Imagining Miguel Bonneville

by Jérôme Lefaure 2008

Traditionnally, self-portraits were made thanks to convex mirrors. Miguel Bonneville rather conceive his performances as broken mirrors to reflect the plurality of his remembrances and emotions, embodying them in objects, clothes, actions as well as in others’ silhouettes and voices. Still, his performances are neither pieces of a big puzzle made of memories and identities, nor different moments gathered on the timeline of a life to build a modest and intimate saga. His MB performances serie is definitely not a coherent set of pieces which organisation would have been planned so that they fit perfectly in a complete self-portrait. They are in fact individual steps for an autobiographical research, which is by essence incomplete and patchy. In that sense, Miguel Bonneville work is connected with an ethereal conception of identity, as something scattered outside of the subject and, for this reason, impossible to reconstitute as a whole.

Miguel Bonneville is thus a munt of objects. Fashionable shoes. A table. A blonde wig. A bear in disguise. A microphon. The audience. And a person. Presence and embodiement are essential in the autobiographical work Miguel Bonneville builds mostly through his performances but also through photography, texts and video. In his actions, the audience doesn’t face a story, but a person, with all the questions a presence on stage would raise: who is he? Which is the relation between the character he’s playing and himself? The audience expects comfort, definitive explanations, a nice tale that they could listen to while they keep quietly seated, a meaning that they could be apply to every details, actions and words. But Miguel Bonneville just offers the precarity of an action he never rehearses, the violence of his own presence on stage without hiding behind a character and, sometimes, the mistery of some terse sentences. In summary, the ambiguity of a performance which is definitely partial and unachieved.    

The performance, despite of being an art of participation, maintains an unequal relation between the artist and the audience. While Miguel Bonneville claims to be shy, the performance is like a low-angle vision that would convert him into someone else, obviously different from the social character his friends may know. On stage, we might see the character he has always dreamt of being one day or maybe someone he’s actually reluctant to be. By staging evocations of his childhood, his feelings or the reminiscences of an idyllic love story his parents are supposed to have lived, he embodies a melancholic vision of the existence and transform his performances into an emotional reconstruction of intimacy turned toward a public exhibition. This investigation-in-process places the audience in an uncomfortable situation, witnessing intimacy from outside without the keys that would enable them to empathise more easily with the performer. It’s a stagecraft of the efforts we make, mostly in vain, to understand our feelings as well as to express them. 

 Marguerite Duras used to write about love and its failures and about the long-lasting frustrations it creates. No room for sentimentality. Her simple writing has been undoubtedly an inspiration for the sober style of Miguel Bonneville’s works. Marguerite Duras used to say that « acting doesn't bring anything to a text ; on the contrary, it detracts from it, lessens its immediacy and depth, weakens its muscles and dilutes its blood ». Miguel Bonneville deals with that strength, this ability to express love as an endless research. Connected to the supremacy of words as well as to their limits, his performances intends to go beyond a descriptive and incomplete speech by using objects and actions that stand for nostalgy, identity and melancholy. With unexpected ressources, Miguel Bonneville talks to himself and we’re invited to witness its wanderings.