Mediapart - February 2011

After LE ROYAUME D'EN BAS, Pierre Jodlowski has presented his new stage work L'AIRE DU DIRE. In this production, he expresses his deep concern about language and in particular about words which are every day getting more and more hackneyed. All the more so, as his interest for language would bring him close to the Oulipo literary group whose indeflectible will is to restore the real value of language... Jodlowski's radio opera JOUR 54 (Day 54) goes beyond the tribute he pays to Georges Perec and to his unfinished novel 53 JOURS (53 Days) ; there, music and words exploding under rhythm pressure burst out like sparkling fireworks...
L'AIRE DU DIRE provides a similar interest, but not only, and this is where Pierre Jodlowski surprises us. Here, it's much more than a brilliant exercise on language for he provides the work with a dramatic quality, which draws its power from music itself : At the beginning was the word. May be or may be not ! Upon entering the Théâtre du Capitole in Toulouse, the public is surrounded by a sort of hubbub in which it may identify echoes from school playgrounds, conversation snatches, footsteps as well as a few mobile buzzes alternating with light electronic interference noises caused by a phone when near a loud speaker (dull, rythmical and swinging noises).

What is exactly going on ? What kind of story are we to believe ? We will never know where we are as Jodlowski deliberately maintains ambiguity in our minds. The curtain rises on a nearly empty stage. In its middle, scenographer Christophe Bergon has positionned a kind of conference table which is rather floating one meter above the ground and which somehow reminds us of Doctor Strangelove's war room. However our attention is caught by a video coming down from the flies : in a large medallion, we can see the faded picture similar to an old photograph of a woman's face. She closes her eyes and invites us to join her in a dreamlike world where our own self vanishes (we could be in one of David Lynch's movie). Although she came from nowhere, she breaks the relative silence and starts reciting.


It is a monotonous and poetical litany which regularly develops around a few simple words : park, winter, rain. This is an excerpt from ANACHRONISME by french poet Christophe Tarkos. This basic text which is stripped of any ornament will mark out this opera : different faces will repeat this litany but every time Jodlowski will stress its similarity with a jazz chorus, with a verbal improvisation which grows on and on around itself and keeps clutching to the same semantic nucleus. Sustained by an electronic groove which both produces and underlines dramatic tension, this poetry will stay in our minds like an unforgettable song and will swell like a tide to finally dissolve into a subtle element.

At the end of the first excerpt, the medallion goes back up to the flies and the singers come on to the stage. They belong to the french ensemble "les Elements", conducted by the excellent Joël Suhubiette. They enter one after the other, each one uttering one syllable and when they are together, these syllables which seemed to be totally disconnected will mysteriously aggregate in one sentence : « There is no snow without any traces ». We can't help focusing our attention on the word «traces» : Should we think of traces left by Man ? Should we think of civilisation traces ? Language traces ? : «I am not afraid of leaving a trace». However, here no demonstration is given, there is no other message than a musical one. This is not a militant work but only an artistic one.
In between each excerpt from ANACHRONISME, Jodlowski plays with language, revealing how its omnipresence goes with lack of meaning. His writing is rythmical, exploding and sad in the same time when he scans various speeches : the one delivered by Franklin Roosevelt after Pearl Harbour, Jean Jaurès advocating for peace, but also everyday news, extracts from Diderot's Encyclopedia, Indian Chief Seattle's message in 1854. We get an idea of every style : People state, say, authorize, stress, enumerate, and blame... Everything goes quickly on the stage, each singer being unceasingly replaced by another. This kind of composition reminds us of Blanchot and Barthes and proves absolutely new on a stage usually devoted to lyrical opera. Jodlowski goes deep into our being, he may reveal the superficial aspect of a politician but he does not forget our most intimate fears : it may be children fears woken up by a fairy tale, secret expectations of a divine answer to a vain prayer, frightening discovery of a madness our society won't bear.

Then, on a new medallion, eyes open again and we become suddenly aware and astounded by what we discover : we are surrounded by an enigmatic language which really means nothing unless it means too much without meaning it. But we also become conscious of this « area of meaning » or « aire du dire » which would in the end have recovered its brightness and mystery. We tend to believe that language is helping us to conceptualize the world and master our environment, we find out it has its own secrets and remains hidden and elusive forever.

Jérémie Szpirglas

First performance of the opera “l'Aire du Dire” at the Capitol Theatre in Toulouse / February 5th and 6th, 2011