‘Retrospective’ of Xavier Le Roy at Foundation Tapiés, Barcelona. Review by Julie Solovyeva
The suggestion of a retrospective exhibition comes at the significant moment of an artist’s career when their accumulated body of work demands collective and critical consideration. That is an accepted standard approach anyway. The format of a typical retrospective further serves to define and ossify an individual practice, chronologically grafting distinct achievements of one’s trajectory onto the proposed blank slate of the white cube. What if the objects of said retrospective exhibition were turned into acts of individually assembled experience’
In the lower level gallery at Foundation Tapiés, one is affected by the generously spacious air and architecture that far extends the usual spectatorial gaze. The visitor steps gently to join others in this antithetical stage of the ‘White Cube.’ Immediately this action triggers a strange situation: several of the people present suddenly produce a mechanical noise accompanying the robotic movement of the neck to the side, followed by a swift jog out the gallery. While the performers (whose role has now become clear) re-emerge crawling from various corners of the space, they rise to their feet to assume a definitive position, pause, linger, and pronounce titles and dates of pieces they will embody for us.
Breaking away from the conventions of everyday movement and behavior, the performers begin to choreograph their bodies within the grander scale of this exhibition-cum-game. One young man in bright green trousers attempts to perform both the movements of an orchestra conductor as well as the actual musical score of ‘Le Sacre de Printemps.’ His actions appear at once absurd and humorous, however they garner our attention and gaze, attempting to decipher his function, purpose, message, and relation to himself and others in the room. His position changes, now his back is towards us - a more common viewpoint for the conductor he represents; a sense of relief overcomes the previous discomfort of full-frontal engagement with the commanding gestures a conductor usually performs.
Shifting on this stage of a gallery, our group is approached by a young woman who asks if we would be interested to see and hear her ‘Retrospective’ (2011). This, indeed, becomes the centerpiece that questions the limits of our understanding of what art and dance can be, and moreover what exhibitions can do to invigorate and construct a new experience of reality, history, and memory. As the dancer begins to recount her own individual trajectory, she weaves in the solo works of Xavier Le Roy to mark her own points of revelation. She oscillates between illustrative movements of Le Roy’s emblematic choreography and personal narrative that assembles two separate histories into one, or perhaps suggests that the situation within which we find ourselves is imbued with the potential and actuality of producing meaning and history through encounter. And so each visit drafts its own retrospective score upon our memory and knowledge.