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A text that begins almost as a declaration of Alcoholics Anonymous, in the first person. It is unusual that the authors “expose themselves” in this way in their articles. Sonia Fernández Pan does in this writing on the piece Cédric Andrieux by the choreographer Jérôme Bel. Because criticism should not always be looking and analizing from a distance.
Hello. My name is Sonia Fernández Pan (I’d like to point out that the second surname has always been important to me, I suppose because it underlines some kind of difference rather than the commonality of the first and also introduces the fundamental, maternal component of the second). I was born in 1981, I’m 32 years old and I’m single. I’m an art critic and independent (?) curator. Sometimes I find it hard to assume professional labels, above all if they aren’t legitimated by a contract of employment. My interest in contemporary art came relatively late, more or less around 2000, thanks to one of the few professors at the University of Santiago de Compostela who, as well as imparting his programme of studies, was capable of transmitting his passion for contemporary art, something unheard of in an appreciably anachronistic university context. I wanted to specialize in Ancient Egypt and Greece, until Janis Kounellis with his horses, Gina Pane with her wounds and Marina Abramovic with her initial violence appeared to demonstrate, in less than an hour, that art could be something else. At that time I wanted to be a university lecturer, an aspiration that disappeared years later during my doctoral studies, which I abandoned due to a progressive lack of faith in the academic world and its hypocritical handling of knowledge. This left me stranded and pessimistic for several years, not knowing what “I wanted to be when I grew up”. With the inconvenience of being too old to not yet know, coupled with the latent failure to fulfil one’s own and others’ expectations. Potential success is after all also potential failure.
The previous paragraph is an endeavour to reproduce the beginning of Cédric Andrieux by the choreographer Jérôme Bel (at the Mercat de les Flors last 4 & 5 October), a solo piece that takes as its title the dancer who stars in it. It’s preceded by Veronique Doisneau, an equivalent piece where the dancer lends her name to the piece. But Veronique, unlike Cédric, transits through more of a personal history of dance than through a vital experience associated with dance. A possible future exercise would be the reason behind this subtle difference between the male and female dancers.
By staging his own biography, Cédric Andrieux achieves several things at once. On the one hand, he constructs a journey through contemporary dance, making a context comprehensible for non-experts that many of us resist out of this continuous fear of “not understanding”, within an cultural ecosystem where it’s hard to acquire a degree of maturity sufficient to admit in public that one doesn’t understand certain things or one doesn’t know so much about others. I know little about dance, I’ve attended a show of the emblematic Merce Cunningham that didn’t manage to surpass the mistaken expectations of the novice spectator and I would be unable to indicate the name of a choreographer that’s in at the moment without hitting the Internet first. And yet, after Cédric Andrieux, dance is no longer that indecipherable territory of before.
On the other hand, Cédric Andrieux reconstructs on the stage an honest and sincere vital experience – it would be the same if it was fiction, the spectator perceives it as honest and therein lies its enormous impact – where the elegant world of dance loses its patina of glamour and becomes another working space marked by the contradiction between what’s visible and what’s hidden, between the person and his image; for the complicated relation between the passion as a profession and the maintenance of any passion after its professionalization. The impeccable staging of the dance is preceded –and succeeded– by fears, frustrations, emotional circumstances, apathy, coincidences, historic events, aspirations, potential failures and half-baked successes. It’s dance but it could be any other territory, even art.
Cédric Andrieux doesn’t relate anything that we aren’t capable of intuiting, feeling or knowing. It’s power lies in its compromising frankness that converts the implicit into the explicit, and the private into public. But this time for real and not by way of the theoretical gratuity that is currently so commonplace and that in practice isn’t seen represented. By making us think about our context of work, while at the same time presuming subjectivity and a political response, it demands that we convert ourselves into a statement about ourselves that has the ability to dispense with, like any curriculum, our actual selves. Particularly, if we transmit discomfort, fragility, or insecurity. Falling into the unnecessary and paradoxical pedantry of distorting Kant, more than that sapere aure, it’s a case of losing the complex of making a conscious use of one’s own experience rather than just that of the gloss that backs up our imperative knowledge. Ah, and equally not just sticking with anonymous collective applause at the end of a function, where it’s always another who exposes himself to the public.
"A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world" (John Le Carré)