Beginning with Good Boy (1998) and continuing through to my recent Inconsolés (2005), questions about gender and sexuality have frequently recurred in my work. I found myself asking formal, political, rather pointed questions, which I did not necessarily try to anticipate, but which I did attempt to confront. The working process which we use in each project gives us the framework for playing these resonances off of each other, resolving complex contradictions as they appear. And during each step in the process I metaphorically throw the dice of poetic, subjective, ineluctable necessity.
Starting with Dispositifs 3.1 (2001), and even more with Dé-marche (2002), I developed an interest in fiction and the use of narrative, which had not previously figured in my work. In Les Inconsolés (2005) I affirmed my option of working in this area, exploring extensively, right out to the edges of dreams and fantasy, of trans- formation and trouble, using the powers of illusion which are only possible in the theater, as well as the space it offers for that process to take place.
Having integrated this idea, and in conjunction with my work on gesture and space, the dialogue which I established with music (working with both classical and rock music) and voice (sung or spoken), I decided it was time to really step up – I had already worked with Claudia Triozzi, Vera Mantero and Mark Tompkins in Mauvais Genre (2003). Each performer was asked to contribute both in the choreographic area and vocally, as singers. I asked Georgette Dee to work with us for the version we presented in Cologne, then for the Umstellung/Umwandlung exhibit in Vienna, we worked with Dorit Chrysler, her theremin and her unmistakable acerbic voice.
For several years now I have dreamed of taking on the difficult genre of the musical. My reference was of course the giant Hollywood productions, but the rampant use of clichéd, overly conventional plot devices bored me, they were so bland, so predictable, so dime- store novel. With this project I intended to contaminate the musical and dramatic codes of the genre, using my own resources and sources, my personal mix of music and emotional and aesthetic nuance.
(Not) a Love Song is our exploration of a new cinematic material (channeling Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard and Fassbinder’s Veronika Voss, drifting from Mae West to Andy Warhol), where the memory of the poses, the lighting, the voices, the gestures, the whole camp scene in (Not) a Love Song will in part support the plot as well as the three female characters who will be emerging from our collective cinematographic memories. Relationships, sadistic, codependent, passionate, develop in this drama dealing with the loss of the object of one’s love and the loss of identity. The actresses’ aging cannot be confused with the loss of another object of love only because their own identities flicker slightly as they are reflected in what has been their profession, their art, in a multiple series of reflections. These are the themes feeding cinema, powering show business, serving as a metaphor for our condition, where a fascination with one’s own double unfolds more freely and openly than in the real world. The rollicking interchanging of identities reinforces the derealizing spiral of the piece.
This is why I was compelled to find artistically rich, complex, versatile, polymorphic performers for this work.
At Danspace in New York, I met Miguel Gutierrez, performing Mauvais Genre, whose presence and strength as an actor made him an obvious choice for this project. He breaks and twists the dancer’s codes with a brilliant nonchalance and impertinence and his talent as a singer (he is also a backup singer for Anthony and the Johnsons) will add much to the piece.
We know Vera Mantero as both a choreographer and a talented improvisational artist, but she is also an excellent singer. Her covers of songs by Caetano Veloso and various jazz standards have been received with great success. The flowing elastic mobility of her face and body will silence any niggling questions of genre which may come up in reference to this piece.
Claudia Triozzi is a performance artist as well as an incomparable singer whose technique allows her to leap through the most com- plex vocal hoops. Her exuberant, adventurous approach is exactly right for a project both Doris Day and Annie Cordy would have turned down. And of course to work together again gives us the opportunity not to look back at our past but to again risk throwing the dice of our future.
The qualities and particularities of each of these performers will contribute greatly to the development of the story – rather than following the structure of a specific film, we will be inspired by certain scenes we have preselected. One of them will be the impressive face-off between Bette Davis and Joan Crawford in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? or the scene from Robert Aldrich’s The Killing of Sister George, in which Beryl Reid tells her girlfriend that her character in a BBC soap opera is going to be killed off in the next episode.
(Not) a Love Song will take on the ideas and feelings from these and other losses.
Alain Buffard [September 2006]