Back to Top

FRANÇOISE SERGY

artist and gardener

 

main artist page

 

email:admin@francoisesergy.uk

 

early years     middle years     late years

performance works

 

Dance was Françoise’s first love. Born and brought up in Switzerland, she came to London in 1975 to study contemporary dance. She then slowly established herself as a dance artist, always performing on her own but creating works in collaboration with visual artists, photographers and choreographers. She then developed skills as a photographer and installation artist.

 

Most of her performance works were made between 1982 and 2000 and the shows toured widely in the UK and Switzerland. Her main themes were women’s issues and feminist aesthetics, particularly the way the body is defined and perceived in western culture. Her signature style combined dance, projected slides and installations, creating highly visual and emotional works.

 

On this page you can view videos of performances from the early years (1983 - 1986) and the late years (1995 - 2000). Performance works made between 1987 and 1994 are on this other page. The videos are digital versions of original VHS tapes. Although most of her performances were filmed, poor quality recordings are not featured but images have been included. Very early works (1978 - 1984) are omitted.

 

"One of Sergy’s most apparent gifts as a conceptualist and performer is her ability to convey serious statements in a gently powerful and often humorous way." (review, Arteast, UK)

 

“At one with her visual images and surrounded by sounds, screams, music soft or tearing, Françoise Sergy opposes their raw violence with fluid movements, infinitely supple and tender. Beyond aesthetics, this is the language of authentic pain, recognised and left behind.” (review, La Presse, Switzerland)

 

Introduction Video

filmed at Colchester Arts Centre (UK) before a performance of The Rebelonging (1992). 

 

 

 

Videos of Early Works

 

 

The Fish and the Bicycle

 

dance performance by Françoise Sergy (1983)

music: Leo Delibes, Joe Venuti

video by David Finch (1984)

UK tour: 8 venues

 

The title of this work comes from the phrase “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle”, originally coined by Irina Dunn, Australian activist, writer and film-maker. The performance includes Françoise’s bicycle, some red Dutch clogs and a Venezuelan cloak. The artist is pleased to have a good video recording of this early piece, which was performed specifically for the camera and depicts her work perfectly. She thanks David Finch for initiating the video project.

 

Grounds to Act

an enquiry into male violence

 

a dance performance by Françoise Sergy (1985)

a collaboration with artist Gail Bourgeois

voices: Pamela Ellis, Judy Hinds

text quotes from Ruth Hall, Susan Brownmiller, Andrea Dworkin, Susan Griffin

music by Mozart, Holly Near, Stephan Grappelli, Billy Holiday, Frankie Armstrong

funded by Greater London Arts Association

video by Jan Mathew (1988)

UK tour: 20 venues

 

This video was filmed during a public performance at Brighton Polytechnic (now University of Brighton, UK). Low performance lighting has at times hindered the video recording, with some of the images and dance movement lost.

 

A quote from the original programme:

 

“When we look at male violence against women, we are confronted with the myths and the facts. The myths that say that good girls don’t get raped, that the woman asked for it, that rapists are strangers looming in dark alleys. While the facts reveal that in London, 1 woman in 6 has been raped, 1 in 3 has been sexually assaulted and the majority by men they knew.

 

And here the questions start: Why do men hate women so? Why are we used as tools for murderous sexual acts and fantasies? Studying this, we find links between men’s hatred of women and men’s fear of themselves. Between sexism and the hatred of the body. Between sexism and racism. And when we look back at the everyday images around us, we find connections between them and what is defined as extreme porn. They use the same set of rules: Women are objects, available, defenseless; self-humiliating, self-mutilating.

 

And so we act. From fear to action: anger. From action to strength: control. Moving away from the acceptance of the role of the victim. Moving beyond, into a space and state of mind of respect and love of ourselves. A woman takes over and becomes a thinker, a maker, a creative being.

 

Self-defence is an act of love. For loving ourselves is the grounding, like an anvil against the blows.”

 

Body Wonder

 

a dance performance by Françoise Sergy (1986)

photography by Honey Salvadori

drawings by Wendy Latham

music by Guem et Zaka, Frankie Armstrong, Miriam Makeba

funded by Greater London Arts and Lambeth Arts Council

filmed by David Finch

UK tour: 19 venues

 

The show is about four sportswomen and dancers in action, running, fighting, playing and laughing, talking about their hopes, achievements, pleasures and pains: gymnast Cathy Devine, dancer and amateur footballer Johanna Godliman, martial artist Michelle Raithby, and choreographer Beverly Glean. The work combines interviews and photographs of the sportswomen with Françoise’s dance performance.

 

Body Wonder was filmed but never edited into a complete video. Here you can see three dance sections without the recorded interviews. Images of the sportswomen are below.

 

 

 

  • Cathy Devine
  • Cathy Devine
  • Beverley Glean
  • Johanna Godliman
  • Michele Raithby
  • Michele Raithby
Cathy Devine

Body Wonder

Gymnast Cathy Devine (1) (photography: Honey Salvadori).

Cathy Devine

Body Wonder

Gymnast Cathy Devine (2) (photography: Honey Salvadori).

