By Xavier Le Roy
With Eleanor Bauer, Andrew Champlin, Sherwood Chen, Lindsay Clark, Alex Escalante, Ben Evans, Moriah Evans, Bryana Fritz, Michael Helland, K.J. Holmes, Iréne Hultman, Columbine Macher, Oisin Monaghan, Katy Pyle, Will Rawls, and Takahiro Yamamoto
MoMA PS1 October 2 to December 1, 2014 (Queens)
MoMA PS1 presents Retrospective, the inaugural American museum survey of French artist and choreographer Xavier Le Roy (b. 1963). Realized in the galleries by a team of performers who continuously recycle and transform Le Roy’s solo work, conceived between 1994 and 2010, the exhibition opens up expanded opportunities for interaction within the museum. In his reconfiguration of the conventionally linear form of the retrospective as an accumulative mid-career survey, Le Roy brings his past works to life by consolidating and reimagining them into a new whole. In the process the exhibition unfolds across several different time axes that introduce temporal complexity to the galleries. The result is a groundbreaking hybrid of choreography and visual art that transforms the traditional exhibition format into a creative medium.
Unlike other exhibitions that exist regardless of an audience, Retrospective is activated by its visitors. Upon entering the galleries, the performers greet the newcomer with a choreographed sequence. After reciting the year of origin of the solo works they are about to perform, the performers proceed to their respective positions. The first position references iconic moments in Le Roy’s own body of work. It is static, simulating the still temporal mode of sculpture or painting. The second position is more dynamic, the performer enacts short sequences and repeats them in a fashion comparable to a looped video. The final two positions, reflecting the form of narrative, are the most generative as Le Roy relinquishes his role of author to the performers. The performers then both show and tell Le Roy’s artistic development through communicating their own personal biographies to viewers. The different generations and backgrounds of these mainly New York-based performers contribute to further reimagining Le Roy’s oeuvre. By following a narrative from beginning to end and experiencing dance on an intimate scale, the audience is offered the opportunity to dive deeper into the material.
The complex choreographic system underlying the exhibition reveals itself gradually. Upon entry, visitors are often astonished at being directly addressed by strangers in an otherwise empty gallery. They are then free to wander, deciding how much time and attention they would like to give the works on display. Through the exhibition the visitor is presented with multiple conceptions of time: the period during which Le Roy conceived the referenced solo works (1994–2010), the duration of the individual gallery visits, the performers’ daily labor time, and lastly the transformation and development the exhibition undergoes over the course of its two month run. It is within these complex temporalities that the work offers its greatest potential. Instead of fostering the sensation of pure presentness, valued by so much of performance art today, Retrospective creates situations that allow viewers to consider how we use, consume, and produce different modalities of time.
After an early career as a scientist with a doctorate in microbiology, Le Roy transitioned to dance and choreography. From the beginning, he approached his work like a researcher, focusing on the relationships between product and process and his own involvement in them. This methodology places him among a generation of artists who came of age in the 1990s. Influenced by conceptual art and institutional critique, they radically questioned the fundamental conditions of their own practices. Through solo works such as Self Unfinished (1998) and Product of Circumstances (1999) Le Roy opened new perspectives in the field of choreographic art while simultaneously drawing attention from the visual art world. More recently he has exhibited his work increasingly in an art context, including group exhibitions, On Line: Drawing Through the 20th Century at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2011); Production, created with Mårten Spångberg for Move: Choreographing You, Hayward Gallery, London (2011); and Untitled for the exhibition 12 Rooms, co-curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist and Klaus Biesenbach, multiple locations (2012). Retrospective is his first solo exhibition in the United States.
Retrospective is organized at MoMA PS1 by Jenny Schlenzka, Associate Curator and Alex Sloane, Curatorial Assistant. The exhibition was originally organized by the Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona at the invitation of Laurence Rassel. Retrospective is presented at MoMA PS1 as part of Crossing the Line 2014, a festival created and organized by the French Institute Alliance Française. Crossing the Line is the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF)’s annual fall festival presenting interdisciplinary works and performances created by artists from around the world in New York. The festival provides opportunities for New Yorkers to explore the dialogue between artist and participant, examine how artists help re-imagine the world, and engage in the vital role artists play as critical thinkers and catalysts for social evolution. Crossing the Line is initiated and produced by FIAF in partnership with leading cultural institutions and takes place this year from September 8–October 18, 2014. The presentation at MoMA PS1 is made possible by MoMA’s Wallis Annenberg Fund for Innovation in Contemporary Art through the Annenberg Foundation. Additional support is provided by the MoMA PS1 Annual Exhibition Fund and the French Institute Alliance Française (FIAF).