Marie Chouinard in Avignon: beauty at war

On the ruins of a world at war, Marie Chouinard reinvents the codes of beauty.

Canadian choreographer who’s just been appointed director of the Dance section at the Biennale in Venice, is in Avignon for the first time with Soft Virtuosity, Still Humid, On the Edge.

She is thus pursuing her work on the dameged body and its singularities, where one often finds crutches and splints. This time, she turns it into a war painting.

In an atmosphere of terror, lumping angular bodies run in parallel lines. They dance to the music of rifles and explosions. The wistling of a bomb is terrifying, calls for adrenalin and blood pulses harder through the veins.

Seated cross-legged and face-to-face on a spinning disc, two girls hug whilst pulling monster faces. A brilliant use of video emphasizes the march of an army of zombies and dresses the walls in surreal perspectives.

Amongst the hallucinating images are a Raft of the Medusa and those bodies in mouvement mimicking a crackling fire.

Illustration © Araso

Lisbeth Gruwez, We're Pretty Far From Ok, Festival d'Avignon 2016, Illustration: Araso.

In Avignon, dance is the other face of anxiety

After The Damned and Heroes Place, dance takes anxiety over at Avignon festival with rare and aestheticising performances.

Belgian choreographer Lisbeth Gruwez studied at Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker‘s P.A.R.T.S. and worked with Jan Fabre, with whom she’s created I am blood in 2001 in Avignon. In 2004, he made her drown in a flood of oil in the resounding solo Quando l’uomo principale è una donna. She comes back to Avignon this year with her creation We’re pretty far from ok.

In duet with Nicolas Vladyslav, who’s worked with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui just like her, she is the embodiment of anxiety. Both their bodies move with absolute beauty, convulse, breathe, go into spasm and release without ever leaving their chairs.

Walled up in their internal agitation, they touch but can’t see each other. Deprived of desire, blind bodies clutch aimlessly.

As the train of terror goes by, sounds grounds us to our seats. We come out light and clean ; our fears have been drained out by the show.

It’s stiff and it’s sublime.

Illustration © Araso

We’re pretty far from ok, Festival d’Avignon 2016,
Gymnase Paul Giéra, from July 18th to 24th at 18:30
Creation 2016, 1h

Agnès Varda, Fondation Cartier, Juillet 2016

Agnès Varda speaks to us at Fondation Cartier

Our section «More than Signs» is dedicated to longer formats. 

The exclusive interview French movie maker Agnès Varda has given within inside the glass walls of the Cartier Foundation couldn’t be cut to 800 characters. It was upon the opening of the Foundation’s latest show, The Great Animal Orchestra, where Agnès has one of her works exhibited. The atmosphere was hectic, you will hear it in the recordings. It is still worth listening to this voice we’ve grown so familiar with. 

She’s installed Le Tombeau de Zgougou in the Foundation’s gardens. A video is screened inside a shed, featuring Agnès’ once beloved pet. Agnès Varda walks us through this remembering, talks about mourning and the significance of animal scientific research.

Agnès Varda, why is it important these days to love pets and remember them?

In this exhibition, it’s more about the study of animals, their noises, their sounds; we are dealing with ultra-specialized scientists. Have you seen the one who deals with plankton? This amazing Bernie who goes out all alone to capture sounds and take photographs?

It is very seldom that science, biology, acoustics have decided to look at animals. For most people, animals are of another race, they’re either mythical or domestic. It’s funny because compared to all these scientists, it looks like I made a gravestone for my cat. Have you been to the shed?


I built the shed and put the cat’s gravestone there.

And I am very happy since it may be the less scientific, the less thought out piece. It may be the only thing to be completely simple and direct for people to look at.

Yesterday I saw a woman crying while she looked at it. And I know children who have also cried over it. And yet it’s very simple, so very simple.

Everyone has done it, has burried their pet animals in the garden. However, since I am a film maker and a video artist, I wanted to find a form. So we made this animation with shells and flowers, image after image, in an archaic way. And I think it goes well with the cat, a female. We can see pictures of the female cat, and that’s the video: here lies Zgougou.

The video in itself dates back to 2006, what made you want to work on it again?  

There was a pre-existing video indeed, but we wanted to make it permanent. I asked if we could build a shed in the garden. Of course we couldn’t use a tool shed so I made it myself –obviously not alone. I created this sort of rustic shed. It sits well in there; don’t you think?

Very well.

Then I asked the gardener to plant a choisya. I also asked for the other plants. I was happy to create a corner where people may or may not go. It’s very well made because it’s totally rustic, with the appropriate waterproofness and airing to screen a film.