Beverley Glean

Body Wonder

Choreographer Beverley Glean (photography: Honey Salvadori).

Johanna Godliman

Body Wonder

Dancer and amateur footballer Johanna Godliman (photography: Honey Salvadori).

Michele Raithby

Body Wonder

Martial artist Michele Raithby (1) (photography: Honey Salvadori).

Michele Raithby

Body Wonder

Martial artist Michele Raithby (2) (photography: Honey Salvadori).

 

 

 

 

Videos of Late Works

 

 

A Head of Dust

 

a dance performance and installation by Françoise Sergy (1995)

a collaboration with choreographer Henrietta Esiri

music by Jan Garbarek

video by Stephen Littman

UK tour: 10 venues

 

A Head of Dust is Françoise’s most abstract performance work. It sits on the edge of dance. The artist interacts with her installation until it is transformed. She uses a very emotional, personal language, focusing on the body, particularly the fear we have of the body. New technology talks of a virtual world and yet our body remains, becoming more and more fragile as we get older.

 

A Head of Dust is a story about loss, using dance, photographic imagery, organic and edible substances. A large mound of sawdust lies in a pool of distorting mirror. The mirror is surrounded by little heaps of sugar, each with an egg nesting on top. Above hang two screens, slowly swinging and shedding their skin, showing images of empty rooms, fragments of movement, bare landscapes. The work is about a deeply physical and personal loss whose origin is never revealed, leaving the viewer to weave their own response and memory into the performer’s ritual.

 

This video was filmed during a public performance at Chisenhale Dance Space, London (UK). Low performance lighting has at times hindered the video recording, with some of the images and performance details lost. Below is a selection of the images which were part of the installation.

 

 

  • sawmill
  • sawmill
  • sawmill
  • sawmill
  • empty flat
  • empty flat
  • river
  • river
  • stones
  • grass
  • sky
  • sky
  • hands feet
  • hands feet
  • hands feet
  • hands feet
  • hands feet
  • hands feet
  • playground
  • playground
  • playground
  • mirror
  • mirror
  • mirror
sawmill

A Head of Dust

My father’s empty sawmill, after his death, Switzerland (1).

sawmill

A Head of Dust

My father’s empty sawmill, after his death, Switzerland (2).

sawmill

A Head of Dust

My father’s empty sawmill, after his death, Switzerland (3).

sawmill

A Head of Dust

My father’s empty sawmill, after his death, Switzerland (4).

empty flat

A Head of Dust

Empty flat (1), London (UK).

empty flat

A Head of Dust

Empty flat (2), London (UK).

river

A Head of Dust

Rushing river (1).

river

A Head of Dust

Rushing river (2).

stones

A Head of Dust

Rock horse.

grass

A Head of Dust

By the sea, Lake District, UK.

sky

A Head of Dust

Grass and sky (1).

sky

A Head of Dust

Grass and sky (2).

hands feet

A Head of Dust

Hands and feet (1).

hands feet

A Head of Dust

Hands and feet (2).

hands feet

A Head of Dust

Hands and feet (3).

hands feet

A Head of Dust

Hands and feet (4).

hands feet

A Head of Dust

Hands and feet (5).

hands feet

A Head of Dust

Hands and feet (6).

playground

A Head of Dust

Flooded playground (1), London (UK).

playground

A Head of Dust

Flooded playground (2), London (UK).

playground

A Head of Dust

Flooded playground (3), London (UK).

mirror

A Head of Dust

Self-portrait with distorting mirror (5).

mirror

A Head of Dust

Self-portrait with distorting mirror (6).

mirror

A Head of Dust

Self-portrait with mirror.

 

IVF+ACL An Unstable Body

 

a dance performance and installation by Françoise Sergy (1997)

a collaboration with choreographer Henrietta Esiri

music by Schubert, Penderecki

video by Jonathan Bloom

UK tour: 13 venues

 

 

“ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament. Because of an injury my right knee is now unstable, giving way at times as if I had suddenly lost a leg. An operation will be required to reconstruct the torn ligament. IVF stands for in vitro fertilisation, a treatment which allows the very first stage of conception to be made visible by stimulating egg production, making fertilisation occur outside the body and implanting the early embryo back in the uterus. For the past year my body has been mapped out through a series of high-tech medical interventions. Probes, tubes, needles, human hands have manipulated and entered it repeatedly. It has been inflated to enable video camera access. It has been placed inside scanners which use intense magnetic fields. It has received powerful drugs altering its normal functions. It has been put to sleep by anaesthetist angels, to be woken in a state of heightened and distorted awareness.”

 

 

Here the video of the performance has been divided into four sections:

 

Fertility Treatment 1

Unstable Knee

Fertility Treatment 2

End

 

 

The installation is the central hub of the performance: a large open glass structure, in the middle of which lies a rectangular frame filled with a smooth white substance. Projected images run cross the installation from both front and back. A tangible, clear glass barrier separates the artist from the audience. She is exploring the inside of her body whilst digital images dissect it without a drop of blood. Physical experience is pitted against technological knowledge. Can both share a common intelligence, a joint understanding? IVF+ACL faces the inevitability of a body which remains, unstable...

