Lightness and Weight


This performance took place on the opening night of my solo exhibition at the gallery Red District in Marseille. Typical of my first live performances, the piece continued the pairing of personal dialogue with Hollywood choreography that I began in my film All My Life. In this case I spoke in English, while my dance partner, Sven Olivier Van Damme repeated my words in French. We danced a revised version of Gene Kelly’s choreography from his scene with Cyd Charisse in Singing in The Rain after delivering the following lines:

What does it mean to always choose and to never feel chosen or vice versa? We are taught that it is a man’s role to chase after a woman and a woman’s role to be passive, or to be knowingly evasive in order to catch a man. No matter our sex or sexual orientation patterns of chasing and being chased play themselves out between partners.

Ca signifie quoi de toujours choisir et de ne jamais se sentir choisi ou vice versa? On nous inculque que le role de l’homme, c’est de courir la femme, et que le role de la femme, c’est d’etre passive, ou tout au plus evasive, afin d’attraper son homme. Quels que soient notre sexe et notre sexualite, la problematique du courir et d’etre couru joue enormement entre partenaires.

Living only one life, I can neither compare it to my previous lives nor perfect it in lives to come. Each choice therefore becomes the heaviest of burdens. The weight crushes me, I sink beneath it, it pins me to the ground.

Comme je n’ai qu’une vie, je ne peux donc la comparer à une vie précédente ni la parfaire dans des vies à venir. Chacun de mes choix se transforme donc en un incommensurable fardeau. Le poids du fardeau m’écrase au sol.

But in the love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man’s body. The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfilment. The heavier the burden, the closer my life comes to the earth, the more real and truthful it becomes.

Et pourtant, à toutes les époques, dans la poésie qui chante l’amour, la femme desire se sentir sous le poids du corps de l’homme. Ainsi le fardeau le plus lourd est en meme temps une image de l’assouvissemnt le plus intense que la vie puisse apporter. Plus le fardeau est lourd, plus ma vie touche terre, ainsi plus ma vie se trouve incarnée: proche de la vérité.

Conversely, the absolute absence of a burden makes me lighter than air, I soar into the heights, I take leave of the earth and this earthly being, and become only half real, my movements as free as they are insignificant.

Inversement, l’absence totale de fardeau me rend plus légère que l’air. Je m’envole vers les hauteurs prenant conge de la terre, de mon enveloppe charnelle, et, il advient que je ne suis incarnée qu’à moitié. Mes mouvements sont aussi libres que volatils.

(Text by Oriana Fox with quotations from Milan Kundera’s Unbearable Lightness of Being / French translation by Serge Ryniecki.)

In our version of the choreography, I lifted my partner in the air.