Photo : © Gisèle Vienne

LAST SPRING : A Prequel (creation 2011)

Conception and creation : Gisèle Vienne
Text and dramaturgy : Dennis Cooper
Voices: Jonathan Capdevielle
Music : Peter Rehberg and Stephen O’Malley
Light : Patrick Riou
Dolls creation and animations : Raphaël Rubbens, Dorothéa Vienne-Pollak, Nicolas Herlin (CLSFX) and Gisèle Vienne
Wall drawing design : Stephen O’Malley
Sound installation and programmation : Gérard d’Elia
Electronics and programming of the robot dolls : Nicolas Darrot
Text translation from american to french : Laurence Viallet.

In 2011 we created LAST SPRING: A Prequel a theatrical installation articulated with LAST SPRING: (subheading in progress) both part of a vast ongoing work entitled LAST SPRING. Both installations, conceived autonomously, will pave the way for the project’s identity. It is therefore crucial to develop both branches right from the start, in order to establish the work’s direction. 
LAST SPRING: A Prequel, stages a teenager, performed by an animated ventriloquist doll who is engaged in a schizophrenic dialogue with a glove puppet. This teenager evokes our second project, LAST SPRING: (subheading in progress), an indeterminate space that exists either in the past, present or future, depending on when the installation takes place.
In the installation.
LAST SPRING: A Prequel, the teenager obsessively tried to sketch the blueprint for the subsequent space, which is configured like a game. He also divulges the space’s architecture through the very structure of the text he is uttering, and thus ends up trapped in his own dialogue. This phony smooth-talker covertly provides us with clues about the main thrust of the game, while overtly revealing the psychosis that grips him.

First presentation : March 15 – April 30, 2011 : Centre d’art passerelle – Brest. In the frame of the Festival Anticodes’11, le Quartz – Scène nationale de Brest

Executive production : DACM
Coproduction : Le Quartz, Scène nationale de Brest (Gisèle associate artist from 2007 to 2011), Le Parvis, Scène nationale de Tarbes- Pyrénées, Le Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.
with the support of centre d’art passerelle - Brest and of Espace HARD HAT - Geneva
with the support of Conseil Général de l'Isère


LAST SPRING: (title in progress) (up coming creation)

Conception and creation : Gisèle Vienne
Text and dramaturgy : Dennis Cooper
Voices : Jonathan Capdevielle
Sound : Peter Rehberg and Stephen O’Malley
Light : Patrick Riou
Architect : Rémi Brabis
Sound engineer : Fred Prin
Dolls creation and animations : Raphaël Rubbens, Dorothéa Vienne-Pollak, and Gisèle Vienne
Robot dolls animations and création : Atelier CLSFX
Electronics and programming of the robot dolls : Nicolas Darrot
Text translation from american to french : Laurence Viallet
Production - administration - booking : Bureau Cassiopée, Anne-Cécile Sibué, Alix Sarrade, Léonor Baudouin, Pascale Reneau

Hitchcock’s spirit hovers over the labyrinth of Marienbad and even seeps into its walls and foundations. We hand over our conclusion to the Master of Suspense. During his interviews with François Truffaut, while discussing his film Psycho, Hitchcock indirectly and succinctly described the initial aim and ultimate success of Last Year at Marienbad: “I don’t care about the subject matter; I don’t care about the acting; but I do care about the pieces of film and the photography and the sound track and all of the technical ingredients that made the audience scream. And with Psycho we most definitely achieved this. It wasn’t a message that stirred the audiences, nor was it great performance or their enjoyment of the novel. They were aroused by pure film”. (Luc Lagier, “Dans le labyrinthe de Marienbad”, Edition Coop Fanzine, Last Spring: The Maps, June 2011).


LAST SPRING: (subheading in progress) draws inspiration from the type of haunted houses that are built during Halloween time in the U.S. These grotesque and eerie structures give rise to ambulatory shows that integrate ancestral practices, recalling pagan rituals such as All Saints’ Day, as well as contemporary aesthetic trends of horror as depicted in film, literature, comics and video games.

