Compagnie Non Nova’s work process





The creation of the piece « P.P.P.» («Position Parallel au Plancher » – « Parallel Position to the Floorboards ») in January 2008 became the catalyst for the project « I.C.E. ». The months of experimentation with ice which went into « P.P.P. » allowed us to identify numerous phenomena. A lack of time and a certain lack of rapport with the piece’s composition meant these discoveries were not exploited in « P.P.P. ». But they made us realise that we needed to approach the subject from another angle, we needed to go further and try out new things; for example, developing our experiments with frozen clothes, which simply by defrosting, suggest a spectacular performance on the theme of aging.

The notion of the transformation of matter and of our own physical transformation informs my artistic exploration. It’s my through-line. Using the manipulation of ice as a starting point, I am currently aiming to follow its transformation, with my own transformation running parallel to it : from ice to air, via water and vapour. From the body of a man to that of a woman.

Once again it’s the notion of « unjugglability » which inspires me ; « unjugglability » as a new way of engaging the spectators’ collective unconciousness by using objects and elements that can’t be juggled. I’m following a process of research and composition in which the matter manipulated has no reference point in the collective memory of the spectators, unlike the juggling objects so often seen. I’m trying to develop a Utopian imaginative faculty, of man attempting to tame matter.

More then anything, I’m working to get away from the academic form of juggling in order to explore a multidisciplinary language where matter is a source of dialogue rather than one of sublimation. Juggling has traversed the  centuries, creating new forms and techniques with each new generation of artists in order to keep going.

In a society in want of Utopia, where the collective unconsciousness tends to be dominated by the virtual, I have decided to stretch juggling in terms of physical performance in order to arouse our senses ; those senses which remind us that we are alive. Juggling a matter like ice is a Utopian notion. Aside from the element’s freezing, cold, hostile constitution, it is the dialogue ice proposes and its impact on the audience’s collective imagination that interests me. Somewhere between fascination, fright and visual magic, « P.P.P. » touched upon a source of collective unconsciousness which demands to be developed.

The project « I.C.E. » is part of a process whose aim is to nourish the imagination, questioning the essence of the element water, whether it’s in the form of vapour, liquid or solid, and also calling  us, as human beings, into question. The title of the project is generic and encompasses the long, daily, artistic exploration which, through its ongoing research, aims to create a repertory of forms, performances, installations and films which we consider to be spectacular, unavoidable, pertinent – even enigmatic – and which tell a tale. These various projects are then presented to an audience.

It is a process which is non-exclusive and whose definition will become clearer with each different phase of experimentation. One of the fundamental principals of the work is to attempt to jolt the audience out of thinking – and into feeling, into living, into questioning themselves about their own transformations, both physical and mental. When the spectator sees my body laid out on the sheet of ice in « P.P.P. », doesn’t s/he imagine his/her own body in my place ?



In response to the different proposals made to us by theatres and contemporary art centres, we have chosen to articulate our artistic process into four distinct stages, taking into account the limits imposed by each specific environment :


1)   The creation of a repertory of performances and scenic forms ; the result of our research. So far, experimentation with our chosen matter has allowed us to identify various performance pieces related to each of the four stable states (ice, water, vapour, air) …

–       « Une histoire sans fin » (« A Story without an Ending ») : based on the construction of an ice castle which slowly thaws and crumbles… (a performance for one actor, 100kg of flaked ice, a shovel, a snow scraper, lights and a sound system.) This performance piece was created during the research period for « P.P.P. ». It can last from 25 to 40 minutes, depending on the temperature of the venue.

–       « Iceman » : a performance piece featuring the slow-motion walk of a samurai, whose armour and weaponry are entirely made of ice. They disappear bit by bit as the samurai advances. This project was created for the film « Coyote Pizza » for the collective La Valise, in November 2008. Duration : 1h 15 minutes.

–       « L’après midi d’un foehn » (« Afternoon of a Foehn ») and « Vortex » : two pieces performed in succession, using a ventilation system which creates a constant current of air. These two spectacular pieces aim to contemplate air as a factor of erosion and are currently in the process of rehearsal and experimentation. They will be Non Nova’s next stage shows, due to première in 2011.

–       « Belle d’hier » (« Yesterday’s Beauty » – a provisional title), a project on water, based on the disappearance of myths and of childhood dreams.


2)   The creation of art installations and videos :

–       « La danse des cotons gelés » (« The Dance of the Frozen Cottonwear ») : presenting a collection of frozen clothes, solidified by the cold in expressive positions which crumple into the ground as they thaw. Created during the research period for « P.P.P », this installation confronts the audience with a thought-provoking representation of aging and the enigma of our own death. (These installations are « perishable », their duration depends on the temperature of the venue)

–       « Snow fall » – a series of films projected onto rotating blocks of ice, provoking a sense of reality. This installation was created in June 2007 during the « P.P.P. » residency at the French Institute in Johannesburg, South Africa.

–       « Laisse les gondoles à Venise ! » (« Leave the Gondolas in Venice ! ») : various installations involving ventilation systems which create whirlwinds of air, in which fly a puppet made of plastic bags and an umbrella. This installation has neither a beginning nor an end. It echoes a childhood merry-go-round, the trace of life in perpetual renewal.

–       « Les mobiles » (« The Mobiles ») et « Les plafonds » («The Ceilings ») : These installations were developed from the set of « P.P.P. ». The ceilings are made of balls of ice of differing diametres, suspended 4 metres up in the air, which fall at random intervals. The ceiling raises higher and higher as the balls of ice thaw. The mobiles are a series of structures of steel stems on the ends of which sit balls of ice, whilst others are attached to lengths of elastic, stretched beneath their weight. As the ice thaws the mobiles shift in random movements.

–       « Le Flocon » (« The Flake ») : an installation featuring a set made of ice, inside star-shaped cold chambers ; the audience circulates within the cold chambers.


3) An Educational Objective

In a society with such strong media coverage where warnings about global warming have become part of everyday life, using our artistic experiences to explore our relationship to the elements is essential. By putting in place a series of experiences allowing the audience to apprehend the elements : ice, water, vapour and air, through art installations and a video diary covering our experiments, the project « I.C.E » has become part of an educational process with a playful side to it. Following our experiences of audience visits to our ice workshops for « P.P.P. » and the discussions with the spectators who had seen the show, we would like to set up a dialogue with the audience in each venue we visit.


4) The Igloo …

The final project will be to produce a circus show in a big-top, THE IGLOO, bringing the audience into a temperature-controlled space which switches from wintry cold to sweltering hot, through heavy humidity and a huge storm. This will be the last stage in our Utopian adventure of a human being grappling with the elements.

This circus piece will be made up of various performance pieces and numbers born from our experimentation with a block of ice which becomes a volume of water which then becomes a mass of vapour which in turn becomes a current of air.

Beyond the wizardry aspect of the project I.C.E., what really interests me is developing a sort of artistic curiosity into what we are made of. We use ice to conserve our food, we search for our origins in the glaciers, breathing air and drinking water keeps us alive, we have tamed the elements in order to survive and we have conditioned them for our comfort.

Are we really aware of all this ?    


P.Ménard, June 2009.


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