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- » Testimonials: Ajit Singh / Sophie Bassouls
- » Interview: Adrián Navigante in conversation with Jacques Cloarec
- » Special tributes: Alain Danielou: The magic universe of JACQUES CLOAREC. Alberto Sorbelli: Title, Act 1, Entr’acte, Act2. Sylvano Bussotti, Impromptus Cloarec
- » Documents: Jacques Cloarec, Wisdom and Passion Impressions of the Labyrinth
PHOTOS – DISGUISES, Theatre Make-up. The Magic Universe of Jacques Cloarec
This text, originally written in French, appeared in the magazine of the artistic association “Le Salon D’Automne” in 1988. The English translation we present below is by Kenneth
As a very young man, Jacques Cloarec had a passion for the traditional music and dance of his native Brittany.
Aged twenty, he was the Chairman of Concarneau’s Celtic Circle. Travelling around various folklore venues with his group of dancers, he encountered various Western traditions: Spanish, Italian, Hungarian, Scots, Irish, etc.
Initially intending to become a teacher, as soon as he had the opportunity, he joined the team of the International Institute for Comparative Music Studies, in Berlin and Venice, set up to study and spread knowledge of the musical and dramatic expressions of Asia and Africa. As the Assistant Editor of the UNESCO record collections produced by the Institute, he was unable to obtain photos of a sufficiently high quality for the record sleeves and undertook the task of photographing the musicians and dancers himself.
This led to his interest in theatrical photography, to which he is now devoted. He discovered the secrets of oriental make-up traditions, the symbolism of colours in the Kathakalī of India and Japanese Kabuki.
His knowledge of the highly elaborate theatrical make-up of Asia was the basis for his very original approach to disguise and make-up generally speaking, as a depersonalisation of the actor or dancer, who ceases to be himself in order to adopt the traits of the god, genie or hero portrayed.
Curiously enough, few women are willing to depersonalise themselves, or to accept any make-up save that which accentuates and embellishes their features. The theatre of Asia has kept up a tradition still observed in the West until a few centuries ago: characters are all portrayed by men or boys, including female roles. In Kabuki performances, some actors specialise and are famous for their portrayal of heroines and princesses, beneath make-up that is of prime importance.
In Indian Kathakalī, make-up is classified in five categories: noble, swordlike, bearded, black and ordinary:
Noble make-up is used for gods and heroes, and has a green base.
Knife make-up is for noble but violent characters: the green base is marked with red.
Bearded characters are bad and brutal. The worst are red-bearded. A white beard signifies a refined and perfidious character.
Black-base make-up indicates uncultivated and barbarous personages. Ordinary make-up is realistic, with a yellow or orange base. It is used for women, sages, messengers.
Similar conventions are found in China, Japan and Indonesia, as well as in Africa and in ancient Italian comedy. In the West, circus clowns have kept up this tradition. Colour photography has proven essential to make the most of the symbolism of these disguises.
Maurice Béjart has given him every facility to capture the characters in his ballets. The Italian composer and director Sylvano Bussotti has requested him to capture the images of his performances.
Jacques Cloarec has also followed the dancer Eric Vu An who, besides his superb skill, personifies with remarkable intensity the characters he portrays. In green rooms, backstage, during rehearsals and performances, from the Paris Opéra to Milan’s La Scala, from Lausanne to Palermo, Brussels and Venice, Jacques Cloarec follows actors during every stage of their transformation from human beings with an ordinary appearance to those marvellous beings they evoke on stage.
Act I, Entr’acte, Act II
Alberto Sorbelli, ITALIAN ARTIST
Mysore, 2007 / 2013
For a long time, I would get up very early so as to be in front of the gate of the Shri K Pattabhi Jois Ashtanga Yoga Institute at Mysore, waiting for the school to open at about 4:20 a.m!
In actual fact, 4 a.m. in all the rest of India, which has the peculiarity not of being 5 or 6 hours, but 5:30 hours ahead of Greenwich meantime.
On top of these surprising 30 minutes, the direction of the famous Yoga school (probably the most coveted and most expensive in the world) has put all its clocks forward by 20 minutes.
