Alfred Palestra


(Alfred Palestra installation view, FRAC Bretagne, Play Time / Les Ateliers de Rennes, 2014)

A project by Katarina Šević and Tehnica Schweiz

At the end of the 19th Century a school in Rennes, today referred to as the Lycée Émile-Zola, became a point of intersection of two historical tendencies: the birth of the avant-garde – through the presence of Alfred Jarry as a pupil – and the crisis of the Republic – through the 2nd Dreyfus Trial that took place there.

The gym of the Napoleonic cadet school was used in the summer of 1899 by the French military court; it hosted the 2nd trial of Alfred Dreyfus. The school, which had affiliations with the army, was adjacent to the Rennes prison, where Dreyfus was held captive after his return from Devil’s Island, and was therefore a convenient location for the trial (while also being intentionally far from Dreyfus’ supporters in Paris and his native Alsace).

Was it a mere accident that the creation of Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Dr. Pataphysician, or King Ubu, which are commonly referred to as precursors of Dada and Surrealism, the forerunners of the avant-garde, coincided with the culmination of the Dreyfus Affair in time and space?

In pataphysical terms, this coincidence can be viewed as ‘equality of contrarieties’ or ‘unity of antinomes’.

(Alfred Palestra, props)

The project

We proposed an intervention in the notorious gym with the participation of the Zolala theater collective, a group of drama students of the Lycée. who regularly use the same location for rehearsals. The project aims to help the students to address this ‘equality of contrarieties’ as a significant heritage of the school and of its students. The intervention took the form of a workshop with the students, followed by a performance for the public.

We have based our collaboration on quotes selected from two coinciding and contrasting literary canons, Jarry’s library, the 27 books from Exploits and Opinions of Dr. Faustroll, Dr. Pataphysician and a selection of books from Alfred Dreyfus’s reading from his captivity (1895-1898) on Devil’s Island.

The workshop became a process collective reading, a learning experience for all concerned (artists, students and visitors), an alternative method for the interpretation of the given period.

The props and costumes were on view in the form of an installation at FRAC Bretagne, in the framework of Play Time / The 4th Edition of Les Ateliers de Rennes, 27.09. – 30.11.2014.

The workshop took place at Lycée Emile Zola 08.11.-15.11.2014.
The performace took place on 19.11.2014.

The performance

The act was conceived in a way that there is no stage and no audience in the traditional sense, neither was there a play. The act did not have a beginning nor an end, and the visitor was granted the liberty to choose his/her individual duration and perspective(s). Through our method, no two visitors experienced the same act, neither have one been given the illusion of receiving an overall view.

The collective’s performance was an attempt to occupy and scan the space and its time, in accordance with the pataphysical inquiry of Alfred Jarry, investigating time as a three dimensional space (How to Construct the Time Machine, 1899.)

The visitors experienced the act by passing through the gym. They could come and go freely, like in an exhibition situation. Passing through the room, they encountered random constellations of selected texts from the two conflicting canons quoted by readers, and moving objects that are symbols representing the ghosts of the space.

The act was on view for a period of three hours. Around 150 people attended the event.

The project was realise in the framework of Play Time / The 4th Edition of Les Ateliers de Rennes, curated by Zoe Gray.

(Alfred Palestra, documentation of workshop and performance)

See pdf documentation here.

The project was realised with the kind support of IGOR METROPOL.

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