Playground Festival 2017

Textos para las hojas de sala de las performances de Julien Prévieux, Agnès Geoffray, Benjamin Seror, buren, Fabrice Samyn y Meryem Bayram, que se presentaron en Playground Festival, STUK en Lovaina, Bélgica, del 16 al 19 de noviembre de 2017

Julien Prévieux, Of Balls, Books and Hats 

French artist Julien Prévieux premieres his latest performance Of Balls, Books and Hats, the first of an ongoing series focusing on different kinds of learning experiments. A single performer practices machine learning on stage in a low-tech way introducing a set of movements that comes from our everyday gestures. From sports movements to negotiation techniques, the performer experiments with the learning process of machines to assimilate and create new movements, ranging from perfectly natural moves to awkward ones. They are expressions of how the classification of daily gestures is codified, and eventually transferred to the machines in a regulatory and controlling process with unexpected errors. Accompanying the body motion, Prévieux incorporates a voice-over to contrast and highlight the score, as a means to explore the consequences of artificial intelligence presence in our everyday lives.

Julien Prévieux has brightly exposed the feedback of gestures between machines and humans and the way these changes are promoted from economic, consumption, and security strategies. The pressing concern of big data use and its influence is examined from the body learning process. With this new series of performances, he continues his extensive research on the motion relationship between human and machines. If Patterns of Life (2015) introduced historical methods developed to register human’s movements, What Shall We Do Next? (2006-2014) showed the patented movements associated with using technology devices. In this way, the artist has expressed the interconnection between body motions and technology; what starts as an observation turns to be the expression of codification, and then the new score of future motions. In his series Prévieux adopts cinema, animation and dance mediums, allowing him to expose motions from the prescriptive behaviours function in different ways.

Julien Prévieux (1974, Grenoble) works and lives in Paris. He obtained an MA from L’École Supérieure des Beaux Arts de Grenoble. He has had solo exhibitions at Centre Pompidou, Paris; RISD Museum, Providence; FRAC Basse-Normandie, Caen; Synagogue de Delme Art Center; Domaine de Kerguennec Art Center, Bignan; among others, and was included in the 10th International Istanbul Biennale and the 2015 Lyon Biennale. His work has been included in group exhibitions at DiverseWorks, Houston; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin;

Witte de With, Rotterdam; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Santa Barbara; and Kunstverein Hannover. Prévieux received the Prix Marcel Duchamp 2014.


Agnès Geoffray, Sutures, Suspens and Syncope

Agnès Geoffray, well known by her photographic corpus, presents at Playground a composition of three videos titled Sutures (2017) followed by the premiere of her performance, Suspens and Syncope. Through these distinctive mediums Geoffray expands her interest in the moment of suspension, in the pause in the blink of an eye that constructs an abrupt situation. The tension between appearance and disappearance often scoped in her photographs is translated into these genuine artworks. «In the video Sutures, photos follow and flow into one another, vying for attention to challenge our gaze. The images come from collections or are made by Geoffray and appear as if in a hypnotic trip. In the performance Suspens et Syncope, actions such as fainting, spasms, or levitation are summoned through slow, broken movements. We see them in a fixed sequence between light and dark, evoking Eadweard Muybridge’s ‘chronophotographs’.»

Geoffray’s central working process of staging and reappropriation of found vernacular images in flea market,magazines, and Internet has been translated into these new projects. Her meticulous photographic eye dictates the female suspended body movements as much as the construction of the sequences of images of the videos. The created images, which shed light over the driven forces between and after a violent action occurs, are distinctively resolved. While the female dancing body pauses in its slow succession of postures as a sculptural form, the new sequence of images brings up an open narrative for the viewers. Both are reminiscences of a traditional iconography recognizable by the audience. This tension between the known and the hypotheses of what might have happened is tinted by the overall black and white tone of pictures and performances.

