'' The Théâtre Exposé | A history of performance art on the Riviera from 1951 until now

The Théâtre Exposé

Jean-Claude Bussi
Jean-Claude Bussi
Daniel Biga
Jean-Marc Costantino
Catherine Delserre
Francis Godard
Marie-Jeanne Laurent
Paul Laurent
Pierre Lhiabastres
Alice Pieffort
Marc Roux
Paula Szabo
Jean-Claude Bussi
Theoretical background: 
The Théâtre Exposé

Towards the end of January or the beginning of February, I would like to do an experiment which would be somewhat in between and exhibition and a performance.

This show, entitled Théâtre Exposé, is a new experiment by the ATELIER-CREATION. I don't think it is designed to be repeated many times, rather the event is interesting in itself, and starting from there we will see how it develops. We are suggesting this idea more especially to: Marie-Jeanne Laurent, Paul Laurent, Alice Pieffort, Marc Roux, Daniel Biga, J.M. Costantino, F. Godard, A. Goursonnet, R. Glang, J.Y. Linsolas, Catherine Delserre, (and others).

I will ask these people (whom I chose for various reasons, and notably in order to include different personalities) to provide a text that will be recorded, before setting up a space (probably a cube), and the whole, including the people, will be "exhibited".

This will require a bit of collective work and individual work.

There will be no general rehearsal, except to place things quickly. The « exhibitors” will probably be introduced as a group and one after the other.

The point of this work is twofold:

for the participants

for the “visitors”

The relationship that is created will provide elements for a future experiment.

This “unpolished “literature should unveil interesting aspects of our behavior. I haven't found the place yet, but I was thinking of a gymnasium, or a big empty hall, considering that we need a plain and relatively large space.

I think a meeting would be useful, let's also say December 4, see document included.

In case some of you are unable to come, it doesn't matter, we will get in touch again.

The idea is a collective experiment, but individual interpretations.

I'm looking forward to meeting you soon.
The Théâtre Exposé and Célébral are part of an important movement created around and by the CRIA (Center for Artistic Research and Interventions) in Nice approximately from 1975 to 1985.

The CRIA produced an impressive number of shows and events in institutions (schools and hospitals), and participated in a great many social movements.

We must remember that the social climate was rather favorable to this sort of creation. These two types of creation were also inspired by an idea expressed by J.-C. Bussi, founder of the CRIA and creator of the Théâtre-Exposé and Célébral : «There is something inside each one of us which resists alienation ».

Generally performances by modern visual artists strive to belong to a history of contemporary art, which has been a fantasy ever since Duchamp initiated the process (this is my opinion...). Therefore performances are often photographed, filmed, dated, included in catalogs in order to appear in the artist’s curriculum and in his/her book.

Our attempts included none of this. They were produced with "bare hands" , in an improvisational spirit always akin to chaos, a sort of theatrical free jazz, directed only by the introspection of the actors, and completely safe in the company of the various subjectivities which the context brought together.

Basic criteria:

Between 6 and 12 executants “juxtaposed “in the same action space, each executant being closed off inside his/her own imagination and conversing with it and acting out situations.
the Théâtre Exposé is indoors, and lasts a limited time.

the Célébral is outdoors, and can last anywhere from three hours to two days.

Inter-acting between the executants is not recommended.

The dramatic progression is usually silent, without a text, based on the objects, costumes, situations, corporal and postural events; the main reference however is theatrical rather than visual. The 1960s happening is a reference, stripped of its provocative aspect.

The vocabulary, the figures and styles, as well as the imagery, are a bit archaic, and there are no signs of modernity. Like slapdash rituals more or less thrown together, never to be completed.

The goal is an expressive self exhibition, usually without an audience.
Here one might quote J.-C. Bussi : « In this epic poem facing the sun, he is exhibiting the movements of his thoughts in a microscopic universe that he himself has established."

Several events in this style were produced between 1978 and 1983; here is the list:

Théâtre Exposé MJC Gorbella 1978
Masques (Masks) Valbonne chez Émile de la Tour 1979
Les Valises (Suitcases) Sainte Marguerite Nice 1979
Les Objets de la Félicité (Objects of Happiness) Beuil mountain 1980
Interventions (sans titre) (Interventions (Untitled)) Beuil village 1981
Célébral Sanguinière Esteng forest 1982
Célébral Mont Agel 1983

[Text written in 2012, Editor’s note]


Technique description référence: 

Texte d'intention

Technique description référence: 
Texte d'intention

Document préparatoire

Technique description référence: 
Document préparatoire
Just like in a gallery, “12 characters” are exhibiting themselves. This research will enable us to uncover their personal universe: our universe?

