ARTIST STATEMENT and PRESS

Pascal Benichou was born in Provence and moved to New York City in the late 70’s. 

As a soloist and choreographer, he is well versed in the types of dialogues a dancer can share with an audience. In his current body of works, Mr.Benichou expand the conversational possibilities of a performance onto the canvas where gestures and movements are measured in forms and colors.With a fascination for coexistence and harmony, his exploration centers on the balance between complexity and simplicity. 

The HUDSON Review Vol. LXI, No. 4 Winter 2009) Copyright 2009 

KAREN WILKIN 

.Pascal Benichou's "Of Spirit and Matter," photographs and videos, at The Phatory. Like Greene, Benichou 

deals with the equivocal and the uncanny; …he stakes out an unstable terrain between the recognizable and 

the otherworldly. Until recently, Benichou was known primarily as a gifted, versatile dancer and, in a very 

real sense, the works in "Of Spirit and Matter" were a series of performance pieces. In each of them, a 

beautiful naked man-Benichou himself, displaying his long-limbed, muscular dancer's body-moved 

through verdant New England woods, rolling down hills, climbing up inclines, clambering on rocky 

outcroppings, changing positions in a shallow, rocky stream. The still photos presented several images of the 

protagonist at once, with some portions of each pale-fleshed figure blurred into near-transparency and others 

more sharply focused, against a crisply defined landscape of gray rocks, brown leaf mold, and green leaves. 

Sometimes the bodies were pressed together; at others, they formed disjunctive sequences. Surprisingly, the 

multiple views result neither from repeated exposures nor manipulation of the digital images, but are records 

of Benichou's carefully timed movements, captured by long exposures. Experience and dancer's discipline 

allow him to calculate (more or less) the appropriate speed of movement from position to position required 

to achieve the desired effect of clarity or transparency, continuity or separation, in the final image- hence 

the notion of performance. In "Of Spirit and Matter," the blurring and multiplicity, combined with the nudity, 

cancelled the usual "slice of actuality" connotations of the photograph and moved us, instead, into the realm 

of the fantastic. Yet, at the same time, we were reminded of the early days of photography: nineteenth- 

century tableaux that attempted to look like paintings, and "spirit" photographs that purported to reveal the 

invisible mysteries of the afterlife. 

In the videos, Benichou's methods became explicit. Continuous loops documented sequences in which he 

rolled down a slope and climbed back up, passing another version of himself, similarly engaged, and so on, as 

if revealing the intermediate stages of the still images. The resulting crowd of ghostly, Sisyphean figures 

moved endlessly, each in a slightly different, but elegant, way, each along a slightly different route. Yet 

Sisyphean isn't the right word. There was no visible evidence of effort; and though we sensed the prickly 

reality of the setting, the trans- lucent nudes were oblivious to scratchy twigs and rough rocks. Absorbed in 

their repetitive actions, barely defined against the landscape, they were both literally and metaphorically 

disembodied. What's most arresting about Benichou's images is the way they obviously depend on 

contemporary technology but evoke an unexpected range of art historical precedents, from flashes of 

Michelangelo's tumbling nudes in his Last Judgment to the Pre-Raphaelites; the rocky stream in which 

Benichou moves with improbable ease suggested Gustave Courbet's vigorous landscapes, and more. The 

Phatory, a tiny "alternative" gallery on East gth Street, near Tompkins Square Park, has been a reliable 

showcase of the provocative and unexpected since its inception. Benichou's "Of Spirit and Matter" continued 

that tradition.