JB: Strangely enough, the most important experiences I have had as a theater spectator were the ones that revealed the truth—the truth against the fakeness on which theater is built. In those instances, I experienced the revelation of something more real in the theater than in life, where reality is hidden by social and cultural conventions and habits.
I can’t use the word authenticity, because as long you are on a stage you lose this authenticity. But let’s say that my belief, paradoxically, is that the stage can be the place where you could reach it, where there are no social rules. The stage should be like the Marquis de Sade’s Republic of Salò; or your room when you are alone—a place of freedom. (In the case of Salò, obviously, this is a place of freedom, but not for everybody, unfortunately!)
That’s why I don’t use the polyphony of tools that theater allows of me. On the contrary, I try to reduce them down to what theater is for me: the performer. Or I should say—as you have written, Catherine, a great book about Yvonne Rainer—the life of the performer. In a way, that is what I have done for the past 10 years with all the biographical solos. It is as if the performer was the only tool I could use to reach life.
The reduction of means to try to get at the core of what can be the theatrical experience is, I think, comparable to Carl Andre’s operations in the history of sculpture. Minimalism is interesting because it leaves a lot of space for the audience. The artistic experience is an encounter between a spectator and an art work. They share the energy. (Oops! I can’t find right now a better word…shall I ever find it? The closest idea to what I want to express here is probably “the art coefficient,” theorized by Marcel Duchamp in his text, “The Creative Act”). There is the energy of the work, the emission and the energy of the spectator, the reception. Most of the time, either the art work or the performance tries to over-power the spectator, it tries to impress him or her. In the case of minimalist sculpture, or in my pieces, they are deliberately weak in this relation to the spectator, in order to give more energy to the spectator in the experience of the encounter. This creates a kind of void (i.e. “there is nothing,” “nothing is happening,” “I can do it myself”). The spectator has to fill this void, the empty space, or the time left. That’s why people can walk on a Carl Andre piece, as some spectators came on stage during my performances! It leads again to Barthes, with his thesis of “the death of the author,” which is concluded by “the birth of the spectator.”
I am working right now on pieces that can be shown in museums, and one of them is a kind of living minimalistic sculpture. When I found it I knew it was a floor piece but with living bodies, bodies which are reduced to the most minimal action I could imagine. In a way, the recent invitations I have received to present my work in museums push me towards more reduction.
Writing this, it comes to my mind that this piece could be performed on one of the most minimalistic Andre’s sculpture like this one. The sculpture as a possible stage.
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