top of page
Elise Vigneron is a director, puppeteer, performer, artistic director of the Théâtre de l'Entrouvert.
For many years, she has chosen ice as a privileged material, concrete and metaphorical, to explore the multiple sensitive thresholds of being in the world.
In 2013 she created Impermanences, giving life to her first experiment around ice.
In 2016 with the show Anywhere she deepens her research on the transformation of water, through the transitions from solid to gaseous state, staging a string puppet completely built with ice.
In 2019 he created Axis Mundi, a performance for puppeteer and break dance dancer where ice becomes part of the stage device.
In 2021 she created Glace, a project at the intersection of art and science that compares the points of view of a glaciologist and a puppeteer on their respective ice-based practices.
In 2022 with Lands, a participatory installation, she represents a human community, through the image of a choir made of feet of ice.
In her next creation scheduled for 2023, she will stage Les Vagues by Virginia Woolf: here the ice, with its transformation into water, shows us the sensitive and organic links between man and nature.
Initially, my relationship with water was profoundly personal, an integral part of my life and history, even preceding my existence—a deeply intimate journey.
I've held a profound affection for water since childhood; I would immerse myself in its icy embrace, a realm of boundless daydreams.
In my artistic endeavors, I embarked on this creative voyage guided by my own experiences, emotions, and even physical sensations, seeking ways to convey them to my audience.
Over time, I've come to realize that my themes, revolving around life and death, bridging the animate and inanimate, resonate with others on a subconscious level. Water, initially a personal connection, gradually transforms into a universal symbol—embraced by all.
Our connection with water is intrinsic; every human being comprises a significant portion of this life-giving element. It is an integral part of our world.
Currently, our planet grapples with a profound identity crisis. Water serves as a unifying force, linking humanity with the natural world—blurring boundaries between humans, plants, minerals, and the environment.
In my perspective, water breathes life into humanity. With its intrinsic memory and narrative prowess, water carries stories untold.
My interest extends to the works of Tarjei Vesaas, a Norwegian author known for his reflections on rivers as the embodiment of life's journey—a flowing passage between existence and the great unknown. His writings are rife with watery metaphors, a theme also explored by the philosopher Bachelard.
When water takes the stage, it rekindles collective and individual memories, stirring the depths of our unconscious minds.
In my most recent creation, "Les Vagues," I sought to engage with the aquatic realm—a dialogue with Virginia Woolf, who wove water into her writing and met her tragic end within its depths. This performance strives to unite her narrative, deeply intertwined with water, with my own.
Water plays a pivotal role in the lives of many, be it in moments of drama or tranquility. Consider Maeterlinck, who bore witness to his brother's drowning.
Water signifies both life and death.
My artistic pursuits revolve around the concept of time. In "Les Vagues," the icy figures embody the essence of individual and cosmic time.
This, indeed, is the essence of water's memory: a substance that weaves the fabric of the past. In our collective unconscious, we project onto water everything it encounters, all that it carries—a reflection of the great deluge of life itself, as we traverse water and it traverses us.
In my solo performance, "Traversées," water takes center stage as a scenographic element, a mirror reflecting the cycle of existence. At its inception, a watery sphere bursts forth, symbolizing birth, while a suspended knife alludes to death—a juxtaposition of life's dualities.
What captivates me about water is its inherent ambivalence. A wave embodies life, yet can unleash the destructive force of a tsunami or inundating floods.
In terms of artistic construction, this contrast offers boundless creative possibilities.
I am intrigued by the interplay between material and the viewer's reception. Striking the right balance between material and audience engagement is crucial, akin to appreciating a work of art that reveals its true essence only when viewed from the right vantage point.
When water graces the stage, whether in a natural or animated setting, it communicates with eloquence—a clear and empathic language, unveiling a realm of poetic wonder.
Water awakens emotions, evoking the most primal and deeply buried sentiments. Its ability to transition between states—liquid, solid, and gaseous—allows it to paint landscapes, mirroring the inner landscapes of characters and spectators alike.
