Christian Rizzo

May 18, 2006

Christian Rizzo in his
autant vouloir le bleu du ciel et m’en aller sur un âne (I might as well want the blue of the sky and ride away on a donkey).
Photo by Alain Monot, courtesy On the Boards

Christian Rizzo
On the Boards, Seattle, WA

May 18–20, 2006

Reviewed by Sandra Kurtz


The critical buzz surrounding French performance artist Christian Rizzo is loud enough to compete with the synthesized score he creates onstage in autant vouloir le bleu de ciel et m’en aller sur un âne (I might as well want the blue of the sky and ride away on a donkey), even with your earplugs firmly in place. Outside of the hype, though, is a curious mix of savvy stagecraft and reticence, as he creates an intriguing personal environment that we don’t know if we should enter.

Rizzo seems concerned with hiding things, building a rabbit-warren set with little rooms and secret passageways, bundling himself up in jeans and a hoodie, shielding his face with a mask, barely stepping out of the dark. But he draws our attention to his little world and his collection of odd-lots materials (an old metal box, a desiccated fox pelt, a few coins, and a set of plastic capsules, among others), manipulating them with the care of a chess grandmaster. But the rules of this particular game are almost opaque. His collaborators (composer Gerome Nox, mixing live during the performance, and lighting designer Caty Olive) add to this sense of mystery, inundating us with sound and casting shadows where we most want to see clearly.

Rizzo has said that he thinks of his work as dance because he feels it’s the art form with the fewest limitations, but the kinetic aspect of autant vouloir is quite constrained. Standing behind a chest-high desk, squeezed into a corner, almost mummified in wrappings, his hands are the freest part of his body, and he uses them with great finesse. He appears to have a couple of extra joints between knuckles and fingertips as his fingers caress the lid of the box, pluck up a handful of marbles only to drop them on the countertop, and smear his face with skin cream—it all looks like he’s casting an elaborate spell. A catalog of his actions seems as arbitrary as a list of his props, but in the end, it isn’t what he’s doing so much as how he’s doing it. His precision as he wields his scissors, snipping holes in his pants so he can pull bits of stuffing out, contrasts with his voluptuous facial massage and languor as he rolls his sticky face in a pile of bright-green glitter, hiding himself one more time even as he peers out at the audience. See