They Shoot Horses, Don't They?


The videos of the They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? series are concerned with the genre of musical comedy in cinema and, more broadly, with the codes that organize the representation of dance in film. These pieces make a clear break with the works from the earlier Lora’s Tears series through the aesthetic choices that characterize each of them (acceleration of movement rather than playing with slow motion, cut edits in place of crossfades and double exposures, and a preference for color over black and white).

The series also marks a notable change in tone from prior works, as it gives off a feeling of good cheer. The actor’s forward facing body is a dynamic element at the heart of the performance and creates a direct confrontation with the viewer, inviting the him to participate in the performance and to share in the pleasure emanating from it.

The mirroring effect that the work is likely to establish with its audience could be said to evoke the most recent practices of video gaming and karaoke; but thanks to an interpretation afforded by the series’ title, borrowed from the Sidney Pollak film of the same name, one might equally see a kind of ambiguous memento mori that invites the visitor to enjoy life, or to preserve it.

While the works may at first seem to propose meditations on rhythm, visually revisiting the musical technique of sampling, they are also packed with a strong critical punch aimed at certain of contemporary society’s dysfunctions. This point of view shows through in part in the titles of the pieces, which, in following the same logic as the series itself, displace the perception of the original filmic sequences or reinforce certain aspects of them. In excerpting sequences from the original film, dance is deprived of the narrative framework in which it had been placed; and being totally restructured by the edits and the altered rhythms arranged within the works – being recontextualized and revived in a more contemporary setting or an installation setting -, it acquires a metaphorical dimension drawn upon in these denunciations that reaches beyond some new expressive force. In this sense, while communicating an atmosphere of insouciance and good cheer, each of these videos appears as both ardent and deeply ambivalent.

Featuring both male and female subjects dancing solo, as duets, and even in group scenes, the series currently consists of five videos which can be assembled together as the single installation Flying Stallions Circus.

Wool Stockings

Flying Stallions Circus

Keep Dancin'

Sunday Night

Rideau! - video still


On the Brink - video still

On the Brink

Copyright © 2016 Laurent Fiévet