On April 19, 2016, André Vallini, Secrétaire d’Etat auprès du ministre des Affaires étrangères et du Développement international, chargé du Développement et de la Francophonie, presided over a ceremony at the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in New York in which Deborah Hay, Lewis Lapham, and Theodore Feder were each honored with the insignia of Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters. The following remarks were delivered by M. Vallini and have been translated from the French.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen. As Minister of State for Development and Francophonie, it is my great pleasure to welcome you here tonight to honor three exceptional individuals with the Order of Arts and Letters.
Deborah Hay, Lewis Lapham,and Theodore Feder hail from vastly different sectors of the cultural sphere, and yet, the mark that each has left is equally profound. From copyright reform to innovative choreography and challenging journalism, each of them has not only contributed to enriching the cultural landscape, they have also worked to forge strong and lasting ties with France. For this we are extremely grateful.
I will begin with Deborah Hay.
Dear Deborah Hay,
Deborah Hay, as a dancer, choreographer, and author, you have consistently challenged the status-quo and in doing so, offered dancers and audiences around the world new ways to approach performance.
You are not only someone who carefully studies movement, you embody it. In your work and in your life, you are perpetually moving towards new challenges. This nature has helped you develop a rich career in which you are continually producing work that challenges and inspires younger generations.
Your mother was your first teacher. She taught you to dance when you were very young. Maybe this informal education inspired your fluid, experimental practice. Later, Merce Cunningham became your teacher and your work was clearly influenced, both by his emphasis on movement over expression and his integration of dance with various forms of media.
Your career took off in the early 1960s when you become a member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. But, always seeking new challenges, you soon moved on to join a group of young, dynamic artists working informally in Greenwich Village, known as Judson Dance Theatre. Alongside choreographers such as Yvonne Rainer, Steve Paxton, Simone Forti, and Trisha Brown, you questioned the fundamental elements that make up performance, and in doing so, helped to redefine art and choreography.
In 1970 you left New York for Vermont. There you did something remarkable, you set aside much of what you already knew and developed a radically new practice. During this time you focused on group dance projects such as the Circle Dances.
But you did not stop there. Next you set your sails for Texas, the place you still call home today. This is where you began to focus more closely on your solo pieces. Developing the individual nature of performance has become a trademark of yours, as seen in pieces such as Room,Voilà, and The Other Side of O. During this time you created the Solo Performance Commissioning Project (SPCP) an immersive residency program, redefining the hierarchical structure of a typical dance workshop. You ran this program for 14 years, and through it, had a strong impact on the international performance community.
Throughout your career you have looked for ways to share your ideas both through your performance but also through your writing. You published your first book, Moving Through the Universe in Bare Feet, two others followed. It is often said that dance cannot be written about. Your work says otherwise.
The Match, the quartet that got you a NYC Bessie Award, is clearly the product of all these years of research on the body. There you have gathered what you have learned in 30 years of working with mostly untrained dancers and shared it with professionals.
The release of Match coincides with your increased presence in France. The FUSED program supported one early visit and many have followed, notably at the Festival d’Automne in Paris. You are now regularly in France to perform, teach and collaborate. In less than a month you will be teaching a three-week workshop at the Atelier de Paris.
You have also been instrumental in bringing some of France’s most talented dancers to audiences to the US. In your piece O, O, developed at the Centre national de dansecontemporaine in Angers, you gave New York audiences a chance to see some distinctive French performers, like Laurent Pichaud and Emmanuelle Huynh.For this we are extremely grateful.
Given that your work has continually pushed the limits of our understanding of dance and performance, it is no surprise you were granted the celebrated Doris Duke Artist Award in 2012. This award was created to give artists the freedom to take creative risks and explore new ideas, something which you have always done throughout your career.
Deborah Hay, your work is complex, diverse, introspective, innovative, and fluid. You have constantly pushed forward while taking the time to reflect. You are an inspiration for generations to come. For this, it is an honor for me to decorate you tonight.
Chère Deborah Hay, au nom du gouvernement français, je vous fais Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
And now, Lewis Lapham.
Dear Lewis Lapham,
Lewis Lapham, in the many years you have spent in the publishing world you have established yourself as an essential voice for social, political and financial justice. As a journalist for major media outlets such as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Life Magazine, as the author of numerous books and as an editor for Harper’s Magazine and the Lapham Quarterly, you have consistently shaken the establishment, never shying away from difficult or uncomfortable topics. It is without hesitation that I would call you one of the greatest and most active editors and social commentators of the past 40 years.
Your path didn’t begin in politics or journalism but in history. After earning a Bachelors’ degree in history from Yale and a Doctorate from Cambridge in that field, you could have pursued a career in research or academia. But instead, using the past as a way to better understand and analyze the present, you focused on current affairs.
At the San Francisco Chronicle, where you were initially hired as a proofreader, you quickly set yourself apart with your opinionated views that often went against the mainstream. After some time at the Chronicle and later at the New York Herald Tribune you started to work at Harper’s where you became one of its most important Editors-in-Chief. It wasn’t an easy task to be the editor of the second oldest magazine in America. In a world that was becoming more and more competitive, you managed not only to modernize the publicationbut also to establish it as a major literary and political reference. It is no surprise that, in 2007, you were inducted into the Hall of Fame of the American Society of Magazine Editors.
