Salon XL: Loïe Fuller – Unraveling an Icon
American dancer and choreographer Loïe Fuller was a pioneer of modern dance and theatre technique. This Salon XL brings together researchers and artists to unravel her multi-layered personality and to sketch her influence and legacy on contemporary performance artists, such as Ola Maciejewska and Trajal Harrell.
14:00 NELE WYNANTS & TIMMY DE LAET
Introduction – Imaging Fuller: Mapping a Visual Legacy
Following the various innovations Loïe Fuller inaugurated in terms of choreographic movement, theatre technology, costume, and body concept, we know Fuller today thanks to a wide circulation of images that depict her enigmatic appearances. As such, these images capture some of the magic she and her practice represent. In this introduction, Timmy De Laet and Nele Wynants will briefly discuss some of the most iconic pictures of Fuller in order to demonstrate how they have influenced the collective memory regarding this significant choreographer, who is primarily known as a pioneer of early modern dance, but whose impact extends far beyond the history of dance. This brief journey through the visual legacy of Loïe Fuller will raise several crucial questions on historical distance and the time that is said to separate the present from the past, an issue that also contemporary artists are increasingly dealing with by revisiting her choreographic heritage. By untangling these stakes, this introduction will set the framework for the lectures and talks during this Salon XL.
14:30 STAF VOS
Loïe Fuller as muse: icon or agent?
Loïe Fuller has mainly been known and appreciated through (her impact on) the work of writers, visual artists and other performers, who created her iconic status as ‘the symbolist dancer’, ‘the art nouveau dancer’, ‘Fairy Electricity’ or even ‘the (earliest) futurist dancer’. Can we reduce the value of the ‘muse’ to the appreciation of the artists she inspired? Artists who, literally or metaphorically, objectified and instrumentalised the dancer and her work to support their own ideals. Moreover, their (and our) judgment was (is) almost exclusively based on Fuller’s early solo work in which she used her body, technology and fabric to create a radically new performance practice. In my talk, I will contrast the influential concept of the dancer as voiceless ‘romantic image’ (F. Kermode) with Fuller’s own writings. I will focus on the hybridity of Fuller’s aesthetics and her agency as artistic and discursive entrepreneur to continually reinvent herself throughout her career. I will do this in relation to the ideas and practices advanced by Fuller’s rival, Isadora Duncan. What do their very different reception histories teach us about the way we deal with the dance historical past?
15:00 OLA MACIEJEWSKA
Ola Maciejewska will show a solo fragment from Bombyx Mori, a piece for which she drew her inspiration from Fuller’s Serpentine Dance. By creating movement in large pieces of fabric, she explores tensions between nature and culture, between body and object. Bombyx Mori alludes to the silk caterpillar, which has become entirely dependent on human beings for survival. Here, the natural body and the artificial process are inextricably linked: a poignant metaphor for this sculptural interpretation of one of the pioneers of modern dance and performance art.
15:30 OLA MACIEJEWSKA & ESTHER SEVERI
16:30 CHRISTEL STALPAERT
Reenacting Modernist Time: William Kentridge’s The Refusal of Time
In The Refusal of Time (2012), South African artist William Kentridge reveals how the Western time regime is a central tenant of modernity, capitalism, and colonialism. Featuring a remarkable reenactment of the famous Serpentine Dance of Loïe Fuller, this multimedia installation also provides a sharp comment on the Western conception of dance history. In having this iconic Serpentine Dance reenacted by Dada Masilo, a dancer of color, Kentridge questions the white supremacy in the official history of dance. Moreover, having the film sequence of the dance solo shown backward, that is time reversed, the images also dismantle the modernist, chronological conception of time and history. This critical reenactment, like the dancing figures in the closing parade of The Refusal of Time, in fact reveal the modernist desire to reenact history along a chronological timeline. Connecting Kentridge’s The Refusal of Time with Deleuze’s onto-aesthetics, I discuss in this lecture how reenactment can articulate an ontological politics of time and movement. In doing so, I provide a philosophical-historical perspective on the notion of reenactment by unfolding its critical potential.
