all our days are full of breath: a record of momentum (brochure text)

all our days are full of breath: a record of momentum brings together two artists who foreground the body and movement as material in evolving choreographic and installation-based works. Jessica Karuhanga and Brandy Leary transform the gallery into a place of kinesthetic field work: part performance, part laboratory, part choreographed sculpture. The artists utilize bodies, gestures and reciprocal objects as their materials. Their work strives to mine personal, cultural, ancestral, and corporeal archives.

The spectrum of the new archive created in the process offers a multitude of exits from and entrances to the artists’ work. It is not fixed and inert, but fluid and permeable, and constantly breathing. This exhibition explores endurance of the ephemeral and its transmission as a critical aspect of performance, and shows the subsequent creation of information and data that extend and enhance the experience. The performance lives on in the viewer. What we say, think, witness, and dance, leaves traces. Some visible. Some less visible. All real and none more or less actual than the other. The gap between live performance and physical traces of its movements draws attention to the presence and absence of the body, considering “how performance comes off the body.” *

Working collaboratively with artists and objects to create a space of deceleration, Leary’s work explores transmissive expanses of gesture through divergent dance and movement forms that offer spaces of effort and failure, expertise and unknowing, as well as curiosity through a post-disciplinary lens. In Karuhanga’s work, objects and gestures will be collectively determined and negotiated by performers. Mining personal archives and collective digital data, performers utilize these materials as a channel, understanding that all matter carries weight and all objects are both their presence and weight of their history.

* from a conversation with Francisco-Fernando Granados

 

 

 

ESSAY: Tender Skeletons: Choreography in the Cube

Tender Skeletons: Choreography in the Cube.

 

Walking down buildings

making out with friends

talking to strangers

we dance like no one is watching

we find a roof top to shout from

we find an alley to dance in

we look across the Brooklyn bridge

to see what won’t be there the day after tomorrow

this moment, on repeat

till we sweat, swagger, and make asses of ourselves

but who fucking cares really

this is nothing, except

everything

until its not and we miss it

miss you

Is what I am saying actually getting through?

the math problems are in progress

my body hurts like hell

thinking is doing

times that by countless wishes & wants, aches & pains

and 1 brick wall, 1 black eye, 1 more song

And let’s call it a day

 

 

There is a resurgence of interest in dance and choreography in the visual arts and in its related galleries and institutions. We are seeing an expansion of the practice as well as a new found prominence of liveness in exhibitions.  It is imperative to assess how this expanded practice of liveness affects the artwork, the artists, and the exhibition space.  With mutual openness and support between the visual arts and dance, there is the potential for this enthusiasm to grow from a trend to a movement. Through historical examples this essay will show connections between dance and the visual arts, an exploration into the contemporary presence and power of live art, and finally, discuss related issues, concerns and look towards the future in the hope that the relationship between dance and visual art may be an enduring and productive one.

 

Laying the foundation

An essential aspect of dance is its liveness, which does not lend itself easily to the creation of physical evidence or documentation. From ritual to social and political, expressive to entertainment, dance has been part of most cultures in some form or another and often had close ties to visual art and artists. Art works like the The Peasant Dance painted by Flemish renaissance artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder in 1567 show us aspects of social dancing and its related revelry in the 16th century; Degas’s obsession with dance is demonstrated repeatedly in his noted Impressionist works.

 

Although we know aspects of dance history due to traces of evidence that remain, so much of its history is also lost.  A static painting or a text describing a dancer, does not tell us much about the movements of the body.  It shows us a dancer, but not the dance. Photography, film, and video have helped to change this and to broaden the knowledge and documentation of movement.  These media formats have chronicled a reality of motion, movements and dance styles rather than static ones. 

 

Looking to some key transformational shifts in more recent years, the early twentieth-century American Modern Dance pioneers Isadora Duncan, Loie Fuller, and Ruth St. Denis, as well as German choreographers Rudolf von Laban and Mary Wigman, began to break with the strict traditions of the ballet and work with improvisation.  This led to the innovators in the 1920s, such as Doris Humphrey and Martha Graham. Graham’s style was based on the expressive capacity of the human body and her work crossed artistic boundaries and embraced every artistic genre; she collaborated with and commissioned work from the leading visual artists, musicians, and designers of her day. The “Graham Technique,” based on stylized breathing practices, completely changed modern dance and continues to be taught today.

 

Other notable leaders in the third generation of Modern Dance included Katherine Dunham, Paul Taylor, Alvin Ailey, and Pina Bausch.  This movement looked to push dance and performance to new places both physically and visually, and each collaborated with visual arts for aspects of their practice and performances. Meanwhile, Merce Cunningham―who frequently collaborated with visual artists and experimental composers such as Robert Rauschenberg, Bruce Nauman, and John Cage―used theories of chance to create much of his choreography. Cunningham presented his first solo concert in New York in April 1944 with composer John Cage.

