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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, for me the relationship with water was something very personal.

It was part of my life, of my history and even before me: a personal, very intimate journey.

I love water, since I was a child I used to bathe in very cold water, it is a place of daydreams.

In my work I started from my personal experience, from emotions and also from physical states: I looked for how they can be transmitted to the viewer.

Gradually I see how my themes, linked to life and death, to the animate and the inanimate, also affect other people in an unconscious way: with water, if at the beginning it is something personal, soon it becomes a universal sense, everyone can appropriate the themes. 

We have a very strong bond with water: all human beings are made of water, it makes up a large part of our world.

We are currently in a great identity crisis on a planetary level: water is a material that creates a link between people, between the human, the vegetable, the mineral, the natural.
I think that water animates the human: water has a memory and carries stories.

I am very interested in Tarjei Vesaas, a Norwegian author who often talks about rivers, like the river of life, the river that makes the passage between life and death: the metaphors are many, in him there is a whole symbolism of water. Bachelard also talks about it.
When staged, water awakens collective and individual memories, appeals to our unconscious.

Les Vagues, my latest creation, is a way to meet Virginia Woolf who had an aquatic relationship with her writing and committed suicide in the water.

It is a question of making his story, linked to water, converse with mine.

Water is present in many people's lives, dramatically or not: Maeterlinck had a brother who died by drowning.
Water is life and death.
My work is focused on time, in Les Vagues the ice figures materialize individual and cosmic time.

This is what the memory of water is: water weaves the past, then in the collective unconscious we project everything that passes through it, everything that it carries, and as in a great flood, we cross the water as it crosses us.
In my solo Traversées the water was a scenographic element, a mirror: at the beginning there is a sphere of water that bursts, it represents birth, but there is also a knife suspended in the void, it could be connected to death.

What I like about water is this ambivalence: a wave is life, but it can also be a tsunami, floods.

At the level of plastic construction, this contrast opens up many possibilities.
What interests me is how the material is staged in relation to the reception that the viewer can have: there must be the right relationship between the material and the viewer, to enter a reception as in front of a plastic work, which it cannot be seen at any distance.
When water is staged, in a landscape or animated way, there is immediately a kind of clear, empathic language, a poetic world that opens up.

Water awakens feelings, poetic, very primitive, buried things.

It can pass from liquid to solid to gaseous state, each state of matter can evoke landscapes, but also evoke the inner states of characters or  spectators.
For me, water is the unconscious.


Elise Vigneron - Anywhere, credit: Vincent Beaume

Ice evokes other things than water.

With ice, the transformation of water is at the centre of the matter: the change in the state of matter is the moment in which instability occurs, in which the need for a new equilibrium appears.

It is this moment of fragility, of overturning that interests me: how fragility can create movement and existence, how death is a vector of life, how it is possible to have an immediate vision that translates directly into the sensible, without the need to reflect.
There is a sort of correspondence or adequacy between what matter is and what we live in sensory experience, that's what interests me.
A block of ice that is melting evokes in us something other than a simple puddle: the melting of the ice is our own melting. 
In the show Impermanences, discovering the texts of Tarjei Vesaas, I felt how he, faced with the presence of Norwegian nature which is strong, very beautiful but also very powerful and dangerous, speaks of nature as a metaphor for our existence, where fragility is a transformation vector.

Existence is captured in a cyclic, natural, life-death-life relationship, rather than in birth and death.
This is what I wanted to express with ice, and it is precisely in the encounter with the texts of Tarjei Vesaas that this metaphorical relationship with matter was revealed.

In Anywhere, I wanted to explore the different states of matter even more as a metaphor for the transformation of Oedipus.
Working on a material we explore its entire language: reflections, black, the liquid that flows on the ground, the vapor ...

Rain is a threshold, rain walls are passages ...
All of this are like languages, palettes, colours with which we create a dramaturgy.
In working with matter there is this idea of the cursor, we have an idea, we say to ourselves: "If I push the cursor as far as possible, what will happen? From the drop of water, if I go further, there are incredible waterfalls ...".
It does not necessarily mean that the drop of water will have less intensity than the stream.

I got into the habit, when I work with matter, of always asking myself the question: "Between the minimum and the maximum, where am I with the cursor?".
Water can have different reliefs, even in its temperature.
All this requires effort, they have been physically acting on the body, it is a real confrontation, it is not like handling a cardboard box.

It is not always easy to do what you want with water.

