Performing Art is a choreographed exhibition. Artworks from a collection are installed by technicians and displayed on stage. The choreography takes place in the succession and the juxtaposition of the different installation processes, as well as in the order, time and point of view offered on each work. When choreographers create performances for a museum, they often adapt to the usual mode of presentation of art pieces: dancers or performers take shifts so that a specific work is always available for the audience in a given location of the museum. From the point of view of visual art, this can be considered as a dematerialization of the work of art: instead of having objects in a room, human beings create a situation based on a score or a protocol. But from the point of view of dance, there is on the contrary an objectification of the performance and of the performers because they adapt to the mode of presentation of inanimate objects. The performance is no longer defined by a shared space and time between the performers and the spectators; on the contrary, it remains constantly available for the audience. Spectators can go and visit another room, knowing that the performance will always be available, and they can go back to see it again, knowing it will be there for them, as they would do with a painting or a sculpture.

Instead of adapting to the modes of presentation of the museum, I am trying with this project, to explore how a choreographic approach can transform our apprehension of artworks. The performance takes place in a theater setting: the spectators are seated on a tribune with the traditional frontal relationship to the stage. They are not free to move in a space where the artworks are placed and to choose their point of view. Instead the pieces come to them. They are exhibited for a given amount of time. The audience cannot choose exactly how long and when they want to concentrate on each work. They are displayed here and now and once that moment has passed, the opportunity to see the work is gone. The encounter with the work is thus given an accrued importance and its aura, that can depleted by a constant availability, is reinforced.

Presenting the artworks on stage offers a new vantage point that affects and sometimes enriches their perception. Observing the installation process can often radically change the perception of a work and make some of its implications apparent. The works will be selected based on the actions their installation produces. This creates a very peculiar approach to the collection that can reveal unexpected links between works that are not usually associated. I will be very careful to not use the works as instruments to create the dramaturgy. They will always be presented so that they can be experienced for their own sake, even if the change of context will transform how we approach them. The project will remain both an exhibition and a performance without one aspect completely taking over the other.

Performing Art can be conceived as an experimental exhibition, but also as a task-based performance belonging to the field of dance. There have been numerous attempts in dance and theater to present daily actions without transforming them. Yvonner Rainer’s task based pieces are among the most radical examples. For example, one of the tasks performed in Parts of Some Sextets consists in moving a pile of mattresses from one side of the stage to the other. But no matter how close the action presented on stage is to a daily action, there remains an important gap. If someone moves a mattress to move into a new apartment, the goal that motivates the action is its result: the fact that the mattress will end up on a bed one can sleep on. In the performance, the goal is not the result of the action but the event of carrying it out itself, and this fundamentally changes its nature. It is no longer a practical action, but an action that is displayed to an audience: it is impossible to realize a purely practical action on stage, because as soon as one wants to display such an action, it loses its practical character. I am interested in questioning and exploring this impossibility.

The actions of the technicians will be affected by the fact that they are performed on stage. They will not behave exactly as they would if there were no audience. But the fact that the artworks are important independent of the performance implies that they will be much more concerned with the practical consequences of their movements than they would if they were moving mattresses or any kind of theater props. They will neither be accomplishing purely practical actions nor purely staged actions. Their actions will be affected by the gaze of the audience and by the artistic, patrimonial and economic value attributed to the art pieces. This will allow the spectators to experience this value in a very concrete way. The gloves, the protections, the coordination between the different technicians, the care with which they touch each artwork make the value that is attributed to them visible.

This exploration of the frontier between practical and staged actions parallels numerous investigations on the frontier between objects and artworks that have been carried out since the beginning of the 20th century: readymade, collage, objects whose functionality is displaced or removed, etc. This parallel appears very clearly when installing such works as the problematic that underlies the whole performance resonates with the implications of the piece that is displayed. For example, when installing pieces composed of found objects, one can experience the transformation of these mundane objects into an artwork as the assemblage is taking place. The spectator can witness this transubstantiation occur on stage.




September 20-21, 2019: Mucem / Festival Actoral – Marseille

March 22-23, 2019: Kaaitheater – Brussels

September 13-15, 2017: Centre Pompidou – Festival d’automne à Paris


Created by Noé Soulier
With Caroline Camus Caplain and Aurélie Gavelle of Centre Pompidou, Théo Duporté, Simon Lepeut, Malak Maatoug, Todd Narbey, Vincent Robert, Heiner Scheel de Globart / Monin and Saber Lakhdari of Arôm Paris
Curatorial advice : Marcella Lista
Lights: Victor Burel

Production: ND Productions (Paris), Alma Office / Anne-Lise Gobin
With support from Fondation d’entreprise Hermès as part of its New Settings programme
Coproduction: Musée national d’art moderne Centre Pompidou, Paris ; Centre de Développement Chorégraphique Toulouse / Midi-Pyrénées ; CN D Centre national de la danse, Pantin ; Les Spectacles vivants – Centre Pompidou, Paris ; Festival d’Automne à Paris
In association with Les Spectacles vivants – Centre Pompidou, Paris ; Festival d’Automne à Paris
With the support of Direction Régionale des Affaires Culturelles d’Île-de-France – Ministère de la Culture et de la Communication au titre de l’aide à la structuration
Noé Soulier is associated artist at CDCN Toulouse / Occitanie for the period 2016-2018
Noé Soulier is associated artist at CN D Centre national de la danse