Contes Immoraux – Partie 1 : Maison Mère

    07/09  | 20:00
    08/09  | 20:00

€ 18 / € 15

At first glance, the performance-installation by French artist Phia Ménard develops a direct stage metaphor of the collapse of the foundations of our western civilisation. For over an hour, and completely alone, she keeps building an almost life-size object, eventually to be identified as an ancient temple. In Contes Immoraux – Partie 1 : Maison Mère Ménard portrays a sci-fi version of the goddess Athena. Her determined attempts to build a new Parthenon are only to be thwarted by a deluge in this highly physical performance without words. Using just Sellotape and poles, the heroic builder painstakingly assembles a pile of cardboard, stabilising the rickety structure and shaping it with a chainsaw until a European landmark emerges. But as soon as the temple is complete, a threatening cloud appears on the horizon, leaving us with stark images of creation and destruction, a metaphor for the never-ending reconstruction of Europe. Contes Immoraux – Partie 1 : Maison Mère is a strong and poetic image with which Menard evokes the Greek financial crisis and turbulent changes across Europe. While showing just how quickly something can collapse, she opens up a vision of a society facing ruin. Europe’s answer to the 2008 financial crisis was greater austerity and greater inequality. Will we find other answers for this new crisis all together?

Presentation : Kunstenfestivaldesarts-Les Halles de Schaerbeek

Creation and direction: Phia Ménard and Jean-Luc Beaujault
Scenography: Phia Ménard
Interpretation: Phia Ménard
Sound composition: Ivan Roussel
Sound (alternately): Ivan Roussel and Mateo Provost
Stage manager (alternately) : Jean-Luc Beaujault, Pierre Blanchet, Rodolphe Thibaud, Angela Kornie and David Leblanc
Costumes and props: Fabrice Ilia Leroy
Photography: Jean-Luc Beaujault
Codirectrion, administration and tour: Claire Massonnet
Technical director: Olivier Gicquiaud
Production: Clarisse Mérot
Communication: Adrien Poulard
Tour: Lara Cortesi 

Production: Compagnie Non Nova
Coproduction: documenta 14 (Kassel) and Le Carré, Scène nationale et Centre d’Art contemporain de Château-Gontier

The performance in the framework of documenta 14 (July 2017) was made possible thanks to Institut Français and the City of Nantes.

Contes Immoraux – Partie 1 : Maison Mère was awarded with the Grand Prix du Jury at 53BITEF19 - Belgrade International Theatre Festival 2019.

The Compagnie Non Nova – Phia Ménard is supported by the State – regional authorities of Pays de la Loire - regional direction for cultural affairs, City of Nantes, Regional Council of Pays de la Loire and Departemental Council of Loire-Atlantique. The company is supported by Institut Français and BNP Paribas Foundation. 

The Compagnie Non Nova – Phia Ménard is “artiste associée” at Malraux scène nationale Chambéry Savoie and at TNB, Centre Européen Théâtral et Chorégraphique de Rennes.

Contes Immoraux – Partie 1 : Maison Mèrewill shown at Théâtre le Manège (Mons) on the 28th of Octobre.

Back to top

I don’t know how to forget

I’m not an expert in geopolitics but I am an observer of the world through what I do. Tours, residences, encounters and also a desire for immersion have given me a taste for discovering societies, myths, practices, identities and bodies. Like many artists, I don’t feel that I’m a holder of knowledge; I’m seeking to understand what makes me settle on certain subjects and keep going back to them. In this journey of my own and with my team, events sometimes happen that alter your trajectory.        

One such event was an invitation to create at documenta 14 in Kassel in 2017, a contemporary art exhibition held every five years. The commission was to devise a performative work or an installation in response to questions posed by “Learning from Athens” and “A parliament of bodies”. This was the starting point for the “Immoral Tales” trilogy.        

To the questions put to me and to a hundred other arti-sts from all over the world, I immediately felt that it was the circumstances of my geographical identity that gave me the viewpoint I needed: Kassel / Athens / Paris or more widely Germany / Greece / France, a look at European construction… in the midst of a crisis!       

