Jerome Bel is a Clown.
A clown is a performer that acknowledges his/her audience, creating a bridge to the stage (it might be in a theater or a circus or a street corner or the frozen foods aisle). Generally clowns use humor and physicality to do this, and universally the clowns job is to get the attention of their audience and raise questions about taboos or assumptions in society.
I took a workshop from Pierre Byland, a well known Swiss clown that taught the Jeune Lune co-foudners, this summer, and he said that the job of the clown is to raise doubt in the audience.
The clown also wants to be loved. Being liked doesn’t matter, love is essential.
Jerome Bel is a clown:
Last night Jerome Bel said that his job as a contemporary artist working in the theater is to do research and “reflect what is happening in our society now” through his performances. That is why it is contemporary art. It is contemporary to now. That’s like a clown. With all the laughter, it looks like he’s using humor to do this. He is also “identified as a choreographer” and uses very specific physicality in his performances. That is also like a clown.
Pichet Klunchun and myself is all about doubt of our assumptions, our values, and essentially what we are doing in the theater.
Jerome Bel also needs love. Without love we would not survive as an artist. He explains the structure of contemporary art as 3 tiered: Artist, Producer/Sponsor, Audience. For the artist to survive the producers and audience support the artist’s research, blindly. They buy nothing, they “make a bet”. The faith in this bet looks a lot like love to me.
Finally, Jerome Bel wears a mask like a clown. The Red Nose of the clown is “the smallest mask in the world”. It allows the clown to do his job and take risks. Jerome Bel has created a mask that is called “Jerome Bel” that allows him to take risks and do his job. It makes me think of Stephen Colbert’s character Stephen Colbert, star of the Colbert Report.
Just one more connection: Jean Baudrillard, the French “philosopher clown” who died last spring argued that modern society creates representation that is more “real” than the original. Isn’t Jerome Bel’s work about representation and the real?
What do you think?