Gaulier & Bouffon, Etampes v.3


“The bouffon is he or she (sick, handicapped, mad, gay, a prostitute, a witch, etc) whom the “pure of heart” have shown the way to the ghettoes.

The bouffon parodies those bastards who have always pointed out the way to the concentration camps, and who will always do so.”

“Naked Indians rushed out of the forest, performed…like devils…these creatures were drive. By a devastating desire to commit blasphemy.”

“One of their number had died the day before…fundamentalists had poured petrol over him, had struck a match and…The Indian had perished right in the middle of the flames of indifference.” 


I will probably update this post as the three weeks pass:

Day 1

Today was my first day back, but my third time in time Etampes. My first time was Oct 2011 and then Feb 2012. Familiar names were bandied about: “Oh, you know so and so?” “Are you friends with Miss Y?” but I am feeling very, very much on my own here having inserted myself into the first year after they’ve been together for five intense months. There are a few news people like me, say 8 of us. The one lovely person I know is someone I met at the St Albans summer school last year and he’s been here since the start of the Gaulier year. Watching him on stage today, it was wonderful to see his confidence, humour, and his surprisingly naughty spirit. Watching the kids’ group dynamics, I could see who had taken on what roles in the year group and I immediately felt myself do two things, not unsurprising: both shrinking away from the personalities of the group, and staying steadfast in my self. I can take as much or as little as I want from this experience, these three weeks. I could sit out everything and never show anything in auto course, and yet I will be learning so much about life and beauty and the human condition. What do I want out of this? (I don’t have to prove anything to anyone here, and that’s such a luxury and one I am not used to feeling. So I’m flexing those newly formed muscles.)

Grist to the mill. I’m here to figure out what I like watching, and how it is people and art can surprise me. Bouffon, being the art of the dispossessed, the discarded, the stamped upon, I want to see what the boundaries are. I want to see passion and filthy fun and joy override despair, especially with the news and politics we are experiencing first hand in the world right now.

I watched Chelsea Does Racism on Netflix (starts wobbly and gets much better, moving, even) before coming out here. And listened to Sacha Baron Cohen on WTF with Marc Maron discussing comedy and his process. I have been thinking of whether I want to venture into writing and performing live comedy and what that would mean, and what I want to say with it. What reactions would I be happy with? What reactions wouldn’t I give a shit about? What is my end game?

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I share with people and what I don’t, when it comes to making. When I was younger and starting out in the making business, I used to tell the world that I was going to do something, and then I’d go ahead and do it. Now, given my changed/changing relationship with words and the world, I think I’m hugging things closer to my chest. Not out of ungenerosity, but because my process of making has changed somewhat. Iterations upon iterations occur and not all of them public.

Today I got up right at the end and had strangers smear my face with too much black and red. My body is ill and injured but I know that this will pass and I will wake up one of these days and feel brighter. I can work around my injury – it is my body after all, and all aspects of it I own. The movement teacher seems the right mixture of light and strength. I wonder who will persist with movement. I am glad I seem to enjoy his easy spirit. Today was difficult, but also easy.

Thursday, week 2, day 9

Today feels like my second week in France is done, and the enterprise of “the weekend” is something I’m not sure I want to experience. I have a lot of big picture career stuff on my mind. I’m trying to untangle things and I don’t know how to do it exactly. (By the way, I enjoy speaking and writing in “international” English i.e. where sentence structures are more logical than what is spoken in England.)

Back to that later maybe. Class was without the master today. So we had a good voice session which started with us massaging each other. I always like being massaged so this could have gone on forever and I would have been happy. This was unusual though. We were in sets of three and one person lay down while the other two pressed down using their feet and the weight of their bodies. Surprisingly lovely for both pressee and the pressed. Reminded me of The Bones’ exercise, “bag of bones”.

Then we got to make “horrible” sounds to investigate our voices. It’s interesting to me to note when it is I’m self conscious about being looked at, and when I’m not. Why I sometimes feel apologetic for knowing more or being better, and thus self sabotage by making myself smaller. No one benefits from that. Sharing and expanding helps so many more people, even if it might piss off some. 

I thought that I would not take part in the bouffon workshop today as I’ve been feeling “thinky” instead of “do-ey”, but the energy of the teacher, Susanna, was great. I ended up dancing for ages and having a nice time making sounds. People never really get this kind of unbridled release. We mostly shrink from the opportunity as we’re not used to flexing these muscles. It was a pleasure to dress up hideously (bouffons are “ugly”), look people in the eye via this “mask”, and to feel the power and thus the danger I hold in my body and mind and tongue. It was a pleasure to experience in the body how it feels to wield these individual tools and weapons we own. It was a pleasure still to understand and practice the technicality of it all, and resting assured and building potentially luminous art firmly and simply in technique. 

Bouffons are supposed to be “dangerous” towards the establishment, which is one of the reasons I’m attending this class. Given that I write about the system and make my own work, I want to find out about ways to do this well, with humanity and beauty, and wrapped up in the best kind of entertainment, comedy.




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