The dramaturgy of this installation is partly governed by the site’s architecture, which unfolds like a maze in the guise of seemingly inhabited hotel corridors. As the visitor wanders through this mystifying area, the space, which firsts imitates reality, turns out to be in ruins and probably haunted, perhaps even reflecting a mental space.
The haunted house transforms into a personal spook when we discover a ventriloquist teenager, or rather an automated speaking mannequin. The installation then appears like the erosion of a porous memory and the expression of a neuropath who has a nightmarish imagination brimming with horror visions. The personal spook mirrored by the hotel thus turns out to be the neuropath’s private realm of fantasy. The corridors are within the boy’s mind. The hotel is the teenager.
This sets up a loop, -an infinite haunting that plays with dead beings, where representation illustrates absence.

The hotel, an ideal setting for the space we wish to enact, conjures up a labyrinth, insofar as its space-time is enigmatic, i.e. it transforms time into space. Furthermore, this hotel recalls a labyrinth in its layout of doorways, corridors and apparitions. And wandering through this labyrinth evokes the ancient mythological trope of ‘crossing’ as well as current emerging architectures, such as video games.
The architecture of this maze becomes increasingly incoherent. In its closed world, which is seemingly inhabited but actually lifeless, teenagers soon appear, scattered through the corridors. These mannequins, like doubles of one another, seem to have been subjected to violence by the previous visitor. When the hotel turns out to be the ruins of a hotel, it comes across as the image of itself, while the teenagers, performed by mannequins, come across as phantoms condemned to endlessly repeat an event that took place in 1971.
A mise-en-abyme is triggered by the constant reexamination of what takes shape from the clues that are proffered while the visitor wanders through the construction.
Each narrative to be deciphered hides another narrative, without any clear resolution. Fissure, absence, error, gap, - all of these cracks in the narrative weave the underlying structure of the writing.


“At the last session, I juxtaposed two types of writers, each of whom corresponds to an impetus for writing. There is the writer who deeply understands the world and explains it to you, and then the writer who moves forward in a world he does not understand.” (Alain Robbe-Grillet, “Préface à une vie d’écrivain”).

The uncertainty principle underlies the plays I write together with Dennis Cooper; it fosters an open reading much like our rapport with the world. The worlds we create have an open structure and are being endlessly reinvented; we incessantly question their structure as well as their rapport with narration.

LAST SPRING: (subheading in progress) is constructed like a play or a musical composition for a visitor who is invited to use semiologic reflexes in deciphering a reconstructed narrative. Beyond its construction, this project has led us to question our own rapport with stage direction, music composition, scenography and museography. It could take the form of an exhibition that posits stage direction as a core issue, with a status similar to the sculptures on exhibit. The museographic task would entail setting up tension with the adjacent works.

This installation involves mechanical repetition in its structure and components. While variation is possible within a totally enclosed system, such as in the structure of video games, here there is no room for evolution per se, due to the absence of life outside of the visitor.
Probing formal playwriting that wavers between stage-directing and museography allows us to tackle dramatic writing in both its ephemeral and permanent facets, and incites us to raise questions about works that involve repetition or replay.

Due to its nature and its rapport with the visitor, this work should be presented in a space that has the features of a museum. It is made up of audiovisual sequences that are triggered by the visitor’s passage. While it involves mechanical repetition, its duration is random, depending on how long the visitor takes to grasp it. The subsequent visitors are impelled to trigger sequences that the previous visitors will have pursued. The enigmatic writing thus spawns a narration that is mechanically repeated and set up like a musical canon when several visitors go through the installation.