Arising at 2 a.m. and sitting on the ground in front of the school gate at 3:30 to be the first, and once inside the great hall, with room for just 80 persons on 80 Yoga mats, one right beside the other, ensures I get the best place and don’t run the risk of practising Yoga in the changing room or the entrance hall.
In December, January, at 4 in the morning, in Mysore, located at an altitude of 600/900 m, it’s cold, and practising Yoga in the draughts between the open doors and windows is very unpleasant and unhealthy for a perfect vāta like me.
January, February, March, the best is to wait for the mango season in April.
4 months a year, for 5 years, waiting in the middle of the night for the gate to open, in the midst of sounds that are apparently disagreeable, but in fact are a sublime music: the howling of stray dogs.
I arrived in India for the first time in my life in December 2007, for the first time in front of the same gate, in full daylight; I took my place in the long queue of Yoga students coming from all over the world.
On reaching the registration counter, the grandson of the founder of the Ashtanga Yoga Institute would not accept my application because of the rule that a “registration form” must be received by the school 2 – 3 months before, but the school’s official site provides this mysterious information:
“Application forms should be submitted 2-3 months in advance of your arrival date. Students will not be allowed to practice in the śāla if their form is received within 2 months (60 days). Forms received beyond 3 months will also not be accepted.”
I leave the office knowing that I’m in India, where the “rule”, like knowledge, is of divine origin, and it’s man’s job to interpret it.
I’m in India and knowing I am close to being myself, I know perfectly what to do. Why ?
The next day, at the time when the registration office opens, I’m once more in front of the gate, having decided to return each day until I obtain the right to go in by expressing perfect devotion, unmeasured from a conformist European point of view.
The gate opens, the guard invites me to enter and accompanies me to the office where His Majesty the King of Yoga is sitting at his desk, instead of his grandson, with an enormous ruby, emerald or diamond on each finger of his two hands.
Shri K. Pattabhis Jois asks me what I want and if I have practised Yoga before. My reply does not satisfy him when I add that, in New York I attended the śāla of the wonderful Eddie Stern, every morning at 5:30, with Ralph Fiennes, Madonna, Willem Dafoe, Gwyneth Paltrow…
Pattabhi Jois’s face lights up, he takes my thick wad of rupees, puts it in the counting machine and, despite the insufficient amount, immediately gives me the most expensive Yoga Student card in the world. Satisfied? Disappointed?
Yes, disappointed at being accepted so rapidly the very first day in the incredible way that Incredible India always is, but happy at being admitted by the decision of the King himself, despite the rules normally required.
From that moment the grandson always regards me with suspicion, admiration and respect.
Years later, at a conference, the grandson tells the parable that his grandfather Pattabhis had told him: “The man who manages to gain entry to the enclosure of the Maharaja’s palace, despite a thousand difficulties and thousands of security measures, is looked at and protected, even worshipped, once he’s inside the palace. In him there is something special, probably useful for all”.
Rathna belongs to a caste that does not clean toilets.
She washes laundry, plates, the floor, she throws out the rubbish, but she doesn’t clean the WC.
Before she comes, I clean my bathrooms so that she doesn’t see me doing it. Because that might shock her. She is crazy about the matter: “If you belong to a caste that cleans WCs then why am I cleaning your flat and throwing out your rubbish ?”
She considers me to be “non-caste”, but superior to her, since I pay, which allows her to live happily and with full satisfaction unhesitatingly in the natural order of the absurd and incomprehensible, but simple and easily-acceptable hierarchy of being the servant of a European Yoga student.
One day I descend the 3 flights to throw out the rubbish on the ground floor where a broken tile leaves a hole in the floor into which my right foot slips.
Panic! All the watchmen of the building rush to rescue me, including Rathna: a simple graze means a risk of infection on contact with water = no shower = no Yoga.
Rathna, surprised by my action, asks why I had gone to throw out the rubbish myself, adding that such an accident must have occurred because the rubbish bins on the ground floor of the building are accessible to someone like her, of her same caste.
Not to me. Transgressing this natural law generates accidents!
