Perhaps Francis Ducharme and Sophie Dales discovered their penchant for the provocative over the course of their work with choreographer Dave St-Pierre. The local actor/dancer duo worked with St-Pierre on 2004’s wildly successful – and undeniably controversial – La Pornographie des âmes. It was only after collaborating with St. Pierre again, on follow-up piece Un peu de tendresse bordel de merde!, that Ducharme and Dales struck out on their own, with the intention of creating a work that was “a punch in the stomach.”
Simply reading the title of Ducharme and Dales’s multi-disciplinary piece might shock some – it’s called Celui qui aime est à Dachau, or “The one who loves is in Dachau.” As its title implies, the work is focused on the connection between love and destruction, drawing inspiration from Roland Barthes’s A Lover’s Discourse: Fragments – a book that Portland bookseller Powell’s describes as “best read immediately after the end of an intimate relationship.” But don’t make the mistake of assuming that the piece is merely about hating on those in love – it’s bigger than that. Ducharme and Dales see love as problematic, yes, but the questions they raise are anything but one-dimensional. Their work cuts to the heart of society’s obsession with love, and pushes the audience to wonder why, and how, we’ve become “junkies for love.”
The artists go about this project by putting their audience in an uncomfortable situation. Ducharme and Dales become lab rats, and spectators are given a window into a domestic setting to observe the duo’s moments of intimacy as well as their cataclysmic disasters. The audience is meant to feel as though they are present at a scene where they’re not meant to be, but it’s hard to turn away. Though the work might be difficult, it’s also important. After all, as Morton Mendelson recently reminded us, stepping out of your comfort zone every once in a while is a good thing.