Serious players

Atol’s Adriana collection, recent campaigns by Kenzo, Dior, Louis Vuitton, along with Paris 2017 D’ Days tagline, “Let’s play”… Marketing has erected a temple for fun and declared it the new religion.

But a different wind is blowing over the kingdom of video games. In the basement one can find serious games for smartphones. I love potatoes (CA 2015) suggests more responsible ways to consume. Smokitten (FR 2017) helps you quit smoking thanks to an adorable kitten and Minecraft (USA 2016) is a learning tool using digital LEGOs.

Marcus through the years
Marcus through the years

It is true that serious games have existed since the 18th century namely through war strategy simulators. As early as the 15th century, the concept of Serio Ludere is the playful approach one can find to a serious situation. Nowadays, this contradiction in terms reveal what a sociological marker video games are.

Throughout the years, the mascots (Pac-Man, Sonic, Mario…), the creators (Michel Ancel, Hideo Kojima), the platforms and a few collectible ads (SEGA, it’s stronger than you) the exhibition creates a rather comprehensive, clever panorama of the Homo Ludens and what it says about the world.

Game, video game through the yearsan exhibition at the EDF Foundation until August 27th 2017.

Visuals © Araso

Beauty is a moveable feast for Yves-Noël Genod

Life is a moveable feast. Or so it is for Yves-Noël Genod and this bunch of sixteen 20-year old.

There is the model, the gifted schizophrenic actor, the black diva with the voice of Amy Winehouse singing Jeff Buckley’s Lilac Wine a cappella, Proust’ Albertine in a full vegetable print outfit. Miles away from the jaded apathetic 3.0 youngster archetype, these kids lack neither passion nor French kissing abilities.

La Beauté Contemporaine, Contemporary Beauty by Yves-Noël Genod
La Beauté Contemporaine, Contemporary Beauty by Yves-Noël Genod

Nothing is exactly where it’s supposed to be. Actors come in and out through each of the backstage doors, interrupt each other constantly, chat in Dutch about the latest Star Wars whilst a girl is giving a poignant speech about origins. This tower of Babel relies on meticulous aesthetics. Proust’s La Recherche meets Chassol’s Pipornithology. On a floor, a tubular lighting system projects the colors of a fun fair that will blow into a giant foam party.

It’s hard to tell where it starts and where it ends. “In this house we work with time” says Yves-Noël Genod as a warning that the play will be 1 hour and 50 minutes long. Too bad we don’t feel it them passing by.

La Beauté Contemporaine, (Contemporary Beauty) by Yves Noël Genod, from March 14th to 16th 2017 at the Ménagerie de Verre within the Etrange Cargo Festival

Illustrations © Araso

Balenciaga, Bourdelle: a stroll in the antechamber of beauty

In 800 Signs

Balenciaga was an ambidexter. Suspicious, wary, he used to present his work one month away from Paris runways to protect it from plagiarists. He would always operate in absolute silence, with the cut as his one single obsession. Far from ostentatious glamour, Balenciaga designed volumes without tulle or corset, invented silk gazar with Swiss manufacturer Abraham. He formed those balloon dresses from 1950s and 1960s which sealed the reputation of the House forever.

A dialog of beauties: Balenciaga, Bourdelle. Photography © Araso
A dialog of beauties: Balenciaga, Bourdelle. Photography © Araso

More signs


Inside his ivory tower of 10 Avenue George V in Paris, the Spanish Master created collections for the elite of the elite. Black infant women, dressed like ramparts for these spiritual heiresses of el Greco and Zurbarán. A maestro beyond reproach, Balenciaga is dubbed by his peers, including Chanel, who will say « he was the only one of us, couturiers, who knew how to sew, draw and cut » and the Maison Christian Dior: « Haute couture is an orchestra that only Balenciaga knows how to conduct, all of us, the other designers, merely follow his lead. » In 1950, whilst Cristóbal is on top of his fame, a certain André Courrèges writes to him: « I want to work for you, for free, like the last apprentice ». By a strange twist of fate, it is because of André Courrèges’ success that in 1968 Balenciaga deems his time is over and closes his couture house.

Balenciaga inside the Bourdelle Museum, Illustration © Araso
Balenciaga inside the Bourdelle Museum, Illustration © Araso

These beauties now come out of their tissues from Palais Galliera’s conservation rooms to go back to another atelier, that of sculptor and painter Antoine Bourdelle and once again display their marvels to the public. Beauties from the past dialog over nymphs’ sculptures and end of the XIXth century portraits. What are they saying? Probably that not so long ago in the middle of templating and tacking, fashion would create timeless icons. Powerful images worthy of featuring in the Pantheon of works of art. Unbeatable mat blacks, shiny blacks, see-through blacks. Gazing at their own beauty in the light of 2017’s fashion, they probably laugh, at least a little.

