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The Acrobatics of a Meta-Naming - eXplore dance festival, 2011


Gina Şerbănescu

octombrie 2011
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Allege, the performance created by the choregrapher Clément Layes confronts the audience with an issue that the spectators are no strangers to: the naming and building of contexts, of world patterns through associations, accomplished as a result of the mechanisms of perception and representation, correlated with reconsidered labels of language.

The performance is built on two succesive plans, which are by no means separated, but work in synthesis, through theoretical and performative strategies aiming at associating and naming: a non-verbal plan of action, of the connections between the objects onstage and a plan in which the associations that we have just perceived, enter a carousel of naming, meant to grab us out of the network of traditional language games we are accustomed to.

A man dressed in overalls enter the stage, wearing a glass on the back of his head, so that there is no constant visual field to open him all the time the possibility to clearly see the objects he will interact with. A little plant in a flower pot is repetitively watered in more and more demanding ways that get far from our usual gestures of doing this action. Just two examples: a rag thrown in a puddle onstage and squeezed out afterwards becomes the source of life for the plant; a watering can suspended on a hook hanging on the ceiling will shed water on the plant set on a pail covering the head of the performer and the glass remained in constant equilibrium... Little by little, all the objects onstage are placed in more and more complex - and less and less common - relations.

Initially, all the correlations that we wittness are set in the open field of our subjectivity. Each of us is free to construct his/her own script, in which there might be integrated the objects, with the name and significances we usually provide them with. In the first part of the performance, the absence of speaking gives the spectator the freedom to create an inner discourse in which the configuration of the world onstage takes the shape of a context articulated through the usual representational mechanisms of the watchers.

The actions accomplished appeal to our representations, to the functions that these types of objects have in the area of our life, be it public or private.

The first part of the performance reminds us of the world of circus, of the abilities of the jugglers to manipulate objects in unusual ways. In the second part, the verbalization moves the siginificances of the actions we have just wittnessed into a plan in which the games of associations plees for an authentic philosophy of language. From a juggling of actions, we are led to an acrobatics of a meta-naming represented by the erasement of the traditional labes with which we usually "adorn" the objects of our world. This meta-naming is fulfilled through strategies of association that dislocate and re-think the significances.

As we know from Ludwig Wittgenstein, the resemblances in the world are not caused by a previously existent essence, through which the status of the object is expressed through a necessary naming. There are only language games and family resemblances. But even this vision that reconsiders the traditional philosophical views that correlate the status and the name of the object with a metaphysically established essence, do not prevent us from falling into the trap of stereotypes at the level of resemblances and names, generated by the clichés of the form of life (Wittgenstein) and of the community of language we are part of.

Clément Layes builds a form of life expressed through a language that is familiar to us, through names that we know very well, but in which the mechanisms of naming and strategies of association changs our common representations in new possibilities of relating This happens through investing the object with a new meaning, within a context that we are generally dwelt by. Still, it is our world, it is the mirroring of our social status, of the limits, of the crisis, of our condition. But all these are shed into a structure in which the re-named objects open a new field of exploration for the subjectivity of the spectator.

Clément Layes' discourse is thus constructed that every re-named object in the system of his correlations stands for the whole world that it is integrated in. This aspect made me think of Spinoza's philosophy, but of a Spinoza in reverse. For Spinoza, there is only one substance, Nature. Or God. (Deus sive Natura) All the things or beings in the world are modes of being of the unique substance.

In Clément Layes' performance, the unique substance becomes obvious to the end, when every object will fully be able to express the construction onstage. Any object we might choose starting from it we can build, in relation with other objects, an (almost) complete discourse about the world that we witness through this performance. This means that every object is a mode of being of the unique substance (which also integrates the performer), identical to the reality onstage, in which the newly named objects, coexist reconfigured in the web of associations. But it is an open substance which expresses, as Clément Layes makes it clear to us, "almost everything". The concept of "the end" also becomes a reconsidered convention. An end that does not simply take place, a dynamic end, a "long end", which, without entering any pleonastic structure can, in its turn, to be finished.

P.S. There is a big temptation to reveal all the objects, the associations and the rethought names in the performance. Maybe it would be honest to reveal them. Or maybe not... I will choose not to, in order to not to ruin the joy of those who will see the performance. Those who have seen it have already experienced this joy.

After taking part with Allege in the Prix Jardin d'Europe contest in Bucharest, within Explore Dance and Perfomance Festival, Clément Layes won one of the two residencies awarded by the jury consisting in journalists integrated in the Critical Endeavour Programme.
 
ALLEGE
Choreography: Clément Layes
Dramaturgic assistance: Jasna Layes Vinovrski
Performance: Clément Layes
Music assistance: Nicolas Chedmail, David Byrne
Costumes: public in private
Lighting design: Rut Waldeyer
Production: public in private
Thanks to: Sophiensaele, Tanztage, Festival Ardanthé, Dock 11, CND Paris.
Photo credit: Dieter Hartwig




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