 

Simone Forti studied improvisation with Anna Halprin through the Dancers Workshop in San Francisco.  She and her husband, the sculptor Robert Morris, later moved to New York. In New York Forti studied composition with Robert Dunn at Merce Cunningham’s studio, where she was introduced to the work of John Cage. She also met Yvonne Rainer, Steve Paxton, Trisha Brown, and Deborah Hay, among others, who in the early 1960s formed Judson Church Dance Theatre.  These artists were radically examining and altering dance and performance, rejecting the concepts of Modern Dance and creating the principles and ethos of what was to become “Post-Modern Dance.”  This term, coined by Yvonne Rainer, meant simply that “theirs was a generation that came after modern dance” (Barnes). There were many new aesthetic principles that came out of this time, but one thing united them:  the desire to reconceive and redefine the genre of dance.

 

The Judson Church era rejected many of modern dance’s principles of expression and virtuosity. They worked conceptually and with task-based pedestrian movement and gesture. Rainer’s “NO Manifesto” represents some of the ideas and concepts from this time:

 

No to spectacle.
No to virtuosity.
No to transformations and magic and make-believe.
No to the glamour and transcendency of the star image.
No to the heroic.
No to the anti-heroic.
No to trash imagery.
No to involvement of performer or spectator.
No to style.
No to camp.
No to seduction of spectator by the wiles of the performer.
No to eccentricity.
No to moving or being moved.

 

While the period of the mid-1970s to the early 80s brought the virtuosic back into fashion for dance, it also brought Hip Hop to mainstream culture, while MTV and the music video led dance and cinematography down new avenues of collaboration; this alliance also brought together the corporeal with political and pop culture through music, narrative, and physicality collectively dominated by black performers.

 

The 2000s have seen a continued expansion of choreographic concepts and production in close conversation with visual art. There is a deeper recognition that dance is not only a flowing, metaphorical, non-verbal art form, done to music and made for the stage, but that it has endless possibilities of concept, form, and presentation. Dance is also reinforcing its relationship with scholarship and the academy, as more and more texts and dance scholars exist, and related courses and academic programs are being offered internationally. We are also seeing performance departments and “dance friendly” spaces opening up in major art institutions such as the Tate Tanks which focuses on live art, performance, installation and film. They have also created Performance at Tate: Into the Space of Art which is an “exploration of the place of performance art and performativity in the museum” with a committee of scholars, writers and practitioners. The Whitney has developed a Performance Committee to foster the curation and presentation of performance of all kinds, and hired Jenny Schlenzka, Assistant Curator for Performance as well as Jay Sanders as Curator and Curator of Performance after he co-organized the 2012 Biennial in which he commissioned a work by choreographer Sarah Michelson among other dance and performance based works. The MoMa, continues to make space for live art and dance such as in On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century in which multifarious connections were made to dance and drawing through performance, installation and drawings. Musée de la danse in northwestern France led by choreographer Boris Charmatz states in their manifesto that

 

We have reached an exciting period where museography opens itself up to ways of thought and technologies which allow to imagine something completely different from a mere exhibition of traces, faded costumes, models of stage settings, and scarce photographs of shows. We are at a time of history where a museum can be alive and lived in as much as a theatre is, can include a virtual space, offer a contact with dance that would be at the same time practical, esthetic and spectacular.

 

It is an active time in the exchange between live art and visual art. However, performance in the art institution is not new.  The impact of Judson Dance Theatre, The Fluxus Movement, Marina Abromavic, Bruce Nauman, and numerous others whose performance work in gallery and museum spaces brought together conceptual art, dance, and performance was substantial.  However, many examples of performance in a museum―particularly dance― were typically framed as programmed events, and as such they were seen as secondary to the exhibitions of visual artworks, and metaphorically relegated to the outskirts of the institution.  Because of their ephemeral nature, the performances did not find their way into the archive of the institutions, or into the canon of contemporary art. Jenny Schlenzka, the associate curator at MoMA PS1 seconds this when she says, “There’s been great performance work at MoMA, but it’s been on the side, we don’t want to go back to the 60s, when dance was an alternative to the institution.” (nytimes.com) Historically and by definition, dance seemed to be on the outside of “contemporary art,” which led to the notion that contemporary art was something made by visual artists only. This is noted in Andre Lepeki’s Introduction to Dance as a Practice of Contemporaneity when he notes, “As for the history of ‘body art’, it seems to ignore Western Dance.  For example, we might read in a contemporary art magazine a whole essay on falling bodies without a single mention of this fundamental concept’s history in modern dance” (14).

