Ghyslaine Gau on “Gender in Translation”

img_0295Ghyslaine Gau is a choreographer, dancer and performer. After studying music and dance at ENM of Cergy-Pointoise, Ghyslaine Gau joined the Centre Choréographique National of Montpellier in 1994. Since 1998 she is invested in research workshops with marginalized populations, especially in the psychiatric field. The project Femmeuses by Cécile Proust awoke her interest in feminist stakes within her artistic practice.
Her work tackles freeing figures of African-American movements and Angela Davis, who were pivotal in the construction of her political consciousness.

 In 2016, she is benefitting from an artist in residency grant from Institut Français, Hors les Murs, which enables her to study the figures of liberty at their source, to better question, analyze and put into perspective the posture and movement of the black dancer in the French contemporary dance scene.


-> What triggered your interest in Gender Studies?

As a dancer, early on I was confronted with the question of difference in relation to my physical and social body. As a young adult, discovering the work of Angela Davis on women, race, and class, gave me a context for reflection. In my artistic practice, questions around a marginalized body were constantly present, and brought further into focus listening to Beatriz Preciado speaking in 2000 at a conference in Paris.

-> According to you, has the reflection on Gender Studies evolved over the past years, if we consider the publication of “Gender Trouble” by Judith Butler (1990) a reference point?

In 1990 I was not involved consciously in gender questions but for me it’s clear that in France, there’s a real awareness about gender since about 15 years in the artistic area. It seems that’s more difficult in the political sphere…. But for sure the translation of the Judith Butlers book in French had a real impact for thinking about gender.

-> The operation “Gender in Translation” as it has been conceived originally tries to put into perspective French and American approaches to Gender Studies. Does this distinction still seem relevant to you? Why?

Yes. For my research I moved to the Bay area in order to change my environment, to be confronted by different situations, to change my point of view. That’s the best way for me to keep the thought? in movement. It has been very important for me to decentralize my approaches to making work and research, in order to feed my thoughts from the outside.

-> Could you define the specificity of your approach to Gender Studies?

I cannot say that I have a specific approach to Gender Studies. But for me, Gender Studies involves the multiple possibilities you have to consciously work on your own construction, and to constantly change your relation to your environment. In my work, I approach gender as a process of creation.

-> Does your research in the field of Gender Studies bear a civic and/or political engagement? Is this an important aspect for you?

Yes. I work with marginalized people in psychiatric hospitals, social service organizations and prisons. My research interrogates the question of Black bodies in contemporary art. This interrogation is a vital and significant component of my research. I view these engagements as political actions and working with the people in the field is an important aspect for me.

-> As a scholar/artist/thinker/curator/…, what does the title “Gender in Translation” evoke for you?

For me “Gender in translation” evokes transformation. I like the notion and practice of movement, and this works as a metaphor for the way I frame gender.


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