Following her previous performances »Grand Mal« and »La Caresse du Coma«, French performance artist Anne Lise Le Gac will present her latest performance »DUCTUS MIDI« at Tanzquartier Wien in March 2020. Trained in visual arts and dance, her current performance practice focusses on non-linear, collective storytelling. »DUCTUS MIDI« is an amalgamation of various disciplines and practices and a search for freedom within composition. She spoke with Jette Büchsenschütz about her approach to dance and performance, interdisciplinary collaboration, and the anthropologist Tim Ingold.
You started out as a visual artist. How and why did you decide to focus on dance and performance art?
During my time at art school in Strasbourg, I was always very intrigued by the way my friend was dancing at parties. There was one particular video work by the photographer Rineke Dijkstra in which she placed a truck in front of a night club and invited the club guests to dance to techno and gabber music in front of the camera inside this truck. The videos became dance portraits of these anonymous people.
I saw this piece in a museum and it made me start filming me and my friends dancing. When I left Strasbourg for a study year abroad at the College of Fine Arts at Boston University, I decided to stop filming and to focus on live art and my body. There was a very interesting community of teachers working in the field of performance. That year I only danced: I got involved with Bharatanatyam, a classical and sacred Indian dance, but also with a lot of contact improvisation.
After graduating from art school in Strasbourg, I moved to Paris. However, I quickly realized that in Paris you neither have time nor space. This experience influenced my work insofar that there was a shift to a more discursive and less physical approach. After rather frustrating experiences performing in art galleries and at show openings, I heard about the master’s programme in choreography at the »Centre national de danse contemporaine« in Angers. These two years of training had a great influence on my artistic practice. It was a very open and supportive atmosphere that allowed students to experiment with different methods and practices. There were no restrictions. No formal limitations. It was while I was doing my master’s in Angers that I began to consider performance as a place for combining mediums and formats.
Your recent work is very much inspired by the British anthropologist Tim Ingold and his book »Lines: A Brief History«.
I started to read Tim Ingold’s book while I was working on my last performance project »La Caresse du Coma«. In his book, Tim Ingold distinguishes between a traveller and a passenger: The passenger moves straight from A to B and the journey itself is not important. The traveller, on the other hand, is open to the change and welcomes spontaneous encounters on the way. I was already talking about the stories of lines in this project, using a conversational mode as a way of drifting along narrative lines.
This was also the fundamental base for »DUCTUS MIDI«; being open to spontaneous changes and proposals and adapting correspondingly. For this reason, it is also a kind of never-ending piece. There is no linear narrative and no final ending. The piece is what it is, but it could be something else. Conceptually, there is no final result: The end is also the beginning.
It’s also a mashup of sculpture, music, dance and storytelling. You are joined on stage by dancer and performer Katerina Andreou, artist and musician Arthur Chambry and the birdsong imitator Christophe Manivet. How important is interdisciplinary collaboration to you?
I was very much intrigued by the idea of crossing each other. What happens if two people’s practices intersect? What influence do they have on each other? At the beginning of the rehearsal process, Arthur and I brought tools that relate to our practices. Katerina and Christophe came on board a bit later, crossing our roads. I entered this rehearsal process with Tim Ingold’s idea of commoning. After a while, we realized that I was focusing a lot on the connections between those people and the tools they use. It is similar to the festival »Okay Confiance«, that I organize together with some friends and colleagues, where we try to create an open space for people to experiment, without there being any instructions or restrictions. I am fascinated by how we are influenced and inspired by others. For instance, when I meet Christophe, I started to attend his bird whistling classes. I have been learning how to imitate bird songs for nine months now, and I even participated in a bird whistling competition once.
The stage of »DUCTUS MIDI« looks more like an interdisciplinary research lab, perhaps even like an anthropological field study.
Yes, totally. It was very important for us to stick to the process of making and not to fall into closely defined roles. We tried to avoid the craziness and restrictions of composition. So, at the beginning of the rehearsal process, we were playing with things and tools we know. And then, we started to experiment with what we don’t know or with what we never really do. Katerina suddenly began to sing in Greek, Arthur started dancing, I made many pairs of thermoplastic shoes… Christophe is the only one who sticks to one field. Over time, we created a layered pattern of our crossing tracks, so that the piece became more compelling. We tried to search for the freedom within compositional situations.
»DUCTUS MIDI« by Anne Lise Le Gac & Arthur Chambry will be presented at Tanzquartier Wien on March 11 and 12, 2020.