For me, water embodies the very essence of the unconscious mind.
Elise Vigneron - Anywhere, credit: Vincent Beaume
Ice evokes more than just water.
With ice, the transformation of water takes center stage: the shift in the state of matter marks the moment when instability arises, and the need for a new equilibrium becomes apparent.
It's this moment of fragility, of upheaval, that captures my interest: how fragility can give birth to movement and existence, how death becomes a conduit for life, and how an immediate vision can translate directly into the sensory experience without the need for reflection.
There's a certain harmony or alignment between the essence of matter and our sensory experiences that intrigues me.
When a block of ice melts, it invokes something beyond a mere puddle; it becomes a reflection of our own thawing.
In my production "Impermanences," while delving into Tarjei Vesaas's texts, I sensed how he, confronted with the potent, beautiful, yet perilous Norwegian nature, speaks of it as a metaphor for our existence, where fragility serves as a catalyst for transformation.
Existence is captured in a cyclic, natural rhythm of life-death-life, rather than simply birth and death.
This is what I aimed to convey through ice, and it was precisely in my encounter with Tarjei Vesaas's texts that this metaphorical relationship with matter was unveiled.
In "Anywhere," I sought to explore the various states of matter even further as a metaphor for Oedipus's transformation.
When working with a material, we explore its entire spectrum: reflections, darkness, liquid flowing across the ground, vapor...
Rain serves as a threshold, and rain walls become passages...
All of these elements function as languages, palettes, and colors with which we craft a dramaturgy.
In the realm of working with materials, there's the notion of a cursor; we have an idea and ask ourselves, "If I push the cursor to its limits, what will happen? Starting from a mere water droplet, pushing further unveils incredible waterfalls..."
This doesn't necessarily imply that a water droplet possesses less intensity than a stream.
When working with materials, I've developed a habit of constantly questioning: "Where does my position lie on the spectrum between the minimum and maximum?"
Water can exhibit various characteristics, even in terms of its temperature.
All of this demands effort; working with ice exerts a physical toll on the body. It's a genuine confrontation, distinct from handling a cardboard box.
Mastering water doesn't always come easily.
Ice challenges the body; in the cold, you must grapple with it, and it induces bodily states that enable you to remain as close to the sensation as possible without the need for deliberate action. This is where everything truly unfolds.
Ice introduces tension on stage; there's an element that's challenging to control. You can never replicate the same actions, and you're perpetually vulnerable to the unforeseen or complex scenarios. The body itself is taut, as are the spectators, albeit unconsciously. Even when not actively engaged, you represent a great deal.
In "Anywhere," we, the actors on stage, remain in a state of tension throughout the performance, and so do the spectators, because everything that transpires is real. When something falls and shatters, it's genuine matter; there's no artifice.
I believe this is also the essence of the power of matter.
Elise Vigneron - La ronde
I enjoy the involvement of the body: in the creation of Les Vagues, there are life-sized ice figures, five in total, amidst waves and water in all its splendor, dancing.
We experimented with crushed ice, which resembles snow: initially, it's pristine white, but then it undergoes transformation.
The body immerses itself in this ice, which eventually becomes water, and as it does, it glides, falls, and, after a while, the bodies redden from the cold.
All of this already conveys so much; there's no need for more words or recitation. It's about feeling, allowing the material to flow through, navigating inward, and then bringing it to light—a continuous motion.
Water has always been a profound inspiration for me. I see it as an endless element, and I can't fathom putting an end to it. Each discovery leads to the anticipation of many more.
Water and ice are inherently unstable: we begin with something chaotic at its core, but as we gain mastery, it opens up new avenues for more complex endeavors.
When you work with a medium, some might say, "You're always working on the same thing... Alright, we get it, ice!" Visual artists often find themselves in this situation—they keep exploring and uncovering new paths.
