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Portrait: The Intimacy of the Cities with "Portraits de Villes" by Emmanuelle Huynh and Jocelyn Cottencin

Emmanuelle Huynh & Jocelyn Cottencin in Saint-Nazaire (France)

AfterNew York and Saint-Nazaire, dancer and choreographer Emmanuelle Huynh and visual artist and video-maker Jocelyn Cottencin will continue their series "Portraits de Villes" (city portraits), with the city of Houston, Texas. This latest endeavor is thanks to the commission by DiverseWorks, a Houston-based organization known for its ground-breaking programming. The invitation of the two French artists followed the curatorial research trip to France by Ashley DeHoyos, DW curator in 2018.  The portrait of Houston will be developed through two on-site residencies in 2021 before being presented to the public. In order to realize this project, DiverseWorks was awarded a grant from the FUSED program.

Meeting of Artists, Meeting of the Arts 

In 1995, Jocelyn Cottencin discovered the work of Emmanuelle Huynh when she performed one of her very first creations, Mùa, which would become the name of her company. The piece was a solo in near-total darkness accompanied by the composer Kasper Toeplitz and the light designer Yves Godin. The choreographer Rachid Ouramdane and the visual artist Matthieu Kavyrchine were also part of this filmed performance at the crossroads of visibility and invisibility. This first creation set the tone for Emmanuelle Huynh's artistic path, which mixes dance with other artistic practices including visual arts. 

© Jean-Baptiste Huynh

The two artists really met in 2006 when Emmanuelle Huynh invited Jocelyn Cottencin to the Centre National de Danse Contemporaine d'Angers (which she directed from 2004 to 2012) with Nathalie Collantes and then with Jennifer Lacey. Emmanuelle Huynh later asked Jocelyn Cottencin to think about the scenography of her pieces Cribles (2010) and Tôzaï!... (2014). These two first projects created space for the artists to develop a dialogue between their universes and to appreciate the complementarity of their arts. 

City Portraits, Intimate Portraits

Emmanuelle Huynh was invited to New York by the Cultural Services of the French Embassy (Visual and Performing Arts Dept.) in 2013 for a creative research residency. This occasion made her reflect on the composition of a portrait of New York through its spaces, inhabitants, and architecture. She asked Jocelyn Cottencin to develop the project with her and the first project of the series "Portraits de Villes" began.

A taxi driver, an architect, and the High Line (2017) is a work on the memory of the city through three characters and their relationship to space and architecture. Two protagonists, a taxi driver, Phil Moore, and an architect, Rick Bell, as well as the personified monument The High Line, are the perameters of this filmed trilogy. The story is gradually built around the collection of words, the extension of gestures, the restitution of memory, and the perception of the city through the human body. This first work defined as "fictional anthropology" shows how Emmanuelle Huynh and Jocelyn Cottencin attempt to navigate between documentary, fiction, and choreographic performance to present the intimacy of New York.

Image from one of the films of the installation. 
To watch a teaser, click here

After the establishment of the company Plateforme Mùa in Saint-Nazaire, Emmanuelle Huynh and Jocelyn Cottencin thought about a new video-installation representing the singularity of this territory. After meeting students, children, workers, and inhabitants, for two consecutive years the two artists unraveled the links that connect the spaces and those who interact with them. Nous venons de trop loin pour oublier qui nous sommes (We have come too far to forget who we are, 2019) tells the history of the construction of Saint-Nazaire, the industrialized landscape between sea and land, and the mix of cultures that make up the city. This piece is an interweaving of narratives, a confrontation of images, and a parallel between reality and fiction that once again raises social, political, and artistic questions. 

Image from one of the films of the installation. 
To watch a teaser, click here

To continue this series of work revealing the urban memory, Emmanuelle Huynh and Jocelyn Cottencin currently have two new projects in progress: Sao Paulo and Houston. The partnership with DiverseWorks will allow them to tell the story of Houston, its hurricanes, its border with Mexico, its natural resources, and everything that defines this city and the human encounters that emerge from its landscape. This is an eagerly awaited project that will allow us to discover a new side of a city in constant cultural transformation. 

About the artists

Emmanuelle Huynh

Emmanuelle Huynh is a dancer, choreographer, and teacher. Her work explores the relationship between literature, music, light, ikebana (Japanese floral art), and architecture. 

Born in 1963, Emmanuelle Huynh studied both philosophy and dance. Having performed with Nathalie Collantes, Hervé Robbe, Odile Duboc, Catherine Contour, and the Quatuor Knust, in 1994 she was awarded a prestigious Villa Médicis hors-les-murs grant to go to Vietnam, and upon her return, she created her first piece, a solo, Múa. She continued her choreographic work with projects in which she encountered practicians from many different disciplines: the astrophysicist Thierry Foglizzo explaining his research on black holes onstage with six dancers in Distribution en cours in 2000, as well as many plasticians: Erik Dietman for the performance Modèle, modèle, modèle; Frédéric Lormeau for Vasque fontaine/partition Nord; Fabien Lerat for Visite guidée/vos questions sont des actes; Nicolas Floc’h for Bord, tentative pour corps, textes et tables in 2001; Numéro in 2002; La Feuille in 2005; and Jocelyn Cottencin for the series Portraits de villes and other projects.

From February 2004 to December 2012, Emmanuelle Huynh directed the Centre national de danse contemporaine Angers (CNDC), a national choreographic centre, as well as a school devoted exclusively to contemporary dance.

In the United States, Huynh's works have been presented in New York (Danspace Project, LMCC...); she has taught at University of California, Berkeley; CalArts, Valencia; New York and Philadelphia among others. Read more Emmanuelle here

Jocelyn Cottencin

Jocelyn Cottencin is a graduate of the École Nationale Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs de Paris and has never wanted to choose between practices (video, installation, performance, graphic design...) because his central project is to work between forms to modify perceptions and shift expectations. Jocelyn Cottencin developed a performance project for 12 dancers, Monumental, shown at the Pompidou Center, at the MAC-VAL, and during the Newsettings Festival program of the Fondation d'Entreprise Hermès. It was recently presented at U. of the Arts, Philadelphia.  He designed a perennial light installation for the Voyage à Nantes which has been presented on the roof of the École Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture since 2015. Along with the designer Erwan Mevel and the visual artist Nicolas Floc'h, Cottencin is initiating a research program for the EESAB.  In the United States, Cottencin's video works have been presented in Chicago, New York, and Philadelphia. Read more about Jocelyn here