17:00 TRAJAL HARRELL & SARA JANSEN
In CAEN AMOUR, Trajal Harrell brings together Loïe Fuller, Japanese choreographer Tatsumi Hijikata (known as one of the founders of butoh) and fashion designer Rei Kawakubo (Comme des Garçons) in a contemporary hoochie koochie spectacle. Harrell is interested in the agency and politics of female performers, like Fuller and the first hoochie koochie dancers, who traveled internationally to present their acts at the intersection of popular entertainment, erotic shows and early experiments in modern dance, at a moment when dance was not yet established as an art form. This conversation will address some of the aspects of Fuller’s work explored in the context of CAEN AMOUR, including her orientalism and her experiments with elaborate costumes, as strategies to fashion her identity as an artist. Drawing on Fuller in resonance with the other iconic figures on the 'fictional map' that informs the performance, CAEN AMOUR challenges the one-dimensional image of the muse, the (exotic) other and the (female) nude, by playing on the constructed-ness of images and the performativity of identity.
17:30 CLOSING DISCUSSION AND Q&A
Nele Wynants is a postdoctoral researcher at the Université libre de Bruxelles (THEA Joint Research Group) and the University of Antwerp (Research Centre for Visual Poetics). Her current research focuses on the interplay of performance, media history and science. She is editor in chief of FORUM+ for Research and Arts (www.forum-online.be), and she is currently preparing a volume on media archaeology and theatre.
Timmy De Laet is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Antwerp (Research Centre for Visual Poetics). He obtained his PhD in 2016, for his dissertation titled “Re-inventing the Past: Strategies of Re-enactment in European Contemporary Dance.” Articles of his on reenactment have been published in journals as Performance Research, Tanz, and Muséologies, as well as in the edited collections Performing Memory in Art and Popular Culture (2013), Moments: A History of Performance in 10 Acts (2013), The Oxford Handbook of Dance and Reenactment (forthcoming). In 2016-17, Timmy is also working as a Visiting Professor at Ghent University (S:PAM – Studies in Performing Arts and Media) and as a lecturer at the Royal Conservatoire Antwerp.
Staf Vos (1980) studied Cultural History at the KU Leuven and at the University of York (UK). He published a monograph on the relation between music and ideology in interwar Flanders (2005) and went on to do his PhD-research on Belgian dance history between 1890 and 1940 (published in 2012). Staf works for Het Firmament, centre of expertise for the heritage of performing arts in Flanders, and teaches dance history at the Royal Conservatoire Antwerp
Born in Poland, Ola Maciejewska is a choreographer and performer who lives and works in Paris. She studied at National Ballet School in Poland, and Rotterdam Dance Academy. She obtained MA degree from Contemporary Theatre and Dance Studies at the University of Utrecht in 2012. She worked as a dancer and performer in works of Bruno Listopad (PT), Nicola Unger (DE), Philippe Quesne (FR), and Bojan Djordjev (SR). During her studies in Utrecht, she initiated a practice-based research, entitled: Loïe Fuller: Research (2011). Her choreographic debut TEKTON premiered in November 2014, together with a short film COSMOPOL. In the Fall of 2015 she premiered BOMBYX MORI, based on the research around Loïe Fuller. BOMBYX MORI is supported by Fondation d'entreprise Hermès in the frame of New Settings #6. From 2016 till 2018 Ola Maciejewska is associated artist of Centre chorégraphique national de Caen en Normandie. Her work has been presented in venues such as CND (Paris), Théatre de l'Usine (Geneva), Rotterdamse Schouwburg, Actoral Festival (Marseille), Batard Festival (Brussels), Nowy Teatr (Warsaw), Veem Huis voor Performance (Amsterdam) and Ménagerie de Verre (Paris).
Christel Stalpaert is full professor at Ghent University, where she is director of the research centers S:PAM (Studies in Performing Arts and Media) and PEPPER (Philosophy, Ethology, Politics and Performance). Her research interests are corporeality and intermediality in performance, and dance and new media arts (from the historical avant-garde to the present day) at the meeting point between philosophy and ethics. She has published on these topics in Performance Research, Text & Performance Quarterly, Contemporary Theatre Review and Dance Research Journal. She has edited No Beauty for Me There Where Human Life is Rare: on Jan Lauwers’ Theatre Work with Needcompany (Academia Press 2007); Bastard or Playmate? Adapting Theatre, Mutating Media and the Contemporary Performing Arts (Springer 2012); and Unfolding Spectatorship. Shifting Political, Ethical and Intermedial Positions (Academia Press 2016).
Sara Jansen is a researcher and dramaturg in dance. She is currently completing a comprehensive study on Japanese postwar avant-garde choreography and the politics of time (VUB, UA). Sara was the dramaturg on Trajal Harrell’s most recent production, CAEN AMOUR (2016).
Trajal Harrell’s performances grace both theatres and museums. In May 2016, he concluded a two-year residency at MoMA (New York). At Kaaitheater, he has already performed (M)imosa, Antigone Sr. and a collaboration with the artist Sarah Sze at Performatik13.