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Jérôme Bel - 'Nom donne par l'auteur'

Nottdance 2005

by Ramsay Burt

April 30, 2005 -- Sandfield Centre, Nottingham

'Nom donné par l'auteur' [Name given by the author]. Choreographed by Jérôme Bel. Performed by Jérôme Bel and Frédéric Seguette.

Cast: Two men, a vacuum cleaner, a hair dryer (both with long leads plugged into a socket centre back stage), a tin of table salt, a small patterned carpet rug, a large French dictionary (Le Robert), a torch, a stool, a plastic children's ball, a pair of old ice skates, four capital letters - N, S, O, E - cut from white polystyrene representing the four cardinal points of the compass (in French).

Definition: A series of tableaux combining groups of the above, initially the two men putting pairs of objects together; Examples (1): salt pored on bank note; (2) hair dryer blowing air sucked up by vacuum cleaner nozzle (both items switched on). Then, having rotated the rug and cardinal points, creating combinations of increasingly bizarre complexity and ironic conceptual sophistication; Example (3); stool, man 1, ball, lined up. Man 2 kicks stool over, kicks man 1 hard in ####, boots ball into black back curtain.

Characteristic quality: economic manipulation of objects between each tableaux, followed by stillness for audience to appreciate visual affect and ponder conceptual implications, or to anticipate ensuing actions (as in example 3).

Rationale: exhaustive exploration of all possible combinations of objects and their properties - people treated as material, inanimate objects presented choreographically in time, space, and exploiting qualities of 'line'.

Note 1: tension between logical progression of this exploration and irrational meanings generated by combinations. Example (4): Man sits on rug, closes dictionary with edge of rug in it as bookmark, then folds other side of rug over to wrap self up like a rough sleeper.

Note 2: Tension also between deadpan, matter of fact manner of performers throughout and ironic associations generated by some tableaux. Example (5): man points vacuum cleaner (switched on) at open dictionary on right side of stage while level with him on left other man points hair dryer to blow air into his mouth out of which emerges haltingly, word by word, as if involuntarily, the dictionary definition of 'Air' (in French).

Discussion: psychological confusion of different orders of reality - in example 5, physical properties of air with conceptual properties of dictionary definition of air.

Example (6): torch shining at stool placed on rug; shadow of stool on rug traced with poured salt, making white shadow. Then while clearing away and setting up next tableau, rug lifted up to display the white 'shadow' which 'fades' as salt runs off rug onto lino; small firm shake of rug to dislodge final traces of 'shadow'.
Discussion: psychological confusion as before but this time in minds of audience rather than performers. Powerful affect at sense of loss.

History and context: first performed 1994, "Nom donné par l'auteur" is one of Bel's earliest pieces still in repertory. Over the years, almost the entire oeuvre of Bel's work presented at Nottdance, this being last Nottdance programmed by Jane Greenfield who among British promoter has done most to introduce Bel's work in the UK.

In post-show discussion Bel stated that he was only showing it here now because Nottingham audiences knew his other work. Viewed as early work, "Nom donné… " appears to rehearse lexicon of concerns and devices within Bel's oeuvre. Typical of many early works in general, every aspect of Nom donné… is so controlled and carefully constructed that the performer has little opportunity for interpretation. There is little room to take the kinds of risks manipulating the relationship between performative presence and audience expectation that is typical of Bel's later works.

Derivation of title: 'Nom donné par l'auteur' is the definition in Le Robert of 'titre' [title].

Edited by Staff.

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