 

Nonetheless, the past decade in particular has seen dance and choreography utilized as a way to think, make, curate, and critique and in which artists, curators, and scholars propose critical perspectives and exchanges through the choreographic.  One example of this would be Blackwood Gallery’s part conference, part workshop, part presentation forum - Running with Concepts: The Choreographic Edition where dance artists, scholars, writers and professors came to together to explore how the body and choreography is used to consider issues from geography, borders, and freedom to capitalism, labor, participation and care.  It is helpful to be reminded that dance employs intuitive tools, devices, and philosophies, and shares concepts and theories that situate itself within the canon of contemporary art. From theories and approaches such as performativity, identity politics, or drawing on minimalism and conceptualism to name but a few touch points to practical or functional tools like editing, improvisation, use of repetition, proximity, and duration. Recent examples of this include exhibitions such as Per/Form; How to do things with(out) words curated by Chantal Pontbriand or A Choreographed Exhibition curated by Mathieu Copeland. Artists like Ame Henderson, Diane Borsato or Brendan Fernandes also use expanded ideas of the choreographic, the archive and dance as their medium and underline that critical thought and the body are deeply interwoven and both dance and the visual arts are expanding this deep connection.  Choreographic tools and the terrain of the choreographic are set up well to be flexible and address the needs of contemporary issues, and many visual artists have worked with dance in their own work. Issac Julien, Mike Kelly, Matthew Barney, Tino Segal, Tanya Lukin Linklater, and Joan Jonas are but a few visual artists who have looked to these devices in their work.  Dance artists such as Boris Charmatz, Yvonne Rainer, Simone Forti, Jerome Bel, and La Ribot are just a few also being recognized, shown, and now collected in contemporary art contexts.  The lines between artistic mediums are blurring and the mediums are being reassessed and redefined by both genres in practice and theory, and it is being asked with some frequency: Why dance? Why choreography? Why now?

 

Do not waste a movement

 

                                                               Step

off

in to

off of

beside

the stage

in time

and space

we move

Closer

as the world gets further

do not waste a movement

a moment

You own it

 

I can hear the audience breathing

And bags of potato chips being opened

Laughter at me? For me? With me?

Narcissist

 

do not waste a movement

a moment

You own it

 

 

The presence and power of liveness

Contemporary performance -- in particular, dance -- is engaged in an active and broad dialogue about its position in the art world (its past, present, and future).  We witness more visual artists exploring choreographic work, gesture, and materiality of the body, and as a result, more and more choreographers being invited into visual art based galleries and institutions.

So, why is this resurgence occurring and why is it important now? The modern technological influence likely plays a role as our attachment to machines and devices and a sedentary, busy culture, heightens our desire for presence, kinetic knowledge, and human exchange. This interest in the choreographic has also been encouraged or reinforced by an institutional desire to remain relevant―programming opening and closing events and live performances as a tactic for outreach and viewer engagement; knowing that visitors, on average, spend fifteen to thirty seconds in front of a work of art (Rosenbloom, The Art of Slowing Down in a Museum), live time-based art might give the viewer a chance to slow down, and deepen the relationship to the work through extended observation and kinesthetic connection and experience. Shifting the usual frame of viewing, and combining stasis and motion, allows for the artist, the object, the space, and the spectator to carve out new relationships, lines of inquiry, and insight. We may be witnessing a deepening turn towards the experience economy, and as an alternative to more static cultural exhibitions. Fundamentally, some of the urgency and importance of this “trend” lies in how the body exists in relation to time and space and how we relate to and engage with each other.  Jenn Joy, author of The Choreographic, has noted, “choreography invites a rethinking of orientation in relationship to space, to language, to composition, to articulation and to ethics. To engage choreographically is to position oneself in relation to another, to participate in a scene of address that anticipates and requires a particular mode of attention, even at times against our will” (Joy.1).

 

In a lecture at the Brooklyn Museum in the Global Feminisms exhibition series, Rebecca Belmore stated that “Performance is personal—it’s my person, it’s my body, with my body I can address history, I can address the immediate, I can address political issues.” (2007) With immigration bans, refugee crises, racism, and related violence, we see that bodies—mainly the bodies of those who are marginalized—are at risk. In their opening editorial on the theme of “Force” in the Winter 2017 issue of C Magazine, taisha pagget and Erin Silver state—referring to Black Lives Matter, the Orlando shooting, Idle No More, and Standing Rock that “as 2016 unfolded and we witnessed bodies exert, resist, and negotiate power, we became concerned to test the value of thinking and making in relation to the body as materially formed, or forming, in the face of these present day political urgencies.”

