– Summer 2013

Xavier Le Roy: A Discipline of the Unknown

Marcella Lista

Xavier Le Roy, Self Unfinished, 1998, performance. Photograph: Katrin Schoof. Courtesy the artist

As part of its widespread interest in the field of experimental dance, the contemporary art milieu has generated numerous attempts to place Xavier Le Roy’s practice in dialogue with the visual arts. For example, both his solo Self Unfinished (1998) and his lecture-performance Product of Circumstances (1999) have been shown widely in art institutions, albeit as timed performances within theatrical settings rather than art galleries.1 As a response, the choreographer has critically examined the question of the ‘exhibition’ of dance through various gestures that emphasise its conditions of visibility. When invited to present his work in the group exhibition ‘Move: Choreographing You’ (2010—11) at the Hayward Gallery in London, Le Roy, together with choreographer Mårten Spångberg, devised Production (2010), a work that reflected upon the ecology of cultural production as articulated within the museum. The piece was developed in collaboration with a group of performers who engaged gallery visitors in situations, movements or conversations, thus placing these affective exchanges at the centre of the work.2 But perhaps it was his 2012 exhibition ‘Retrospective by Xavier Le Roy’ at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies in Barcelona that went farthest in creating a self-reflexive apparatus on the displacement of dance into the museum’s physical and symbolic space.3 Presented in collaboration with a group of dancers and choreographers, the exhibition examined questions such as: how does the ‘real time’ of performance translate into the duration of the art exhibition? How are memory and trace involved and activated in the re-enactment of dance? And how might choreographic idioms translate through the diverse bodies, imaginary realms and sociocultural experiences of the

  1. Product of Circumstances was presented at the Galerie nationale du Jeu de Paume, Paris, as part of the artistic programme of the art fair FIAC, in October 2008, and at Tate Modern, London, in February 2009. Self Unfinished was shown at, among other visual arts venues, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, in April 2010; the Turin art fair Artissima, in November 2010; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in February 2011.

  2. ‘Move: Choreographing You’ was on view at the Hayward Gallery, London, from 13 October 2010 until 9 January 2011.

  3. Retrospective by Xavier Le Roy’ took place at the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, from 24 February until 22 April 2012. For more information, see the accompanying exhibition booklet by Bojana Cvejić, Xavier Le Roy and Laurence Rassel, “Retrospective” by Xavier Le Roy (exhibition booklet, trans. Paul Hammond), Barcelona: Fundació Antoni Tàpies, 2012. The exhibition was subsequently staged at the Musée de la danse, Rennes, from 8 November until 24 November 2012, and is presently touring.

  4. Stéphane Bouquet, ‘Rencontre avec Xavier Le Roy’, in Low Pieces (performance leaflet), Paris: Théâtre de la Cité Internationale, 2012, n.p.

  5. See X. Le Roy, ‘Score for Product of Circumstances (1999)’, available at the artist’s website:

    http://www.xavierleroy.com/page.php?id=63e83a12f776477d633187bdfbdb1c24c130da8 &lg=en (last accessed on 18 March 2013).

  6. See the discussion of this question in X. Le Roy, , B. Cvejić and Gerald Siegmund, ‘To end with judgement by way of clarification…’, in Martina Hochmoth, Krassamira Kruschkova and Georg Schöllhammer (ed.), It takes place when it doesn’t: On dance and performance since 1989, Frankfurt a.M.: Revolver — Archiv für aktuelle Kunst, 2006, pp.49—56.

  7. ‘Interview with Xavier Le Roy by Dorothea von Hantelmann’, 9 November 2002 (revised on 30 January 2003), available at http://www.insituproductions.net/_eng/framesetl.html (last accessed on 18 March 2013).

  8. See B. Cvejić, ‘Xavier Le Roy: The Dissenting Choreography of One Frenchman Less’, 2010, available at http://www.xavierleroy.com/page.php?id=4b530eff077090c4cdd558852f04f24fb0840bae&lg=en (last accessed on 18 March 2013).

  9. Michel Foucault quoted in Dominique Colas et al., ‘Le Jeu de Michel Foucault’, Ornicar? Bulletin périodique du champs freudien, no.10, July 1977, pp.62—93; reprinted in M. Foucault, Dits et Écrits, vol.2, Paris: Gallimard, pp.299—300.

