A world that needs ceaseless reconstruction* | Gisèle Vienne

The theatre begins with that which we have so intimately integrated. We can practise it as such, consciously, or without taking it into consideration or without ever really being aware of it. It is the social and normative theatre, this essentialised and naturalised cultural creation, that of our identity.

Questioning this social theatre allows us to question the system in which we evolve and which is deployed even in our own flesh. It allows us to think fundamentally about identity and, in doing so, its cultural representations.

This representation, which can be called social performativity, includes gender, social classes and racial identities. My relationship to the staging of the bodies, appearances, voices, movements, the quality of their embodiment or disembodiment, their presence and absence, allows me to dialogue with the cultural constructions that shape us even in our greatest intimacy. If the normative ideal attempts to render invisible the social mechanisms of the internalisation of identities by naturalising them, we can aspire that the theatrical act, by its very theatricality, can reveal its artifice.

The particular purpose is to stir this movement, provoked by consciousness and the possible act of listening to oneself, which leads to a moving and undefined identity, in my opinion much closer to our reality. It helps to understand the role we play, that we are led and even forced to play, in order to discover the need to deconstruct it, to better attain the movement that builds our identity.

Art, including theatre, must be the place where we dissect signs, their articulations, everything that makes up our perception and where we can question and shake the constructed reality, a pseudo-reality, product of the shared creation of the representation of reality, which goes from the social norm to the very construction of our perception.

This dissection and deconstruction must allow the invention of new hypotheses and possible interpretations of the world, and must constantly question our relation to the moving world. The shared creation of the representation of reality can be seen as the creation of a common language that allows us to read and understand the world, acting as a shared reading grid. This language is a way of outlining and organising the world, among an infinite number of other possibilities. They are also ways of telling the world. Inventing new artistic forms means trying to invent new languages that would allow us to read and tell the world differently, through their very form. It is about becoming aware of the construction of our perception and our shared perception through this cultural language. Philosophy, sociology, psychology spark this awareness on a cognitive level, art and theatre have to, through the invention of forms, equally be committed to it through their experience. I try to do this by juxtaposing different layers of reading, which may even be in tension or contradiction with each other. By juxtaposing different formal languages. By provoking a questioning of the signs deployed at the very heart of the staging and during its development. By going through experiences in which the body questions reason, by experimenting and provoking flaws in our reading of the world, because, as Bernard Rimé analyses in his text Emotions at the Service of Cultural Construction: “Emotions are states that signal flaws in the subject’s anticipation systems, or in other words, in aspects of the subject’s models of how the world works.”

It is also a question of letting the body and the emotions have their say, of thinking about the development of our intelligence by taking into consideration the intelligence of the body, as well as its subversive relationship to authority and domination games stemming from the social norm and structure, from which it may suffer. To understand more about the authoritarian relationship that may exist between the rational and physical cognitive system. By defusing this authoritarian relationship, it is through these dialogues with the body and emotions that we can develop our knowledge.

We are actors, constructed identities, evolving in a pseudo-reality. The theatre should therefore allow this staggering ‘mise en abyme’ in the dissected and reinvented reflection that it sends back to us. In the hope of being able to deconstruct what is written and naturalised, to allow the constant reinvention of oneself and the world in movement, while recognising their inevitable permeability. Creation involves deconstruction, in fact even destruction, observing ruins, enjoying chaos, inventing and building new structures and their new destruction.

Gisèle Vienne is a Franco-Austrian artist, choreographer and director. After graduating in Philosophy, she studied at the puppeteering school Ecole Supérieure Nationale des Arts de la Marionnette. She has choreographed and directed performances currently touring in Europe and in the world, and also frequently exhibits her photographs and installations.

*Alain Robbe-Grillet, “Un monde à reconstruire sans cesse,” in ‘Préface à une vie d’écrivain’