Renowned nouveau cirque ensemble Compagnie 111 returns to BAM following their BAM debut The Seven Boards of Skill (2008 Next Wave), with the US premiere of the darkly playful Sans Objet, as part of the 30th Next Wave Festival.
Testing human limitations, Sans Objet pits the human body against technology in the form of a looming robotic arm at center stage. Its robot head slowly appears, telegraphing an unmistakable sentience as it looks out at the audience. Two men (Olivier Alenda and Olivier Boyer) in suits appear, and soon enough their acrobatic movements are in tandem with the robot: a real-life prototype produced by the automotive industry in the 1970s and an object director Aurélien Bory has called “the receptacle and the mirror for our projections.” The pair’s movements and relationship to the robot graduate from synchronous movement to varied spatial relationships that increase in tension as the piece progresses.
The idea of utilizing a robot within the nouveau cirque form came from Bory’s curiosity about theater and the animated object. During the piece the audience can see glimpses of Bory’s influences, from Heinrich Von Kleist’s texts on puppet theater to Bauhaus artist and designer Oskar Schlemmer’s preoccupation with objects to the constructivist physicality and symbolism of Russian theater director Vsevolod Meyerhold.
From the moment the robot is unveiled until the shattering climax, man and machine alternately wrestle and toy with one another in a power struggle awash with physicality, playfulness, unexpected beauty, and eventually, a foreboding mechanical dominance—provoking the audience to rethink the relationship between humans and industrial growth.
Sans Objet, directed by Aurélien Bory in an artistic collaboration by Pierre Rigal features robot operation and programming by Tristan Baudoin, composition by Joan Cambon, lighting design by Arno Veyrat, sound design by Stéphane Ley and costume design by Sylvie Marcucci.
Performances take place at the BAM Howard Gilman Opera House (30 Lafayette Ave), Nov 9 & 10 at 7:30pm. Tickets start at $25
Photo Credit: Algae Bory