Gisèle Vienne

I am very interested in the relationship between art and religion, particularly in a society where church and state have been separated. What is the place of art without religion – whose history is, ultimately, very recent?

Gisèle Vienne’s work illuminates what lies in shadow, the hidden side buried in each of us. Constantly torn between perfection and horror, her creations explore violence, returning the full cathartic dimension to the performing arts.

Published on 14/08/2019

2 min

Born in Charleville-Mézières in 1976, Gisèle Vienne studied philosophy and music before enrolling at the National School of Puppetry in her city. There she met the choreographer Étienne Bideau-Rey, with whom she created her first shows (Splendid's, 2000, Showroomdummies, 2001).

Since 2004, the artist has been working on personal projects around violence and its relationship to enjoyment and the sacred: The Pyre, a show about "sacred horror" expressed by the dancer's body, at once fantastical and faith; Kindertotenlieder, which questions the representation of fear and death.

Alongside her work as a director, Gisèle Vienne also works on photographic and fine art projects.

Since her earliest work, Gisèle Vienne has constantly analysed human nature at its darkest and most disturbing. The characters that populate her world create an ambiguous feeling, somewhere between fascination and rejection. Thus Crowd (2017), a rave for 15 dancers, incorporates ritual elements into its structure, and investigates the mechanisms of group violence between jubilation and release.

Jerk (2008) addresses the subject of violence through the tale a serial killer’s crimes. A straightforward combination of sex and violence, this creation is original for its use of the hand-puppet “gore” tradition, from which the artist draws inspiration.

Since her first shows, Gisèle Vienne has attracted international visibility. Showroomdummies (2001, 2009 and 2013), which explores the boundaries between the animate and inanimate by bringing dancers and inert mannequins together, has been performed in Europe (Spain, Portugal and Austria, in particular) and Japan.

The installation Last Spring: A (2011) was presented at the Biennial of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, as well as at the Pompidou Centre in Paris as part of her solo exhibition “Teenage Hallucination” in 2012.

Gisèle Vienne’s greatest success remains The Ventriloquists Convention (2015). Inspired by a meeting of ventriloquists held each year in Kentucky, in the United States, the show discusses the motivations that push ventriloquists to practise their art and the way it is perceived. The play has been performed in the United States and Japan, as well as in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, Romania, Portugal and Estonia.

  • 2000


    Gisèle Vienne crée son premier spectacle, Splendid's, avec le chorégraphe Étienne Bideau-Rey. Ils collaboreront sur toutes ses pièces jusqu'à la création de Showroomdummies #3.

  • 2004


    Gisèle Vienne begins her solo career. She proceeds to surround herself with colleagues who will participate in the majority of her projects: the writers, Dennis Cooper and Catherine Robbe-Grillet, the musical duo KTL and the actor Jonathan Capdevielle.

  • 2007


    Gisèle Vienne presents her first solo exhibition, Grenoble-Saalfelden, at the Galerie du Quartz, at the Scène Nationale in Brest, in France. This is the beginning of her career as a photographer and visual artist.

  • 2012


    Gisèle Vienna and Denis Cooper are the curators of the “Read Into My Black Holes” exhibition at the Pompidou Centre.

  • 2015


    The Ventriloquists Convention rencontre un fort succès. Il est présenté dans de nombreux pays étrangers, notamment aux États-Unis et au Japon.

The Institut français and the artist

The creation and distribution of The Ventriloquists Convention was supported by the Institut français.


The Théâtre Export programme helps French directors to undertake a theatrical project abroad.

L'institut français, LAB