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Re-interpreting Xavier Le Roy’s performative art at Hamburger Bahnhof

Twelve performers re-interpreted Xavier Le Roy at Retrospective, a performance art exhibition at Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin.

by Sukanya Garg Sep 17, 2019

French artist, contemporary dancer and choreographer, Xavier Le Roy’s exhibition Retrospective delved into the realm of performative art. Bringing together choreographed pieces of actions and speeches, the series is part of ‘What the Body Remembers. Dance Heritage Today' event being organised by the Akademie der Künste, Berlin, between August 24 and September 21, 2019.

Retrospective by Xavier Le Roy, Barcelona, 2012 | Retrospective | Xavier le Roy | STIR
Retrospective by Xavier Le Roy, Barcelona, 2012 Image Credit: Lluís Bover © Fundació Antoni Tàpies

The exhibition, at the Hamburger Bahnhof - Museum für Gegenwart in Berlin - from August 24 to September 8, 2019, presented a participatory platform of sorts, allowing performers to re-interpret pieces originally choreographed by Roy, infusing them with their own experiences, skills and narratives. It resulted in a collective interpretation and presentation, symbolic of the exchange between the artist, the viewer and the space. This exchange is ever-evolving, constantly stimulated by new performers generating unique perspectives and leaving behind newer narratives.

Roy, then, through his practice of contemporary dance, has always produced works or rather contexts or situations to introspect on the relationships between the artist or performer and the audience. For him, the two are not mutually exclusive, per se. While the former might inspire the latter, the latter influences and transforms the nature of work of the former. Circumstances and the context in which we exist inevitably influence not just our lives, but even our interpretations of art.

Retrospective by Xavier Le Roy, Barcelona, 2012 | Retrospective | Xavier le Roy | STIR
Retrospective by Xavier Le Roy, Barcelona, 2012 Image Credit: Lluís Bover © Fundació Antoni Tàpies

In Roy’s exhibition at the Hamburger Bahnhof, twelve performers chose excerpts of solo works by Xavier Le Roy, created since 1994, to reinterpret them in their own individual ways. The exhibition employed retrospective as a mode of production rather than aiming to show the development of an artistic oeuvre over a period of time. It sought to recast the material from the solo choreographies in situations with live actions where the apparatuses of the theatre performance and the museum exhibition intersect. The work then unfolded in three time axes: firstly, the duration of the visit composed by each visitor; secondly, the daily basis of labour time of 12 performers and thirdly, the time of the growth of a new composition during the length of the exhibition.

Consequently, for Roy, a re-interpretation of performances and their underlying narratives was an attempt to showcase how art is not unilateral, stories are not individual and existences are not immutable.

Retrospective by Xavier Le Roy, MoMA PS1, New York City, 2014 | Retrospective | Xavier le Roy | STIR
Retrospective by Xavier Le Roy, MoMA PS1, New York City, 2014 Image Credit: © MoMA PS1

Retrospective was originally organised in 2012 by the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona, on invitation of Laurence Rassel. It was one of 21 productions in a priority programme of the Akademie der Künste, Berlin, focusing on the importance of dance heritage for contemporary art. The programme was jointly developed with the Tanzfonds Erbe (Dance Heritage Fund) of the Kulturstiftung des Bundes (German Federal Cultural Foundation). The artistic collaboration for the project included Scarlet Yu with Alexandre Achour, Saša Asentić, Josep Caballero, Caitlin Fisher, Zeina Hanna, Berit Jentzsch, Sabine Macher, Ming Poon, Ingo Reulecke, Julia Rodríguez, Emmilou Rößling and Nicola van Straaten.

Retrospective by Xavier Le Roy, MoMA PS1, New York City, 2014 | Retrospective | Xavier le Roy | STIR
Retrospective by Xavier Le Roy, MoMA PS1, New York City, 2014 Image Credit: © MoMA PS1

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About Author

Sukanya Garg

Sukanya Garg

Garg is an artist and writer with a Master's degree in Public Policy from Duke University, USA. She has been involved in research, planning and execution of gallery exhibitions and external projects in collaboration with curators. Her writing has been published in several art magazines, journals and as part of curatorial notes and catalogues, and her work has been showcased at multiple exhibitions.

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