the BLOG

EMAIL, PING PONG and CÉDRIC ANDRIEUX Nov 25, 2013

by Eric Olson

In response to the recent performance choreographed by Jérôme Bel and performed by Cédric Andrieux, Tessa Hulls and I decided to have a conversation about the piece via email and ping pong. Photos, video and email exchange included below.

--------------------

From: Eric Olson
To: Tessa Hulls
Subject: Ping pong
Date: November 18, 2013 11:19 AM

Hey Tessa, why did you want to play ping pong so bad?  I was reluctant due to the fact that I am 'bad at sports' and like to avoid documentation confirming this fact. There are a number of reasons I loved the performance, yet ping pong felt tangentially relevant when I remember the pooled sweat on Cedric's unitard after performing a piece choreographed by Merce Cunningham.  It looked like an awkwardly shaped heart, reminding of his, and my own, vulnerabilities.

--------------------

From: Tessa Hulls
To: Eric Olson
Subject: RE: Ping pong
Date: November 21, 2013 10:11 AM

It’s not so much that I wanted to play ping-pong as that I wanted to respond to the piece through an arbitrary, absurd lens. I spend a lot of time biking aimlessly around Seattle, and I’ve been noticing ping-pong tables in weird places. They’re bright yellow and hulkingly industrial (probably to deter theft?), and my favorite one is in the middle of Pier 62 down by the waterfront. I biked down and photographed it for you this morning. It was very cold.

I link them with Cedric Andrieux’s piece because they’re so wonderfully anachronistic. I loved the way that Andrieux fused technicality with candid irreverence into something that might best be described as dance stand up comedy. And that man knew how to perfectly use his smile, how to hold it in reserve until it added an accent that nothing else could provide.

Here are the questions I have about the big yellow ping-pong tables:

Do people bring their own paddles? How many backup balls do they usually bring? What happens if more than one group shows up ready to throw down some epic ping-pong? Do they have a dance battle to decide who gets the table? How long have the tables been there? Who funded them? Are they just migrating through? Are they distant relatives of the dinosaur loading cranes that stand sentinel above our waterfront? Does this mean a mass extinction is coming?

I wanted us to play ping-pong because I was struck by Andrieux’s capacity to control his own breath, to present us with incredibly demanding physical contortions without belying any of that effort in his narration. Watching and listening to Andrieux was like observing the snow leopards at the Woodland Park Zoo: a fluid cascade of rolling motion that would abruptly end in a stillness that denied that anything had just happened. I wanted to mirror this disconnect between activity and language by attempting to have an earnest conversation about the piece while playing ping-pong.

And I’m actually really bad at ping-pong; anything that involves holding a racquet somehow makes my usual athleticism go to shit. It would’ve been ok, Eric— it’s like Andrieux told us about working with Merce Cunningham: it’s not about getting it right, it’s about the attempt to push past our own limits.

And remember:

--------------------

From: Eric Olson
To: Tessa Hulls
Subject: RE: Ping pong
Date: November 21, 2013 10:23 AM

I was imagining a slight back and forth of a conversation, but i'll come up with a longer response about my reactions to the performance and your comments.  Then we can shoot a ping pong video ;)

I can meet early, lets say 9a?  How do we get balls and paddles?

--------------------

From: Tessa Hulls
To: Eric Olson
Subject: RE: Ping pong
Date: November 21, 2013 10:35 AM

9 is perfect, see you then.

--------------------

From: Tessa Hulls
To: Eric Olson
Subject: RE: Ping pong
Date: November 21, 2013 10:39 AM

oh and I'll put up a FB post looking for ping pong paddles/balls

--------------------

From: Eric Olson
To: Tessa Hulls
Subject: RE: Ping pong
Date: November 25, 2013 11:46 AM

Ping pong video

After playing ping pong and editing that video, I feel surprisingly more connected to the piece.  Even though the footage is laughable and full of mishaps, the tick tock of the ping pong balls and the difficulty playing while conversing helped me focus on the performance’s poignancy.

Through Cedric’s presentation of his life story, we were confronted with his expectations, desires, and fears.  By doing so this performance powerfully flipped the gaze of the audience onto the person behind our expectations, and eventually onto ourselves. Every move you make, every step you take, The show must go on.

Categories: 

Archive