 

Dance situates itself in the expansive arena of contemporary art through its ethos of endurance, even while it is also powered by its absence. It is to this that dance owes part of its intuitive and political strength. In his Dance: Documents of Contemporary Art, Lepeki argues that when we consider these features of dance “it starts to become clearer why dance appears as an energizing and catalyzing element in contemporary art and critical thought” (16).

Dance’spresence also has its counter - absence. Performance’s ontology, as Peggy Phelan refers to in her booked UnMarked, The Politics of Performance, is in its presence, and thus also its absence. Phelan famously states:Performance’s only life is in the present. Performance cannot be saved, recorded, documented, or otherwise participate in the circulation of representations of representations: once it does so, it becomes something other than performance” (1).

 

Dance and performance’s “ephemeral” history and nature- that it appears and then disappears - is part of its strength as well as its potential transience. That dance work is even all that ephemeral, is something to query further. However, the terminology allows us an opportunity to notice and discuss the impact of its visibility and invisibility, the tangible and the evanescent, its appearance and disappearance. That the artwork is noted for its ephemerality may not always encourage attention also be paid to its other manifestations of presence such as traces and residues. Taking into account reciprocal objects, markings and detritus, to the less discernible material such as sensation, memory and embodied experience (in both the performer and the audience?) for example.  Given that both ends of this archival spectrum bring its own kind of data with substantial information, the latter need not be dismissed as inconsequential or impermanent. Performance gives a significant opportunity to see through the lens of embodied experience.  In Toronto based dance artist Brandy Leary’s work she furthers this as she notes of her most recent project, “Ephemeral Artifacts attempts to unsettle notions of dance’s ephemerality; the perception that it is momentary and fleeting…” She goes on to say,

Examining the friction between ephemerality and tangibility this work unfolds as a collaborative examination of accumulated practice and accumulated presence through the material of the body. Bodies archive dance, history, ancestors and shared practices, collapsing time to render them always present and always contemporary through channeling and summoning.  These bodies and gestures do not disappear the moment after they are performed, they transform into other things, holding a politic, a record, a resistance, and a discourse that continues to work on us long after the moment of contact.

 

While in visual and performance artist Jessica Karuhanga’s recent work through a brass channel, she showcases how performance both endures through gestures as well as the performativity of objects informed by their previous histories and actions. In this work, gestures are collectively determined and negotiated by performers for the performance, and installation. The performers excavate personal archives with cultural and ancestral history and meaning as well as collective digital data.  They utilize these materials as a channel for their performances, understanding that all matter carries weight and all objects are both their presence and the weight of their history, in the moment, and beyond.

 

Peggy Phelan proposes that performance offers us a virtual form, a memory; rather than subject itself to the reproduction of its own image, it returns only as the persistence of its trace.  In addition, dance’s ephemerality shows the possibility of creating artworks distant from commodity and fetishization systems like that of tangible objects, indicating the plausibility of establishing alternate economies of objecthood in the arts.

 

An important aspect of historicizing and archiving live work, asks that space be considered for what and who may go under represented. If we do not expand upon historically exclusive practices in which the art canon and its related archival practices were based in Euro-centric, patriarchal power remains the status quo.  In her essay Archives: Performance Remains, author Rebecca Schneider asks, “If we consider performance as a process of disappearance, of an ephemerality read as vanishment (versus material remains), are we limiting ourselves to an understanding of performance predetermined by our cultural habituation to the logic of the archive?” She goes on to propose “if we consider performance as “of” disappearance, if we think of ephemerality as “vanishing”, and if we think of performance as the antithesis of “saving”, do we limit ourselves to an understanding of performance predetermined by a cultural habituation to the patrilineal, West Identified (arguably white-cultural) logic of the Archive?”

 

Being seen and being visible, is certainly part of the nature of live work and this possible reciprocal gaze is part of the concern of liveness. Political, economic and social movements have always revealed themselves in art making and cultural practice and through this visibility, presence as well as absence. Dance has built-in tools and apparatus to address some visibility issues facing contemporary society. It is intrinsic through the very nature of the body as device and tool. We are an assemblage of stories, anecdotes, scars and triumphs where practice meets theory. Performing one’s experiences, concerns and politics, connect to one’s visibility, freedom or lack thereof.  Without one’s voice, body, movement and representation, disappearance or vanishing is more likely. How we move, or don’t, matters.  Everyday choreographies are embedded in our daily lives. It is how we move in time, and space, alone/solo and together/duets, trios and groups. How we get to work, gather with friends, communicate throughout our day, lay our heads down at night and ways we come together to celebrate, to protest, to strive and attempt to thrive.  The choreographic is a form that has the capabilities to address present day concerns of the choreo-political. How, where, or when one moves, or has the freedom to move is at stake. Freedom or lack thereof is central.

