“Akademia: Performing Life” at Villa Vassilieff, Paris
With (-)auteur, Mercedes Azpilicueta (Pernod Ricard Fellow), Ieva Balode, Yaïr Barelli, Aia Bertrand, Raymond Duncan, Ieva Epnere, Barbara Gaile, Daiga Grantina, Myriam Lefkowitz, Mai-Thu Perret, Andrejs Strokins
Curators: Solvita Krese & Inga Lāce
Associate programming curator: Camille Chenais
The exhibition Akademia: Performing Life will look at narratives and themes springing from Akademia, community and alternative school that offered courses in dance, art, and crafts, hosted an art gallery and a publishing house and staged theatre and dance pieces between the 1910s and 1970s in Paris. Established by Raymond Duncan, American dancer and artist, and since the 1920s co-run by Aia Bertrand, a dancer, writer and an expatriate from Latvia, the Akademia was a manifestation of their ideological syncretism blending socialist principles, the desire to revive ancient Greece and a “natural” Latvian way of life. The exhibition aims to explore the ideas and principles embodied by Akademia at its inception as potential alternatives to traditional models of education, creation and community life, while also questioning its more obscure aspects.
The history of Akademia comes about in the form of a puzzle reconstructed by intertwining the family collection of the Duncans in the United States, the stories of former members and people close to the community, the various books and pamphlets published on the press of the Akademia and the clippings preserved in the Parisian libraries reporting often the eccentricities of its founder. Like many collective utopias of the beginning of the 20th century, Akademia is neither a place for living nor a school in a classical sense, but rather a community of various, often changing people that gathered to dance, make music, walk, debate or paint around Raymond Duncan and his philosophy. Promoting a healthy, simple life, a return to nature, a diffusion of art in everyday life and a liberation from sexual and family norms, Raymond Duncan strongly opposed industrialization, capitalism and the bourgeois family and lifestyle, which according to him were the sources of the dehumanization of the modern life. The daily life of the community was also punctuated by regular craft work such as pottery, weaving, making of sandals and objects using methods and aesthetics inspired by Greek antiquity. With an approach based on self-governance, these productions were then sold in the Akademia shop thus allowing to finance the life and the artistic activities of its members. But, over the decades, the Akademia and its ideals slowly withered and stiffened: in the 1960s, its members and followers were mostly an aging public gathered around an increasingly narcissistic Raymond Duncan and his dedicated partner Aia Bertrand who continued to run the school after he passed away. Her role in the management and social and artistic activities was very important in the life of Akademia, but has not yet been fully recognized, illustrating the usual eclipse of female figures in history.
Within the exhibition, archival documents, objects, books and fabrics produced by members of Akademia interact with works by contemporary artists invited to work on philosophy (Ieva Balode) and aesthetics (Barbara Gaile , Daiga Grantina, Andrejs Strokins) developed by this community, the life of Aia Bertrand (Myriam Lefkowitz), as well as the themes of alternative education (Ieva Epnere) and collective utopias (Mai-Thu Perret). Mercedes Azpilicueta (Pernod Ricard Fellow), Yaïr Barelli and (-)auteur are invited to activate Villa Vassilieff’s space by living, working and offering collective experiences open to all.
at Villa Vassilieff, Paris
until 24 March 2018