Interview by Noémie Solomon
In the throes of an eccentric laughter often indistinguishable with crying, the artists physically and symbolically carry the burden of the words they gradually reveal. Commands, headlines, sound-bites, slogans and confessions overlap and involve us in a game of shifting meanings in eclectic forms. Are we in a detention camp? Or are we part of a political demonstration? Or is this a battlefield?
In this intense performance, La Ribot merges the meanings fixed in images and words with those created by the position of the spectators. This work demonstrates how the terms “performance” and “exhibition” once marking the boundary between dance and visual arts have now in fact merged in performative art practice. The audience is free to come and go at any point throughout this project which lasts between 4-6 hours, participating in the making of temporary images and meanings as the performance unfolds.
A dancer by training, choreographer and visual artist, Maria Ribot has contributed to the development of contemporary dance in Spain since the mid-80s. In 1991, under the name of La Ribot, she took her work along new paths by creating scenic works at the moving intersection of live art, performance and video. Humor and eccentricity are the distinctive features of her work, which covers a broad artistic field. Noémie Solomon interviews the artist about her collaboration with Mathilde Monnier in Gustavia and her durational performance installation Laughing Hole.
N.S: In the current edition of the iDANS festival, you are performing Gustavia, a piece created with Mathilde Monnier, and Laughing Hole. Can you say a few words about the differences and similarities of both projects?
L.R: Both works Gustavia and Laughing Hole are really strong in terms of representation, with completely different dispositive. Gustavia is more theatrical and Laughing Hole closer to performance art, but even if Laughing Hole sounds very real, we are playing a role of “real laugh,” in a similar way that in Gustavia where we are acting a role. Both works are apparently opposites, but they are not that much different. Black in Gustavia, white and colors in Laughing Hole.
By its specific form, content and duration, Laughing Hole could be located between visual art and performance art, like most of your work, in a highly innovative and thoughtful fashion. Why choose to operate at the intersections of these art forms? What do you think in your work functions best when located at these frontiers; what are the risks or vulnerabilities of such locations?
I don’t always choose to operate in one place or another, it depends where I can work and in which context. Or what idea I have or who is asking me what. If I have to do a piece for Art-unlimited, at the Basel Art Fair, which was the case forLaughing Hole, I cannot think in the same way as when I am working with Mathilde Monnier in a theatre… I have the capacity to understand different contexts or disciplines and I work with this vision. I am not interdisciplinary: I am just versatile. The risk is to be distracted, that is why I try to investigate along the same line.
Throughout the piece, laughing comes to destabilize, intensify and reorganize usual meanings, or our general understanding of language. Could you say a few words about your own practice of laughing? Would you describe it as a physical, emotional, critical act? How do you choreograph such an extreme, durational and intense gesture?
There is an important amount of will power; we have to believe that it is possible and we get deeply into. We use all techniques that we know: theatrical techniques, dance techniques, yoga techniques, breathing techniques, concentration techniques and a lot of mental power, along with a strong sense of humor. Because it not a funny piece, just sometimes; it is a hard and quite disturbing piece, extremely emotional and difficult technically.
La Ribot/Laughing Hole