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Many artists propose exploring the limits of the museum, questioning the institution or redefining artistic practices. However, often it is not through grand visions, so much as through simplicity, that one can call into question all the categories that a priori seem immovable. Xavier Le Roy at the Fundació Tàpies considers various key questions about the artistic experience.
Bruce Nauman tried to do it by creating impossible corridors that placed the spectator in very uncomfortable situations; Dan Graham confronted the public with the image of itself; Abramoviċ/Ulay obliged the visitor to enter the exhibition space through the narrow passage permitted by their nude bodies. If all these experiences have something in common, it is the fact that they have modified the experience of the spectator to a certain extent and obliged the spectator to behave in a way that was different than usual in a museum. A few years later, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Philippe Parreno and others also created new situations in institutions, cooking or organising talks. Once again, the change in time and experience of the spectator completely modified the role and perception of the institution.
At the moment Xavier Le Roy offers us the possibility of experiencing the Fundació Tàpies in a totally different way, temporally as much as spatially. The “Retrospective” that he proposes comes from the retrospective experience of the interpreters in relation to some of the solos in his choreographies. Without videos, objects or deactivated documents (with the exception of one of the spaces), the empty rooms of the Fundació are occupied by six interpreters, who recreate fragments and strike up conversations with the visitor, to whom they explain aspects of their personal experiences in relation to the piece. In reality, the simplicity hides a slightly more sophisticated mechanism in that the setting of the scene contemplates not just the typologies of the solos that are evoked and what they recount, but also the entrances and exits of the interpreters in relation to the entrance of new visitors, or the balance between the more interactive and more performatic aspects.
As a visitor or spectator, the codes are clear, in an exhibition space as much as in a theatre. However, what happens when the codes are interchanged? Well then time and space are seen totally altered. There are no labels, nor explanatory texts, it is solely the experience of what we are recounted and how we incorporate it that generates a new perception in relation to the work of Le Roy and to the institution itself. Stripped of theories, prejudices or cuirasses, the visitor is confronted with a real experience. And, in this sense, one can’t avoid referring to Tino Sehgal, to whom A*DESK dedicated an article a while ago and who, incidentally, formed part of Le Roy’s company in diverse projects. In the “constructed situations” of Sehgal it can happen that museum security guards can carry out strange choreographies, different couples can recreate famous kisses from the history of art or the visitor can be asked by a child about what he thinks progress is.
In “Retrospective” we learn what the different interpreters were doing when Xavier Le Roy presented some of his choreographies and we can discuss our own experience. The work ends up taking shape out of the interpretations, time and the spectator, it is the result of the interaction between the public and the interpreters. The simplicity and direct contact redefine what the work is and what are the roles of the artist, the spectator and the interpreter.
It may sound trite, but it is true that we are living a change in paradigm. There exists a conflict between the patrimonial vision of art, those objects and documents that have to be preserved and another approximation, one that responds to a change in modes of production, distribution, presentation, perception and of course, preservation and collection. Tino Sehgal is present in the art circuit; however, he doesn’t allow his works to be commercialised in a traditional manner. Experience takes precedence over memory. With coherence, he redefines the conventions of the market, in order to avoid falling into the same trap as the conceptualists. Xavier Le Roy presents his choreographies in theatres and also in the art context. He lays the emphasis on presence, the experience and representation. The documentary recordings are just that, documents to be consulted, not commercialised. Questions hover in the air: what is the role of the institution? Of the spectator? Of the act/the piece/the work? Propositions such as that of Le Roy and others set all these questions in motion.
"A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world" (John Le Carré)