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PerformanceProcess Paris, Centre Culturel Suisse 18.09-13.12.15
thu 10 Dec 2015
1
20h
40 minutes (création)Centre culturel suisser+33 1 42 71 44 50

Money is time: this is the idea behind X Minutes, an on-going show subtitled “a sustainable comedy”. It is a performance machine set in motion on a purely commercial basis, with no aesthetic framework and no predetermined content. The Schick/Gremaud/Pavillon trio sells a five-minute sequence to whoever will buy it, making it clear that the different sequences bought by different theatres or festivals are cumulative. The CCS is the eighth venue to show the project: it has bought minutes 35 to 40: so the show is called 40 MINUTES. It repeats the 35 minutes produced at other venues, and adds a new segment, specially made at, and for, the CCS. It's a conceptual approach, but it also involves some purely formal ground rules, for example: each five-minute segment must be performed in the language of, or in relation to the language of, the place where it is performed; and each buyer must provides an object to be brought onto the stage.

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Trio set up in 2014.
Martin Schick lives in Berlin and Switzerland. After Title, which won an award at Theaterspektakel Zurich, he created CMMN SNS PRJCT, followed by Not my Piece and Holiday on Stage, as part of the International Belluard Festival. He has toured at the Far in Nyon, Arsenic in Lausanne, ADC in Geneva, Gessneralle in Zurich, Beursschouwburg in Brussels, Sophiensaele in Berlin, the Théâtre de la Bastille in Paris, etc.) He sees the theatre as a place of permanent transformation, a place of humour, imperfection and uncertainty where convention and standardisation are held in check.

François Gremaud is based in Lausanne. In 2005 he set up 2b Company and in 2006 produced My Way. With 2b Company, he produced Simone, two, three, four, KKQQ in 2009 and RE in 2012; with the GREMAUD/GURTNER/BOVAY collective he produced Récital and Présentation in 2011, Chorale (with Laetitia Dosch) in 2013 and Western dramedies in 2014. He has performed at Arsenic in Lausanne, at the Théâtre Vidy-Lausanne, at Belluard Bollwerk-Fribourg, at the Far festival in Nyon, at the Centre Culturel Suisse in Paris, at the Fondation Cartier, and at the Comédie de Saint-Etienne.

Viviane Pavillon trained at La Manufacture in Lausanne. She has acted with Denis Maillefer, Muriel Imbach, Julien Mages, and worked with the Zooscope collective. In 2012, she wrote the lyrics and music for the show Il n'y a que les chansons de variété qui disent la vérité, directed by Alexandre Doublet, first staged at l'Arsenic and then at the CCS.

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Laying bare the mechanisms of cultural production

The long-term performance project X minutes, launched in 2013 by Martin Schick, François Gremaud and Viviane Pavillon, bypasses the mechanisms of contemporary theatre. In autumn 2015, they are presenting a single local performance: 40 minutes, ...

The long-term performance project X minutes,? launched in 2013 by Martin Schick, François Gremaud and Viviane Pavillon, bypasses the mechanisms of contemporary theatre. In autumn 2015, they are presenting a single local performance: 40 minutes, purchased at auction by the CCS.

This collaborative project began to take shape at an event organised by the Office National de Diffusion Artistique (ONDA), where artists had the chance to present and sell their work. Schick, Gremaud and Pavillon (all members of the Ingoodcompany based in Lausanne) decided to take this notion of artistic commercialisation at face value and offer a piece for sale, but in the form of an idea: a concept that did not yet physically exist. The show and festival programmers were able to acquire the concept presented by the artists at auction (bidding for 5, 10, 15, 20, 25 minutes of performance), thus also becoming joint producers of the show.

In concrete terms, the project takes the following form: each time X minutes is presented at a given venue, the artists create 5 minutes of performance in the local language. These five minutes are added to 5-minute sections of pre-existing shows. This means that the production is cumulative, and its value increases every time a new 5-minute section is added. A multilingual performance then develops (currently in French, Swiss German, Flemish, Finnish and Croat), made up of humorous dialogues, monologues delivered facing the audience, and choreographed sequences. Each edition is shown only once, being described in the programme as a world premiere.

With this process, Schick, Pavillon and Gremaud elegantly avoid the pitfall of state subsidies. They put their performance on the theatre market and finance themselves directly via the corresponding buyer (usually an exhibition curator or a theatre programmer or director). This allows them to escape from dependence on sponsors, and it means they not only appear as artists, but also as negotiating partners and independent entrepreneurs. Selling a concept or production becomes the central point, and the value of the “product” constantly increases. In reality, the question this raises is: how much longer will festivals and theatres continue to function according to neo-liberal principles? At what point does a show become too expensive for a theatre and too long for actors to perform it? In a playful way, Pavillon, Gremaud and Schick highlight the neo-liberal principles of “the more the better” and “buying early and fast means getting a better, cheaper deal”, laying bare the vicious circle of our ultra-capitalised mentalities and behaviour.

They show to what extent theatre and dance productions have become products circulating like (commercial) merchandise that obeys the rules of trade; and they challenge the appropriateness of the systems that govern culture today. Their critique is based on the current system for funding cultural activity within which the trio exist as artists, and upon which they depend. By selling the project themselves, they take control of their destiny and distance themselves from conventional artistic production structures. They succeed in giving theatre back its political dimension by revealing its inherent mechanisms, with all their institutional and structural trappings.

 

Mona De Weerdt, scientist working at the Institut des Sciences Théâtrales at the University of Bern

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