, found in Amiens’ Rénancourt neighbourhood, is 24000 years old. It was found in 19 pieces. The fact called out to Lavier : « I could have stepped on it without noticing there was a sculpture ». Compelled by the photograph of this statue on the verge of becoming « a small heap of pebbles », he sets his mind on conducting an experiment and confront the archeological discovery with sculpture. He made it bigger and amplified selected details. To get it done, Lavier first contemplated a very contemporary material, something that would be very 21th century. Seeing a sculpture by Courbet whilst he was visiting Ornans’s museum made Lavier change his mind: his Venus would be made of plaster. All of a sudden it seemed like stating the obvious; plaster was the sole material that would make his Venus a model just like classics such as Milo’s Venus, whilst making it unarguably contemporary. The selected material enables a «compression in time of 24000 years» Lavier says. «It’s an upside-down world. Great sculptures end up in plaster, the Venus of Amiens starts in plaster».

Bertrand Lavier, La Venus d'Amiens, 2016
Bertrand Lavier, La Venus d’Amiens, 2016

Here is the visitor faced with the columns again: Colonne Lancia and Colonne Ford. Inspired by ready-made and archeology excavations, they stand for a response to the whilst establishing a dialog with hypothetical extraterrestrials looking for tokens of life on Earth. The two totemic figures recall pagan cults as much as the brand mythology phenomena. Once again, this compressed notion of time tackles the issue of the rise of religions, the articulation of their symbols and their rooting into collective consciousness.

Bertrand Lavier, Colonne Lancia et Colonne Ford, 2017
Bertrand Lavier, Colonne Lancia et Colonne Ford, 2017

Here come the monochromes : Bleu de Cobalt Foncé, Jaune de Cadmium, Vert de Cobalt. The complete series is a 2017 production. From a distance, they are just monochromes in thick layers of paint, a typical Lavier pattern except that the underlying object is missing. Take a closer look and there is no such thing. Underneath the paint applied in coarse layers, there are, ab initio, the customary painted objects. Bertrand Lavier has indeed painted over the  original photography of the painted object, in the very exact tone of its ascendance, thus creating the ultimate trompe l’œil, self-produced by the magic of the synecdoche effect -or through a Russian doll phenomena, according to individual taste.

Bertrand Lavier, Bleu de Cobalt foncé, 2017
Bertrand Lavier, Bleu de Cobalt foncé, 2017

Echoing back to them are the painted-over signal panels sweetly titled Paysages aixois (2014) et Sombernon (2016). The latter town does really exist and is a small bucolic and picturesque municipality of the French Côte d’Or, an area slightly bigger than 13 km2 where a bit less than 1000 living souls reside. By giving it a front-row seat, Bertrand Lavier questions once again our capacity to see as much the details as the big picture. He managed to create an iconography whereby the detail is extended so much that it leaves no room to the indifferent or jaded eye. Each of his works establishes a little deeper the accuracy of his outlook on the world and his great indecency to explore what falls through the cracks of more and more vulgar news headlines and the sanction of raised thumbs on the web.

Bertrand Lavier, Sombernon, 2016
Bertrand Lavier, Sombernon, 2016

Bertrand Lavier’s work stands for what brings contemporary art closer and farther away from the public altogether. Greatly profound, its depth is declined in an infinity of readability levels and puts the neophyte off but has an irresistible ingredient to retain the hesitating yet curious character and turn him into an addict: humour. It is empirically proven that Bertrand Lavier’s art makes people happy. Betraying a perfect command of the history of art, a great technical confidence and a sharp intelligence, the work is merely the reflection of its creator: humble, generous and beaming with contagious joy.

Bertrand Lavier, A capella, at the Almine Rech Gallery in Paris until April 15th 2017

Visuals courtesy Galerie Almine Rech