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

Saburo Teshigawara's birds of silence

Hear that? A wind of arid and dry beauty is blowing over Chaillot. After Mirror and Music et DAH-DAH-SKO-DAH-DAH, Saburo Teshigawara is back to the Palais with an in situ creation: Flexible Silence. The japanese choreographer and six dancers sofly approach the dissonant repertory of the Ensemble Intercontemporain founded by Pierre Boulez.

Saburo Teshigawara, Flexible Silence, Chaillot
Saburo Teshigawara, Flexible Silence, Chaillot

It’s a piece where beauty emerges from multiple sources. A ray of light, a shadow, a halo, the electrified fluttering of slender fingertips. Exceptional solos and duets shape up an extraordinary variety of birds and aquatic plants. The movement of bodies creates a bubble of soft energy, like an anamorphosis makes confluences appear. Here it feels like stepping into Murakami’s captivating world. There one can almost see Michael Jackson’s shirt floating freely–recalling the compelling piece Glass Tooth.

Costumes are black, set is austere yet it’s warm. As usual, Saburo Teshigawara does everything from choreography to (a sublime) light design. Pure moments of gracefulness are in there for those who wait in silence.

Illustration © Araso

Eli Lotar the Visionary

Of picturesque Greece which appeals to the artistic and intellectual class in Paris Eli Lotar photographs an urchin in the palm of sculptor Tombros’s hand. The detail says it all: it smells of iodine, hot sand, fig trees. By looking at it one can hear the cicadas. The shadows of Roger Vitrac and Jean-Bernard Brunius filming avant-garde documentary Voyage aux Cyclades are not far. This is 1931, before the invasion of the Greek islands by mass tourism.

Eli Lotar, Sans Titre, 1931
Eli Lotar, Sans Titre, 1931

Eli Lotar’s vivid and quirky shots (1905 – 1969) tell their time through the artist’s meticulous choice of fragments. His surrealistic collages give a unique perspective on Antonin Artaud’s Alfred Harry theatre. Lotar captures the creative intimacy of Giacometti at work in the very tiny space of his room at Hôtel de Genève. Giacometti sculpts Lotar’s chest, which the latter shoots in series, almost compulsively, resulting in a sublime contact sheet that seems to have fallen off the creator’s diary.

Eli Lotar, Atelier Giacometti, 1965 © Araso
Eli Lotar, Atelier Giacometti, 1965 © Araso

A beautiful tribute to the anti-pomposity of Eli Lotar’s « New Vision ».

Eli Lotar (1905 – 1969) is an exhibition of the 40th anniversary of Centre Pompidou, coproduced by Centre Pompidou and Jeu de Paume.

At the Musée du Jeu de Paume – Jeu de Paume Museum until May 28th 2017.

Cover image © Araso

Sans titre, Untitled, 1931 © Eli Lotar

Why it's great to have Paul Klee's personal archive online

He who acknowledged Cézanne as « the master par excellence » played a major role in the foundation of modern art, which he also thoroughly theorised. His personal notes have been integrally computerised and published online by the Paul Klee Center in Bern.

Paul Klee notes personnelles

We were familiar with On Modern Art, translated by Paul Findlay and published by Faber Faber as early as 1966. We had seen the sketches of surgical precision where nothing was left to chance. It’s somehow ironic coming from someone who wrote « The creative force eludes every denomination, it remains, ultimately, an indescribable mystery* ».

Paul Klee notes personnelles

Amongst Paul Klee’s notes, it is the musicality, the curves diving into infinite perspectives, the symbolic outreach of colorimetry, the calligraphed handwriting or the hasty scribbles that are the most compelling. In there lay the roots of the Bauhaus, where Paul Klee was a very early days professor (1920). To get lost in these archives is a great pleasure.

The document resource work achieved by the Paul Klee Center in Bern, last home to the author of the Pedagogical Sketchbook, is unbelievable. It is for now only available in German.


Visuals © Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern

 *Paul Klee, On Modern Art

BiT-Maguy Marin

BiT by Maguy Marin: a farandole for humanity

The piece is well known. Yet each time it’s a shock. The surging of naked bodies, the orgies, the rapes, the deviant monks with the scary masks, the anonymous violence and this sublime pre-Raphaelite picture throwing up genitals and golden coins had nearly been forgotten.

Maguy Marin, throughout her unclassifiable work, has committed to stir in the depths of humanity in order to extract its essence, which daily life throws into oblivion. It’s beautiful, it’s ugly, and it’s often disturbing.

BiT, Maguy Marin, illustration © Araso
BiT, Maguy Marin, illustration © Araso

BiT is a techno dance procession starting with a group of Mormons. Six dancers gather into a farandole, which grows intoxicating as the beat goes up (genius sound design by Charlie Aubry). Faces gloat, bodies reveal themselves and discordances start « against the audience’s pleasure »*.

The anachronic trance jumps to the Middle-Age with spinning distaffs. Religion, SM harnesses and dough transfigure the bodies. They collide, chase each other, and then find each other again only to leap into the void. In BiT, hope and hopelessness are one, and lay inside the other(s).

*Interview of Maguy Marin by Bénédicte Namont and Stéphane Boitel, Garonne theatre – Toulouse August 2014.

BiT is a 2014 creation by Maguy Marin, presented by a non-residential Théâtre de la Ville at the Rond-Point theatre until February 11th 2017

Why is beauty a vital necessity?

To adapt Wajdi Mouawad for marionettes: here we stand sceptical. Assoiffés (literally «Thirsty») was created in 2007 at the Théâtre Le Clou in Montréal, which caters mostly for a young audience. It’s bold, risky and the result can be anything.

We sit across the stage from Brice Coupey, a pregnant Fanny Catel who turns out to embody young Norvège perfectly and Ladislas Rouge. Tagging along with them is a disheveled Murdoch puppet and Boon, the author-narrator who will ultimately round everything off.

Murdoch's puppet, live-sketching by Araso
Murdoch’s puppet, live-sketching by Araso

In this version, Compagnie L’Alinéa’s virtuosity comes to support a dramatically strong piece of writing. Teenage hood is a theme cherished by Wajdi Mouawad which he had addressed throughout his work. This time is a fragile transition that «the devastating effects of a world deprived of beauty » are threatening the most, when an unquenched «thirst for love, for trust, for meaning» leads to suicide, whether intellectual or physical.

Just like in Inflammation du Verbe Vivre, writing is depicted as a vital necessity. To bring the word of the Dead to the Living, and also because «beauty when left un-nurtured hardens and becomes ugly». Norvège brilliantly illustrates it by starting as a piece of card, becoming a corpse and turning into flesh again. Unmissable.

Brice Coupey manipulating Murdoch's puppet, live-sketching by Araso
Brice Coupey manipulating Murdoch’s puppet, live-sketching by Araso

Illustrations © Araso

Performance seen at the Mouffetard – the theatre for the Art of Marionnette between January 17th and 28th 2017, alongside an exhibition by Brice Coupey of the artworks testifying of the play’s genesis.

Assoiffés will be shown again in the theatre Berthelot of Montreuil on February 1st and 2nd 2017.