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Les Déplacements du problème

by GRAND MAGASIN at the Théâtre de la Cité Internationale

17 bd Jourdan 75014. Until 30 October.
Grand Magasin maintain a rather ambiguous rapport with technology. Founded in 1982 by Pascale Murtin and François Hiffler, the company has always shown more interest in what doesn’t work than what does. The title of their last show, dating back to 2003, and directly copied from a computer screen, clearly demonstrates this difficulty: 0 task(s) out of 7 have been carried out successfully.

Binary. That said, the subtleties of binary language have a friend in Grand Magasin, who would willingly recuperate Musset’s proverb, which was also the title of a play: The door must be either open or closed. An assertion that the troupe would instantly follow up with: “Or, maybe not.” A quick visit to their website ( shows the extent of what’s at stake. In an elevator shaft, a little sign has been photographed:

In the event that you have stopped between two floors:
– Press button “A”
– In the event that there is no reply
– Press button “B”

Well-behaved clown-musicians, Pascale Murtin and François Hiffler, joined by Phoenix Atala, are not troublemakers but they know how to sow the seeds of doubt. The result isn’t any less devastating. In Les Déplacements du problème, their show currently on at the Théâtre de la Cité Internationale, they explain how the show will work: “Three demonstrators present a series of devices whose acoustic effects will disturb the presentation itself. They will have to do it over a few times.”
The devices in question clearly exist: they were supplied by the Ircam (Institute for the Research and Coordination of Acoustics/Music), which participated in the new project. The goal of the show: “To use devices that emit sound in order to artificially multiply the obstacles to listening and comprehension.” Which more or less amounts to learning the science behind scenes we witness everyday without capturing its generaI meaning. Who has never tried to have a conversation in a train while your neighbour is yelling in his cellphone, when you enter a tunnel, the employee in the bar-car is having problems with his speaker and a baby is screaming? Among the Ircam’s devices, there is a series of microphones, including the “relativizing microphone,” which punctuates all of your sentences with your own recorded voice (“I’ll have to check”, “Unless there’s been a mistake”, “Or not”, “At least, that’s what I understood”… ).

“Absorbing rug”. In the same order of ideas, you’ll find the “contradicting mic” and the “negative echo mic”. But there is also the “absorbing rug” which muffles all sounds the second you step on it. And, let’s not forget the classics: vacuum cleaner, jackhammer, etc. You could lose yourself in it if it weren’t for the rope of the absurd Grand Magasin has generously tossed out to you.

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