Ice tests the body, when you are cold you have to fight against the cold, it produces body states that support you to be as close to the sensation as possible without having to act, and that's finally where it all really happens.
Ice creates a tension on stage, because there is a hard side to master, you can never do the same thing, you are never safe from the unexpected, or from something really complicated to manage; the body itself is in tension and so are the spectators unconsciously: even if you don't do much, you represent a lot.
In Anywhere, we, actors on stage, are tense throughout the show and so are the spectators, because only real things happen, when something falls and breaks, it is really real matter, nothing is false, there is nothing fictitious.
I think this is also the power of matter.


Elise Vigneron - La ronde

I like that the body is involved: in the creation of Les Vagues there are ice bodies on a human scale, there will be five of them, with waves, with water in all its splendour, in dance.
We experienced crushed ice, which is like snow: first it is very white, immaculate, then it changes.

The body enters this ice that becomes water, slips, falls, after a while the bodies turn red from the cold.

All this already expresses so many things, there is nothing more to do, to recite, just feel, let the matter pass through, navigate inwardly and then bring to light: it is a constant movement.

I always feel inspired by water, I think it is an inexhaustible element, I don't see how you can put an end to it: every time you discover something new, you know that you will discover many more things.
Water and ice are unstable: we start from something that is chaotic at the base and when we start to master it a little, it opens up new ways to do more complicated things.
When you work with a subject, people can say: "You always work on the same thing ... Okay, ice, we get it!".
In fact, visual artists are like this: they work and work they find many other leads...

For example: I built an ice puppet, it was 80 centimetres high, now I want to make other 1m60 high with empty ice, and maybe this will make me want to... I don't know... Create something else...

The more I go on and the more I want to discover, unknown territories are opening up more and more, I have absolutely no impression of doing the same thing, at all.
I feel like a worker, one who works with the material, who works a lot.

I really position myself in work, in doing, even if I have people who help me a lot and I'm not alone.

I try to be connected to the sensitive as much as possible and it is important to be there also in the construction of the puppet, even if I will not be the one to make it, I know the materials, when errors occur I face them, I know that they will bring me solutions for the next time.

When we prepare a show, we take into account many steps, it takes a long time to build a puppet: this long process is like a ritual.

An actor who arrives only to manipulate a puppet, I don't see how it is possible: you have to be there in the elaboration, in the birth of the puppet, in the difficulty of the construction, and then in the dismantling of the whole.

For me the work does not stop during the show, it is also before and after: it lies in all this laborious relationship with the material, which leads to many new ideas to create subsequent shows.

Melting a puppet under hot water, one day I said to myself: "Fantastic! Hot water ...!".

It's something we do to melt the ice quickly, when the show is over, or after a rehearsal, but that's how we know matter, a whole process of discovery and possible ideas.

With Maurine Montagnat, glaciologist, we were interviewed by a magazine asking Maurine: "As a glaciologist, don't you feel depressed?". 

Maurine replied: "The encounter with Elise is already significant of how compartmentalized worlds, science and art, can come together."

When there is interference, porosity between people, between worlds, between nature and man, in the encounter, something is already happening that questions us about the world.

We are used to putting compartments for everything.

Each of us has learned many things from each other. I have learned a lot from her.

Anthropologists, glaciologists, artists, have a duty to the world.

We are interested in the same themes, each with their own way of expressing themselves.

The artist conveys contemporary themes.

As puppeteers, issues related to the Anthropocene, or the current crisis of sensitivity, are issues that affect us, because working with matter we feel linked to the idea of animation and a sensitive relationship with the world.

The language of matter is very contemporary.


Elise Vigneron - Axis Mundi

I feed on the writings of anthropologists like Vinciane Despret, glaciologists like Claude Lorius, we have a completely different language, but it's nice to hear that many of us think, that there is an echo that echoes in current thinkers, in researchers.

Maurine also finds resources in these texts.

She is a scientist, and in the end, even if fundamental, she has no philosophical or existential resonance through her practice, so working together, it is as if there were resonances, interference: when we work together, when we read together, we feel less alone.

It is not speaking of crisis, but speaking of sensitivity that we can arrive at something.

We know the crisis, we can say to people: "We must not do it!", but it will be in vain; rather, it is by taking into account the sensitive that we can feel involved.

Glace, is conference-show and an encounter: with Maurine we materialize what we are talking about.

She draws the curves of global warming on the ice screen and it melts, so we immediately understand the diagram of the carbon dioxide cycle and how this concretely manifests itself in our life.

In the show there are some scientific data, but they are a pretext: we find ourselves in the Arctic, it is a rather funny universe, the spectators enter this universe and in the end they ask many questions, there is really space afterwards to ask questions and give even scientific answers.

It is as if we were able to make an object with two separate things: making science perceptible and sensitive. 

Science is sometimes a bit cold, art is the sensitive, the perception that allows us to live rather than understand, and this is how we can do better in the world. 


Elise Vigneron - La ronde


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