There is this great guy called Gérard Chéroux who took charge of the entire technique so that it’s a lot of work but it doesn’t show. I am very happy for him.

It is true. It’s particularly compelling, stepping into this small shed… I first saw it empty.

It’s better now. You came a long time ago?

I did come a long time ago while it was still empty.

You should go back. We’ve improved the video.

I went back today.

Ha! And the video looks good, right?

Very good.

I am very happy.

And there are these different phases. Do they symbolize the phases of mourning?  

It’s mostly the distance one takes. From things, from the dead.

Do you have pets still?

Three cats: two females and a male. But I didn’t want to come with them, although I have been offered to. They have a small garden, where I live, in the neighborhood.  I have a courtyard full of trees and the cats are happy there.

Do you feel that the work Bernie Krause has been doing for so many years, while joining the work of others, will manage to make a difference?

I believe the matter is first a scientific one, primarily for those who spend their life trying to understand life. People’s lives, wild life, sounds. This obsession with sounds is amazing.

But I think that it pushes people’s curiosity one step further. It compels the public to go beyond what’s commonly said about nature. I feel that in this case science opens our eyes wider.

Thank you very much, Agnès Varda.

Sound and illustration © Araso

The Bloody Doll at Huchette Theatre

A musical, for a change.

Even though one goes to the theatre every night and has been a columnist for years, it’s always worth taking a risk. This is when the Cultural Animal comes to play.

So here I am inside the Huchette Theatre (those who’ve been following me for a while will understand), determined to check out this Bloody DollIt’s a musical adapted from Gaston Leroux’s 1923 novel, The Bloody Doll, released more than a decade after his uber-famous 1910 Phantom of the Opera.

The challenge isn’t small. A micro-set, 3 actors, 1 piano player to bring no less than 15 characters and an entire ambiance to life. Wow.

And it’s divine. The actors are on top of their game -drama and singing. It’s incredibly creative, curated, hilarious and not scary at all. Costumes are perfect. Didier Bailly is at home. He’s been acting in Ionesco’s Bold Soprano at La Huchette since 1985. As for Eric Chantelauze who co-signs the show, he’s written more than a few musicals. Et voilà.

This is probably THE musical of the year. If you understand French or are willing to put up with 1 hour 25 minutes of French and uncomfortable seats, it’s worth the while.

Illustration © Araso

The Bloody Doll, the musical,
Théâtre de la Huchette
75005 PARIS
M. Saint-Michel
Tel: +331 43 26 38 99

8 rue Saint-Bon, 75004 Paris

Wade Guyton and the obsession of the One

This is 2016, and to take one single image and call it a show goes beyond audacity or arrogance : it’s a declaration of faith.

The apology of the unique, the scarce, the profound is not marketing here.  Wade Guyton lives and works in New York. Born in 1972, he is from a generation of artists who question the production of images in the digital era.

After the Black Paintings, his studio’s wall is the limit. Stil using large printers, he copies and pastes it in very large formats. In the immoderate space of Dijon’s Consortium, the image fades out. Washed out, it litteraly sloughs in the retina of those who watch it. There are fields and houses in those counter-shades of blue.

The monochrom becomes a vectorised shape, a logo one can replicate indefinitely. Broken down to the ultimate pixel, it becomes anonymous.

Don’t try and find pictures on the web : the experience only happens live.

Wade Guyton, Consortium de Dijon, until September 25th 2016

Images © Araso

Corinne Marchand

Watch again: «Cléo de 5 à 7» by Agnès Varda

Paris in the early sixties, a 21st of June, a summer solstice. The longest day. Cléo, a young singer, lives in artistic Montparnasse with her entourage. Tonight, she will make a phone call to find out if she has cancer or not. The film is about her wait.

Agnès Varda will say about Corinne Marchand that she is the perfect embodiment of «this remarkable theme in the entirety of life and painting: beauty and death».

Cold beauty on a hot summer background, Algerian war and arty Paris. Nostalgia of a time amongst a generation that didn’t know it.

Michel Legrand is the insolent coach, singing and playing the piano.

Dorothée, the friend who models naked for artistes, has this incredible line on worshipping –talking about love: «in the end, loving is enough and it’s more convenient to speak».

A soldier on leave, Antoine tells Cleo he’s sad to die for nothing. He’d rather die for a woman than die at war. This is Montsouris park between 6.12pm and 6.15pm.

«Oh, you have a lovely ring.
– A pearl and a toad.
– You, and me. »

It’s amazing how beautiful chance can be.

Images are extracts from the film.