LEAVE ROOM

Bo / Kevin Jean & Ludivine Demol, 2020 & 2021

Commissioned by the Théâtre de Brétigny as part of La beauté du geste.

In 2020, at the invitation of Théâtre de Brétigny and Julie Nioche, I started an exchange with Fanny Dumont, a stage manager and metal designer. Her outspoken words on sexism in the working world challenged me to honour her voice and actions.

As the problem of ‘invisibilisation’, which was a key part of Dumont’s experiences, is also very much found in the cultural world, I decided to take a step back to better understand all these issues and make space for them.

With Ludivine Demol – doctoral researcher in gender and sexuality – we will discuss sexism and discrimination, invisibility and visibility, through an intersectional lens.

A performance canceled, reinvented, canceled, rethought, canceled, reimagined, canceled, abandoned.

An invisible performance on questions of invisibilization.

CREDITS
ConceptionBo / Kevin Jean
in collaborartion with Ludivine Demol
ProductionLa Fronde
CoproductionThéâtre de Brétigny

Here is a text written as a trace of this disappeared project :

In October 2019, Julie Nioche proposes that I participate in La beauté du Geste, a program initiated by the theater of Brétigny and for which she is the curator. The principle of this program is to make films around the question of gesture with the inhabitants of the town and then to transmit this film to an artist who conceives a performance with this starting point and distanced meeting. Six projects have been launched and should lead to a week of performance in March 2020. The specifications are tight and imposed: everyone on the set, broadcasting of the film, performance time, exchange with the person filmed, sharing of a dance gesture with the public, shared meal.

Laure Delamotte-Legrand directs the films with Julie and they give me a portrait of Fanny Dumont.

Fanny is a stage manager and metal worker. She talks about her job on camera. She evokes the sexism of her colleagues in the world of events who refer her to the supposed fragility of her state as a woman, who want to carry or do things for her. As well as the sexist norms in terms of protective clothing (non-existence of fireproof welder’s gloves in her size) and tools (ergonomics of grinders, diameters and balancing). She talks about other things but today what remains most vivid is this question of sexism.

After watching this video, I quickly ask myself: why do I have this video? What can I do with this starting point? How can I evoke sexism from my position as a person assigned male at birth who benefits from this discriminatory system of organization? At this time I have not yet accepted that my transition has been in the works since 2017 and I am coming out for the first time in May 2021. What to stage? Who to put on stage? Me? To say what? To live what experience? With what desire and purpose? To evoke sexism? To work on bringing it to light in our professional sectors that think they are ahead of their time, not concerned and do not address this issue for themselves (same for the public)?

What do I want? How to initiate from the pleasure because it is my deep desire?

For me the very assembly of this project raises questions? Why does the theater do this? Why in this form? Why film an “inhabitant” and then commission an artist to do a related performance?

I feel the pitfall of using others, their image, their story to make my work and to gain prestige, a paid activity. Does Fanny need me? Can’t she carry her word? Is she listened to by her colleagues when she denounces a sexist attitude?

What is my legitimacy on this subject? Why do I keep this subject as central?

Too much slippery ground and too many ways to break my teeth. I make several decisions:

The first is to propose a collaboration with Ludivine Demol, researcher, doctoral student and lecturer, specialist in information and communication sciences and gender and sexualities. Julie Nioche invites me, offers me a space, a place and an economy and I choose in turn to share this space, these visibilities and remunerations with a person concerned and working on these questions.

The second is linked to the visibility and invisibilization of the word of those concerned. By putting myself on stage and being the voice of Fanny, I take the risk of making myself visible and making her disappear. This would then reproduce a classic: the people concerned disappear from the discussions about them. I don’t want to participate in the reproduction of this process. I feel I’m on the edge and capable of screwing up. However, I don’t want this to paralyze me and prevent me from doing things, to freeze and keep the status quo (cf. militant purity and judgments).

I organize a first working time in Brétigny. I start alone for the directions related to this proposal. Then Ludivine and Fanny join me for a time of meeting and exchange. We record it.

The meeting is simple, pleasant, fluid, full of listening, understanding and desires. We introduce ourselves, talk about the video, draw threads from our relative experiences, share intimacy, knowledge and weave our thoughts in confidence. We talk about education, sexism, patriarchy, sexualities, work, love and the organization of love, heteronormativity, viriarchy, competence, art, welding, sculpture, university research. A great richness emerges.

Fanny does not wish to be staged or acted upon. Paraphrasing her, if she chose her profession it is precisely to be in the act of creation but not to be visible nor in the light.