For instance, I crafted an ice puppet, which stood at 80 centimeters in height. Now, I'm eager to create taller ones at 1.60 meters with hollow ice, and who knows, that might lead to new creative pursuits.
As I progress, I become more driven to explore. Unknown territories continue to reveal themselves, and I don't feel like I'm repeating myself at all.
I perceive myself as a laborer—someone who works with the material tirelessly. Even though I have a team supporting me, I am actively engaged.
I strive to stay deeply connected to the sensory aspects of my work. Being part of the puppet's construction, even if I'm not the one physically building it, is essential. I'm familiar with the materials, and when issues arise, I confront them, knowing they will yield solutions for the future.
When we prepare for a show, we consider numerous steps, and constructing a puppet is a time-consuming process akin to a ritual.
I find it hard to imagine an actor who only arrives to manipulate a puppet. One must be present throughout the puppet's development, from its inception to the challenges of construction, and even during its deconstruction.
For me, the work doesn't stop when the show begins or ends; it encompasses both preparation and follow-up. It revolves around the intricate relationship with the material, resulting in fresh ideas for subsequent productions.
One day, while melting a puppet under hot water, I thought to myself, "Fantastic! Hot water...!"
We use this method to quickly melt the ice after a show or rehearsal. It's how we familiarize ourselves with the material—a journey of discovery that sparks new ideas.
In collaboration with Maurine Montagnat, a glaciologist, we were interviewed by a magazine. They asked Maurine, "As a glaciologist, do you ever feel despondent?"
Maurine responded, "The encounter with Elise is already significant in showing how compartmentalized worlds, such as science and art, can intersect."
When there's cross-pollination, porosity between individuals, between different worlds, between nature and humanity—in these encounters, something profound occurs that prompts us to question the world around us.
We often segment various aspects of life.
We've learned so much from one another, and I've gained invaluable insights from Maurine.
Anthropologists, glaciologists, and artists alike have a responsibility to the world.
We share common interests, each expressing them uniquely.
Artists convey contemporary themes.
As puppeteers, we're deeply affected by issues related to the Anthropocene and the contemporary crisis of sensitivity. Our connection to the material fosters a profound and sensitive relationship with the world—a language of matter that is inherently contemporary.
Elise Vigneron - Axis Mundi
I draw inspiration from the writings of anthropologists like Vinciane Despret and glaciologists like Claude Lorius, even though we operate in vastly different linguistic domains. It's heartening to discover that many of us share common ideas, creating echoes among contemporary thinkers and researchers.
Maurine, too, derives valuable insights from these texts.
She, as a scientist, lacks the philosophical or existential resonance that my practice provides. However, our collaborative work generates resonances and interferences. When we collaborate or engage in shared reading experiences, we find solace in our togetherness.
Our approach doesn't revolve around discussing crises; instead, we focus on the theme of sensitivity. It's through the lens of sensitivity that we can truly connect.
We may be well-versed in addressing crises, telling people, "We mustn't do this!" But such warnings often fall on deaf ears. It's through the consideration of the sensitive aspect that we can foster genuine engagement.
"Glace" is both a conference-show and an encounter. Alongside Maurine, we bring our discussions to life in a tangible way. Maurine traces the curves of global warming on an ice screen, and as it melts, we gain an immediate understanding of the carbon dioxide cycle and how it directly impacts our lives.
While the show includes some scientific data, they serve as a pretext. We transport our audience to the Arctic—a whimsical universe. Spectators immerse themselves in this world, and by the end, they have many questions. There's ample room for post-show discussion, even leading to scientific answers.
It's as if we've achieved a fusion of two separate entities: rendering science perceptible and sensitive.
Science can sometimes come across as sterile, whereas art taps into the realm of the sensory—a perception that allows us not just to understand but to truly experience life. This integration of the sensitive and the scientific enables us to contribute positively to the world.
Elise Vigneron - La ronde
WHAT DOES WATER REPRESENT TO YOU TODAY?
bottom of page