Never would I have imagined that I would feel at home in India. What is perceived as absurd and incomprehensible was at once immediately clear to me.
Sylvano Bussotti stages “Un Ballo in Maschera” by Verdi at the Rome Opera; he sees me in the corps de ballet. He explains to me the origin of the title of his 1969 “Rara Requiem”. He feels the need to reveal the name of Alain Daniélou: “The soul dwells in the anus. Alain Daniélou himself confided this knowledge to me. I want your soul!”
Maïa Plissetskaïa, Director of the Ballet, leaves the Rome Opera.
I’m lost without her.
I abandon my easy and comfortable life as a dancer at the Opera, already performing solo roles, and leave for Paris, to lead a life of difficulties far from the comfort and daily discipline of a young dancer at the Opera.
The sage – but not too sage – Sylvano Bussotti gave me a date and an address in Paris, where I duly went, just as when the Opera used to send me to try on costumes on Via dei Cerchi, just behind the Bocca della Verità: for fun, as a duty, to find myself in my stage costume, not yet woven, nor cut, nor tried on.
At this address in Paris, I find a restaurant full of persons of all extractions and ranks, at a dinner: Jacques Cloarec is there.
Jacques is officially there as Alain Daniélou’s friend, but rapidly his being there reveals that the protagonist of the whole story is Jacques Cloarec himself.
Dear Adrián and Jacques,
I recall hearing Jacques speaking about attitudes or actions or phrases that are apparently senseless, mad, irrational, beyond customary rules.
Such “methods” are found among Zen masters.
In my text paying tribute to Jacques I shall need to mention the importance of these apparently “absurd” attitudes, outside established rules.
“Dear Alberto, do you know Alejandro Jodorowsky?
A writer, film-maker, therapist, psychic, a man of great talent and “insane” creativity.
He has developed a method which he calls Psicomagia.
You’ll find it in his book Le théâtre de la guérison.
You may find it interesting: he’s very good at explaining the transformative power of apparently senseless actions.
Otherwise, there’s a whole series in Zen Buddhism: very interesting things, for example in Taisen Deshimaru Roshi whom you must know, who says interesting things about koans. All his works are available in paperback.
In my opinion, Shivaism has little to do with the rules of disorder, unless we take certain practices of sādhous and decontextualise them.
Viewing all this as “transgression”, or as a “breaking of rules” means overlooking the fact that not only does Indian society tolerate it, but more especially exploits it as part of a highly intelligent logic of inclusion in exclusion, just to maintain order.
In India, I spoke with some Aghorīs who told me that the Indian religious system tolerates all the so-called “transgressions” of this sect (including blood sacrifice), because the idea of transgression means (basically) revitalising the rule”.
“Dear Alberto, I think you’re referring to the attitude of Indian sādhous. In some ways AD also followed their customs, meaning that to keep one’s independence, one’s freedom of opinion, one must reject the ethics of society and religion and do everything to be rejected by it, by behaving in an antisocial and provocative manner, such as – for example – appearing to be mad; frightening children; growing long hair, being badly dressed, dirty, spitting, talking to oneself, shouting insults or obscenities, etc.
These are the chapters on sādhous in AD’s books, especially pages 180 onward of the paperback Le destin du monde d’après la tradition shivaïte in the “Espaces libres” collection by the publisher Albin Michel and perhaps Adrián may have references to pages in other books.”
For a long time…
I have often heard Jacques recite his mantra: “I was destined to be an ordinary schoolmaster in a small village in Brittany”.
I have learned the value of those who listen and absorb, the rarity of empathy and understanding of the other.
Sticking to one’s desires and transforming them into action is rare.
Jacques has transformed his life, and Alain’s, and that of many others.
Alain Daniélou wrote his philosophy, interpreted and translated that of the Hindus and classified their music…
Jacques Cloarec has built, on the foundations of Alain’s work, a philosophy in action (like Diogenes of Sinope 413 / 327 BCE), without ever managing to disturb or scandalise anyone, by merely instructing others and letting them evolve, just as he was instructed at the most sophisticated level, observing and absorbing the knowledge of Alain.
For me, India didn’t exist until 2007.
