Underground car parks have a very peculiar atmosphere, there’s a menacing strangeness about them that makes them look like contemporary urban hells. Théo Mercier imagines a lascivious, explosively aggressive love fight between an angel-looking creature and a helmeted motor biker on a bike.
The moves created by set designer and singer François Chaignaud clash with the violent rumble produced by motor biker and stuntman Cyril Bourny, in turn contrasting with the harmonious grace of the baroque music played live by harpsichordist Marie-Pierre Brébant. These three figures reveal three different relationships between the body and the machine in a ritual that gradually transforms the underground car park in an arena, with its being simultaneously an act of domestication, courtship display, kidnapping, duel and attack.
Ranging from John Dowland and Henry Purcell to Michael Nyman through the big classics, Radio Vinci Park stages an uncanny ‘motor-mechanic’ ritual made of a motorbike fight, a true dance in an urban set.
Radio Vinci Park is presented at Short Theatre 2023 in collaboration with Villa Medici, as part of the first Théo Mercier’s solo show in Italy BAD TIMING, open until 25 September.
Théo Mercier was born in Paris in 1984 and lives between Paris and Marseille. Claiming formal freedom, he tries to deconstruct the mechanisms of history, objects and representations where harmonious contradictions are to be found. Explorer, collector and artist, his work stands at the intersection between anthropology, geopolitics and tourism resulting in a tentacular style. From the “white cube” to the “black box”, Théo Mercier has staged Du futur faisons table rase (2014), Radio Vinci Park (with François Chaignaud, 2016), La Fille du collectionneur (2017), Affordable Solution for Better Living (with Steven Michel, 2018) that gained him a Silver Lion at Venice Biennale 2019, BIG SISTERS (with Steven Michel, 2020) and OUTREMONDE (2021-22). His performances were also presented at Nanterre-Amandiers, Festival d’Automne, Menagerie de verre, Centre Pompidou and Festival d’Avignon.
François Chaignaud was born in Rennes. He graduated in 2003 from Paris Conservatory and started to work with such choreographers as Boris Charmatz and Emmanuelle Huynh. From He’s One that Goes to Sea for Nothingbut to Make Him Sick (2004) to Думимої – DumyMoyi (2013), François Chaignaud has created shows blending dance and singing in a variety of environments and following a variety of inspirations. This tension has resulted in the concept of a body as inhabiting its space between the sensual rigour of movement, the evocative power of singing and the convergence of heterogeneous historical references – from erotic literature to sacred art.
staging Théo Mercier
dance, singing and choreography François Chaignaud
harpsichord, musical arrangements Marie-Pierre Brébant
stunt Cyril Bourny
artistic collaboration Florent Jacob
technical direction François Boulet
costume technical design Clinique Vestimentaire
Administration – Production Mandorle productions, Alma Office
executive production Good World
co-production La Ménagerie de verre – Paris, Festival Actoral – Marseille, La Bâtie – Festival de Genève, CDN Nanterre-Amandiers
Mandorle productions subsidised by Ministère de la Culture DRAC Rhône-Alpes and by Région Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
Good World/ Théo Mercier è supportato da Hermès per questo progetto
sustained by Institut français Italia, Fondazione Nuovi Mecenati
in collaboration with Villa Medici
with the patronage of Roma Capitale – Municipio VIII
thanks to I Granai – Centro Commerciale Roma for the help in realisation
ph. Erwan Fichou
From the outset, the exhibition scenario proposed by Théo Mercier seems to be settled. A rain of cars crashed in the air on the Piazzale of Villa Medici. Facing the ground and wings open, these birds with their injured bodies let out the last breaths of a musical radio that is difficult to hear. Further on, a series of sculptures of chairs modelled in bronze melting in the sun can be seen here and there in the building. Abandoned, deformed, crushed or torn between the weight of a heavy stone and the suction of a helium balloon stretched towards the zenith, these sculptures actually indicate the path of an enigma that will find its outcome in the interior spaces of Villa Medici.
Sheltered from the melancholy of the sky, it is in the exhibition rooms that lead to the ancient cistern that Théo Mercier stages the underground resolution of this dystopian situation, inspired by the ancient tradition of the Palaces of Memory. The sculptures he invites to this space of paradoxical memory are hybrid installations made of user appliances and amputated marble sculptures, from the collections of the Villa Medici. Bound by different shibari techniques, this new series of borrowed sculptures express the artist’s sadism and enjoyment of dealing with the flamboyant residues of the past and the post-industrial residues of contemporary chaos.