Twenty feet above the sidewalk, white chairs are attached to the walls of buildings in the Latin Quarter, with ten senior citizens sitting on them. One is knitting, another folds laundry and a third is eating. All of them appear to be floating above everyday concerns, their strange position adding an enchanting note to the cityscape. Old age becomes urban poetry, insisting that we stop and take a look.
Affixed to the façades of buildings on St. Denis Street, they are an evocative display of passing time, blurring distinctions so that life becomes art. Some might walk by without noticing them, but others will raise their heads and stop to gaze at this surprising image of mature angels adding a touch of grace to the urban space.
An undisciplined and interdisciplinary German artist who specializes in site-specific interventions, Angie Hiesl concocted this “human exhibit” so that we might view elderly people as works of art. After winning over audiences in Europe and South America, her group will make its North American début with this beautifully disconcerting performance installation.
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The director and choreographer Angie Hiesl is also known for her visual art work and performance installations, and has been a fixture on the German art scene since the 1980s. Her pieces have garnered several awards, including the Cologne Honorary Theatre Prize awarded by the SK Foundation for Culture in 2001, and the 1996 Förderpreis from the North Rhine Westphalia ministry of culture. She often presents her art in public spaces ranging from a bridge to former public baths, a train station and subway corridors, as she explores her interest in the notions of floating and suspension.
x-times people chair, initially created in her home town of Cologne, has since been presented in festivals all over Europe and also in South America. The show won awards at the Holzminden international street theatre festival, and at the Valladolid theatre festival in Spain.
Angie Hiesl Produktion was founded by Angie Hiesl, who since 1997 has been collaborating with the choreographer, director and visual artist Roland Kaiser. Their works include a disturbing meditation on identical humans in TWINS — how do I know I am me… (2001), and a number of interdisciplinary projects influenced by urban spaces. Art is made accessible to everyone; it’s simply a matter of observation. She is keenly interested in the relation between the body and architecture, between humans and their environment. This project is an invitation to take a new look at reality.
“ [Angie Hiesl] exposes what is often concealed and in doing so the personal can be seen to be political.[…] Together [Angie Hiesl and Roland Kaiser] are able to transform the quotidian into the extraordinary, open up public space to new possibilities and to really encourage an audience to connect with their surroundings and question what they see.”
Rachel Rogers, Dance Theatre Journal, 2010
“As if turned inside out, the protective walls of a residential building are transmogrified into a stage, and the casual, unspectacular actions which we guess are going on in private behind the walls are presented as a play. At several sites in the city these tableaux mouvants confront beholders with the oft-suppressed fear of growing old and force them to reconsider the way they see the world and its daily rituals. […]For as in traditional theatre, which lives on the communication between actors and audience, these action installations put the limelight on the viewers, too: for a brief space of time they turn into performers in the interplay of seeing and being seen. In a provocatively graphic manner, Hiesl lays bare for both sides ways in which art and everyday life are “staged”.”
Andrea Lesjak, Goethe-Institut, November 2003
« [Angie Hiesl] traite ainsi l’espace comme s’il s’agissait s’un matériau, un « objet trouvé », qu’elle juxtapose à sa dramaturgie. […] Le montage comme principe «formel permet d’installer l’atmosphère surréaliste d’un rêve. […] Le cops humain devient le matériau de l’installation, mais devient également sujet lors de la performance, chaque individu étant libre de s’exprimer comme il l’entend. […] Ce qui est normalement caché devient public. On touche presque à une forme de stratégie propagandiste, c’est sans doute ce qui crée une telle tension au sein de l’œuvre. »
Enno Stahl, Esse arts + opinions, automne 2002
“While Christo, the Bulgarian pop artist, wraps buildings in white, Hiesl, from Cologne, aims to intrigue onlookers by displaying people in pursuit of “ordinary life in an extraordinary way””
Hugh Davies, The Daily Telegraph, 3d August, 2002
« Apparitions saisissantes qui mettent des sourires sur les visages des passants. »
Florence Michel, La Liberté, 12 Juillet 2001
PRODUCED BY Angie Hiesl Produktion
DIRECTED BY Angie Hiesl
ARTISTIC ASSISTANT Roland Kaiser
WITH Ariane Jovy + Wim de Lang + Peter Lehmann + Gisela Oehlschläger + Agnes Wintersberger + local performers
TECHNICAL DIRECTOR Michael Blattmann
CO-PRESENTED BY Quartier des spectacles
WITH THE SUPPORT OF Goethe-Institute + Ministère des Affaires étrangères de l’Allemagne
The presentation of x-fois gens chaise is part of the activities marking the 50th anniversary of the Goethe-Institute of Montréal.
WRITTEN BY Diane Jean
TRANSLATED BY Neil Kroetsch
Premiered in Cologne, November 1995
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED / FESTIVAL TRANSAMÉRIQUES