But the words of Alain and Jacques fell into my open ears, and fermented for many years.
Jacques has lived “India” for 50 years, between Zagarolo and Paris, in intensive philosophical and Hindu immersion.
In my contacts with India, I discover that its deepest mysteries had already been revealed to me by the open and daily philosophic action of Jacques and the words of Alain.
Thanks to them, in that far-off disorienting continent I find that I am at home.
In 1999 (?), Jacques caught up with the continent he knew, but had never visited.
There, he too finds the basis of his knowledge and the “why” of his actions.
Jacques is the “Palace” of the Maharaja.
Jacques has always been the “Palace” of the Maharaja and simultaneously the man who must manage to enter the compound of the palace of the Maharaja, thus accomplishing his incarnation.
Alain Daniélou “is” a philosopher-seeker, a contemporary descendent of Diogenes.
Alain is neither Maharaja, nor Palace. Alain has been incarnate from the very beginning, he needs nothing except Jacques-Palace-Temple-Academy, and Jacques as friend forever.
“Forever” is not in line with European rules.
Here “The Palace” takes on its full role: the seat of power of a civilisation opposing the brutality outside and the brainwashing practised by the power that manipulates the masses to facilitate the usurpation and exercise of privilege as its sole purpose.
— “Alberto, if you had insulted one of the employees of the house, you would never have been invited here again, but since at that lunch you insulted a socially privileged guest, with a social career greater than your own and with every cultural means to defend himself, you will always be welcome at the ‘Labyrinth’”
The Labyrinth is the edifice that Jacques has constructed around Alain, not only of stone, but much more of energy, flesh, constancy and knowledge.
This edifice is more than a house, more than a sacred place, more than a university, more than a cultural centre, more than an archive, more than the triumphal arch of civilisation amidst Christian barbarism.
Jacques is the place in which Alain Daniélou gathers all his power and knowledge in order to translate them for the benefit of all.
“The Labyrinth” (the former residence of Alain Daniélou and Jacques Cloarec is now the seat of FIND) is one of the greatest fusions of Western and Hindu philosophy.
Life in this Palace-Home takes the cleverly-devised form of philosophical concept embodied to the extent of penetrating the lives of all its inhabitants, visitors, employees, and making it evolve.
Some guests, happy enough to stay at the Labyrinth for 1, 2… 7 days or more, merely appreciate the comfort of a luxury abode, without reading its pages of profound knowledge and extreme wisdom.
A Home and Palace protocol to be read as one reads a work on social sciences.
“I read ‘Le Labyrinthe’ just as a research student in linguistics reads the Cours de linguistique générale” (Ferdinand de Saussure, 1916, posthumous work), “pages after pages, until I was transformed by it.”
Jacques is The Labyrinth.
An educational labyrinth without interruption to the culmination of all satisfactions accessible to man, until you are satisfied by it, completely satisfied to the extent of taking the decision of moving away slightly to observe from a distance, to continue observing from a distance.
“At the time of his death, Alain Daniélou no longer possessed anything. Having nourished and satisfied his existence, he started getting rid of all ties.”
IMPROMPTUS CLOAREC, Poetic keyboard
Sylvano Bussotti, ITALIAN COMPOSER, PAINTER AND WRITER
Click! With this monosyllable, our everyday language evokes a tiny noise produced by the camera as it takes a picture, most often triggered by a photographer.
On a keyboard, the finger does the same; ten fingers can bring about veritable storms of sound. Just like when we stroke this black-and-white surface and contemplate this scintillation, obeying the harmonies and tones of the picture promises and permits every sort of discovery.
A path through the trees. A gust of icy wind strikes an almost comical umbrella, but the small character’s face is cheerful when the photographer and friend surprises him at the bottom of the immemorial ruins.
On the edge of the stage of a concert hall inhabited by pianos looking like tumbled-down cottages in disorder at the bottom of the valley, or laid like immobile lakes in the landscape, the act that questions the double resonance of image and sound is metaphysically performed.
Impromptus creating image, verb, mirror, look; poetic disciplines for a piano box turned into a sonographic device; an instrument of transmutation that allows us to read a musical score in photography.