  10. X. Le Roy, ‘Score for Product of Circumstances (1999)’, op. cit.

  11. Xavier Le Roy’s practice developed in parallel with the conceptual deconstruction of dance initiated around the same time by choreographers such as Jérôme Bel, Boris Charmatz and La Ribot, with whom Le Roy has maintained a fluid dialogue.

  12. ‘Observing Motion: An Interview with William Forsythe’ (April 1999), in Volker Kuchelmeister, N. Haffner and Christian Ziegler (ed.), William Forsythe: Improvisation Technologies: A Tool for the Analytical Eye (leaflet to the CD-ROM), Cologne and Karlsruhe: Deutsches Tanzarchiv K.ln and Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, 1999, pp.21—22.

  13. See G. Siegmund, ‘Partager l’absence’, in Claire Rousier (ed.), .tre ensemble: Figures de la communaut. en danse depuis le XXe siécle, Pantin: Centre National de la Danse, 2003, p.332.

  14. Narcisse Flip is a triptych composed of Things I Hate To Admit (1994), Zonder Fact (1995) and Burke (1997). The three works were developed in collaboration with musician A. Birntraum and lighting designer Sylvie Garot, with whom Le Roy formed the group Le Kwatt in 1994.

  15. Jérôme Bel, ‘Qu’ils crèvent les artistes’, art press, no.23, October 2002, p.92.

  16. X. Le Roy, ‘Score for Self Interview (2000)’, available at http://www.xavierleroy.com/ page.php?id=a55579f8a1306fbd89389d01068b6e571a686728&lg=en (last accessed on 18 March 2013).

  17. This movement has been widely discussed in the critical reception of Le Roy’s work. For instance, Gerald Siegmund sees this movement as a spilling beyond the frame of the Deleuzian body without organs, while André Lepecki sees in it a rejection of choreography as a figure of authority. See G. Siegmund, Abwesenheit: Eine performative Ästhetik des Tanzes. William Forsythe, Jérôme Bel, Xavier Le Roy, Meg Stuart, Bielefeld: Transcript Verlag, 2006, p.381; and A. Lepecki, Exhausting Dance: Performance and the Politics of Movement, London and New York: Routledge, 2006, p.41.

  18. The experiment that went furthest in this direction was carried out by Jérôme Bel in Nom donné par l’auteur (Name Given by the Author, 1994), a performance based entirely on the spatial relations between objects and the bodies of the dancer Frédèric Seguette and Bel.

  19. This formulation, similar to responses to the same question given elsewhere, was prompted by the questionnaire ‘What is choreography?’, in Corpus: Internet Magazine for Dance, Choreography, Performance [online journal], available at http://www.corpusweb.net/answers-4349-3.html (last accessed on 18 March 2013).

  20. Diana Ross, ‘Upside Down’, on the album Diana (1980).

  21. The term ‘schizophonia’ was coined by composer R. Murray Shafer, who describes it in his pamphlet The New Soundscape: A Handbook for the Modern Music Teacher, Don Milles, Ontario: BMI Canada, 1969.

  22. See ‘Interview with Xavier Le Roy by Dorothea von Hantelmann’, op. cit. Ibid.

  23. Ibid.

  24. See Peter Szendy, Membres fantômes: Des corps musiciens, Paris: Éditions de Minuit, 2002.

  25. Le Roy’s gestures are loosely inspired by rehearsals of Stravinsky’s piece conducted by Sir Simon Rattle with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in 2003. Footage of the rehearsal is included in Thomas Grube and Enrique Sánchez Lansch’s film Rhythm Is It: You Can Change Your Life in a Dance Class (2004), which documents an educational project that trained 250 young people from different boroughs in Berlin to perform Stravinsky’s piece.

  26. X. Le Roy, ‘Récit de travail sur Le Sacre du printemps’, Repères: Cahier de danse, no.24, November 2007, p.24.

  27. Vaslav Nijinsky choreographed the original performance of Le Sacre du printemps, which Stravinsky wrote for the 1913 Paris season of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Pina Bausch’s choreography premiered at the Opera House Wuppertal in 1975.

  28. X. Le Roy, ‘Récit de travail sur Le Sacre du printemps’, op. cit

  29. Steven Connor, ‘Panophonia’, talk given at the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, 22 February 2012.

  30. Giorgio Agamben, ‘What Is an Apparatus’, What Is an Apparatus? And Other Essays (2006, trans. David Kishik and Stefan Pedatella), Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2009, p.24.

  31. Ibid.