In Andre Lepecki’s essay Choreopolice and choreopolitics: or the task of the dancer, he refers to this freedom;

Hannah Arendt makes the following observation: “[...] we have arrived in a situation where we do not know —at least not yet — how to move politically.” …As she writes in several of her essays, “DerSinn von Politik ist Freiheit” — a sentence translated into English as: “The meaning of politics is freedom” (2005:108).2/ the loss of knowing how to move politically results in, as much as produces, the loss of being able to find sense, meaning, and orientation, in moving freely…. And yet, performatively, Arendt’s fragment persists, resonates, unsettles, stirs. Its afterlife expresses and beckons a challenge and a provocation that are both political and kinetic — in one word, choreopolitical — a challenge we must answer.  (5)

 

 

can you hold this for me?

the archive is sweating

exercising its muscle

daily

we are workers

to the bone to the body

to the band

to the ladies in the back

to all the girls I’ve loved

practicing, action-ing, hustling

hard

to have and to hold

to preserve and neglect

transmitters - dance. it. out.

sweet holders of history

thank you for your work

sweat holders of history

thank you

 

The choreopolitical also finds connection with historicization and the archival. Due to dance and live arts’ temporality and performances’ identities being partly based on ephemerality or its disappearance, it has often been relegated to the periphery of the object-focused museum, and hence to the fringe of its archives (if archived at all). Fabien Maltais-Bayda and Joseph Henry discuss in their article Choreographing archives, curating choreographers: the dance retrospective that

Museums induce archivality into their objects under the logic of the collection… Of course, the archival nature of these sites is a source of both potentials, and problematics. Significant scholarship has demonstrated the processes of exclusion and oppression that form the archive, and are perpetuated by it.[i] What is more, academic discourse has often placed the live arts in antagonistic opposition to the material archive (Schneider, 2011, p. 107). We do not suggest that these issues are inconsequential when dance is presented in the museum, indeed they must be considered seriously. Rather we suggest that the historicizing function of museums and other exhibition spaces offers a range of new approaches for presenting dance historically.

 

The importance of historicizing, and thus curating what contemporary artists are making even if traditional documentation or archiving the work may be more challenging than a static object, is being understood with more depth and frequency by institutions and those in positions of power within them. Although in some cases programming departments rather than curatorial departments have greater agility to respond to immediate concerns of artists as well as emerging artists, though these departments tend to wield different levels of power, budgets, and outreach. Agility and open-minded approaches to curation as well as documentation and archiving are important for the institution to stay responsive and relevant to the concerns and direction of all artists including those working in the live arts.

 

Artists are finding new ways in and around issues and concepts of documentation and are finding specific approaches that work for their own practice. When Tino Seghal sells one of his “situations”, the work is verbally described in the presence of lawyers and certain details and agreements are made orally. For example, the artwork must be installed by someone trained by the artist; those enacting the piece must be paid a decent wage; the work must be shown for a minimum of six weeks (the length of an exhibition rather than a theatre performance); and the piece cannot be photographed.  Yvonne Rainer works with transmitters to teach her work to performers she is sharing the work with or passing it on to. A transmitter is one who has learned the work directly from Rainer – so is a living archive of the artwork. While other artists document and archive their work through traces, residue, media sources, and related objects and texts.

 

 

Asking how does performance come off the body thus becomes relevant. What remains? Should anything remain? As a consequence, what do we do with it? The more visible effects such as materials or objects used in performance like texts, notations, documentation, ephemera, markings and traces, can be displayed and exhibited extending the life, trace, and related discourse of the performance.  While the less visible, yet also significant, ephemeral elements such as experiential tracings, memory, embodied experiences, or body to body transmission between performers or between performer and viewer can be highlighted, discussed, and substantiated. This would also include concepts of body archiving that occurs within one’s own body as a performer or viewer. Traces of what we witness and experience remain with us in varying degrees. The body is a library of sorts. A well of embodied knowledge.  A living archive, carrying around the past, present and future.

 

Choreography in the Cube

How does the body find its place within the frame of the art institution, whose structure and function can often be at odds with liveness? Within this context, is there a danger that the body becomes drained of life, transformed, and dehumanized into an object or sculpture? And how might all of these considerations in turn transform the nature of dance and movement making?  The possibility of allowing space within the form and body to decelerate, change flow, step away from entertainment economies, alter performer-to-viewer relationships, and change historical and dramatic contexts of spectatorship are but a few potentialities.

