Pascal Rambert talks about his (micro) history of the world, danced

French director Pascal Rambert talks about his acclaimed exploration of the economy

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Time Out New York: I totally agree.
Pascal Rambert:
But it’s always the same thing: I’m not like, “You should do that, you should do that.…” No. It’s a very precise frame, but inside people are really free to act. The same with (micro) history; they have understood that they are the core of the show. It’s very important to me that the artists with whom I work or amateurs or participants really create the piece in real time in front of the eyes of the audience. In (micro) history, we do a writing session in real time during the show, so while the philosopher is talking to the audience and the performers are doing something else, [the volunteers] sit on the floor and write, and when it’s their turn, they come to a mike facing the audience and read what they just wrote. There has been a lot of (micro) history happening in the world, so maybe now 500 people have been participating. Each time, it’s 50 people. And each time when people are saying their text, nothing bad happens. Nobody said, “Fuck Sarkozy” or “Fuck America.” People are always saying things that when you hear them, you are like, Wow.

Time Out New York: Like what?
Pascal Rambert:
I make them work out of autobiography, but I tell them, “Don’t say that war is bad and love is nice. We know that. We don’t want this kind of crap. I want to hear you.” I don’t want them to say, “When I was a kid with my mom…” It’s not this thing at all. But I want them to bring what they shape and put in front of the world. What is it to write? What is it to choose words when we write? I am a writer. I spend my time choosing. To write is to choose. So after a while they understand that they shrink and shape what they have to say with fewer words than maybe they would have done. They work at what to write; they work at what to write with their bodies too. They enjoy to listen to the philosopher. So this is like philosophy-aesthetic kind of dance–not dance—I don’t know how to put it. What do we call [what] Jérôme [Bel], Boris [Charmatz], what we all do? It is like that. At the same time, they are producing the images themselves. So it’s a very complete work. When you look at it, it is like a split screen. There are 50 people on set, a philosopher is speaking, the performers are doing things, people are singing and from the front part of the stage and the back part of the stage, and you can totally deal with, Okay, I don’t want to listen to the philosopher, because he bugs me, but if you love to look at bodies, which are not trained—for me, I love that. I love that! It’s gaze cannibalism. It is something about being a cannibal of what you see. I need to look at things, so I love to look at people. Maybe in New York, they are a little more trained, but in Japan it was amazing. There were old ladies of 90, and they were doing things on the floor very slowly. And I’m not into judgment. Me, I love things that I didn’t describe. I give very precise shapes, and through that, people find their own pleasure. They enter into this kind of writing; it’s autobiographical, it’s their own grammar, and they produce images and movement and it works. It’s possible to be free through something precise.

Time Out New York: What is an example of a precise shape?
Pascal Rambert:
For example, I like it when the fingers are closed; I don’t like it when the fingers are open. I tell them the energy goes through the hands. I like what I call cold movements. I try to tell them that I don’t need to have an, Oh! expression, but to be blank. It’s like a neutral position. I speak about what it is to be onstage, so presence, which is not a social presence, but just to be here. What is it to be here? So the first days are like, What is going on? They start to see and they start to enjoy not to be social, but to just be.

Time Out New York: Almost as an object?
Pascal Rambert:
Not an object. To be in the present. It’s very simple, but it’s really difficult to achieve, and people can make faces. We all learned that from Pina, from Bob Wilson. I tell them to not be theatrical or the idea of being theatrical; I tell them I’m looking for the human—it’s a big word—but the human presence, and most of the time that works. After a while, people get it and little by little, we arrive at the point, and there is something that is really—[Sharp intake of breath]—50 people facing the audience. And they are not playing cute, they are not playing perky. This thing that is about dance and theater and especially in America where you have to be [Makes a happy face]…I got that from Bob Wilson. Frankly, when I was 16 I saw the thing that he did for the Olympic Games? I saw that the performers were able to not show me what they think, but I could project myself on them, because they were not trying to overact. Just this little thing for me has a been a discovery, and I’ve been spending my life working on that. When I was younger, I was doing it from the outside, because I found the path to this point. But now I’ve been doing it for 30 years. I’ve done so much work that maybe what we did with Kate and Jim was the right place for this work. We did it together, and I hope that we will do it again. We are talking to Lili [Chopra of the French Institute Alliance Française] because she wants to do it again in January 2015. We wanted to do it in January 2014, but Kate is working with Bob. [Makes a face] We are going to try.


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