 

Below is a selection of the images which were part of the installation.

 

 

  • pregnancy
  • pregnancy
  • pregnancy
  • treatment
  • treatment
  • treatment
  • laparoscopy
  • hysteroscopy
  • laparoscopy
  • x-ray
  • laparoscopy
  • x-ray
fertility treatment

IVF + ACL

Close-up of pregnancy test, ovulation kits and menstrual calendar.

fertility treatment

IVF + ACL

Close-up of ovulation test kits.

fertility treatment

IVF + ACL

Ovulation test kits.

fertility treatment

IVF + ACL

A nurse prepares to inject fertility treatment drugs (1).

fertility treatment

IVF + ACL

A nurse prepares to inject fertility treatment drugs (2).

fertility treatment

IVF + ACL

A nurse prepares to inject fertility treatment drugs (3).

laparoscopy

IVF + ACL

Laparoscopy (1): keyhole surgery of the inside of my abdomen, showing the uterus, ovaries, Fallopian tubes and fatty tissue.

hysteroscopy

IVF + ACL

Hysteroscopy: keyhole procedure looking inside my uterus.

laparoscopy

IVF + ACL

Laparoscopy (2): keyhole surgery of the inside of my abdomen, showing the uterus, one ovary and Fallopian tube, and a surgical tool.

X-ray

IVF + ACL

Hysterosalpingogram (1): X-ray of my uterus and Fallopian tubes.

laparoscopy

IVF + ACL

Laparoscopy (3): keyhole surgery of the inside of my abdomen, showing the internal abdominal wall.

X-ray

IVF + ACL

Hysterosalpingogram (2): X-ray of my uterus and Fallopian tubes, showing the pelvic bones.

 

LH Phantom

 

a dance performance and installation by Françoise Sergy (1998)

a collaboration with artist Emma Woffenden

a commission by the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art

a residency at St George’s Hospital, London

funded by The Arts Council of England

video by A19 Films

UK tour: 9 venues

 

“I will probably never know what happens to my eggs and all this sperm. Do they meet, do they become an embryo? What do they do, where do they go? What happens to this silent event, located inside myself and yet so totally independent...”

 

LH Phantom continues Françoise’s exploration of the body and medical imaging started with IVF + ACL, An Unstable Body, which was performed on its own first then together with LH Phantom. The making of LH Phantom began during a residency at the Fetal Medicine Unit of St George’s Hospital, London (UK), exploring ultrasound technology. There, Françoise was able to be present and photograph patients’ ultrasound scans of their babies in the womb. She also worked with an old ultrasound scanner, attempting to scan everyday objects. The images were included in the performance, as well as in a separate exhibition at the Fetal Medicine Unit. You can find more information about the residency at the hospital on this page.

 

In IVF + ACL the audience is seated in front of the installation and a tangible, see-through barrier separates people from the performer. In LH Phantom they are seated inside the installation, close to the artist and the action. The performance takes place in the centre, on a bed of glass blocks. Both works deal with the trauma of a serious injury and the complex issues surrounding fertility treatment. The artist is coming face to face with a deep loss and the inevitability of a fragile body, changed forever.

 

Both works toured the UK until 2000. LH Phantom was Françoise’s last dance performance work.

 

This video was filmed during a public performance at the Northern Gallery of Contemporary Art in Sunderland (UK). Although some details of the performance have been lost, the video captures the work well. The artist is pleased to have good recordings of both her early piece The Fish and the Bicycle and of LH Phantom, her last performance work. Below is a selection of the images which were part of the installation.

 

 

  • knee op
  • knee op
  • knee op
  • knee op
  • knee op
  • knee op
  • fetal scan
  • fetal scan
  • fetal scan
  • ultrasound
  • ultrasound
  • ultrasound
knee operation

LH Phantom

My knee operation (1): being wheeled into theatre.

knee operation

LH Phantom

My knee operation (2) (photo taken by the consultant anaesthetist, at my request).

knee operation

LH Phantom

My knee operation (3) (photo taken by the consultant anaesthetist, at my request).

knee operation

LH Phantom

My knee operation (4) (photo taken by the consultant anaesthetist, at my request).

knee operation

LH Phantom

My knee operation (5) (photo taken by the consultant anaesthetist, at my request).

knee operation

LH Phantom

In the recovery room after my knee operation (photo taken by the consultant anaesthetist, at my request).

fetal scan

LH Phantom

Fetal ultrasound (1), 18 weeks, St George’s Hospital, London (UK).

fetal scan

LH Phantom

Fetal ultrasound (2), 16 weeks, St George’s Hospital, London (UK).

fetal scan

LH Phantom

Fetal ultrasound (3), 18 weeks, St George’s Hospital, London (UK).

ultrasound

LH Phantom

Ultrasound scan of unknown object (1).

ultrasound

LH Phantom

The Scream: ultrasound of a lightbulb.

ultrasound

LH Phantom

Ultrasound scan of unknown object (2).