 

As Claire Bishop notes in The Perils and Possibilities of Dance in the Museum: Tate, MoMA, and Whitney, dance has often been presented as “diversion rather than part of a historical narrative.” Bishop observes that the dialogue between dance and the museum is often one-way, and oftentimes solely on the museum’s terms.  Dance animates the galleries of the museum, but the museum’s frame has the potential to flatten and homogenize our experience of dance within it. 

 

As dance transpires within galleries and museums, shifts in thought and new considerations need to follow. History shows us through recent movements such as Land Art, Conceptualism, and Performance Art for example that opening and shifting conditions within the museum has occurred many times over and the recent interest of dance in these spaces is yet another opportunity to pursue the potential responsiveness of the institution and those running them to create space for contemporary concerns and methodologies.

 

Presenting dance and live art provides artists, curators, and programmers with distinctive challenges and issues, but none are so great as to make the endeavor insurmountable. Often the economics of performance is discussed as a deterrent.  Issues of value, labour, and payment for time spent/presence can and should be questioned; however, this questioning should be undertaken with resourcefulness, equity between mediums, and clarity of means, and it need not necessarily be an obstacle. Conversations, information sharing, and advocacy addressing labour and compensation in the field is happening at a grass roots level among artists on a daily basis.  Looking locally for a moment at Toronto, institutions such as the programming department at The Art Gallery of Ontario, Gallery TPW, Xpace, and others seek to present more dance and choreographic work, and to compensate the artists fairly (often consulting CADA, Canadian Alliance of Dance Artists) and to create thoughtful spaces for live art to exist in the gallery.  Blackwood Gallery is another institution that has shown interest and activity in curating choreographic practices.  In addition to presenting movement based installations, conferences, and performances, they recently held a forum titled: Don’t Forget about the Money to address best practices of presenting dance, choreography, and live art in various contemporary art contexts. “This forum asks that we not forget the money and that, instead, we develop a collective, open dialogue about the conceptual and logistical requirements of working with artists, choreographers, dancers, and presenters in a variety of spaces.” A report will be created from this and no doubt inform some key next steps to knowledge, awareness and best practices within the fields.  CADA and CARFAC (Canadian Artists' Representation/le Front des artistes) are both in the throes of also assessing and adjusting suggested fee structures to take present practices of dance in the visual arts into account.  Further to this, institutional structures or what sometimes may be considered “non-negotiable” can be interrogated, and possibly even negotiated in attempt to prioritize artistic/ discipline needs. Conceivably allowing to rearrange conditions to create new possibilities, relationships, and spaces where art that moves, can initiate some movement. This might include conditions and logistics ranging from room temperatures, floor conditions, green rooms and access to water to name a few basic conditions that affect choreographic exhibition making and presentation. These are also considerations for methodologies of creation; not all practices and types of performance will transfer well to all spaces. Concrete floors will be hard on dancer’s bodies if the practice involves impact such as jumping, lighting may or may not be needed and available. But beyond these logistics, care, context, proximity and relationships with the space and other art works may come into play. In addition, access to resources such as space, archives, promotions, and staff, will see a relationship with greater reciprocity between artists and institution. Whether a 5 minute or 5-week performance/ exhibition, space itself is often a key element to dance work in creation, rehearsal and performance. Having access to it, the cost, size, safety, warmth etc. As dance spaces likely appear more and more in institutions, whether makeshift or from the ground up, it is crucial that all parties work with the other, listen to the needs and concerns of the form and the artists, to make the exchange meaningful, productive, and enduring. This can certainly come from the top down, though often those at the top are also very focused on strategic plans, donors, and finances. Thus the curators, programmers and other staff of institutions should be empowered to take risks and pursue developments with care at the centre of a house of curation. 

 

Furthermore, going beyond the “event” of a performance, -as in the show starts and ends at a certain time - to look at dance and performance as “exhibition” also brings forth new temporal opportunities and concerns. How does the body occupy and hold space over time? This can involve a durational practice or there are other types of proposals we are witnessing depending on various artistic practices, such as asking how performance comes off the body and how it might manifest in the body’s absence. This certainly changes the nature and potential of performance and queries approaches to tracings, markings, and how absence and presence are embodied.