Agnès Geoffray (1973, Saint-Chamond, France) lives and works in Paris. Graduated at École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Art Paris (1997), she has enjoyed the residencies at Risksakademie (2002-3), Amsterdam and Villa Médicis, Rome (2010). Her practices focus on photography with a particular attention to the reconsitution of archives that she combined with her own pictures, creating completely new series. She has presented her artworks at Kunsthaus, Zurich; Kunsthalle Mayence, Kunsthalle Vienne; at Mac Val, Vitry-sur-Seine; Centre de la photography, Geneve; FRAC Auvergne; Clermont-Ferrand; and Centre photographique, Île-de-France. Her artworks belong to the collections of MNAM Pompidou and Musée de l’Élysée Lausanne among others. She has published her photography books at Lettre Volée, Ultieme Hallucinatie, Profond silence and Les Captives, and lately Before the eye-lid’s laid.


Benjamin Seror FR & The Masks …, … Sing Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Murder Mysteries I, II & III

Outside, it’s dark, and you wish you were holding a glass of whiskey. And then, the music starts …

Benjamin Seror & The Masks sing Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Murder Mysteries I, II &III, the first three chapters of Seror’s latest performance, creates a new fascinating story crossing historical periods, fiction and reality, with the inclusion for the first time of the band, The Masks. «Together they return to 1930s Los Angeles, where a number of murder mysteries unfold. Through storytelling and songs, Seror calls on a light-footed Ludwig Wittgenstein, who appears in the guise of a private detective. For this story, the philosopher applies his life’s work into logic to combating crime. The brightest logical thinking to solve the darkest misdemeanors. Tremble, shiver and dance!»

The always present sentimental disco music of Seror flourishes with the incorporation of The Masks, a band composed by female and a male voices and a keyboard. Their company on stage introduces a novel narrative component, pressing on Seror’s artistic motive, storytelling. Telling a story orally, introduced by chapters as a feuilleton, frames Benjamin Seror’s fascination to access other realities, where historical and mythological characters coexist, differing one’s memories. This space of imagination operates in the narrative of the voice as much as in the introduction of his handmade props and now in the performance of a band, all in order to create a powerful visual and cinematographic story. Describing the contexts, scenes, and characters to the spectators, guiding them into the new fictional reality, inviting them to be part of the situation are tools explored with humor and improvisation. Seror leads the audience to take the position of the viewer, the narrator and even of a secondary character throughout the story. As in his previous works, The Marsyas Hour (2015-16) and Mime Radio (2012-14), the artist initiates a long-term project that will consequently unfold developing the characters and their audacious intrigues. For this occasion, the specially created bar atmosphere is an invitation to the audience to feel part of this cheerful and intriguing experience and to discover a different chapter each day. Every evening a new episode will be performed following the development of the characters into their adventures.

Benjamin Seror (1979, Lyon) lives and works in Brussels. Graduated from the École National des Beaux Arts de Lyon, he has turned speech into his vehicle to bring history and fiction into his performances pressing into the possibilities of music and storytelling. Seror has presented his performances in numerous international institutions such as Stedelijk Museum, Witte de With, ICA Philadelphia, and Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Among his latest collective exhibitions are: La Biennale de Montréal (2016); LA Existancial, LACE, Los Angeles (2013); An Ever Changing Meaning, Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff (2013); A Terrible Beauty Is Born, Biennale de Lyon (2011); Repetition Island, Centre George Pompidou, Paris (2010). Seror plays with different bands including CONCERT with who he played at REDCAT, Los Angeles and at Bozar, Brussels.


buren, Blue Skies Forever

buren, the collaborative project of Oshin Albrecht and Melissa Mabesoone, presents the ongoing performance, Blue Skies Forever, as part of Playground festival. Inspired by the well-known video of artist Pipilotti Rist, Ever Is Over All (1997), buren reappropriates the two female characters of the video, the carefree woman smashing car windows, and the police nodding, as Dorothy, based on the character from The Wizard of Oz, and a female agent. The sequence of individually performed scenes alternates, featuring the archetypes of both female representations in films and television sets. The blue dress repeatedly worn by female characters refers to buren’s key research on the conventions generated between female identities and their outfits. While the light blue from Rist’s video, Cinderella, and Alice in Wonderland’s characters eludes to the feminine, fragile and almost innocent female figure, the dark blue connects with the authority figures, such as a police or a politician, like Margaret Thatcher. Blue Skies Forever uncovers these representational clichés.