The audio composition, which comprises invisible and absent elements, enables (like the rest of the work), a disturbing enactment of our rapport with corporeal and incorporeal bodies.
The soundtrack composed by Stephen O’Malley and Peter Rehberg chiefly enacts diegetic sounds that realistically simulate events taking place offstage, thereby blurring our perception. This composition of voices and noises sometimes comes across coherently, but its main concern is musicality. In addition, a music composition for various instruments provides an extradiegetic soundscape.
The text written by Dennis Cooper runs throughout the piece, forming an intimate and intricate articulation of the dramaturgy, spoken by characters both bodily present in the form of robotic mannequins and physically absent, overheard, and in some cases perhaps illusory, always mingling strategically with the musical composition.

This work has kindled our interest in the contradiction between performative art (which is in a constant state of becoming) and representative art (which is reflective), and prompted us to create a formal dialogue in which the visitor is encouraged to get lost. The scrutiny of narration occurs by raising questions about form, and thus about the handling of time, montage, soundtrack and character status.


Disembodiment is a central feature of the narrative as well as of the space and characters in LAST SPRING: (subheading in progress). It transpires like a haunted show, also due to the fact that its components are recorded, and so it appears like the glimmer of forgotten events or vanished spaces.

The characters that permeate LAST SPRING: (subheading in progress) seem like photocopies of a single model. The group of teenagers often evokes the neurotic ventriloquist boy, the speech-simulating mannequin who concludes the visit. The characters can either be viewed as mannequins, ghosts, living corpses or statues. The staging work, just like the sculpture-making, have a dual thrust of anthropomorphism and dehumanization.
In all of the shows I’ve created, we have explored the motion of transfiguration from human to image, and its return to the human state. The body could thus be regarded as a painting. The mise-en-abyme that runs through the narrative is interlaced with the mise-en-abyme of the performance. Some of the anthropomorphic forms encountered are invisible - their embodiment might be simulated by sound -, and when they are visible, they shift status from a sculpture to a live robot-teenager, from automation to spook, literally animated by a spirit. From the image status, the sculptures undergo the state of being alive or dead, and then seem to become ideas.
These physical and audio simulations seem to be freestanding when they are being mechanically activated.
When the mechanism is revealed, the characters still seem able to break totally free from this universe. A robot wants to escape from the building where he finds himself prisoner, and the expression of his neurosis makes us think he has invented the whole thing. Within my shows, even those that are thoroughly written, actors often assume the role of foreigner and stage director. Because of the intrusion of life and despite the fact that it has been written, when the show unfolds it always undergoes changes, even tiny ones. Here, the living aspect is always simulated, the voices or bodies seem to have consciousness and memory, and despite our awareness of the simulation, our tendency to project can interfere with our perception.

The characters can thus be reduced to a bare minimum, like chess pawns animated through simple projection of various potential fictions. The show remains open-ended, like a police investigation that has only been partially solved, and can thus undergo the kind of variations caused by a past event that awaits resolution, and despite this possible motion, the past remains invariant. This dead or ghostly installation has an ambivalent rapport with so-called live shows.

LAST SPRING: (subheading in progress) stems from maintaining a dialectical tension between presence and absence. It probes the instability of the visitor’s vision.
The paradoxical transformation of our perception of a body or a space makes it impossible to know what we are seeing or supposed to be seeing, since the ‘seen’ object vacillates between body and figure.
The writing has an artistic slant in order to provide a public scrutiny of the relationship, or lack of relationship, between the artificial and the living. As such, this show pursues the long tradition of works that probe relationships between real life and its illusions.

LAST SPRING : The maps
Gisèle Vienne and Dennis Cooper are publishing the fanzine “LAST SPRING: The maps”, under the auspices of Le Cooperative Fanzine founded by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Philippe Parreno and Jean-Max Colard. The first issue comes out in the spring of 2011.Design, Stephen O'Malley.
“LAST SPRING: The maps” is a collection of articles that have been commissioned or submitted, as well as illustrations that have been commissioned, selected or created by Gisèle Vienne and Dennis Cooper, and it conveys underlying issues around the "LAST SPRING" project.``

The company DACM is supported by Alsace/ministère de la Culture et de la Communication, Région Alsace, Ville de Strasbourg and Institut Français for international tour.

© g-v 2008