Skin is the best costume: Xavier Le Roy – ArtsHub

November 13, 2015

Skin is the best costume: Xavier Le Roy

Temporary title, Xavier Le Roy’s performed exhibition at Carriageworks; Photo ArtsHub.

By Gina Fairley

Naked bodies make an exhibition but not exhibitionism in Xavier Le Roy’s new work, described as a ‘paradigm shifter’.

French artist Xavier Le Roy challenges our perception of the human body and its capacity for physical expression and representation.

The naked bodies from which he creates his work ensure our perception is lost between the human, the animal and the other​. His latest work experiments with the process of pattern recognition, exploring forms which are not quite distinguishable as humans. Watching it you recognize elements more familiar to us as the behavior of pack animals – movement of a paw, heightened shoulder blades, the languid drop onto a hip, an alert twitch.

A former molecular biologist, Le Roy describes what he creates as a ‘continually transforming landscape, where the visitor shifts between observer and contributor to the collective experience.’

Rather than instructing his performers to move using a specific technique, direction or tempo, he proposes ideas to be discussed and actualized in movement and form.

Le Roy’s new work Temporary title is being presented in Sydney by Kaldor Public Art Projects in collaboration with Carriageworks. The project brings together 18 artists from Melbourne and Sydney – actors, performance artists, dances and visual artists.

The artist describes it as an exhibition, not a performance, in which the human body is the medium of expression. Kaldor said this mixing of disciplines is part of his reason for wanting to present LeRoy.

‘What was instrumental in bringing Xavier and his work to Australia is that Xavier is one of the first artists to bring movement and dance into gallery spaces and that is really a paradigm shift.

‘What is exciting today is the breaking down of the barriers between the different art forms and this is the strength created in Xavier’s work and this is why I wanted to do a project with him… and it is also why Carriageworks is so important because it crosses over all disciplines.’

Kaldor said experiencing the work also crossed the experience of gallery and performance. ‘It lasts for six hours and it is like going to a museum or gallery – you can stay 10 minutes or stay for hours​.’


Temporary title, Xavier Le Roy’s performed exhibition at Carriageworks; Photo ArtsHub.

Is skin the best costume?

Xavier Le Roy says of the necessity for this work to be performed naked: ‘We try to make things literal; to see the movements … We are trying to do things that are escaping our human understanding. When you do this in leotard, then it is just a human in leotard. The skin is the best costume that there is. It is the same but also individual.’

Performer Amaara Raheen said ​in seeing the work one understood the value of performing it naked,

‘Personally, I don’t easily engage with nakedness or nudity as a performer, not because I have an issue with the body but I think a lot about what it is to be naked as a woman making art.

‘The reason I didn’t have one question in my mind about the nudity in this work is that it makes complete sense why it needs to be done naked. That question is perhaps best answered by the work itself.’

Lisa Havilah, Director of Carriageworks, confirmed that Le Roy’s work is not the first time that Carriagework has presented programming with nudity. She said that the exhibition will be clearly signed, putting the decision into the visitor’s hands whether they permit children to participate in the experience.

Another performer added: ‘The nakedness itself can only be interpreted by the viewer and what it is for you. It is a different experience for each and every one of us,’ adding that the rigour of the guidelines that they were working within as performers was so demanding that being naked is immediately forgotten.

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Moments of connection are important in Xavier Le Roy’s new performed exhibition at Carriageworks; Photo ArtsHub.

Thinking as a pack

It’s difficult to talk about the work as it is designed to question, to transport and emphasis process …It’s an attempt to challenge our habits, said Xavier Le Roy.

The artist was reluctant to unpack the dynamics of his project and process, saying simply that he used a set of rule to create a vocabulary.

‘Rule one is you are never standing up; rule two you are always naked … another rule is a decision is never definitive,’ he said.

Hong Kong born choreographer, and Le Roy’s artistic collaborator on this project, Scarlet Yu, said: ‘The rules are tools. One performer explained them as ‘a framework within which I operate.’ And Le Roy added with a laugh, ‘It’s also not anarchy.’

That is apparent seeing the work, each individual responding to a set of choreographed moved, but moving intuitively.

Le Roy said that concepts come from intuition and that his work as performed is not led by either one. ‘In a sense it is like a game, where the rules are to be used by not transgressed. They are collective and they are individual.’

A performer responded: ‘(These rules) force us to inhabit the body in different ways – our body in reaction to the space, in reaction to each other, the consideration of how we configure our bodies at all times.’

Yu concluded: ‘We spend a lot of time working with them and how they engage with the material is an open dialogue.’

Raheen concluded that the entry sign to the exhibition described the performers as collaborators. ‘I was happy for that word to be used rather than performers or dancers or participants or interpreters because we are really asked to collaborate in the project – to bring our thinking, to bring our body, to bring our thinking body – and also to make decisions and take responsibility for those decisions.

‘We also need to think as a group – we are a pack – and we are one, we are I,’ she said.

Kaldor said that one of the most important things KPAP endeavours to achieve with its projects is to pair international artists of the highest calibre with Australian artists so that legacy is lasting on this cultural landscape.

Xavier Le Roy’s new work Temporary title takes that a step further by also engaging the audience in an intimate experience – and memorable it is.

Xavier Le Roy is presenting his works at Sydney’s Carriageworks.

Open rehearsals: 18 and 19 November

Keynote address: Sunday 15 November

Temporary title, 2015: Friday 20 November 3-9pm; Saturday 21 November 12-6pm; Sunday 22 November 12-6pm

Self Unfinished, 1998: Le Roy’s solo work will be performed 17, 18 and 19 November

For more visit Carriageworks and Kaldor Art Projects