Rezension über:

Bojana Cvejić (ed.): "Rétrospective" by Xavier Le Roy, Dijon: Les Presses du réel 2014, 335 S., ISBN 978-2-84066-702-5, EUR 16,00
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Rezension von:
Katharina Fricke
Kunstgeschichtliches Institut, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität, Freiburg/Brsg.
Redaktionelle Betreuung:
Jessica Petraccaro-Goertsches
Empfohlene Zitierweise:
Katharina Fricke: Rezension von: Bojana Cvejić (ed.): "Rétrospective" by Xavier Le Roy, Dijon: Les Presses du réel 2014, in: sehepunkte 16 (2016), Nr. 5 [15.05.2016], URL:

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Bojana Cvejić (ed.): "Rétrospective" by Xavier Le Roy

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"Retrospective" by Xavier Le Roy was conceived at Fundació Antoni Tàpies and initiated by former director Laurence Rassel in Barcelona in 2012. The exhibition was presented and performed in Salvador and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (2013); Deichtorhallen, Hamburg (2013); Centre Pompidou, Paris (2014); Moma-PS1, New York (2014); and others. The eponymous book is neither an accompanying exhibition catalogue nor a monograph about Xavier Le Roy and his choreographic works. It is rather an additional project that provides a multi-authored collection of essays, interviews, and reports on individual perspectives and issues engendered by the exhibition "Retrospective".

Le Roy's show is not a retrospective within the classical sense that presents conventionally linear a selection of an artist's life's work, but employs the principle of retrospective as "a mode of production" (9). In each edition of the exhibition local performers have not only re-played but rather interpreted and re-read excerpts from the choreographer's past solo pieces. In so doing, they have created constantly new situations of 'live interactions' with the visitors. The exhibition consists of a "choreography of actions", where according to Le Roy choreography means "an artificially staged situation" (10). He places his staged solo pieces into an exhibition space by adapting the museal codes of permanent visibility and timing. Le Roy shifts from a pre-determined spectacle to a form of an exhibition in which several pieces are simultaneously presented and performed. It is one remarkable example of thinking contemporary dance as an exhibition. [1]

The editor of the book is Bojana Cvejić - a well-known performance theorist and maker - who invited curators, dramaturges, philosophers, theorists, artists, and performers to respond to the following inquiries: "What did "Retrospective" do for you [...]" and "what did it do to you [...]?" (9)? And what did it do "for choreography, the history and medium of exhibition, contemporary art, the disciplines of performing and dancing, for the dramaturgy or the spectatorial position and gaze, for the art institution in its normal or experimental praxis, for social and public space?" (9). These questions signify the wide range of topics that this exhibition evokes.

The book is divided into three sections. The first section is composed of theoretical, art-historical, philosophical, curatorial essays and conversations. Cvejić's editorial essay and her subsequent interview with Le Roy introduce the reader not only to the creation process and the conception of "Retrospective" but also to his choreographic oeuvre. She describes the operation of "Retrospective" as a "choreographic machine: a composition of entries, displacements, actions, and encounters [...]" (11). According to Cvejić "expanding choreography into the museum" is a "burgeoning practical and theoretical field" (10) in which Le Roy's approach and working method is particular and distinctive by posing or in fact choreographing a problem and offering temporary solutions (10, 12): He transformed the presentation format 'retrospective' to a mode of production and in that way produced an entirely new choreographic work. However, for an introductory essay Cvejić's writes in some parts too abstractly and expresses her views in a complex way. Therefore, for readers who never visited the exhibition or with no elementary context knowledge, the text can be at times hard to follow (10).

The following contributors refer their questioning, analyses, and assessments to their personal experiences gained within and through "Retrospective". Laurence Rassel is mostly concerned with Le Roy's "intervention" and "work mode" (31), instead of bringing dance into the museum and exhibition spaces. In her conversation with Christophe Wavelet, Rassel talks vividly about the present-day situation of art institutions. Crucial to Rassel is a "tangibly reconfiguring [of] the understanding of what a so-called contemporary art institution may be" (36). Many a page of section I is then committed to the discourse on monographic exhibition formats, in particular with retrospective character (43, 53, 70, 72, 96, 100, 109, and more). Corinne Diserens refers to historical exhibition examples by Marcel Broodthaers and Dieter Roth - cases that also critically grapple with retrospective as a format in the museum context. And she discusses the nowadays museum's "desperate desire for the performative and its historicization [...]" (130). Peter Osborne philosophically reviews not only the significance of "Retrospective" for the field of contemporary art and its ontology, but also its claim to be a work of art (103) and not "simply, a contemporary dance event in a gallery space" (104). Dance theorist Christophe Wavelet's contribution, which offers a meticulous description and analysis of "Retrospective", is the only text that also considers the sociocultural and political context in which the exhibition is shown. Using the example of Brazil in 2013 he comments on the differences towards European editions of "Retrospective" (69f.).

Section II is a compilation of interviews of Bojana Cvejić with Xavier Le Roy about his selected solo pieces that he used as the "sole material" (12) for "Retrospective", that is Narcisse Flip (1994), Self Unfinished (1998), Product of Circumstances (1999), Giszelle (2001), Untitled (2005), The Rite of Spring (2007) and Product of Other Circumstances (2009). It includes the first interview about "Retrospective", which was conducted in October 2011 prior to the edition in Barcelona. Through Cvejić's questioning and Le Roy's well thought out responses the reader learns about the creation and production process of each piece, the circumstances and contexts in which it was shown and developed, and how each selected solo is used as material for "Retrospective".

The final section III is devoted to the performer's voices. Five performers of different editions of the exhibition reflect on their individual experiences and concerns gained through "Retrospective". According to Aimar Pérez Galí, for instance, the importance of "Retrospective" lies in its "mechanism that gives voice to the dancer, subjectifying rather than objectifying him" (291). Ben Evans explains each step of the production process, emphasizing his difficulties to construct "his own retrospective" by recounting his own biography in relation to Le Roy's work. The dancers' reports give illuminating insights to their work as performers of "Retrospective", a perspective that visitors of the exhibition cannot experience themselves.

The book offers a fruitful dialogue on "Retrospective" by Xavier Le Roy. The writings show how the conception of "Retrospective" has developed from its beginning up to the first editions of the exhibition, and what the exhibition has triggered and which contexts it creates. Some authors of the book are more successful in conveying their arguments and line of thoughts in a simple and straightforward way than others. For readers who have seen and experienced "Retrospective", it is most certainly easier to be able to relate to the text contributions.


[1] Another example is: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker: Work/Travail/Arbeid at Wiels, Brussels 2015 (now on tour).

Katharina Fricke