Night of the Dancer — Eva Prouteau — 2013

Everything starts from a sound apparition, a fluid and cavernous sound, which returns in metallic echo and suggests the staggering pitch or the mechanical acceleration of a railway engine. It envelops the first images of the video Conatus, Night of the Dancer (2009) and recalls, following Luigi Russolo1, that « the variety of sounds is infinite ». Through this audio teaser, the artist Boris Achour intrigues the spectator projected in the darkness of the image, then invited to discover an enigmatic space, filmed in low angle view, immense and naked. A tap dancer wearing a strange luminescent helmet then emerges and his presence combines the Hollywood class of Fred Astaire with Daft Punk’s sci-fi imagery. The space in which he evolves is only illuminated by his helmet, which completely conceals its face: it is the Grand Palais, a bubble with the appearance of the Crystal Palace, which was invested by the exhibition La force de l’Art 02 in 20092. As the dancer moves around, some of the pieces presented during the event appear in the semi-darkness. Bruno Peinado’s mirrored sphere (untitled, Silence is sexy) precedes the house divided in two by Sylvain Grout and Yann Mazéas, two works that play with space, spectacular, dummy or illusion; further on we can still see Nicolas Fenouillat’s monumental sculpture, which starts from a heartbeat rhythm to create a sound topography fixed in space and time, as well as Gilles Barbier’s giant library, which suddenly Gulliverises the space and deceive the eye, since these black-and-white photos turn out to be hyper-realistic drawings.
Through this combination of various formal elements, Boris Achour fully plays the cinematographical card: an atmosphere reminiscent of David Lynch for the tenebrous dreamlike, Louis Feuillade, Irma Vep and Fantomas for the masked hero’s motive and the suspense of night break-ins, not to mention the musicals of the 1950s and their light, syncopated tonality. The title of the work adds to this list of references, and in the shadow of The night of the dancer is looming The Night of the Hunter3, a black pearl by Charles Laughton, remarkable for the dramatic power of its lighting and the marvellous quality of certain scenes, notably the slow hypnagogical flight of the two children, who descend a river of tales, lulled by the Walter Schumann’s melodies. Again, this is about overcoming appearances.
Beyond this homage to the 7th art, which constitutes a major reference for the artist, he offers us here a reflection on the format of the exhibition, problematic which crosses the whole of his research. Boris Achour readily defines himself as an exhibition author and rarely thinks of his works outside this global form. For him, the exhibition is like a landscape, which connotes the notion of scenery, the spectator’s place, his physical movements, and so many questions related to the performing arts. With Conatus, Night of the Dancer, he confirms a practice based on articulation (forms, ideas, sensations) as much as on fragment: here nothing is given totally, everything is fleeting brilliance, unresolved enigma. In proposing this phantasmagorical exhibition tour, Conatus, Night of the Dancer also describes an aesthetic experience in which the body of the actor-viewer tells, in a tenuous fashion, an underlying narrative that develops differently from the text and speech, in the rhythmic progression of a choreography where tension is crescendo to the finale, an intimate vision of art.

Eva Prouteau

1- Extract from L’arte dei Rumori (The Art of Noise), 1913.
2- Jean-Louis Froment, Jean-Yves Jouannais and Didier Ottinger were the curators of the exhibition. They associated architect Philippe Rahm, who designed the scenographic device La géologie blanche, with their project.
3- The Night of the Hunter, directed by Charles Laughton in 1955, taken from the eponymous novel written by Davis Grubb, published in 1953.

Published in Projections vers d’autres mondes, Cahiers de l’Abbaye de Sainte -Croix, 2013