As performers undress, dress, shape and reshape their characters, the audience’s gaze is exposed to their own fantasies. Props alongside customs influence this continuous reading. In a similar vein to previous works, Have you rearranged the flowers? (2014) and PARADE / PROMENADE (2015-16), buren stages powerful visual tableaux with colourful and not always apparently useful objects that orientate their careful gestures. Gestures, but also props and the scenography undertake a performative role intentionally expressing the media structures to unify the female image. The teasing of this construction is rounded by the inclusion of voices. Songs, mumbles, and murmurs, from now and then, point into women’s refrain tendency to modulate not only their image, but also their voice as a way to distinguish from factional representations.

The ongoing project, Blue Skies Forever will be further developed next year with the support of STUK, Vooruit, Gouvernement, CC Scharpoord, De Brakke Grond, Batard, wpZimmer and Campo, and with the collaboration of Charlotte Vanden Eynde, Jacob Ampe, Benjamin Dousselaere, Merel Heering, and Ferre Marnef.

buren is a collaboration by Melissa Mabesoone and Oshin Albrecht. Their practice consists of performances, videos, photos and installations. In 2013, the duo made their first performance together during a research residency in the frame of Les Laboréales, buren by buren, later presented by La Maison Folie, La Bellone, Buda, S.M.A.K., and Z33. Have you rearranged the flowers? premièred in 2014 at Vooruit during Tumult in Gent and then traveled to Les Ateliers Claus and Galerie Am Polylog in Wörgl (AT), where the two also presented their first solo exhibition, The room in the middle is a garden. During a three-month residency at BijlmAIR (2014), buren created the film Parkways, with support from Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam, CBK Zuidoost, and Stichting Flat; and in 2015, during their residencies at Croxhapox, Vooruit and Bains Connective they started to work on the performance PARADE / PROMENADE. Next to their white cube exhibitions (Tatjana Pieters), buren regularly performs on unexpected locations, such as Les Ateliers Claus, the official residence of the Governor of Eastern Flanders, the patio of Casco in Utrecht, Arti & Amicitiae and the BijlmAIR apartment in Amsterdam. They have recently published their artist’s book, Confusion of Tongues with Posture Editions. buren is graduating from HISK at the end of 2017 and they will present their work in the exhibition, The Grid and The Cloud at Vanderborght Building, Brussels from 24th November to 17 December 2016. Currently also on view: their solo exhibition at KAAP, in de Werf and Vrijstaat O.


Fabrice Samyn, A Breath Cycle

A Breath Cycle, a sequence of 7 performances never shown together and most of them premiering at Playground festival, is the definite ingress of visual artist Fabrice Samyn in the medium of performance. Breathing in and breathing out, the exhaustion and rhythm of inhalation and exhalation codify the scores activated on each work. Samyn focuses on the action of breathing, exploring diverse situations that are exposed in the individual works: Undressing Time, The Womb, The Blink of the Night, Light’s Threshold, Being Cloud, The Breath Border, and Vanity’s Ballroom —the performances will not be performed in chronological order. The performances are introduced through a guided cycle across various locations at STUK during a 2 hour period combining single presentations, simultaneous performances, and situations for the exclusive participation of the public. In each occasion, the audience is invited to follow some instructions according to the specific setting: from alternating with another artwork in Being Cloud, to directly joining a couple of performers to synchronise with their breathing cycle and their movements in The Womb, to acting in group in The Breath Border.

