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TAR in NYC: Xavier Le Roy - Retrospective

Over the past two months a group of performers were hired to reenact the
choreographic dances produced by Xavier Le Roy. Le Roy, who asked the
performers to recycle and transform his past solo works, realized the
exhibition Retrospective.



Before entering the space the audience is confronted with didactic text
that discusses the life of Le Roy, the names of the performers and the
institutions involved in bringing this work to fruition. As you walk
into the space, you see other audience members sitting down in a circle
around one performer, others against the wall and performers dancing
around the space. The room is evenly lit with nothing on the pure white
walls. There are four doorways – two on either side of the room. At
first, I was unsure as to what was happening. The performers moved
around us and I felt like I was invading their space with my presence.
About five minutes after entering one performer stopped in front of me
and asked if I would like to know what had just been performed. My
response was yes and as he pulled out a sheet of paper he took on the
persona of Le Roy. He discussed the concepts and influences behind that
specific piece. I ended up staying to watch a full cycle of the
performance and than some. Every thirty minutes one performer (who was
acting as Le Roy) would gather a group of people into a circle and tell
stories about his life. As I spent more time in this active white cube,
it became less alienating and I felt as though I was part of the
experience.



The focal point of Retrospective is the performers. The white cube
generated isolation where no outside influences were present, making it
completely immersive for the audience. Though I tend to break
conventional modes of looking at and engaging with art, in this instance
I was following the conventions of the gallery space that have been
preserved through the system of values that permeate the gallery
experience. I felt as though I was being subjected to omnipresent forms
of surveillance from the other audience members and the performers. The
space was now a place to see and be seen. I became fully conscious of my
physical self and started to think about how things become art in a
space where powerful ideas about art focus on them. As I reached this
level of consciousness I began to analyze how I was in fact becoming
part of the art. How did this space at first fill me with fear and
meekness and afterwards fill me with great confidence and the belief
that I could influence the outcome of the piece of work? And as I look
back I realize that this shift in experience occurred when one of the
performers approached me, broke his fourth wall and addressed me
directly. While I do not remember what he said about the piece it was as
though Le Roy was saying, “I know, I know this is a very unconventional
form of dance and almost elitist but look, this is what it means, in
simple unpretentious language.”



This perfect moment of engagement transformed the totality of the
experience and made me think about the influence and importance that
site specificity played in the unfolding of this piece. I do not think
that this piece could have existed outside of the white space of a
gallery. It was required to contextualize the piece and act as a blank
canvas that was in a constant state of transformation. Retrospective
directed the space. The distance generated between the audience and the
performers required boundaries so to allow for engagement. The even
light did not detract from what was happening and eliminated other
objects that could have been misunderstood to be part of the work. In
Retrospective, the work is anti-visual and resists the commodification
of art. While site-specificity at one point was considered institutional
critique, today it is more of a critique of the cultural confinements
of art. The notion of site-specificity influenced Le Roy to push to
boundaries of the white cube. While he exploited the space for its
neutrality, understated tendencies and invisible forces, he also
extended the walls through the movement of his art pieces – the
performers.



Le Roy expanded opportunities for interaction within the environment
while transforming the traditional format of a retrospective. He used
the concept of dance and applied it to context of the space. Though the
curator possesses the creativity to push the gallery beyond its
conventional limits, it was only through the artist that the temporarily
of dance could be translated. Le Roy breaks down the barriers set up by
the institution and in turn redefines the meaning and experience of the
retrospective.