Jean-Philippe Rameau at Clement Cogitore’s
01.01.19
Léon Mychkine

#PARIS January 22, 2017. Opera Garnier. We hear the drum, which marks the rhythm as if it were something heraldic. We hear voices, sighs. Light: A rather compact, concentric crowd. Young people dance slowly, while one of them is more active. The crowd moves away (we see children), leaving a space for this young man whose face we can’t see, bent that he is, under his chapka. He dances. He dances “krump”. Clément Cogitore is part of the crowd, he is filming with a camera on his shoulder; he is very close to bodies, voices, gestures, expressions and exclamations of encouragement. Only a wide shot, quickly closed, will break this union, choreographed by Bintou Dembele, Grichka & Brahim Rachiki. 

Clement Cogitore is one of this family of artists who question time. Time, once said, with all its semantic richness, what type questions Cogitore? Three types: the time of dance, the time of music, and the historical (or even transhistorical) time. Added to those of culture and art, which, for reasons that certainly have only to do with the alignment of the planets, only meet at certain times, and of this kind, in this case, which lead us to say that history stutters, as we know, but that it can repeat this stuttering in an increasingly insistent, and voluminous way – in the sense of sound volume – and the drums played in the film are louder than in Rameau’s original play, Les Indes Galantes, for example.

Because first there is Rameau. But, I would even say more, Rameau and the Indians. Cogitore knows the anecdotes that strike. On November 25, 1725, four Indian chiefs – sent from Illinois by the French – met Louis XV! Chief Agapit Chicagou, of the Metchagimea, gave a speech, swearing allegiance to the crown. The next day, the King took the Chiefs to a rabbit hunt. That’s amazing!

While the Chefs were in Paris, Rameau attended a performance at the Théâtre italien. Three kinds of Indian dances were presented: Peace, War and Victory Dances. It inspires him. He wrote a work for harpsichord entitled “Les Sauvages”. And it is quite naturally that he will include a new scene in his opera Les Indes Galantes. Thus, after the “third entry” (the Flowers), we read in the booklet:

The Indians,

New entry

added

in the Galant Indies

saturday, March 10, 1736

The “savages”, for everything that moves in an unorthodox, non-governmental way. But what does the term “savage” mean for Rameau? From reading the lyrics in the booklet, it seems that these savages are very kind, courteous, fickle but not after the “hymen” has been granted.

The question that comes to mind is how Cogitore transposes the innocuous – at the beginning – vision of Rameau into this wild incartade? Cogitore associates, and only as an artist can do, the improbable and the convincing. In an online interview, Cogitore explains that krump was born following the riots in Los Angeles, which began on April 29, 1992. But it is a legend. Legend? Yes, because if you look a little bit, you realize that krump basically has two dates of birth…

In 1992, a friend invited another, named Thomas Johnson, to entertain a birthday party. The latter literally invents a new way of playing the clown. He has just found a career, and becomes famous, as ‘Tommy the Clown’. Clowning was born. Clowning is considered to be the precursor of krump. In the early 2000s, Cesare “Tight Eyez” Willis and Jo’ Artis Ratti, two dancers from Johnson’s company, who practiced a more aggressive and virulent form of clowning, seceded and opened a clown academy with a competition program in the “Battle Zone” at the Great Western Forum (Los Angeles). Teams of krump-ists and clowns join together and engage in public battle. There are four main movements in krump: “jabs”, “arm swings”, “chest pops”, and “stomps”. The first two terms are boxing terms, and the last two can be translated as “torso jump” and “trampling”. In fact, krump is a very physical dance, made of violence that has just come in, drafts of blows, whirls, twisted arms, faces and sensual ripples of the bodies.

It is generally assumed that krump is a dance that, for many, has saved them from being recruited by gangs. Thus, all the aggressiveness associated with social segregation is found in the expressiveness of a dance, the krump. In 2005, David LaChapelle directed the documentary “Rize”, which covers different choreographic styles, including krump. LaChapelle films krump battles, punctuated by scenes of African wrestling, “creating an interesting parallel enhanced by the fact that the participants’ faces are painted”.As Dragon (a krump dancer) says in “Rize”, “krump is the ballet of the ghetto*”.

Krump, as we can see from watching Cogitore’s film, holds up essentially in its tension with its relationship with others, and even much more so with others. During a krump battle, everyone encourages the dancer(s), each dancer also dances by leaving space in the middle for the one who, temporarily, is therefore on a stage, while they are all, in fact.

Now, how does Cogitore connect “Rameau-and-the-Indians” time with krump? Cogitore operates a temporal and ethnic core sampling, seeking Nascendi violence. The drill is bicephalous – look for the “savages” and find something else…Cogitore transcodes the vision of Rameau, director of his music danced by Indians! How can this effect be described? Cosmic worm? The theory of cosmic “wormholes” stipulates that in certain places in the cosmos, it is possible to cross time thresholds, and therefore to cross time periods. Is that what Cogitore does? If this is the case, there is a fusion of two eras, two ethnic groups (the Indians have become African-American). Paradoxically, the symbolic violence of krump – a gesture of blows, dodges, shocks received – seems more “wild” than that depicted by Rameau and the very sympathetic and friendly story of the Indian Chiefs in Louis XV.

But, in contrast to a chronological reading, it is in fact the uchronistic resurgence of the atemporal colonial violence: whatever the event and its time, it is always the same type of violence as long as it concerns the same actors, and regardless of the generations. That is what colonization is all about. Stuttering and colonization of the bodies and psyche, as in krump, which stuttered brutally gestures as much as they hammer the ground with their presence here-and now.

Les Indes Galantes

Clément Cogitore