Is it really broadcasting if there is no one to receive? (1)

Expedition 1 Dec 2008English

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Contextual note
This essay was first published in Expedition by Les Laboratoires d'Aubervilliers in December 2008.

First, we note a disconnect between the time spent creating and rehearsing a piece and the moment it confronts an audience. This disconnect is framed as a problem to be resolved artistically. The answers should be structured around political choices. In other words, they should hinge on the interplay of the work (preparation + object) and the conditions of its reception. We should begin to look for solutions by elaborating working methods that bring together experimentation, rehearsal and performance in a unified whole. Given that periods of exploration are richer and more intense compared to the limited visibility of the piece itself (when by ‘piece’ we understand but one of the results of the creative process), how can we give the public access to that exploration? To make the process public would mean allowing debate, and putting forward critical positions about the project from inside the project itself.

Up until now, I’ve thought up and rehearsed pieces as though they were going to be performed “a sufficient number of times” to resolve and update all or a part of what hadn’t been during rehearsals. Whatever remained would be reworked in a future play, or willfully abandoned.
Given that my plays are not often broadcast (2), I find myself in a situation where this want becomes an obstacle to the artistic development of my projects. This level of analysis is a little weak - all the more because it’s mixed with a certain naiveté that ‘blames’ a third party (who is not immediately manifest, since he alone represents the ensemble of possible outlets interested by the work). Unfortunately, this type of analysis does little to challenge my own working habits. So I continue to work according to the same methods as the artists who’ve preceded me these last 20 years in the field of contemporary dance. This method of creation and dissemination drives me to perpetuate modes of legitimization and access to this legitimization that look suspicious. Indeed, when observing the situation and the reproduction of this situation with a little distance, we realize that, for all of contemporary dance’s political commitment to certain questions of content, there is often a disconnect between the work and its mode of production (or manufacture, if you prefer). In the end, what we can be sure of reproducing is a way of achieving relative ‘fame’. Fame is whatever gives us access to greater means - material and financial means, but also the privilege of symbolic recognition that, ideally, makes it noticeably easier to take on risks or take up positions within a field.

I realize that I spend an inordinate amount of time working and that the boundaries between work and my social life are firmly established (no doubt more firmly than they should be), but that all this time spent working, and all these objects produced, aren’t open to debate. It’s not artistically and politically conceivable, and I speak only for myself, to limit myself to the reproduction of current modes of ‘publishing’ works. From a more general standpoint, the reproduction of these modes ends up manufacturing artists who are divided between feelings of being misunderstood and feelings of being marginalized (which can actually end up being a plus). At the same time, the system pursues a politically conservative conservationist process that consists of the election of a handful of artists who continue thinking only of excellence and high ticket prices.

How does one become involved in and contribute to a more universal project that transcends the boundaries of my creative project?

How does one take charge of a critical process within a project? In other words, can we propose a critical process that will put the notion and function of the author in danger from within the project?

What I know about this critical process for Chevreuil:
– For the critical function to be effective the process must be situated on the periphery of the project – a periphery that nonetheless shares a certain number of factors with what is inside the project.
– It’s a peripheral activity since it doesn’t involve concretely producing materials to inject into the final object itself.
– It’s a central activity because it acts to bring the question of the project to the center of relations.
– It’s a reflexive process.
– It’s a critical process and not only an evaluation process. It’s a process in which the author’s function is taken up by each artist involved.
– The process is a daily practice of production, a weekly practice of reproduction, a biweekly practice of transmission.
– This process must always focus on comprehension of the project (and its irreducible share of misunderstandings), in order to avoid becoming the unique property of the author. The notion of comprehension in the elaboration of an artwork is far more complex than this brief description, but it suits me here because it’s in a position to open up perspectives on the work involved that are clear enough to be shared in this text.

The project, not its author, should be made central. This is because we know that in the creation of a performance piece, the author’s function can’t be completely shouldered by a single person. This is an area of oft debated paradox.

What recognition of the widening of the author’s role can we achieve, if we want to get beyond a simple renaming of functions?

A piece in which we recognize the participants as having an author function is not automatically a ‘collective work.’

Performers who take on the function of an author; authors who perform.



Documentation in Chevreuil
Practical guidelines for the contextual analysis

Each document produced is considered an autonomous object. A work is made public, is unfurled (expansion of form and content), at the very place that it habitually remains internal or private. It also means taking responsibility for this shift even though we are often invited by art residencies to open up the work. The general mode of opening up is the open rehearsal, which includes the premiere in addition to the so-called open house when we invite viewers to peek in at the mysteries of the creative process.

My choice here is based on the act of documenting the work as a possible way of subjecting it to internal criticism. In other words, through dialectic documentation that borrows from different typological representations of the real:

– Cartography
– Newspapers, which are written according to pre-defined column headings.
– Perspectives on a document outside of the project (textual document, iconography on paper).

This documentation interests me because it allows a movement toward propagation of the project. It is essential propagation because what’s mainly at stake in the project is to constantly convoke the world to the processes of work and representation. The documentation starts with concerns that are internal to the project and then moves on to work done by people in other contexts.

This propagation occurs in different ways:
First, through the act of broadcasting our documentation from inside our creative group to the outside – broadcasting it through the most exhaustive explanation and demonstration of our works of documentation possible. The content of these new objects depends on different, notably economic parameters, and on what the production can financially take on.(3)

The documentation in Chevreuil contributes to a movement toward multiplication of the work.
A multiplication of a process’s mode of reproduction.
A multiplication of the mode of mutation, rather than that of replication.
An interpretive multiplication.

There are seven of us. There are three different types of typologies, which means that the everyday two-times-two versions of the same typology plus one version of another type will be produced.
The documentation is intended, first, for participating artists and, second, for a mirror group of seven people.(4)


(1) Excerpt from the song The End Of Radio, Shellac, 2007.

(2) By broadcast I mean the sole possibility of opening the work up to reading, viewing and discussion. What I want most is not for the work to have more visibility, but that it be understood and discussed. In other words, that it make more of a contribution, that it be tied into a larger ensemble. In a way, it could only have greater visibility, because at present, it’s approaching nonvisibility. What does showing more of one’s work mean? It’s a question to which there is actually no standard response. Only the project can define its criteria. The artist’s job, then, is to elaborate the critical processes that help revitalize and challenge the work from the standpoint of each of the participants. Starting with the participants and moving toward the project. A shift in, and, at the same time, a multiplication of the author’s function.

(3) A mirror group:
– Mirror because it’s composed of the same number of participants as the initial group. – Mirror because it consists of the same number of people who carry out the same functions as the initial group (dancer, choreographer, light designer, composer).
– Mirror because it’s composed of the same number of participants, but the participants come from different backgrounds. What unites them would be their interest in this type of experiment.

(4) If each participant produces one documentary work per day, and each participant of the mirror group produces one every two weeks, 154 documents will be produced each month.