Les Indes Galantes (2017) is Clément Cogitore’s reinterpretation of the eponymous 1735 opera-ballet by French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau. Rameau was inspired by the rhythms and movements of American Indian ritual dances. Cogitore has taken a scene from the libretto that takes place at the verge of a volcano and has transposed it into the idiom of the street dance known as krumping.
Krumping developed in the 1990s in the streets of the Los Angeles ghettos as a form of resistance against police brutality and systemic racism. In 1991 four LAPD police officers beat Rodney King, an African-American taxi driver, and stood trial based on a video tape of the incident. Frustration with the jury’s acquittal of the officers led to rioting in 1992. K.R.U.M.P. (Kingdom Radically Uplifted Mighty Praise) offered a physical conduit for channelling tension and manifesting the experience of injustice in a non-violent way. The dance spread from the United States to Europe, and even today it remains a form of non-violent resistance against discrimination and racial violence. Police brutality against people of colour rose to the headlines again in February 2017 in connection with rioting in Paris, a reminder of the sore spots within French society.
Weaving together street and high culture, the dance performance was produced in collaboration with Opéra National de Paris. Consisting of young dancers from France, Belgium and Germany, the ensemble matches the psychologically and physically powerful krump movements to the opera’s original 18th century music. A bodily expression of racial, socio-economic and political tensions, the battle tells individual stories that nevertheless share a collective meaning. Cogitore’s work can also be seen as a commentary on the power of digitalisation – the democratisation of the public image and of visibility – which has the potential to disrupt existing power structures. By recording the dance with their phones, the dancers are agents, experiencers, spectators and objects of the gaze all at once.
Clément Cogitore (s. 1983) is a French visual artist and filmmaker who lives and works in Paris. His media are film, video, installation and photography. Cogitore has exhibited his work in numerous prominent galleries and art museums, such as the Centre Pompidou in Paris and MoMA in New York.
Exhibition is supported by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. Courtesy of the artist, Eva Hober gallery (FR) and Reinhard Hauff gallery (DE)