This is an area that is growing in the world of performing arts: creative research. The Vitry Studio-Theatre has brought together part of the amazing community of these research artists, which is gradually coming together around the decisive support that the Ministry of Culture provides.
An exciting discipline is emerging on the side of live entertainment: research. Programs are emerging, and are becoming stronger, thanks to the support of MiR, the Research Mission of the Ministry of Culture (Directorate General for Artistic Creation), through its call for projects, launched in 2019 and renewed every year («Research in theatre, circus, puppetry, street arts, storytelling, mime and arts of gesture»).
A visible and active community was formed, relations between artists and academics began to develop, in the spirit of keen mutual interest, and documentation and transmission were enriched. After four years and despite the 2020 health crisis, an ecosystem is developing, young and full of promise.
On February 2 and 3, 2023, it was the turn of the 2020 projects to be presented at Vitry Studio-Theatre, an emblematic place, since it has within ita specific “research” pole. The Studio-Théâtre is one of those few structures which compete in ingenuity to propose to the artists the conditions of a research in art (as for example The Phoenix (Valenciennes National Stage), the Next Generation Theatre (Centre Dramatique National de Lyon), the Hexagon (national stage Arts Sciences), which hosts an important biennial Arts Sciences (Experimenta) in Grenoble, the Unique Place (Nantes national stage), the In Vitro company and its Traverse laboratories…).
Emulation, restitution, encounters and exchanges form here gradually a brand new network, where we find in formation the elements of the creation of tomorrow. Bérangère Vantusso, who runs the Studio-Théâtre, and Florence Kremper, who runs the research centre, give us some of the features of this emerging world.
Bérengère Vantusso, Florence Kremper, how does Vitry’s Studio-Theatre stand in relation to creative research?
Bérangère Vantusso: When I took over as director of the Studio-théâtre (in January 2017), which, since its foundation, has welcomed artistic teams in creation, we immediately created a «Research» pole as well as a dedicated position, of which Florence Kremper took responsibility, to offer residencies of this type to artists.
Hence the importance in our eyes of hosting these meetings ( Expose the research, gestures and knowledge of artists 2020 recipients of the ministry’s call for proposals. They applaud our efforts, on the one hand, and above all, they allow us to discuss concepts, methods, practices and results, which animate a community. This is very important because we are all at the very beginning of the development of an area of great youth that we are passionate about. Somewhere, the Studio, with its experience, and the Mission Recherche of the artistic creation branch of the Ministry of Culture, with its expertise, are working together on all these issues.
Since the call for projects was launched in 2019, do you feel that something has changed?
Bérangère Vantusso: Without a doubt. We must imagine the novelty of these pure research residencies when we, at the Studio-Théâtre, began to offer them to artists.
Florence Kremper: At the very beginning, it was far from an integrated practice. The call for projects promoted a virtuous protocol and pointed to specific requirements. It has a clear structuring effect. The projects that are being proposed to us today are much more structured and well thought out. They include the question of the restitution, transmission and documentation of results. They have strong partners. And the accreditation of the expert panel that awards these fellowships sets an example.
Bérangère Vantusso: In the past, it was an exceptional approach. Today, companies, when they feel the need, can consider integrating this activity into their artistic project. They are encouraged by the support of the Ministry, with this call for projects, of course, but also through the research funds of the Regional Directorates for Cultural Affairs (DRAC), which they can apply for.
Is there now a community of research artists and scientists linked to university labs?
Bérangère Vantusso: Certainly. One of the challenges of art research is to develop that community. During those two days, we had artists-researchers, teachers-researchers, PhD students, playwrights, performers, authors, circassians, choreographers, technicians, mimes, performers, musicians and more.
Florence Kremper: The scientific fields in demand are increasingly numerous and varied, from the so-called “hard” sciences to the humanities (anthropology, language sciences, etc.) and neurosciences… These associations also feed into purely scientific research. Two very distinct environments, which could look at each other without frequenting each other, learn to collaborate and find it very interesting.
Can you perceive, on the other hand, the effects of this research on the profession itself, in terms of training, for example?
Florence Kremer: Yes, because the artists in these research teams are set up for a certain time and then everyone goes back to producing shows. There they find the professional environment that they will nourish the achievements of their research. New knowledge can spread very quickly and deeply.
Bérangère Vantusso: The training of the actor, I am convinced, is never completed and it works a lot between peers. In this sense, research in art produces more refined knowledge and techniques, more consciously mastered.
What remains to be done to continue these developments?
Bérangère Vantusso: The 2023 edition of the call for projects will be biennial: each programme will now be funded over a two-year period, and we think this is a good thing. Duration is a central issue. In addition, better informing artists about complementary funding sources would be a good step forward, particularly for academic research institutions. Another important point would be to find other places to host projects: it is not so common to find a tray equipped, dedicated and available.
Another interesting development is that of the call for projects in higher education and culture: when the question of research is naturally linked to initial training, it will also be integrated as a practice in the arts.
Finally, we still need to think about more effective ways to return to the collective intelligence all this research: how to make know and make known? We are contributing to this with the Studio notebooks…And then those two days found a small echo in the mediaThat’s a good signal!
New magic techniques, research on the body movements of the puppeteer or mime, research on the prosody of the actor...
Fifteen projects were presented at the Vitry Studio-Theatre on February 2 and 3 (to consult: the portraits of artists carrying six of them and the two-day programme).
Without being able to describe all these researches here, let us mention, among the most spectacular, that of Valentine Losseau, who develops a magic process that is unprecedented and perfectly bluffing: creating zones of invisibility on a stage of theatre. Research that combines catoptric (geometric optics of mirrors), material science, theatrical machinery, optical image processing, video… That ofYvain Juillard, no less extraordinary, which consists in bringing together the scenic processes capable of inducing in the mind of the spectator the perception of a character on the stage… which is not actually there! Neither body nor hologram, and yet, at the end of the performance, the audience has the irrepressible feeling that it lacks an actor at the time of greeting.
Sergi Emiliano I Griell and Agnès Delachair, who are inspired by the time division in comics and cinematographic editing to invent a new physical language to renew the art of mime, are among the most closely related to the actor’s art. Let us also mention Laurent Poitrenaux which, this time within the framework of the School of the National Theatre of Brittany, is interested in the «acoustic turning point» of the dramatic arts: the idea is to question the use of the microphone on the stage until to make it a perfectly mastered tool (rather than suffered, as it is sometimes, unfortunately), from the actor, through the production of works in the form of radio fiction.
Four examples to complete by consulting our portraits of artists in research!