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by Sylviane Dupuis


“ I try to develop an idea, stick with it and reveal all its facets. ”
(Gilles Jobin)

“ The more terrifying the world is, the more abstract art becomes ”
(Paul Klee)

The viewer of Braindance and The Moebius Strip is soon aware of death as a central theme in the impressive work of Gilles Jobin. It is not that death is movingly presented or made the subject of a conventional story line; nor are the signs of its presence ever unambiguous. On the contrary, Jobin is not a storyteller in any sense (except that he “tells the story” of the body). And it is in this respect that he seems to me to fulfil the purest demand of poetry, at least as Stéphane Mallarmé understood it: with him everything belongs, not to the explicit order, but to the realm of suggestion.

Everything is latent. We are not told whether the female bodies we see being slowly manipulated by men’s hands at the beginning of Braindance are victims of torture, or bodies reduced to the status of things or toys; or if they are simply asleep. We do not know if they have been raped, gassed, dumped there or destroyed by a bomb - all hypotheses that our minds, burdened with a superabundance of shock images, are almost bound to entertain... For Jobin the choreographer/geometry, that would be going too far: he nourishes an ambition to escape from anything “anecdotal”, from any indulgence, preferring to hoist himself directly into the realm of abstraction.

Nor is there anything explicit to make us believe that the final sequence of Moebius - shadows crawling about as the light gradually dies, an almost impossible image which would seem to be due only to the persistence on the retina of an already faded vision, an image of indescribable beauty, but of some other place, somewhere off stage, glimpsed just for an instant - derives from Gilles Jobin’s own experience of grief. (I only know this because I asked him immediately afterwards: “Is that a picture of death?”, as if needing to say where I was returning from, and that it was neither heavy nor painful, but rather like a place one had made contact with and now had to relinquish, because of the calm, paralysing and serene fascination this almost hypnotic vision has on the viewer.)

Jobin investigates death as if he had a vital need to get to the bottom of a question. The search for the starting point of The Moebius Strip ends up with the strangeness of these limbs, neither black nor white, finally forsaken by their bodies (like the idea of light persisting after it has died). Two years earlier, in Braindance, Jobin had choreographed a superb but disturbing allegory of a manhandled body which, contrary to the movement of Moebius, seemed to start from death (or an initial agonising struggle) and animosity, and reach fulfilment in an apotheosis of the dancer’s body, magnified by the light.

It is as if, in ”developing the idea” of the body in order to ”reveal all its facets”, one were bound to end with the crucifixion, the destruction, or rather - under the garment which conceals it and the skin which clothes it - the exhibition of this ”splendid carcass” which has been a constant source of fascination for painters and anatomists from the time of the Renaissance to Francis Bacon...

Gilles Jobin’s work as a choreographer, indissociable from a meditation on his own origins and ultimate fate (which for me makes him an exemplary figure) and on the origin and fate of mankind, and mankind’s violence, is therefore a place where playful experimentation and exorcism meet. By his own admission, The Moebius Strip, a metaphor for the movement of life, expresses a transition: the subject of death is tackled once again but also, one might say, “worked through”, as if birth and death were touching one another. Should we expect that Jobin’s future work will have had done with this question and that he will be inventing other avenues, other “signpost paths”? But can one really ever have done with the violence of life and man’s finite state?

Sylviane Dupuis