Paris’s Moveable Monthly Feast of Experimental Art

Sunday, Sept. 18, the eighth installment of Dimanche Rouge goes down at Petit Bain, a floating concert hall and art space on the Seine. A mini-festival of experimental performance founded in Paris, France by Opie Boero Imwinkelried and others Dimanche Rouge exists to offer a consistent opportunity for artists to present their work. Though less than a year old, Dimanche Rouge has a variety of ambitious projects underway, including (launching just this month) a Saturday laboratories component that, through a network of local sponsors, will connect artists globally via Livestream the day before monthly performance. In order to learn more, I spoke with curator and director Imwinkelried via email. For details, please visit their website.

1. So I gather you’re not French. Can you help fill in some of your background and how you wound up organizing and curating Dimanche Rouge?

I am not French! In many ways, home for me is Buffalo, NY, even if I was born in Argentina, lived in Cuba, and presently live in France. Buffalo and its experimental art scene put its signature on my life and career. I graduated from the Media Study Department, SUNY, Buffalo, the pioneer school in experimental video. I have studied several other disciplines and have done many different things in my life. Besides being an artist, I am a also a pilot and a snow caver–a snow caver from Buffalo, NY.

I started Dimanche Rouge because, from my own experience as an experimental performance artist, I learned that it was almost impossible to find a space in Paris to perform regularly. You had to either rent a venue from your own pocket or draw a fairly large public willing to pay to see your performance. Now, there is a space for experimental artists to perform in Paris every third Sunday of the month!

2. Based on the description, it sounds like Dimanche Rouge is basically a big monthly art party–free to the public, who are invited to bring food and drink–with a nearly day-long line-up of performances, visual art installations, and so on. Where did the idea come from? How was it realized?

I wouldn’t define Dimanche Rouge as an art party but rather as an art festival with the emphasis on the creative perfomative elements and the party atmosphere is secondary to that. Dimanche Rouge is a space to promote and develop experimental performances. Every third Sunday of the month we have a festival; the rest of the month, we work on other projects, including workshops, interview series, and much research on how we can better promote experimental performances and expand the Dimanche Rouge project. We have launched an interviews series. We interview our artists to further promote their work. We publish these interviews on our blog and also submit them to other sites for publication. For the moment, we do written interviews outside the event and video interviews during the event. We will have our first DVD compilation of our sixth edition released very soon. We will expand the written interview series to video and audio interviews using Livestream. Dimanche Rouge will have a Kiev edition in Ukraine at the beginning of 2012. We have two team members, one Chinese and on Russian, who are researching and networking to organize Dimanche Rouge in Russia and China. Our presentation catalog has 100 pages and it is written in English, French, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish. We are preparing our bilingual catalog with all the performances held at Dimanche Rouge. This will be about 300 pages.

Dimanche Rouge #8 on September 18 will showcase the work of forty artists from fifteen different countries in almost nine hours of programming. Food and drinks will be sold in September, though, as requested by the venue.

3. Where did the idea come from? How was it realized?

Working with my collective of artists on an experimental performance, I realized how difficult it was to get a venue to perform in Paris. I decided to start Dimanche Rouge to provide a space for experimental performers. Dimanche Rouge is proving that this sort of space was highly needed. We went from two performances in February 2011 to over forty artists from fifteen different countries in September 2011.

The idea was realized with conviction and love for our project. We do not have any sort of funding for the moment. We have organized Dimanche Rouge with money from our own pockets, helped by very kind people who have lent us spaces and believed in us, and certainly with all the help and support of our artists, interns, volunteers and friends. We are working very hard to obtain funding, but since our event is growing so quickly, it has been almost impossible to put together a catalog that depicts an up-to-date image of our event.

4. In addition to more traditional forms of performance and art, the website says that “experimental performers whose work is not generally seen in art venues, such as masseurs, coiffures, cooks, knitters, tatoo designers, and jewelry makers” are also part of the event. Can you talk about that a little more? Are these artists who are doing these acts as performances, or is this re-contextualizing work like this as performance?

We re-contextualize work in an attempt to challenge the concept of art but also with the aim of providing a space for exchanges between different disciplines. We have been calling for atypical performances or, what we also call performances usually not seen at art venues, from the very beginning of Dimanche Rouge. Yet we have not been very successful getting experimental masseurs, coiffures, and chefs to perform. I guess this proves how disconnected we are from each other. We have had three masseurs. We gave them the main stage as every other performer. They, then, stayed for a few hours to give free massages to the public. In September, we wanted to have an army of masseurs, the brigade antistress Moufftardus Contrescarpus which would offer a unique performance involving the public. Since Petit Bain is on the Seine, we have to be cautious with the Paris Port Authorities, so we decided to have a smaller version of their “massage geant” in September–maybe we will have a “massage geant” in next editions. In October, we will have a coiffure/actress and a masseur/actor performing at our 9th edition.

5. You mentioned in an email that you’re launching something called “Saturday Streaming Labs” with satellites all over the world–what is that and how will it work?

One of our main aims is to create spaces. On September 17, Dimanche Rouge will be launching a new project called Saturday Streaming Labs. The Sorbonne University will host our project in Paris. Other institutions and artists studios participating in our project are located in NYC, Los Angeles, Merlbourne, Brisbane, Rome, Santiago de Chile, and a few other cities to be confirmed.

Saturday Streaming Labs will provide a real as well as virtual space to debate, present, perform, teach, and create multi-site collaborative performances using internet video streaming technologies. An artist in Paris may dance to the music a musician from Brooklyn plays; a scholar in Santiago may co-host a debate with an art critic in Melbourne engaging participants from different locations in a virtual conversation via streaming.

The Saturday Streaming Labs sessions will focus on experimental performances. Artists, curators, scholars, critics, students, and the general public are invited to participate as a real or virtual audience as well as to propose activities to be shared with the world.
The Saturday Streaming Labs were inspired by the success of our special seventh edition of Dimanche Rouge that took place simultaneously in several international cities with streamed performances from Paris, Kiev, Zaporizhya, Sofia, Berlin, Brooklyn, Utah, Santiago de Chile, Wenzhou in China, and Brisbane and Castelmaine in Australia. For instance, in Zaporizhya, Ukraine, we had over 300 people participating in our performance. The people of Zaporizhya took our event into their own hands. They decided to hold it in Zaporizhya’s main square and to frame our program with a variety of local performers including the very traditional Cossacks dancers. We said, “mission accomplie!” We had generated a space that people occupied and appropriated.

6. What’s the curatorial process like for Dimanche Rouge? I know you have open proposal submissions–when you program the event, what are you looking for?

We look for experimental work that takes a maximum of risk! We care little about the discipline or the format artists work with. People are invited to submit their projects filling in a form on our website. It is primarily myself who processes the applications and puts together the program.

I review all submitted material and use the internet to obtain further information about the artists assisted by our Production Manager.
We tend to reject work only on the basis of it not being experimental, but it is becoming harder as the volume of applications we receive increases.

7. I imagine with such a diverse program taking place in diverse spaces, Dimanche Rouge has a lot of room for surprising or unexpected things to happen. Are there any performances that really surprised you or that have stuck with you?

I don’t think I can answer that. All performances have their magic and are unique to me. Seeing 300 people in Zaporizya, Ukraine performing a script written by the Dimanche Rouge team is the one performance that I will never forget.

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