The more time goes by, the more I think about making myself invisible. Not to be seen. To not put myself in play. The budget does not allow me to hire other people and the editing of this program implies that I conceive and realize the performance.

I am working in parallel on the editing of To The Point, a piece to sabotage the masculinities of dominations and its representations by engaging an eroticization of people assigned men at birth. Can I make a bridge?

During my work at the theater I meet few staff members and I feel little enthusiasm on their part to realize this event. One more project in the season, one more weight. The management decides on the titles and proposes me: The Stage manager and the steak tartare. I do not understand and perceive a huge counter sense (raw meat associated to virilism for example). The title must have a link with the job (and the associated gestures) and the meal that will be served. Given the subject and what I feel I want to do with it, I anticipate the fact that it will potentially sting, be spicy, explosive. I suggest The Stage manager and the pomegranate and think of a cocktail that will be offered to the public at the entrance, which will be spicy or bitter, astringent. Pomegranate sound like grenade in French. I want people to come and share this moment with a glass in their hand, like in a bar. To desacralize a little the theater and its rituals. Counter proposal: The Stage manager and the explosive cocktail. So be it.

[ Ideas:

Invite a mixologist to design a drink with and without alcohol that stings and grates on the mouth.

Design wooden spoons, laser engraving them with questions that we have raised during our discussions and that everyone will be invited to ask themselves or to ask afterwards during the discussion time.

Show the film portrait of Fanny

Do not dance. Leave the place

Ludivine speaks as a sociologist on the invisibilization of those concerned, sexism, racism, validism, intersetionality. ]

[ The covid is coming. I get sick at the very beginning of the pandemic on March 10, 2020. I feel like I’m going to die. I am delirious, state that I have to make my will. I tell myself that this is what death is like. That I can leave and it would be quite peaceful. N. takes care of me the first few days, then also gets sick and has to take care of her daughter L. Emergency services are overloaded and takes 2 hours to respond. I have seizures 2 hours a day for 5 days during which I feel like I am breathing through a straw. It is very distressing. In order not to give in to the anxiety, I have to get myself alone and breathe calmly. When I have the emergency services they tell me that I am not touched enough to come and get me. Once unconscious it will be harder to call them. SOS doctor comes and reassures me about my oxygen saturation. I’m having really hard time for 15 days and it will take me a month and a half to recover physically. Going downstairs to buy a baguette exhausts me. I stop at each floor to blow like an old woman. I’m worried. It will take me months to fully recover and I don’t know how much the covid affects me psychologically with the brain fog syndrome that I feel like I’m in continuously. Loss of lucidity, memory, ability to analyze, to have a clear mind, impression of confusion and uneasiness, of being confused continuously. ]

The 2020 edition of La beauté du geste is cancelled. The postponement to 2021 is discussed. The payment of the amounts already committed is problematic. The cost of a revival is evoked.

2020 passes. 2021 starts. The theaters are still closed.

The year that has passed reinforces my choice not to put myself on stage and to work on the question of invisibilization with Ludivine.

The 2021 edition will not finally be able to take place in public. We reinvent a proposal: a conference of Ludivine for a restricted audience which will be filmed and broadcast thereafter. We get to work. We reworked the performance schedules, reinvented the wheel and other ways of thinking about the link with the public.

The theater unilaterally cancels this possibility with from my point of view a great lack of care for all the committed work and these successive reinventions.
An abandonment. A kind of professional ghosting.
I have been ghosted. By a theater this time.
By this theater in fact it will be the 3rd time. I was warned. Two years in a row they had contacted me, scheduled and cancelled my piece The 36th Chamber at the last minute.

Julie thought about doing something in a different context. A reunion in the countryside near Rennes to make films. We organize ourselves. The confinement and the inter-regional travel bans fall, Laure, the videographer is covid contact. The sponge is thrown in for good.

Between being fed up, stupefaction, disappointment, disillusionment, relief…

Not to succeed, not to finalize, to give up. Not easy to accept after so much energies put in motion by me and my collaborators.
We still work a lot without being paid, as all our colleagues working in a permanent structure know. This is what makes possible the creations that lack money and makes possible the existence of our economic sector: it is based on the free work of the artists and the teams of the independent companies.
At least we have a symbolic remuneration with the creation which sees day: a pleasure to succeed, to create, a recognition of the work, of the constitution of an oeuvre that may lead to other proposals, a possibility of showing and thus of touring elsewhere against remuneration.

An abandonment of project has heavy consequences which are carried differently and mainly by the artists and the independent teams of creations.

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