French theater director and visual artist Philippe Quesne invites you into a parallel universe where there are no humans and no words. In this mysterious underground world, larger-than-life moles are not solitary creatures, but the architects of something between a utopian community and a punk rock band.

Learn more about France’s Théâtre Nanterre-Amandiers, where Quesne has served as artistic director since 2014.

Read more about The Moles in Professor Phillip John Usher’s Indefinite Article. And pick up a copy of Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights our NYU Skirball Book Club pick for The Moles.

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Get Into It

LA PARADE DES TAUPES de Philippe QUESNE | FTA2018
Parade of the Moles
NEW SETTINGS #6 | Philippe Quesne, "La Nuit des taupes (Welcome to Caveland!)"
An Interview with Philippe Quesne
Philippe Quesne: Die Nacht der Maulwürfe Welcome to Caveland!
Night of the Moles
INTERVIEW - Philippe Quesne, scenographer and director of the Nanterre-Amandiers theatre
Philippe Quesne speaks on his theatre Nanterre-Amandiers

Read All About It

Sep 24, 2015

Charles McNulty for the LA Times

“The most tantalizing aspect of “La Mélancolie des Dragons,” an eccentric performance work by French artist and director Philippe Quesne, is the gentle camaraderie of the longhaired heavy-metal dudes, whose car has broken down in the middle of a field during their road tour.”

Jan 11, 2017

Alexis Soloski for the New York Times

“If a dollop of mystery remains, the characters soon deflate it — they even pull up the cotton batting standing in for snow to reach an electrical outlet hidden beneath it. The evening repeatedly punctures the seriousness of artmaking…”

Jan 11, 2017

David Cote for Timeout

“To go further into the non-existent plot might spoil the imagistic parade (bubble machine, giant inflatables, video projection), but really, as the saying goes, you had to be there. Merely describing the sequence of events doesn’t do justice to the quiet beauty of their unfolding, or the unforced charm of the performers.”

Get Thee to the LIbrary

Recommended readings to accompany the Indefinite Article by Phillip John Usher.

Heather Davis and Etienne Turpin (editors), Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies. Open Humanities Press, 2015.

Thomas J. Demos, Decolonizing Nature: Contemporary Art and the Politics of Ecology. Sternberg Press, 2019.

Clare Finburgh and Carl Lavery (editors), Contemporary French Theatre and PerformancePalgrave Macmillan, 2011.

Jeffrey Kastner, Nature (Whitechapel: Documents of Contemporary Art). The MIT Press, 2012.

Lourdes Orozco, Theatre & Animals. Macmillan Palgrave, 2015.

Garden Therapy

Quesne’s New York mole adventures starts with Parade of the Moles – a wander around Washington Square Park and Greenwich Village. Take a page out of the moles’ book and get outside. Plant yourself in one of NYC’s many lovely parks and spend some time absorbing all the green. These articles about the benefits — physical, mental, and otherwise — of spending time outside.

If you need some reading material while you’re there, pick up a copy of Ross Gay’s The Book of Delights – our NYU Skirball Book Club Pick for The Moles – and let him show you how to really sink into the delights of loitering, lounging, sunbathing, and otherwise lallygagging about outside.

Apr 18, 2019

Oliver Sacks: The Healing Power of Gardens

“I have lived in New York City for 50 years, and living here is sometimes made bearable for me only by its gardens. This has been true for my patients, too… I found that there was nothing long-shut-in patients loved more than a visit to the garden — they spoke of the hospital and the garden as two different worlds.”

Feb 12, 2019

Bringing Nature Back to the Urban Core

“Our photographers set out to explore three cities that are seeking to restore their connection to nature by reclaiming land for green space.”

Take a virtual tour of green spaces all over the country.

Feb 28, 2019

Spending Just 20 Minutes in a Park Makes You Happier

“Forest bathing refers to being in an environment where all your senses are engaged. Something researchers in Japan recognized about urban life is that when we are indoors we rely mostly on our eyes and ears, but our other senses are underutilized.”

Kid Stuff

It’s never to early to start talking to kids about serious stuff – especially when the “stuff” in question is the fate of the world they’ve been born into. Get ready for Afternoon of the Moles (Quesne’s kid-friendly rendition of Night of the Moles) with the work of young climate activists who are refusing to let “business as usual” continue to destroy global futures.

The disarming case to act right now on climate change | Greta Thunberg
Climate activist Greta Thunberg at TED in 2019
National Geographic | Mar 13, 2019

These Young Activists Are Striking to Save Their Planet from Climate Change

In the U.S., the climate strike movement has grown slowly and steadily over the past few months.

Teen Vogue | Mar 28, 2019

5 Youth-Led Climate Justice Groups Helping to Save the Environment

We’ve seen youth rising to the call and become climate activists over the last year, and that’s largely in part because the stakes have never been higher.

New Yorker | June 15, 2019

The Right to a Stable Climate Is the Constitutional Question of the Twenty-first Century

“If a building is on fire and all the firefighters are off at a convention, can the neighbors break into the firehouse and run the firetrucks themselves? Or do they have to wait for permission, while the building burns down?”

Not Just for Kids

Giant animals parading through urban settings is a form of political theatre. When you leave Quesne’s mole-tonic cave (like Platonic, but better?), don’t leave the moles’ ethos behind.

Aug 3, 2018

Naomi Klein: Capitalism Killed Our Climate Momentum, Not “Human Nature”

We have all heard the various excuses for why the small matter of despoiling our only home just doesn’t cut it as an urgent news story… None of the excuses can mask the dereliction of duty.

Aug 8, 2019

Carolyn Kormann: Deforestation, Agriculture, and Diet Are Fuelling the Climate Crisis

The longer the world waits, the less capacity such solutions have for making a difference, as we are on the verge of surpassing tipping points in many places… At that point, it won’t matter if everyone becomes a vegetarian.

July 11, 2019

Carolyn Kormann: The Case for Declaring a National Climate Emergency

Given that the fate of millions of species, the future livelihoods of current high schoolers, and the stability of modern civilization rests in the balance, the only word to describe the situation is: emergency.

Extra Credit: Welcome to Caveland

If you find yourself inspired to try your hand at spelunking after spending time with Quesne’s moles, you’re in luck! The northeastern United States have some incredible cave formations.

Even if you’re not into spelunking, a visit to an official cave website is often a trip in and of itself…

Howe Caverns, New York

Technicolor dream-caves in upstate New York are the second-largest tourist destination (after Niagara Falls), and they offer some unique tour options; the Howe Caverns system also includes Secret Caverns, with a 100-foot underground waterfall and psychedelic folk art in the gift shop.

Laurel Caverns, Pennsylvania

The biggest caves in Pennsylvania, and the biggest sandstone caves in the world. Also in PA: Crystal Cave, Lincoln Caverns, Lost River Caverns, and Penn’s Cave and Wildlife Park (spot some moles in the wild?).

Northeastern Cave Conservancy

Many caves have limited public access, for both safety and conservation (including Sybil’s Cave in New Jersey, pictured). The Northeastern Cave Conservancy is “committed to the conservation, study, management, and acquisition of caves” and provides safe tours.

Natural Stone Bridge and Caves, New York

Stone Bridge is the largest marble cave entrance in the eastern U.S. The system includes waterfalls and a 3-4 hour cave tour. Also in NY: Ellenville Fault Ice Caves, which fill with snow in the winter and stay cold year-round.