the ability


to perceive


your own body

Benjamin de Bouillis


A piece about the ability to perceive your own body as if you were outside it.

The following is a fictional conversation made out of complete quotes between the articles about “Benjamin de Bouillis” by Alastair Macaulay in The New York Times (June 30th 2008), Deborah Jowitt in the Village Voice (July 15th 2008) and Tom Phillips, (June 26th 2008)

About Benjamin de Boullis

by Macaulay, Jowitt and Phillips

Deborah Jowitt:
Benjamin de Bouillis (…) premiered in Geneva in 2005 and won the Swiss Dance and Choreography Prize in 2006. The piece was inspired by the ideas of neurologist Olaf Blanke—specifically by the notion of ‘décorporation.’ That is, the ability to perceive your own body as if you were outside it—maybe at some distance away—or as if it had become alien, transformed.”

“(…) D’Imobilité (…) considers visions of himself. Standing in place, he accumulates a phrase of simple gestures, reacting to sudden harsh breath sounds in Antoine Lengo’s collage score as if he felt the presence of some unseen other. He examines himself in the mirror, he walks, he does a remarkable long turn on one leg, he scratches his balls. The mirror, propelled by invisible hands, follows him around.”

Alastair Macaulay:
“In the (…) the solo “Benjamin de Bouillis,” Foofwa performed nonchalant feats that revealed staggering control. He simply doesn’t seem to need to transfer his weight from two feet to one, and it is impossible to find him preparing for balances. He just arrives — sometimes as part of an extremely convoluted phrase — in a rock-solid position on one foot with no “voilà” to let us know that other dancers might find that hard.”

Deborah Jowitt:
“And whatever gesture or dance step he performs, he’s always thinking, always checking himself and the reflected doppelganger who looks back at him like a family portrait on the parlor wall.”

Alastair Macaulay:
“Much of “Benjamin de Bouillis” was a virtuoso exercise in mime. He pulled off each of his limbs (with sound effects to match) and then his head, placing their imaginary counterparts on an unseen model, whom he then made dance — while he watched, vividly. Or he peeled one expression off his own face and wiped on another: at times the intensity with which he tugged at his own features turned his face into a Francis Bacon.”

Tom Phillips:
“(…) His Benjamin de Bouillis uses dance the same way Joyce uses language – as material for a grand illusion, a tour de force of signs and symbols, pointing ultimately at itself, or nothing at all. It’s brilliant.

“As a performer he is a thrill to watch – elegantly turned-out in ballet moves, sure-footed in its off-center Cunningham variant, exact and expressive in the French style when he turns mime and clown.”

Alastair Macaulay:
“Foofwa even has touches of Marceau’s winsomeness, but he also has the complete control of illusion that equals Marceau or the greatest mimes. When he beats both hands rapidly on his skull, there’s no illusion; we hear the rapping.”

Tom Phillips:
“As a creator he unpacks Cunningham’s cryptic zen psychology – specifically treating the human performer not as an embodiment of character, but an illusion to be tinkered with; an assemblage, not a unityBenjamin de Bouillis does the same kind of deconstruction job on modern dance that “Finnegans Wake” did to the modern novel, and it may have the same effect.

Deborah Jowitt:
“A performer onstage automatically becomes the object of our gaze. In Benjamin de Bouillisd’Imobilité offers something subtly different: a performer who obsessively imagines seeing himself as others do—a visual, corporeal presence whose feelings we can only guess at.”

Tom Phillips:
“After reading Joyce’s work, it’s hard to go back to seeing fictional characters as anything more than bubbles composed of word-associations. After seeing Foofwa, it may be hard to believe in traditional modern dance as anything but a succession of empty postures.”

Alastair Macaulay:
“But Foofwa, even in this minor material, remains the kind of performer to whom I tentatively apply the word “genius.” How does he do what he does? What was it he just did? You watch in stupefaction.”


Benjamin de Bouillis excerpt 1

Benjamin de Bouillis excerpt 2


From a proposition by the cultural services of the city of Lancy (Geneva, Switzerland) and the work of Dr. Olaf Blanke on the phenomenon of “décorporation”
Concept and Dance Foofwa d’Imobilité
Artistic assistance and sound production Antoine Lengo
Production Neopost Foofwa
Manager Yann Aubert
Duration 45 min
Neopost Foofwa is supported by The City of Geneva, The State and Canton of Geneva and Pro Helvetia.

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