Some of our intentions are the following :

-how can one play one's own character?

-What we choose in our personal universe: words, gestures, objects...

-going from painting to "animated" painting, games and behavior.

-Are we directly concerned by the universe that this display creates?

Jean-Claude Bussi asked each character to work separately, and then discover the works created by the others at the MJC Gorbella on Saturday, February 18 at 7:30 PM (if there are too many spectators there will be another showing at 9:30 PM).
We are all isolated, each in turn becoming a spectator for the others. We feel a certain anxiety in putting together our exhibits, but our interest in what the others are doing makes it easier. Even though we are separate, underneath we are all in solidarity.

What was shown: a distant interpretation of oneself, within the device suggested by Jean-Claude. Such a device does not make the “me” of the person exhibiting unrealistic or theatrical, it acts more like a catalyst or even like a trap.

One always feels so much like talking about oneself, and then Jean-Claude suggests doing it, so there we are. The result is sometimes unexpected: we would like to be pathetic, and in the end we are a bit funny. Something could be said about perception. We suggest something and people see something else. One could measure the distance between the way we see ourselves and how the others see us. Everyday problem and tedious exercise, but that is precisely the issue raised by this sort of experience.
It seems to me that the idea of the Théâtre Exposé is to eliminate INTERACTION parameters. We are placed next to one another, in a box, a bubble, a drawer, there is no interacting during the preparation, and no interacting during production.

What is the result of this experiment?

Correspondences appear, similarities, echoes of our personal discourses, a subconscious phenomenon. A collective subconscious, or the subconscious of this micro environment which we represent. Common symbols interpreted in various ways, signs of recognition, a language without words which enables us to be together.

This absence of interaction also provokes, offers, or produces, a great deal of freedom for each player -- whereas the theater is always a collective work, and its result is always a compromise. Such freedom is simple, concrete, it is the freedom to “allow” oneself to do something. The spectator must also be free, which means that he must be without prejudice, without a priori, without filters. This is so difficult that the Théâtre Exposé doesn't worry about the audience and it can be played out without an audience, with just the exhibitors.

Practical aspects are particularly important here. This is truly a no man's land. No audience. In the first place, there are no spectators to conquer or to seduce. Which doesn't do away with stage fright; another kind of stage fright arises, pertaining to group therapy: one is exposed to one's peers. There is fear, but not negotiation.

We do this in the countryside, just for ourselves. We meet in these virgin areas, devoid of obsolete significations, fashionable trends, obvious symbols. Each gesture becomes a first experience once again, and the whole is a quiet experiment conducted in an outdoor laboratory, away from long-winded theories. This outdoor work reminds us of other experiments, especially pictorial ones. This neutral and unblemished place where one can attempt and allow oneself something different, is also the remotest part of the provinces. Of administrative and economic provinces, and also of the provinces of discourse and imagination. The place where shaky attempts, aesthetic reversals, absurd demonstrations are all possible, far away from the up-to-date celebrities of the theater, of galleries or of the media.

Far from all this, and then, what remains in the memory, what other world have we had a glimpse of? Each one's imagination, a tiny piece of course. A small interior theater, a personal mythology with neither great names nor great actions.

Each one of us repeatedly sees oneself as a character symbolizing his or her own life. It enhances one's habits, manias, stereotypes, one's little baggage of keywords through which the greater part of one's life is organized.

All of this is not small, it is rather condensed, structured, homogeneous. For a sharp, clear and precise moment, we are what we are, without interaction, completely subjectively.

In this sense it is a moment of pure exhibitionism, without perversity, when we let go and renounce, without aggressiveness or provocation, sad or happy, but not nasty, not desperate.

In short, the beginning of the revelation of our true character, cleared of social nuances, unpleasantness, usages. One woman who seemed so sure of herself looks really lost; another man who was so prudent completely lets go. Each tableau reveals a man or a woman that is more true, if one can avoid misunderstandings about this word. More real? Perhaps this theater, being open to such an experimental device, to such clearly defined characters, is very realistic, imaginarily speaking.

And to conclude, let's not forget how arbitrary these silhouettes are, how fragile the personal imagination that we were able to express for a privileged moment within a small group. Let's not forget to cultivate the inner garden where these fantastical and useless characters are wandering, let's not forget to protect them, and every once in a while during a propitious sunset, to listen to them. They have so much to say, but they are speaking to themselves.
(September 1981)