 

Claire Bishop notes in her essay Dance in the Museum, four points to problematize when looking at dance in the museum: Historical, audience and accessibility, pressure and finally, the financial. The historical refers to acknowledging the longevity of the relationship between dance and visual art and “the reinsertion of dance into the museum acknowledges this long history, and allows it to be made visible again.” However, she notes that within this history, dance has still remained on the exterior of the collection and often as programming and entertainment: “a way to enliven its mausoleal atmosphere and play into the demands of an experience economy. Resolving the temporalities of these conflicting demands— i.e., finding a way to present dance as part of a historical dialogue with visual art, not just entertainment— is one of the main challenges the museum now faces.” (72). Regarding audience and accessibility, there is potential for new audiences and in some cases for a less expensive ticket price than one may pay at a theatre. Yet she notes the downside of this is the potential “transience and lack of attention” from the viewer and the reality that viewers may be more likely to walk away from the work if they are not bound by the contracts of a theatre construct.  The third point referring to pressure, suggests that museums offer the potential to reconceptualize choreography in the context of the landscape, in form as well as in relation to the historical, political and social contexts offered. Naturally, not all work will translate to connect with these opportunities as with the museum’s conditions such as architecture, lighting, sound, visuals and thus some aspects of the form may continue to feel othered by the institution. Finally, the financial considerations may be prohibitive. Bishop notes that Unlike ticketed blockbuster exhibitions, performance is expensive, has no stable source of funding and does not recoup its costs. and we need to find a way to develop new funding models for dance.” It is correct there is need to develop these models but as mentioned previously, it is also necessary to reassess our presumptions about it being prohibitive. Developing new partnerships, reassessing how budgets are determined and delineated, working with granting bodies, and meeting with the dance and live art communities are sure-fire ways to expand financial rationale and capacity. In addition, invitations to artists to create within given budgets, laboratory or residency situations, or access to the museum’s cultural capital such as space, archives, and audiences spoken of earlier, all have potential to bring fruitful developments for all involved. I would add to this the curator and institutions ability to introduce the artist and their work to others in the field. i.e.: networking or longer term consideration to an artist and the work presented is something that can be an aspect of curatorial care and longer term resonance of the relationship between artists and institutions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Asking you to stay

talking archives with a widow

how do we hold on to what we can not hold

how do we let go

when every part aches

for the present

to be the past

in this moment

that is already gone

before the breath can catch up

 

I’m breathing in

You’re breathing out

 

please

don’t

 

leave a light on

a token, a trace, a trail

a footprint

not like in the book

though I would carry you anywhere

I am strong. I am in training

though never prepared for this day

though I am as ready as I will ever be

leave your mark

your hat on,

love

I’m leaving

Please don’t ask me

I will carry with me what is supposed to

you know

 

stay

 

with me

how do I

 

you know

 

I’m breathing in

You’re breathing out

 

I wrote it all down

missing (you) so much

so many details. lost

a cage of data. I capture you. I’ve got you now! I demand you

god damn you

stay

 

Conclusion

UK artist Rosalie Schweiker said during her talk No more fake orgasms: stop boosting the art world’s self-esteem “Most art institutions are completely and totally irrelevant for us now. They don’t support how we work, they only re-discover us when we are long dead, they defuse our art and politics with their evil infrastructures, which rely on unlimited unpaid labour to function.”  The institution has an opportunity right now through liveness to do the exact opposite. Through the challenges and opportunities that the art form presents, art institutions have the possibility to stay relevant, support artists’ work, recognize artists who are alive and making this work now - while also looking at the history of the art form, while seeking to bolster art making and risk taking and elevate rather than flatten the work. 

The voice of the body and its insistence to be seen, heard, and felt is strong. More and more spaces are further opening to the body’s power to persist, resist, and create new connection to the poetic and political through corporeal means. The progression and evolution of dance as a form in relation to exhibition spaces, time (historical as well as present day) and material (the body- who’s) has a light shining on it that is long over due.

...current debates about “dance in the museum” will probably seem like a brief blip that was finally resolved by the presentation of flexible, hybrid spaces... With practical problems likely to be resolved in the near future, we can then turn to the question of how dance’ s history might be presented as part of a museum’ s collection, and not simply in the form of temporary events and exhibitions. (Bishop)

 

The body is pushing beyond event, to exhibition, beyond entertainment to experience, no longer content to be on the outskirts. We are at a critical time in these openings where institutions can assist to support directions artists are moving.  It is a time to share resources. There is an opportunity for spaces to become places of ritual, experience, and embodied and kinesthetic research and fieldwork.  Within this framework questions of value, labor and payment for time spent and presence can be explored and addressed. As artists are showing us, the time for this is now. Space and structures needs to be extended for artists’ concerns and urgencies to guide, shift and open institutional arrangements and frameworks. From who gets curated and why, to details like spatial conditions and structures and use of resources. We are in the midst of an exciting and essential time of inquiry in contemporary art. Let the political, intelligent and radical body express itself beyond the stage.  Let us move and be moved.