Balenciaga, l’oeuvre au Noir, an exhibition by the Palais Galliera at the Musée Bourdelle in Paris, until July 16th 2017

François Chaignaud, Cecilia Bengolea et Hanna Hedman dans Dub Love au CND

Dub Love: an orgy of glitter, sound and sweat

After Pâquerette, it’s a five-year time leap ahead. In 2013 Dub Love, François Chaignaud, Cecilia Bengolea and Hanna Hedman (in lieu of Ana Pi) do the splits between pointe and dub. The nightlife and its glitter stick to the bodies and penetrate the skins.

François Chaignaud, Cecilia Bengolea and Hanna Hedman in Dub Love, CND
François Chaignaud, Cecilia Bengolea and Hanna Hedman in Dub Love, CND

Remixed live by MatDTSound, High Elements’ riddims (“rhythm” in Jamaican) make the audience dance. The Grand Studio’s thick concrete walls tremble as a giant speakers wall spits out loud basses. Dub surfs the reggae wave. Dub is the growing part played by sound engineers in popular music, blending the boundaries between styles. Dub is also a kind of digital, as “dubbing” is the process of transferring formats from one medium to another whithe the aim of restoring and saving.

Saving the festive side of dance, the joie de vivre, a sense of gap and highlight. Dressed in leotards, bodies are running with sweat, François’s makeup is melting, specks of glitter dust are trickling down onto the floor. Dub love is an orgy of vibrations, the haven after the battle.

Performance seen within the rerun of François Chaignaud and Cecilia Bengolea’s repertoire at the CND in Pantin, February-March 2017

Illustration © Araso

Positions emerge from chaos -and so does the Blitz Theatre Group

To believe in Europe still. To start a construction site. To walk the dead. What is this stooped girl in a purple gown coming to tell us, dragging an axe behind? She says in Greek a text inspired by Friedrich Hölderlin’s Menon’s Lament for Diotima, which begins as follows: « Daily I search, now here, now there my wandering takes me. »

It is thus the heart of German romanticism the spokeswoman with zombie looks chooses to call upon, to help the young find their way in the haze of dawn. Everything is still to be built on this abrupt zany ground as kites take off, casting a rain of silver confetti on the suicide bodies.

The seven protagonists keep on erecting scaffoldings which keep on falling down, and on it goes for those modern Sisyphus figures . One can read the myth two ways, and see in it either the miserable worker doomed to the eternal cycle, or the founder of Corinth who managed to defeat Thanatos. Positions emerge from chaos.

6 A.M. HOW TO DISAPPEAR COMPLETELY is a performance by Greek collective Blitz Theatre Group, presented at the festival d’Avignon in July 2016 and seen while on tour at the Nouveau Théâtre de Montreuil from February 23rd to 28th 2017 with the Théâtre de la Ville.

Dieudonné Niangouna’s totemic fevers

The leading figure of Congolese drama scene meets the late Sony Labou Tansi, a monument of literature in the two Congos. Pain and hope. Rebellion and torture. It’s sharp, it’s hot, sometimes inaudible.

Erected in the centre of the set around/on which the audience takes place, a fetishist construction made of everything and anything stands for a mausoleum, dressing room, make-up room and decor. The sacred made desacralised.

One of Dieudonné Niangouna's preparatory sketches
One of Dieudonné Niangouna’s preparatory sketches

This hunt for verticality on wheels (which seems very close to the one seen the same week with the Blitz Theatre Group) is that of a self, which can barely sit together and doesn’t know what it’s made of anymore. Its only hope lays in Antoine, a fallen prince locked up in a cell following a failed coup d’état. A plastic dummy in a pale skin is all that’s left of him.

Diariétou Keita in Antoine m'a vendu son destin/Sony chez les chiens by Dieudonné Niangouna
Diariétou Keita in Antoine m’a vendu son destin/Sony chez les chiens by Dieudonné Niangouna

As always with Dieudonné Niangouna, one reads, sings and dances. Diariétou Keita the totemic woman, the castrating mother, dog, icon, plays all the roles cunningly and powerfully. Her dance, rather than an invitation to leap up, is more of a call for introspection.

Antoine m’a vendu son destin/ Sony chez les chiens
Words Dieudonné Niangouna and Sony Labou Tansi
With Dieudonné Niangouna and Diariétou Keita
In Théâtre National de la Colline until March 18th 2017