La Ribot, Still Distinguished

Review in Issue 13-1 | Spring 2001

Is it mime? Is it theatre? Is it live art? No, it’s dance, says La Ribot in her post-performance discussion at the South London Gallery, which raises an interesting question of the relationship between content and context. Placed in this airy white space, her third set of Distinguished Pieces feel very different to series one and two which I saw presented in the darkened auditorium of the ICA theatre.

The title of this series, Still Distinguished, reflects both the continuity of the work, and the still picture of painting or sculpture. Thus, the audience are free to move around to view the pieces, a series of eight tableaux and short performances, from any angle. At times we group around the performer in a horseshoe shape, creating a ‘stage’ for the work. At other points we move and mingle, shifting position to view her from another angle, as we would a sculpture.

In a number of the Pieces I was reminded of Bauhaus director Oscar Schlemmer’s view of dance/performance as an extension of painting – moving shape, colour and form from 2D to 3D. For example, in ‘Another Bloody Mary’: a series of red objects are placed in a still-life composition on the floor, a red cloth spread like a matador’s cloak. La Ribot lies spreadeagled across the cloth, legs akimbo in fluorescent green stilettos, a nylon wig placed as a fig-leaf.

Other Pieces rely a little more on action but share the mood of quiet confidence. I have seen many performances that use a combination of nudity and surreal imagery, but have never seen an artist or audience so relaxed and engaged in the process, no doubt due to La Ribot’s wonderful balance of humour and intelligence. Throughout, she has a theatrical intent that somehow creates the ‘pit’ between artist and spectator. We are graciously invited into her space, our belongings mix with hers on the floor, yet ultimately she remains distanced from us – framed by her own powerful presence in the space.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Jan 2001

This article in the magazine

Issue 13-1
p. 24 - 25