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Noé Soulier

When did this project start?

It became really clear in july 2007. Of course, it didn't appear suddenly, it was part of a bigger process. I started doing it before I became able to articulate it.

How did it start?

I wanted to work on generating movements as such. This is a very vague and big task. I had to define it, to approach it from a specific perspective. What did I mean exactly by generating movement? It was not simply to produce any kind of movements in a certain quantity. I had to produce a curiosity, a frame to approach the action of moving, to keep the desire of producing alive. I started to wonder how I could consider movement, and two main frames of lecture became apparent: geometry and mechanics. I started with geometry, experimenting with shape, lines and vectors. Right away, I got confronted to different approaches I had practiced a lot, mostly classical ballet, Cunningham technique, and Forsythe improvisation technologies. I wanted to approach the investigation as openly as possible, not taking anything for granted implicitly. I think it's a common feature of these approaches, to accept certain givens as self obvious and necessary for the realization and the perception of the work. Often these preconceived ideas are backed-up by loose concepts such as the cleverness of the body or the initiative of the doer. This doesn't mean I wanted to systematize and define everything, I wanted to be clear about what was set and what was left open. So that what is open is really a territory of exploration in relationship to the direction of the task.

How can you make such a clear cut between set and open, explicit and implicit?

It's never absolutely clear, it's more an attitude towards the process, it's never absolute (but what can be?). The objective is to avoid what can already be identified as a confusion, and to go on, probably to produce another one. The most noticeable thing when I started considering the corpus of works I could access dealing with geometry, was that there were some very clear concepts as a starting point, sometimes very sophisticated, but their application seemed often very narrow compare to the immense field of exploration these concepts suggested. And this reduction was not recognized, it was not accepted. In parallel to the explicit aspect of the exploration, a set of implicit ways of interpreting them had developed, common to the people working together. Something that made it recognizable as a style. Somehow I am trying to avoid producing a style in such a way, which is extremely hard as there is almost an unavoidable tendency towards stylization.

How do you plan to avoid such a direct stylization?

It has to do with the level of complexity you set at the beginning. I think if this level is too high, then you lower the complexity of how you can deal with it. Too much complexity produces a flattening of complexity. So I started with a very simple geometric goal: producing a line with a specific body part. But I tried to not imply anything specific in the way I did it. To not lead with the body part, to not isolate it, to not give it a special attention, to not try to make it apparent... I am not drawing a line, but moving in order that the body part goes from point A to point B in the designed path. Of course it's not a neutral movement as its very specificity is to try to avoid specificities, which is not common at all for a movement. It's criteria is neither efficiency, it's something much more open which we could call "easiness". The performer is trying to achieve the movement in the easiest way, which most often isn't the most efficient. Efficiency implies an analysis, a distance and a practice. It also tends to lead to one solution: the most efficient way for the human body considered from a functional point of view. The functional human body is an ideal, a transcendental concept, the dancer can take as an unreachable aim to orientate his work. Easiness is multiple, the solutions are always different, not only for different performers, but for the same performer from one day to the other. Easiness in that sense isn't natural, it's not given, it's not a matter of work and technique, but a matter of perspective. Because you have to perform a very precise action, you have to be very self aware and reflexive, so you can't let your body go, you have to somehow recreate the easiness. It's an artificial process that can never be fixed.

Another important point to deal with to avoid direct stylization is the transmission and the creation of the material. For this, I started to use very basic Laban notation. I think an important factor of the stylization process of an experimentation has to do with visual models and imitation. Wether it's someone else or a recording of oneself, visual models provide solutions that don't need to be requestioned. They add up and slowly develop a certain way of dealing with the task which seems to be the only way. Notation enables us to avoid visual models. The code is always partial and it always needs processing to be deciphered. It also produces a very important shift in the political aspect of the process. It creates a new distribution of powers between the creator(s) of the movement and its performer(s) (even and especially when they are the same person). This comes back to the distinction implicit/explicit. Modern and contemporary dance have often claimed to develop more and more collaborative process, the dancers participating in the making of the dance. Improvisation especially is seen as a place of framed freedom for the performer. It's certainly true in some way, but it's also interesting to notice how these collaborative processes often develop a dogmatic aspect. The distribution of powers is blurred: the performers can have an influence on the material, but they are also controlled in their interpretation. The shares aren't defined, which often result in the establishment of a dominant way to deal with the research, which takes the form of this implicit stylization of the explicit research. If someone writes a sequence and give it to someone else, the roles are very precisely defined, and the maker somehow looses ownership on the written material. He doesn't know it better than anyone else.

Why do you talk of "direct stylization" and not simply of stylization?

Because I believe it's impossible to absolutely avoid stylization, the research always having a physical result embodied by specific individuals, with certain background and history, making subjective choices. It's not even the point to avoid style in that way. But it's very different to undertake a research which inevitably produces an object read by the public with a certain stylistic dimension, than to reduce the field of research by an implicit stylistic construction. In our case, the stylistic dimension of the result of the research is extremely unstable, as it can be recognized as stylistic. We try to be as self aware and critical as possible. Different people, new understanding of the research, will produce a completely different stylistic result.

Why did you decide to work on generating movements?

It's a reaction to a specific context, and also a personal fascination for body and movement. It seems today, that people have been working a lot with references and deterritorialization, placing themselves in a cultural research, investigating the nature of representation itself and of meaning productions. This implied a constant use of (al)ready made cultural products, approaching the possibilities of diversions, and re-questioning our relationship to cultural products and to our society and its spectacles. It seemed interesting to avoid this referentiality, to create an original product, keeping the awareness of the parameters made apparent by the representation research. Maybe we should still consider this attempt in terms of referentiality: trying to create an original cultural object, and carefully staying aware of the cultural context and heritage of this creation as the most indirect level of referentiality. It can also be read as a reuse of modernist strategy, in a post modern context... or as a self contained research...

Do you have a preference between these different interpretations?

No. I am not trying to construct the theory of my practice, it's only interesting to notice some of its consequences. A multiplicity of possible interpretations would be great.