The intention to slow time and focus on the constant and almost imperceptible action of the breathing brings awareness on the cycle of life. The repeated conscious actions lead to assuming control over time touching into spirituality and intimacy realms. A feeling reinforced by very simple and slightly lighted scenes. For that, Samyn introduces some elements recurrent of his pictorial imaginary. Typical of Baroque paintings —the focus of his research— candles, flames, mirrors, and cloud motives alongside the use of fragile material such as fiber porcelain and glass appear here reinforcing the relationship into the human and spiritual conditions associated to the life circle. As in his visual art projects, such as Calendar, Samyn engages in a large subject that develops in ongoing series. A Breath Cycle has been conceived by Fabrice Samyn who also performs in some of the pieces. For Undressing Time, Samyn collaborates with choreographer and dancer Manon Santkin. Together they explore how breathing takes part in common daily gestures such as dressing and undressing. For the development of this ongoing performance series, other performers and volunteers —with special attention to their multicultural, mix genders and different of ages backgrounds— complete the crew following Samyn’s precise instructions.

Fabrice Samyn (1981, Brussels) lives and works in Brussels where he obtained his MA in Fine Artes from La Cambre. He has worked with different mediums such as painting, photography, sculpture, installation, and recently with performance where he has translated his concern of the metaphysical condition of time and being. Among his most recent solo shows are: Solipsismes, Meessen De Clercq Gallery, Brussels (2016); What Breaks When Spoken, Sies + Höke, Düsseldorf (2013); All the time we are, Lehmbruck Museum, Duisburg (2011), and Intervalles, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels (2007). He has also participated on the selected group exhibitions: Par VoiX Postale, Musée de la Photographie, Charleroi (2017); Une Deuxieme Image, Maison des Arts de Malakoff (2016); La Voix du Traducteur, FRAC Lorraine, Metz (2015), and When Attitudes Became Form Become Attitudes, CCA Wattis, San Francisco (2012).


Meryem Bayram, Fourfold

Meryem Bayram premieres her last performance Fourfold, unveiling the relationship between simple module objects and the bodies in charge of their activation. In the serene movements of the performers, Bayram privileges the intense visual quality of the simple geometrical forms. The multiple possibilities of shapes and dimensions, moving from squares to triangles, proposed by Bayram’s objects are completed by the soul and hands of the performer. For Fourfold, Bayram collaborates with visual artist Guy Rombouts who adds his alphabet into the scenographic vocabulary, central to Bayram’s work. Rombouts, whose practice focuses on the questions of current communication system with particular attention to an overlap between form and content, created this abstract alphabet with his companion and artistic partner Monica Droste in 1984. On this occasion, both abstract objects and letters coexist on this minimal stage as perfect allies reformulating thus the limits of their flow.

For Fourfold, the artist extends her choice of craft materials, and her regular use of cardboard and elastics, to also include paper and wood. Sharing a common source and a palette of colours, these materials offer the ideal flexibility, dynamism, and capability to be indefinitely reshaped. An invitation to define the actions and movements of Rombouts and Bayram on stage is reinforced by the warm and touching qualities of these materials. Folding, extending, stacking, and shifting their three central elements: the initial white paper covering the stage, the cardboard and elastics for objects, and the wood of the stages play into the unlimited combination of this unfinished puzzle. A combination enhanced by the construction of the shapes by the dramatic lighting. These movements insinuate a circular reading sustained on the one hand by the independent actions carried out by the performers as well as by the introduction of seven letters and their combination into several words. From time to time, their almost unreadable sounds are said out loud. The outcries: “Here!” “Now?” “No!” “Where?” “Nowhere!” are interrupted by the sounds of the materials resisting each other as their movements overlap. This insinuated process of peeling in and peeling out exposes the forces of Bayram’s abstract and humanistic vocabulary.

For her second performance, Meryem Bayram explores the qualities exposed in her previous performance Autonomous Scenographies (2013) —presented at Playground, Labozaal, Leuven — with particular attention to her choice of malleable materials, the privilege of the visual possibilities created by the abstract objects, and the collaborative working method where the performers open up a score from the set of possibilities of Bayram’s objects and forms. Bayram elegantly balance the autonomy of objects within the course of improvised actions and the defined rhythm of the performance.


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