The installation refers to the café-concert scene in Paris at the end of the 19th century. These shows celebrated new styles of dance, notably the «epileptic dance» and the «cakewalk» dance, very popular during this period. The film “Contagious!” re-enacts dances by Aida Walker, by Polaire, by Eugénie Fougère and by Jane Avril on the stage of a contemporary club.
These dances have been described as “displays of strangeness”. In colonial Paris they embodied the idea of “difference”, loss of control, irrationality and disorder and imitated in an exaggerated manner, and subsequently corrupted, what was considered “feminine" and “foreign”.
The title of the installation “Contagious!” stems from a very popular idea at the end of the 19th century that one risked contamination through the sole imitation of movements.
Doctors maintained for example that they had inherited certain of their patients' twitches and mannerism. The philosopher Paul Souriau also saw in these dance shows the risk of a mimetic and unconscious imitation of their movements by viewers.
In her film “Contagious!” the two performers Arantxa Martinez et Vaginal Davis re-enact two historical figures: Polaire, famous for his “epileptic dance” style, sexually aggressive, and the New Yorker Aida Walker, celebrated in Paris for her interpretation of the «cakewalk» – a dance invented by Afro-American slaves at the beginning of the 19th century which mocked the dances the slaves' masters, such as the minuet for example.
The 11 photographs that are part of the installation “Contagious!” display excerpts of the three volumes of the “Iconographie de la Salpêtrière” published by Charcot from 1878 onwards, juxtaposed with images of popular poses and gestures from the “epileptic dance” and “cakewalk”.
Printed on Hahnemühle Photo Rag 308 g/m2
30 x 45 cm
Edition of 15 copies (+3 H.C. et 7 E.A signed and numbered by the artist on the back).
Frame ca: CHF 200
This limited edition is a limited reproduction of one of the 11 photographs included in the work “Contagious!”, 2010
Installation with film HD, 12', et 11 photographs
Performers: Arantxa Martinez et Vaginal Davis.