Interview of Revista Bulevard translated from Romanian, March 07. 2014

Gilles Viandier introduces art into the public space, with dance steps. Gilles Viandier is a complex artist, architect and dancer who combines art with public space. Through Scena Urbană and the French Cultural Institute, the artist will come to Cluj-Napoca, after a good period of reflection on the transformation of Mihail Kogălniceanu Street, which could become pedestrian.
Starting March 9. Gilles will be present in Cluj for a week, to spot and make documentation for the May project. He will talk to people about the aforementioned street and will also prepare a workshop with dancers and architects students for the same project. We thought to talk a little with him beforehand to discover a small part of his thoughts.

1- Who is Gilles Viandier? I feel a bit like a searcher, curious of many things and trying not to make separations between fields. Or at least to make links between things and between people. Art has always been a motor in my life, first with music (piano, singing, clarinet). Then with literature, theatre, dance, cinema, drawing, contemporary art… without putting apart science or philosophy. I grew up in France, still working sometimes there, but I live now for 5 years in Berlin and more and more in Andalusia. I experience since a very long time nomadic life and therefore solitude, traveling, adaptation, observation, questions… and also what means being together… in creations, on tour, in parties, through different cities that I always love to explore, among different natures, worlds.

2- You studied architecture, then dance. What made you do this step? Which is the connection between these fields? By studying architecture and urban planning, I learned to look at space and integrate various parameters to name and design it. With contemporary dance, that I can now live for 14 years with, I learned how the body and the soul can dialogue with space and, in a way, are able to express and play. Becoming a dancer had always been a dream but more than that, it’s the call of the movement, having conscience of the possibilities and powers of the body, connected to thoughts, language, writing, gestures… Something that sometimes architecture forgets. In our society of permanent flow, the issue of speed concentrates itself also in the interconnection between people, in the fact of moving but also with the presence of vibration, with all its range. Vibration which also recalls sounds… and mathematics.

3- You are also taking dance in unconventional spaces, in the public space. How do people react, interact with this kind of art? After many years of performing in theaters, I realized that my deep intimate specificity and inspiration was coming from outside the black box or the studio, but made out of the work in these spaces, confronting with void. Public urban space is the place where performance may question and provoke the standard social behaviours, creating social links, welcoming diversity… And makes this art coming out of its comfortable rows and audience. However, I still feel theaters as one of my first houses.

4- How do you understand the social role of art? Reactions of people are as diverse as human kind is. But this project is clearly an invitation to feel dance inside oneself, accepting one’s own body, sensations, emotions and fighting against uniformity which is nowadays the tendency in our cities, behaviours, etc Furthermore, dance becomes also a means to face other issues in the (not yet) sustainable and responsable cities of nowadays.

5- How did you started the collaboration with Denis Tricot? I met Denis Tricot in 2006 after a performance where he saw me dancing. We talked and after having seen a picture of his sculptures, I knew that I would see him again! Then he proposed me to collaborate on the instrument-installation named Wood Organ ( which is so monumental in space that the entire body is required to perform within its structure. A perfect association of design, electro-acoustic music and dance improvisation that are parts of my aspiration.

6- What do you want to reflect by dancing with a sculpture? With all its captors, the sculpture becomes a moving instrument with no written rules or scores to play it. I let myself inspire by the curves of the wood planks, by the astonishing sounds… The sculpture may evokes many things for the audience, I try to make them appear: time that is flying, sinusoïdal connections with the anatomical body, weight and lightness, elasticity, resistance… organic sounds – from tempest to jungle, war to harbour – gestures of the history of humanity. Oscillations between earth and sky, perspectives and details, composing pictures and music within the trio and engaging a physical confrontation with this abstract wooden Leviatan.

7- What other kind of unexpected projects are you involved in? What other future projects do you have in mind? Since 2006 I develop a project under the generic name of #Number#. It’s a research that started with the notion of convergence in cities. Walking as a way of training, warming up, collecting thoughts, objects, situations… to create a performance on a square, alone or with people coming from other routes. After different experiences in Montpellier, Zagreb, Bruxelles, Berlin, Paris and a longer maturation in Budapest in May 2012 questioning borders, place of nature, conscience of wasting attitudes in a city, next step appears in Cluj-Napoca where a conjunction makes that a major long street of the historical center will become pedestrian in few years. Time has come to focus on inventing a new kind of pedestrian street… I still have stage projects with dance companies and collaborations in Europe: a project about nomadism in Marseille, a duet with dumbbells for open sky space festivals, and soon a collaboration with a flamenco choreographer… I also would like to engage more musical projects.

8- This will be your first time in Cluj-Napoca. What plans and expectations do you have? This is my first time in Cluj-Napoca after almost one year of writing and imagining how dance, body, urban perception could support and take along the transformation of the Mihail Kogălniceanu street given back to feet, steps, and bodily practices. Thanks to the invitation of Daniela Maier, Vice-President of the Association of Architects and Director of Scena urbană, with the support of the Institut français, I’ll be able to meet architects, dancers, photographs… any person who would be interested in sharing views or attitudes about the design and the potential of this public space. Within a kind of laboratory of pedestrians, we intend to spend time there, improvise, ask questions to inhabitants who are used to and use this street, understand the past and underline the possible future of the first symbol of a city: a street. I hope this project will echo the population and that the collected material will lead to other steps as proposing ideas for the new development of the urban artery, taking care of the broad possibilities of the moving body. I will also take spots and technical disposals for the coming soon project with Denis Tricot and Eric Cordier, an installation-dance-concert called Grandeur Nature that will take place in that street, in front of the Philarmony in May 2014.

9- I know you also sing, making scenography, translate and write film critique. Where do you get your energy from? Energy is everywhere. But energy is mostly within vibration between people, in stimulation of projects, in music, art in general, in free smiles, in traveling, in love, in freedom in general even if sometimes too much freedom happens to be not so easy (cf. Odyssey). Energy to resist against a world dominated by finance, fear, survey, security or hierarchy. Energy in hope, curiosity, work, in good health, good balance between loneliness and sociability, between foot on earth and head in the sky, physical work and spirituality, analysis, imagination. That’s why the art of touching and being touched is so important because it’s always a circulation of energy.

10- How do you spend your free time? The border between free and working time is sometimes difficult to discern. Going to see a performance, an exhibition, reading, playing the piano, talking with people can always create a link with inspiration or seeking material for works in progress, but I definitely like to reconnect with nature, sea, forest or mountain. And as soon as I can, I love riding a bike for long distances, exploring the city and teasing cars! Or going to dance… again and again!