Reviews

Xavier Le Roy, ‘Retrospective’ at MoMA PS1

Queens, New York

Xavier Le Roy, Retrospective.PHOTO BY MATTHEW SEPTIMUS. COURTESY THE ARTIST AND MOMA PS1

Xavier Le Roy, Retrospective.

PHOTO BY MATTHEW SEPTIMUS. COURTESY THE ARTIST AND MOMA PS1

“BZZZZZZZZZZ” is the jolting sound the outsourced performers of French choreographer Xavier Le Roy’s “Retrospective” emit every time a visitor enters the gallery. It is the reset button that prompts three performers to swiftly exit the room only to return moments later, encircle the visitor, and start the performance again. It is likewise the trigger for a sequence of actions that momentarily place the viewers on view—revoking the typical performer-audience contract as the two seesaw roles—and de-objectify the performers, who are put to work only when there is someone present to address.

Instead of complete reenactments, we receive freeze-frames, fragments, and reinventions of Le Roy’s near two-decade artistic output through forms that approximate the temporalities of other mediums: One performer strikes a pose (sculpture), another presents a snippet of a dance on loop (video), and a third weaves a narrative of his own biography with that of Le Roy’s (film)—a personalized reworking of Product of Circumstances, 1999, Le Roy’s pivotal lecture-performance chronicling his transition from his former career in microbiology to conceptual dance in the late 1980s.

Expectations are destabilized at every turn. The unnervingly lifelike slouching bodies occupying an almost pitch-black room turn out to be dummies, and the authorial persona inherent to the solo exhibition is shared amongst the cast of performers, who each introduce themselves before boldly stating: “and this is my retrospective.” An exciting reworking of the jaded linear monographic survey, as well as a creative solution to the difficulties of exhibiting live art in a white box, this retrospective is an ingenious artwork in itself.

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