Liquid skies and other clinamen

by Stéphanie Moisdon

The latest video installation by Cecilia Bengolea, conceived for the Consortium Museum in Dijon, takes the form of a participatory performance and brings together the Jamaican crew Black Eagle and the Japanese ballerina Erika Miyauchi. Being a real work in progress that started about five years ago, the piece is based on the idea of producing a continuous flow out of fragmented and disjoined experiences. Street sequences in Kingston meet interior scenes that are excerpts from the video recording of a performance created by Cecilia Bengolea, François Chaignaud and Erika Miyauchi in 2017 at Dia Beacon, made in relation to Green Fence, a work by Dan Flavin. Composed of different sequences and long takes, shoot between day and night, the tempests, hurricanes and climatic phenomena play a central role in constituting this collective body. The elements are not to be considered as minor or exterior, but as strong factors of narration, as agents to the scene, disrupting its limits and definitions. This world made out of deviations, variations and intervals develops within indeterminate zones, neither natural nor urban, but between the materiality of places and the undulations of bodies, between the unremitting heat of the Caribbeans and the cold sun of Flavin's neon bulbs. A reality augmented by the presence of car headlights, that are like so many involuntary glares. This piece is conceived without a beginning or an end. Possessing neither an order nor a program, it hosts the mutation of human and non-human relations, governed by rain and sweat. A piece where one perceives how bodies are affected by nature and how nature is transfigured by the persistent presence of bodies.

But what I call 'nature' here is an unstable and distraught concept. The environment in Bengolea's work is nature as being shaped by desire, language and politics. If the environment appears as a non-site, it's because there doesn't exist a given environmental object: to make it exist rests on formal work, on a process of displacements of subjects through which this non-site becomes the stakes of a relation, a heterogenous system between the elements. This new relational state entails a drift, a flow, where the world is firstly a laminar runoff. The drift falls here under the notion of learning, under the sharing of gestures and figures, a mode of navigating inside the elementary, via milieux. The experience of a dance that is off-scene, obscene, refers to the experience of the flow of time, of a continuous hand-to-hand with the uncontrollable threats and turbulences of solid and liquid elements.

This elementary learning process is to be found in many of Cecilia Bengolea's collaborations which began in the 2000s with artists such as Jeremy Deller, Dominique Gonzalez Foerster or Trajal Harrell. The system of turbulences and drifts, in which accidental combinations, clashes and chance are incorporated, is precisely the one system being played out in the collaborative apparatus of (M)IMOSA (2016), a sequel to an evolutive piece by Trajal Harrell entitled Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning – a sort of fictional hypothesis of an unlikely encounter between voguing and American postmodern dance. François Chaignaud, Cecilia Bengolea and Marlene Monteiro Freitas, together with Harell, developed, as a group as well as individually, sensible and hybrid objects, a world of doubts, a true clinamen based on constant bifurcations.

They invented for themselves a community without communities, where the desire does not transform the plateau into a space perpetuating systems of authority and liability but into a projective surface reactive to all operations of condensation, transfer and transformation. They introduce an ambivalence, a polysemy, a multiplicity of collective arrangements plugged into one another into the very language of art, of theatre, of music; places of mobility and wanderings, devoid of any precise limits, without “enclosures” or measure. A nomadic space, a nomadologic space, a space described in Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari's A Thousand Plateaus as being between two states, more demonic than divine, given that demons are figures of the interval, intermediary beings between humans and gods who inhabit interstitial spaces and who blur boundaries and properties.

In this community without communities, that rejects the hysteria concerned with mastery and copyrights, one is nonetheless still able to recognize oneself within a common, dissolved and precarious world, where referents roam freely, in the absence of hierarchies.

The recurrent idea in all of Cecilia Bengolea's work is the following: it consists in temporarily inhabiting a moment bound to be unstable, and in constantly remixing most of the signs of the real and of artistic practice, with all the wishful aberrations attached.

This erotically charged world, pulsating, organic, endlessly repetitive, which hosts its passion for the sake of the encounter with other non-domesticated bodies, is open to savage fictions. These carry away the spectacular and technological logics as well as productivity clichés.

But it is with François Chaignaud, with whom Cecilia Bengolea created the company Vlovajob Pru, and more than ten projects, that the notion of collaboration reaches its highest level of intensity.

Together, they allow themselves to be liberated from references, procedures and styles, in order to experiment common writing. It is within this process of failure and error-making that these distortions, that are at the core of their practice, have been able to break off from the fantasy of perfection. Together, they have been taught about the violence of harmony, a notion they share, like the one about the “kaleidoscope-space”, made out of connections and disconnections between images and sounds, the fundamental place of their respective works. They seek for the idea of a constantly “unmade” form, a form that doesn't accept its shapelessness, its accidents, its excess.

This undoing of the subject is the very sign of the contemporary radicalism of which Cecilia Bengolea and François Chaignaud share the excesses. When facing one's own representation, one goes as far as destroying the very notion of gender, the very notion of totality.

One must say that something has fundamentally changed nowadays in regards to sexual representation. The question is less about the enigma of sex than about the neutrality of gender:

Between the physical expression of bodies and songs, between the plateau, the gallery and the street, from one territory to the other, how does one trace the thin Stoic way that makes you to be dignified about what occurs, that reveals something that is merry and in love in what occurs, a glare, an encounter, an event, a speed, a becoming?