Boris Charmatz at FringeArts Philadelphia
Boris Charmatz “Levée de Conflits” Suspension of Conflict // Co – presented by Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts & Design. September 7-10, 2016.
The Drexel University Armory is friendly in the big empty way of an off-season hockey rink. The silver marley, bordered by neat black chairs, is an uncertain postage stamp on a cement floor. The flutter of the courtesy-of-Fringe Arts paper fans is muted by the heat. So it starts this way, watching birds flap and gather in silence.
The dancers enter one at a time, 24 in total. Each performs 25 sequential movements. A canon. I count 24. I give them names — the movements I mean, not the dancers.*
They start again. They start again.
Now they know that I know what’s going to happen — they start again.
There are rules about looking for pairings and stage space. On round four, maybe five, they get vortex-ed close together, water going down a drain. The movements accommodate; the more contained the space, the looser they get. The drain, this slow flush, moves around the stage. Then they are spreading out. They are all lying down. Maybe it’s been an hour.
They start again in shaggy unison.
30 voices reading 24 slant rhymes. A feeling of filibuster.
They leave one by one.
Last to leave are two young men, broadcasting their biological soundness, one spinning, one jumping, in a passive aggressive King of the Castle. One leaves, then the other.
Everyone returns to bow. Some are making the squeemy found-out-faces of dancers bowing. Some wink at friends in the audience.
Watching Levée de Conflit, I am watching rounds of invested obedience. It’s like watching textiles be hand manufactured en masse. The human gesture is in the creation of the block print or the silk screen. But then there is a layered mechanized application required, an industriousness.
Some moves have hot spots. The hot spot for the Paul Bunyan move is at my feet, right in front of me. I get a good sniff. The fifth (?) person to Paul Bunyan before me is Magali. She gives us a ‘here we go’ half-smile as she approaches, lifting her eyebrows. Then she lowers her head and raises her arms, getting to work. Swing that axe.
Magali becomes my favorite. It feels nice to pick a favorite. I assume she is the oldest of the group.
In his program notes, Charmatz quotes Roland Barthes’ definition of Neutral from, I believe, the Lectures Course at the College de France, 1977-78.
I offer this, from A call to the Army of Love and to the Army of Software
“We have lost the pleasure of being together. Thirty years of precariousness and competition have destroyed social solidarity. Media virtualization has destroyed empathy among bodies, the pleasure of touching each other, and the pleasure of living in urban spaces. We have lost the pleasure of love, because too much time is devoted to work and virtual exchange. The large army of lovers have to wake up. Second, because our intelligence has been submitted to algorithmic power in exchange for a handful of shitty money and a virtual life.”
– Franco Berardi and Geert Lovink, October 2011
After the bow, I ask Magali for her name. One of the dude dancers is spitting water into the fan, and it mists back out onto Magali’s face. She is delighted. I am delighted by their delight. They do this again and again. This is my favorite part of the night. I am glad I sat near this big fan at the corner. The next day, I see Magali walking on the other side of the street near Market & 22nd. I think, protectively, “I hope it’s not too hot for her here.” I want her to have a nice day.
* The moves of Levée de Conflits, as named by me:
1. everybody washes the floor: use your hips 2. butt waggle 3. two arms flapping. 4. elbow running shuffle, off-time 5. bouncy ball paddle hands 6. Snake Hips wriggle 7. tiny go cart knee slalom 8. military rolls (rest) 9. preoccupied sprints 10. fall from knees 11. shirt scruff on a line 12. Paul Bunyan 13. three-legged sadness with arm as paintbrush 14. bridge air hump with 15. tender distraction 16.hand stuck to the floor between my thighs 17. gentle fellatio indication, seated 18. finger tips in baths of different temperatures, one above, one below; with face 19. one legged invitational hug 20. reptile Cry Baby (face down) 21. three different circles with stacked 22. knee pits 23. LIE DOWN 24. Sizzling bacon 25. spin 26. jump from two feet
Charmatz, Boris. Levée des conflits at Tate Modern, part of BMW Tate Live: If Tate Modern was Musée de A1:N7 danse? Perfomance date: May 15 & 16 2015, © Tate, London 2015