At Harper’s, you kept a weekly column, “Notebook,” that established you as the most relevant political commentator in the U.S. There you raised your voice against financial and political institutions, which you saw as risks to American democracy. Your virulence against these institutions earned you the nickname “le Prince Rouge”, from your French friends. This persistence in denouncing injustice was rewarded when your column won the National Magazine Award for expressing “an exhilarating point of view in an age of conformity.”
As a student you were drawn to another non-conformist, Albert Camus. When the author said that “A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but, without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad,” he advocated for an idea that became fundamental to your career.For many years, you in fact, served as a jury member of the PEN/Newman’s Own First Amendment Award, which rewards freedom of speech.
Dear Lewis Lapham, in addition to your journalistic career you have been a prolific author, publishing 13 books in 25 years. They are for the most part satirical, historical and political accounts of American society.
After your departure fromHarper’s you decided to start your own publication, the Lapham Quarterly, which combines your two passions: journalism and history. Each season you pick different themes as diverse as fashion or war, and you ingeniously curate writing on these themesfrom a historical perspective.
Dear Lewis Lapham, whether it is for freedom of speech or against injustice, you have and continue to relentlessly fight for what you believe to be the true role of a journalist: using writing as a tool to challenge power and as a vehicle for social progress. You have spent a career, no matter your position, giving a voice to those who needed to be heard. Your passion, your knowledge and your strong morals have made you an invaluable asset to culture in France, the United States and around the world.
It is, therefore, an honor for me and my country todecorate you with this award today in recognition of these distinguished achievements.
Cher Lewis Lapham, au nom du gouvernement français, je vous fais Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.
And finally, I turn to Theodore Feder.
Dear Theodore Feder,
Throughout your long and impressive career, you have poured much of your energy into the honorable pursuit of protecting and serving the arts as an advocate for artists’ rights. This path is the result of a strong affinity for French culture, a rich and varied education and a deeply curious mind.
As a young man with a BA in English literature, you left the U.S. for France where you continued your studies at L’Institutd’Artetd’Archéologie, at the University of Paris. According to some of your closest friends, visiting Parisian museums in your company is an extremely enriching experience.
After completing your studies in France, you returned to the U.S. where you earned a Ph.D. from Columbia University’s Department of Art History and Archeology. It comes as no surprise that the subject of your doctoral dissertation was the late medieval artists’ guilds of France and Burgundy, in which you examined their place in the political and social fabric of their time, and the manner in which they protected the interests of artists.
In 1968, while still at Columbia, you founded Art Resources, an Art Historical photo archive that serves as the official rights and permissions bureau and agency for a number of U.S. and foreign museums, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA, The Guggenheim and many more. In 2000, Art Resources was appointed the exclusive representative of all 51 national and regional museums of France, under the aegis of the Réunion des Musées Nationaux. These institutions include the Musée du Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, and the Centre Pompidou.
Later, in 1975, you continued your intellectual pursuits, earning a degree from Rutgers Law School. Your passion for art and your newly acquired knowledge of the law continued to propel you in the direction of artists’ rights advocacy. In 1987, you founded the visual artists’ rights group called Artists Rights Society (ARS), an institution which you still head to this day. ARS is a U.S.-based organization that strives to defend and protect the intellectual property rights, including the copyrights, trademark rights, and moral rights, of artists around the world. These include the estates of French artists such as Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Marc Chagall, Pierre Bonnard, Georges Braque, Marcel Duchamp, Yves Klein, and hundreds of other artists who have been, or are still active in France.
One of your most remarkable and impactful accomplishments as head of ARS was the founding of the CLA Berne 18 project. The objective of CLA 18 Berne was to encourage the U.S. Government to restore copyright protection to all French and foreign works of art, music, film, and literature. At the time, these works were considered to be in the U.S. public domain, free to be used without the permission of their creators.
In France, creative works are automatically protected by copyright at the instant of their creation, and require no legal formalities be protected. For that reason, virtually no French or other foreign visual artist thought it necessary to register their works here in the United States. For that reason, virtually no French or other foreign visual artist conceived or deemed it necessary, nor disposed of the time and expense, to register their works here.Your CLA 18 Berne project lobbied strenuously for reform of this law, and in 1994 finally succeeded, when President Clinton signed the Copyright Restoration ACT which at long last restored protection, both retroactively and prospectively, to literally millions of French and other foreign works of art, music, and literature. For this, French and foreign creators are soundly in his debt.
Dear Theodore Feder, you are not only an admirable defender of artists’ rights, through the Theodore Feder Family Fund for French Culture you have also enabled living French art to continue to shine its light in our lives. At MIFA, the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts, the Feder Fund has sponsored the recent appearances of dancer and choreographer David Wampach, the work of Thierry ThieuNiang and the Compagnie des Petits Champs, helping to bring the French point of view to American audiences.
Impressively, along with your workat ARS and Art Resource, you have also published extensively in a number of fields, including copyright law, art history, Biblical Archaeology, and comparative literature. Your most recent articles have been on Marcel Proust, James Joyce, Gunter Grass, the Greco-Roman poet Longus, Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and the relationship between Early Christianity and Judaism—all testament to your insatiable curiosity and enthusiasm for culture.
Theodore Feder, you are not only an intellectual and a scholar, you are also a man of action. Through your work and determination, you have made a profoundly positive impact on thousands of artists and arts institutions. For all this, it is my honor to decorate you with this award. It is a great honor for me and for my country to offer you this award in recognition of your immense accomplishments.
Cher Theodore Feder, au nom du gouvernement français, je vous fais Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.