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Text To Speech (2008)


Irène Filiberti, may 2007


Body-image and other figures
Up until now Gilles Jobin has developed his gesture vocabulary whilst immersing himself into a choreographic exploration becoming ever more complex from one piece to the next. And with every new step or new production, language, materials and themes are sent back to the drawing board in a quest to ascertain its meaning. That of bodies and their link with their environment. From this point of view, the notion of mobility, be that movement and its trajectories have since A+B=X (1997) weighed upon image, time and representation, invariably leading off the beaten track, all the while reflecting on the modalities of living and whilst trying to clear modern-day spaces. Not through focusing on territory or culture, but through placing the onus on the deposit of forms, confronting the most elementary figures of the material world and human behaviour to new systems, be that media-related, technological or artistic. The explored material, the chosen aesthetic quality, ranging from everyday to fantastical, going from abstraction to dreamlike quality, had the work evolve towards more risk taking. Double Deux (2006), a sort of uninterrupted performance ritual carried out by twelve dancers, proffers freedom of choice, the positioning in the immediate here and now of the performers on stage. Through the course of events, the choreographer has equally gotten certain optical effects off his chest without in so doing abandoning angles, setting, or his particular point of view as made apparent by ways in which lights and musical atmosphere are conceived. From sound beds to other forms of bringing together or bringing into play, his last endeavour was to develop an on stage quality through the notion of continuous transition and turning up the heat on the bodies at work.

An unfolded process
More intuitive than conceptual, Gilles Jobin comes up with disruptive strategies adapted to each creation; games and constraints are his aides-de-camp to modify the working process as well as to re-invent his approach to the body. From the effect of the grid on the floor used in The Moebius Strip (2001) to the simultaneous and contradictory actions of Double Deux, from the organically organized movement that featured in several pieces until Under Construction (2004) and TWO-THOUSAND-AND-THREE (2003), up to the recently explored notion of continuous transition, the choreographic structure creates or absorbs different systems destined to offer new challenges, to overthrow received ideas, to interrogate the here and now. Thus, the approach of the work and the artistic questioning remain constantly subjected to modification and variation.


Text to Speech, first venture into the world of words
In Text To Speech, Gilles Jobin de-contextualizes the most concrete terms of his own language, which he tries to scrutinize from different angles. Halfway between plastic and choreographic approach, he no longer tries to link, in hybrid or mutant fashion, or through the articulation of a system of transposition, but instead attempts to sample, to directly extract materials and sources of reflection in order to expose them on more immediate terms. What remains is a work on porosity and on friction that in the first instance appeals to the sense of hearing, being the world of sound and speech. A work that equally assumes responsibility for the phenomenon of violence, both physical and political, that has been present in his entire body of work. The interface of body/screen, multimedia language/physical effort is the opportunity to explore new spaces where the performer and the movement are set into motion. A first game that one could almost describe as post-situationist orchestrates it: voices, languages, historical or topical texts taken from the internet are changed and manipulated to the point of recreating a singularly poetic environment. An impressionist touch with humoristic and alarming undertones whose ambiguous sway between the real and fiction acts on our perception. It is a process that closely resembles the relation image/body developed in earlier creations, notably Braindance (1999). Waves and frequencies, loops and samples, mixings and interactions are the object of this approach operating through focalisation, manipulation and impacts. They make up a kind of “material to be heard” that develops itself in the form of “tampering”.

Technology and speech
For the first time in one of his pieces, Gilles Jobin turns to words and to speech in order to create an environment and is here also the golden thread running through the piece. Texts and voices broadcast on stage are manipulated in a thoroughly unfamiliar way: through the artificial production of human speech thanks to computer software of vocal synthesis. The TTS text to speech converts written language into words. Other configurations enables one to translate phonetic transcriptions into vocal form, to stock up fragments of words, phonemes or to incorporate a voice model with its other characteristics. In so doing one synthetically obtains a very close resemblance and understanding of the human voice and that in whichever language. These techniques, through a system of processing of the broadcast signal, can inscribe themselves in a system of vocal interaction. Intonation, accent, type of sentence and informative speech are the material with which dancers and choreographer are connected, orchestrating at will and to heart’s content the effects that are immediately broadcast onto stage.

From topicality to the choreographic structure
A first observation marks the origin of this approach: the format and the style are that of a telegram sent by a press agency, adopting its neutral and distant tone that makes the gravest information sound commonplace. The same subject, dealt with in an Amnesty International report, gives the text a wholly different status and impact. With this reflection as starting point, Gilles Jobin elaborates a new system. The use of this kind of apposition is equally present in the treatment of images, ranging from the choice of image to how they are offered to the spectator’s gaze, displayed on different computer screens placed on stage. In this way, in Study 1, first duo and first stage of creation, one sees a peaceful mantelpiece fire that progressively transforms itself, depending on the texts being manhandled, into a blazing fire or street demonstration. The idea of “setting the picture ablaze” comes into play regarding the reception of a work far removed from the commonplace. The ambiguity provoked by the association of two opposing terms applied to one same element is a way of considering media and technologies from an offbeat angle. To de-contextualize and to re-contextualize the idea, not to force a speech onto things, but to allow the audience and the dancers to formulate their own interpretation in light of the proposed environment.

Elements for an aesthetic of reception Gilles Jobin uses the computer as transmission source circulating between sound, text and image with the idea of making the audience travel in space and time. Here he applies this art of suggestion that characterized his previous pieces to new media. In Text to Speech, he conceives of a system, even a structure, to introduce different kinds of stories relating intimate or topical events. The primordial research of this work focuses on our perception of the world. How do we react to events announced when they seem far removed from us or on the contrary in close proximity. The choreographic structure, along with the configuration of the speeches, develop around this game in one same movement, from the farthest to the closest. A precise objective determines it: to install a sense of reality progressively creeping up on the audience. The different qualities of the texts and the synthetic voices see their coherence subjected to constant variation and blurring, effects of closing in or warding off oscillating between humour, fantasy, seriousness, unease. This take on subjectivity is pursued by making up stories that should be heard with the idea that “it happened close to where we live”.

Towards a dramaturgy of interfaces The use of new technologies, the transformations that they facilitate, notably around the status of the body both from an everyday point of view and as artistic gesture, orientates the reflection towards other incidences. By integrating sound manipulation, the sound coming from differentiated sources spread out over the stage, Gilles Jobin fluctuates between physical reality and mental space. His interest for choreographic structure attaches itself to tackling themes; among them the dimensions of the “multiple” that presents itself here as part of the notion of “crowding”. On stage, a minimal design, neutral and functional, that reminds of that of a studio: chairs, tables, clothing, computers. Atmosphere and different tones are modulated between softness and brutality, between exploded or interrupted forms. Writing without beginning nor an end, but developing an infinity of possible scenarios, furthermore with both individual and simultaneous pathways, the piece talks about the invasion of living space, about its effects on our relationship with the other, about feeling, desire. From undefined to murky, without special effects, starting off from diverse situations, Gilles Jobin choreographs these new disturbances in an accumulation of states of consciousness and ways of living strangely altered. “I did not wish to link, to put together the material that we explored, but I rather worked with the idea of “covering the back”, to stay in contact, to put the dance in connection with this world by creating an environment and different situations. That is why I imagined this choreography as trying to give everyone his own pathway, a partition. Still mixing, but in a rawer way.”