The spunky Crossing The Line festival is on, and a part of it is happening at one of the most buzzworthy venues in town, the Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn. This week, the industrially chic, almost-raw performance space on the center’s third floor is home to a performance/installation co-conceived by two French artists, the choreographer Fanny de Chaillé and visual artist Philippe Ramette, as part of the festival’s New Settings program, which encourages dialogue between performing and visual arts practitioners (with a boost from the Hermès Foundation).

Acting Out 9.26.13 © Sasha Arutyunova
Acting Out 9.26.13
© Sasha Arutyunova

In de Chaillé/Ramette’s Passage à l’acte / Acting Out, the dialogue between the two disciplines manifests itself immediately upon entering the space. The conceit of the piece is very simple: a dancer (or two) engaged in a performative/choreographic task (or a scene, if you will) in a sparse section of the floor, possibly interacting with a single object: a chair, a table, a rope, etc. Much like in an art gallery, all of the works are on simultaneous display – seven in total – with the spectators free to roam at will from one piece to the next, aided by labels affixed on walls near the performers – or, in one case, taped to a performer's shirt.

For instance, in one area, a man is hopelessly trying to resolve a convoluted entanglement with a chair (cue in the title: “Domestic Entanglement”); elsewhere, a female dancer is involved in a solipsistic exercise within the confines of a pool of light (“Narcissistic Duet”); in another corner still, in “The Love-struck Seat” a couple is seated in adjacent chairs, facing the opposite way and locked in a sideways glance, bursting into laughter every several minutes; and so forth...

In this ultra-sparse cabinet of curiosities, most of the goings-on are amusing in a straightforward, one-goal sense reminiscent of old-school performance art, and some are even funny – most of all the “Temporary Untitled” in which the bust of a performer (an impeccably concentrated Simon Courchel) is seemingly embedded into a wooden gallery display case, only to begin moving around some half-hour into the performance, bumping into walls and people, while maintaining his perfectly blank facial expression.

However, the sum of its parts is not strong enough to hold my attention for a full hour. Most of the actions are repetitive and don’t have a compelling dramaturgical arc – which I don’t imagine was the intention, anyway. Assuming that was the case, the piece would have been much better served (and the wear-off effect easily averted) if the audience were encouraged to come and go as they pleased and to stay for as long (or as little) as they wanted to, rather than packaging the happenings into a fixed, hour-long theatrical format.

***11