Having visited Kassel and Athens, I wanted to understand how to look at the necessary subjects… Is Athens the cradle of a mythologised Europe? Is Kassel the cradle of a monstrous Europe?        

In one, memory is reconstructed, preserved and has the blood sucked out of it by commerce; in the other is work on the memory of a collective hatred embodied by Nazism.        

In Kassel, art and education were established to prevent and treat a potential relapse of this infection. Kassel was the birthplace and home of the Grimm family. This inspired me to develop a series of performances in the form of tales. In them, I question the imaginary world of the Republic of Athens, the myths and philosophical construction of the idea of a Europe, but also the failure in its construction towards a Europe of Nations.       

For budgetary reasons, only the first tale Maison Mère was presented in Kassel in July 2017.

Contes Immoraux – Partie 1 : Maison Mère

Building without foundations, getting a ruin to talk, summoning a goddess, preparing for oracles, fighting for the outcome, shattering the apparent peace of marble with the rustle of cardboard, building a house for Europe with that of Athens as the model.        

This place is not mine, but I don’t feel a foreigner – I’m passing through. In reality, I’m an individual, an artist in a comfortable position, by construction a French bohemian bourgeois person. A woman. Other than my birth certificate, there’s nothing to betray my physical migration. I’m one of those who are allowed to surrender their full powers in order to continue to live. I took the role of the weak person while inheriting the chromosomes of kings. I chose to assume the role of an obstinate person seeking to make others understand the need to think of the body as movable matter. I migrate from one body to the next without forgetting a thing. I feel that learning is less contentious than unlearning. During an endless adolescence I was forced to make my gestures conform to my appearance. The woman I kept secret made me the adult I am. Learning to be your sex is nothing, it’s just a way to fit in. I broke the chain, I pushed away from the riverbank with my foot, I love soft ground because it’s not the body that follows the form but the material that adapts to the body. I’m an Athena Punk!       

On stage is a symbolic figure whose mission is to build a first house. The Mother House to protect the living. It is an ordeal, one of solitude and effort. Constructing with equilibrium, following the path to achieve the goal and ulti-mately be recaptured by the elements. This is the story of the Mother House, that of a building and its creator unable to do anything against the call of the elements.      

In this first tale and in this symbolic figure, there’s much more than the story of a myth, a construction and a collapse; it’s actually a vision of humanity and its decline.       

In the act of making this house, how can we not see the laboured and risky birth of humanity, from the first signs of the Hominidae, and envisage the acceleration not of its continuation but rather of its end?       

It’s a tale, and like all tales it flirts with reality in a way that moves us.       

Phia Ménard, December 2019.

Back to top

Phia Ménard (born in 1971 in Nantes) is an artist who blends circus arts with contemporary theatre. Having discovered a passion for juggling early on, she trained under Jérôme Thomas and also studied contemporary dance, mime and drama. She then joined the Jérôme Thomas company as a performer in the show Hic Hoc (1995), as well as doing compositions, creating numerous shows there until 2003, including Le Socle, Le Banquet, Hioc, 4, qu'on en finisse une bonne fois pour toutes. In 1998, she established Compagnie Non Nova and created Le Grain. Three years later, with the solo Ascenseur, fantasmagorie pour élever les gens et les fardeaux (2001), she finally made her mark as a writer. 

In 2008, her artistic career took a new direction with the I.C.E. project (Complementary Unjugglability of the Elements), the aim of which is to study the imaginary worlds of transformation and erosion through natural materials. Her singular approach to stage work, which challenges the spectacular image of juggling to encourage a new relationship with the audience, has been supported by several institutions who have invited her as associate artist (notably Scène nationale Le Carré in Château-Gontier and Espace Malraux Scène Nationale de Chambéry et de la Savoie) and commissioned new work from her (including the Festival d’Avignon, CIFAS, documenta 14 and the Théâtre National de Chaillot). Her recent pieces are L’après-midi d’un foehn, VORTEX (2011), Les Os Noirs (2017), Saison Sèche (2018), Contes Immoraux – Partie 1: Maison Mère (2017) and No Way (2018).

Back to top