Gregory Stauffer, performer and choreographer, and Marius Schaffter, actor, geographer and playwright, have invented a duo—Stauffer & Schaffter. Under the audience's gaze, they submit themselves to a series of choreographic and performance acts to establish its existence. Moving from an exhibition opening to a concert with blue diamonds, from a warmup ritual to a kaleidoscopic choreography, from private stories to learned erudition, and from a sports challenge to the closing ceremony, they put their duo to the performance test, using theatre to make a name for themselves and to create an instant community with the audience.
Both born in 1980, both live in Geneva.
Gregory Stauffer and Marius Schaffter created the experimental rock and performance ensemble Lune, in which they played for eight years. They travelled together, sharing everyday problems as well as moments of pure happiness and mutual trust. They perform together under the pseudonym Schaffter & Stauffer. Since 2006 Gregory Stauffer has been working at the frontiers of dance and performance art. He has worked with Bastien Gachet and with the artist Tarik Hayward, and is a member of the Authentic Boys collective. He has performed at the Théâtre de l'Usine in Geneva, at Les Urbaines in Lausanne, at the Far Festival in Nyon, at the Festival de la Cite in Lausanne, at Stromereien in Zurich, at Tanztage in Berlin, and at Tanzfaktorinterregio. Marius Schaffter has had a checquered career. He studied geography and has worked on the perception of sound spaces and spatial biographies. He has danced for pleasure, and acted in films. He trained as a professional actor. He is a playwright, actor and performer.
In Paris, Marius Schaffter and Gregory Stauffer leaf through an innocent-looking picture book and hold up a mirror to the audience that is both benign and unsettling. ...
In Paris, Marius Schaffter and Gregory Stauffer leaf through an innocent-looking picture book and hold up a mirror to the audience that is both benign and unsettling.
“Together let the journey begin!” This simple but nonetheless ambitious wish could sum up the approach of the duo Schaffter & Stauffer, two artists born in 34 years ago in Yverdon-les-Bains whose ostensibly very simple work aims at nothing less than “celebrating life and sharing an intense moment with the viewer”, as Gregory Stauffer, performer and choreographer, said one fine summer day. When we see Introducing Schaffter & Stauffer, a surreal stroll between an exhibition, a tennis game, a dance and a spa, it becomes clear that actor and geographer Marius Schaffter might say just the same thing. They met at school when they were ten years old, and formed an experimental rock band when they were teenagers. At 20, they even planned to set up a “musical farm” in the Jura. “For us, creating is a state of mind, a way of being in the world. There's no break between life and theatre, studio and the stage. In our shows, we simply highlight what we experience, what we share”, explains Gregory as he talks about his deep-seated friendship with Marius. “This mutual trust allows us to work on the notion of presence. When we go to see a performance, what do we remember? The subtlety of the content, or the intensity of the performer? Look at Ivo Dimchev or Benjamin Verdonck: what's striking about them is more what they are than what they do” But surely when you tour local and European theatres it's better to have something to tell people? “What we tell people? We tell them about paying attention to the landscape, to space and time. It's about focusing on the moment.” It's a very Buddhist principle that corresponds well to the gentleness that radiates from Gregory Stauffer. At the same time, they're a playful duo. “They go from confession to theatrical farce, from sacrificial ritual to ultra-happening, from sporting achievements to their own death, putting their duo to the test in the performance just as much as they use theatre to make a name for themselves”, wrote Myriam Kridi in 2014 when she put the duo on the programme at the Théâtre de l'Usine in Geneva.
It's true that you have to read between the lines when watching their work. You have to look for what lies behind the apparent innocence of what they present. In Introducing Schaffter & Stauffer, there's a real sense of ambiguity. But are these two well-bred young men presenting paintings, playing tennis, talking about the little accidents they've had, and making music like teenagers really as benign as they appear? Or does their apparent naivety hint at a certain vanity or vacuity?
Introducing Schaffter & Stauffer is a strange journey. It starts in the theatre foyer where Gregory Stauffer solemnly presents some rather clumsy paintings, explaining that they were acquired or painted at precise moments during the life of the duo. The smiling visitors hesitate between incredulity and friendliness. The second stage takes place in the auditorium. The audience is not seated in front of the stage but around it, with their backs to the wall. They are invited to close theit eyes and relax: it's a relaxation exercise. Once again, this extreme benevolence creates a sense of doubt: are the artists driven by a real concern for our wellbeing, or are they stigmatising “care”, the new American trend for inconsolable westerners? Actually, it's a pleasant moment and, if we do what the serene voice tells us, we do relax. Next comes a kitsch concert where basic chords and elementary rhythms in a décor of party streamers continue in this spirit of naïve minimalism—as does the tennis sequence that comes later when the audience have gone back to their seats in the auditorium. The two stooges hit the ball with great application, and once again it's hard to tell if we are witnessing a full body consciousness exercise or a veiled critique of well-heeled leisure...
This is perhaps where the strength of these two artists (who also have their own solo careers) lies. It involves leaving each spectator free to travel through this innocent-looking picture book, to look for his own image in this gentle yet unsettling mirror, and ultimately to assess the dimension and accomplishment of his own ambitions.