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In Latin, SPECTACULA means “place in the theatre”. The installation follows this definition literally as it uses the seats in Théâtre Graslin as its sole elements.

The venue’s life is just seats that alternate between being full and empty. The audience shows up in the evening only to leave again after the performance. So, I wanted to work on the idea of disappearance, which we can associate with death. And I wanted to apply it to the seats, thinking of all the people who have sat there over the years, and who actually form the theatre’s history.

In SPECTACULA, the seats are isolated and lonely individuals that together form a sample of humanity. The installation follows a process of extinction. The seats’ lights turn off one after the other, inevitably, right to the very last one, fulfilling every individual and collective destiny. And then it all starts over again, just as the generations follow one another.

Aurélien Bory, july 2016


Spectacular “SPECTACULA”
06 July 2015

Director Aurélien Bory turns visual artist with a luminous installation that uses only a theatre and the seats it contains.

Entering the building by the artists’ entrance, passing through the back-stage area and ending up on the vast stage of Théâtre Graslin that is plunged in darkness; in Aurélien Bory’s installation SPECTACULA, the lighting and performance aren’t on stage but in the seating. The theatre’s blue velvet seats are lit up individually, in the orchestra, and in the three balconies to create a striking 3D effect. Then the bluish, almost unreal, light turns off, allowing the dark to return, before turning on again.

The author speaks of “different scenarios of extinction”: “Each time, everything is lit at the beginning, and turns off at the end. What changes is the way the seats’ lights are turned off: by contagion, dissemination, dilatation, invasion…”. The artist created fifteen variations, which form a loop lasting about twelve minutes, and which is repeated continuously.

On an inert apparatus, simple seats, these lighting scenarios introduce minimalist fictions with existential resonances: these unavoidable disappearances outline collective and individual destinies that are reminiscent of the cycles of life; “We are confronted by a community of people, a sort of little humanity. When all the lights are on, we start by looking at the darkness, these absences that are initially installed massively, then our eye turns to that which is still light: solitudes, isolated or in pairs”, observes the artist.

The silence that reigns in the hall emphasises this simple and evocative dramaturgy. Aurélien Bory didn’t want to illustrate it through sounds, because though based on programmed lighting that transforms the seat backs into sorts of pixels, it becomes “poetic, organic, rather than technological,” he explains. “I chose a sensitive focus. It’s a kinetic installation, but not kinetic art: there’s no disturbance of retinal perception”, according to the analysis of this former scientist, who continues to be heavily influenced by science in his aesthetic choices.

This is the very first installation by this director, who has been creating performances combining disciplines (theatre, circus, dance, etc.) for the past fifteen years, where visual arts are very present. For his debut as a plastic artist, he proposes a work using a theatre as its material, as he explores both space and etymology. “The word theatron designates the place of the viewpoint”, he explains. He chose to invert the viewpoints so that the spectator sees the place in which he is normally seated. The installation’s title, SPECTACULA, also literally means “theatre seats”.

This word, part familiar and part strange, appears in large capital letters in neon lights outside on the theatre’s façade, like any sign announcing the theatre’s programme. It designates the name of the work and its material at the same time. During the day, passers-by discover it bit by bit, as the letters are blocked by the building’s large columns, while in the evening, Aurélien Bory turns it into a portmanteau. Echoing the installation, the letters come to life, turning on and off to create other words: “SCALA”, “SEUL”, “SEC”, “CUL”, etc.

This intentionally playful typographic approach creates variations in lighting inside the theatre’s lobby, energising its edges and outlines and sculptures in spectacular ways. “I play with a word that means something but that we’re not familiar with,” Aurélien Bory concludes. “It’s a funny word, it sounds like the title of an operetta!”

Emmanuelle Jardonnet

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The installation SPECTACULA was presented at the Théâtre national de Toulouse from September 30th to October 19th, 2016 and at the Opéra National de Bordeaux from July 13th to August 27th, 2017.


Conception Aurélien Bory
Technical design Coline Féral, David Lelièvre
General management Joël Abriac, Arno Veyrat
Production management Florence Meurisse
Production officer Marie Reculon
Communication and public relations officer Sarah Poirot
Press Dorothée Duplan, Flore Guiraud, Eva Dias assisted by Louise Dubreuil (Plan Bey)

PRODUCTION Compagnie 111 – Aurélien Bory

A joint command of Le Voyage à Nantes and Le Grand T théâtre de Loire-Atlantique, created at the Théâtre Graslin during the edition 2015 of Le Voyage à Nantes. Production in Toulouse of the Company 111 – Aurélien Bory, in coproduction with the TNT – Théâtre national de Toulouse.


Photos Théâtre Graslin – Nantes : Franck Tomps, Thomas Dupeyron
Photos TNT – Toulouse : Laurent Padiou
Photos Opéra National de Bordeaux : Aglaé Bory