 

 

 

 

Stillness is for the dead

pause for a moment

perhaps for the cause

and a time that eludes description

but is creating movements

movement movements

there are no words

yet we talk back

even though failure

mocks us

bruised knees

blue today, purple tomorrow

tender

skin and bones

tender skeletons

raw casing

delicate hearts

tenderhearted

bravery

stay brave, not still

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography

Ahmed, Sara, Queer Phenomenology: Orientations, Objects, Others. 53. Duke University Press. 2006

Barnes, Sally, Terpsichore in Sneakers: Post-Modern Dance, Mariner Books, 1980

Beaumont, Cyril W. Ballet Design Past & Present. The Studio Ltd. England. 1946

Belmore, Rebecca.  “Speech for Global Feminisms at the Brooklyn Museum.” 2007. Accessed February 20, 2017. youtube.com/watch?v=YhWkrHDZue4

Beauchamp, Pierre. Chorégraphie, ou l'art de décrire la danse. Paris, 1700

  • Bishop, Claire. The Perils and Possibilities of Dance in the Museum: Tate, MoMA, and Whitney- Dance Research Journal, Volume 46, Number 3, December 2014, pp. 62-76 (Article). Cambridge University Press

Butler, Judith. The Force of Fantasy, Feminism, Mapplethorpe and Discursive Excess. 1990. p106

Butte, Maren, Maar, Kirsten, McGovern, Fiona, Rafael, Marie-France, Schaffaf, Jorn. (eds.) Assign and Arrange- Methodologies of Presentation in Art and Dance. CITY Sternberg Press. 2014.

Charmatz, Boris- Manifesto for a Museum. http://www.museedeladanse.org/en/articles/museum-s-manifesto-1

Clausen, Barbara. Performing Histories: Why the Point Is Not to Make a Point… After All Journal. Spring 2010.

Copeland, Matthieu, Pellegrin Julie. Choreographing Exhibitions. France. Les Presses Du Reel. 2014

Davida, Dena, Gabriels Jane, Hudon, Véronique Pronovost, Marc. (eds.) Curating Live Arts: Global Perspectives, Envisioning Theory and Practice in Performance. 2017. Not yet published

Ellenwood, Ray. The Complete 1948 Manifesto of the Montreal Automatists. Translation and Introduction by Ellenwood.1985. Exile Editions Ltd.  Toronto/ Dance Collection Danse)

Grata, Agnieszka. Shall we dance? -If Tate Modern was Musée de la danse. 2 December 2015. Tate Etc. issue 35: Autumn 2015. tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/shall-we-dance

Jones, Amelia. Presence in Absentia, Experiencing performance as Documentation. Art Journal, Vol. 56, No. 4. College Art Association. 2009

Joy, Jenn. The Choreographic- 2014. MIT Press

Kassing, Gayle (15 August 2014). Discovering Dance. Human Kinetics Publishers. p. 132. 

Khokar, Mohan (1984). Traditions of Indian Classical Dance. India: Clarion Books. pp. 73–76.

La Rocco, Claudia. Museum Shows With Moving Parts, New York Times. New York City, August, 2012

Lee- Elliott, Theyre. Paintings of the Ballet. Cathedral Street Publishers Glasgow. 1947.

Lepecki, Andre. Exhausting Dance: Performance and the Politics of Movement. Routledge, 2006 

-Choreopolice and choreopolitics: or the task of the dancer. Theatre Dance Review Winter 2013, Vol. 57, No. 4 

- Dance. Documents of Contemporary Art. (ed) White Chapel Gallery London,. MIT Press, Cambridge Massachusetts. 2012

Maar, Kirsten. What Can a body do? Reconsidering the role of the moving body in exhibition contexts. stedelijkstudies.com/journal/what-a-body-can-do/

pagget, taisha and Silver, Erin.  “Force” C Magazine. Editorial, Winter 2017 issue.

Phelan, Peggy. Unmarked: The Politics of Performance. Routledge. 1993

Rosenbloom, Stephanie. The Art of Slowing Down in a Museum. October 9, 2014. nytimes.com/2014/10/12/travel/the-art-of-slowing-down-in-a-museum.html

Schneider, Rebecca.  Archives: Performance Remains, Performance Research, 2001, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 100 – 108.

Schouvaloff, Alexander. The Art of Ballet Russe. The Serge Lifar Collection of Theatre Designs, Costumes. Yale University Press, New Haven and London. 1997

Schweiker, Rosalie. No more fake orgasms: stop boosting the art world’s self-esteem Art is not a Commodity: Examining Economic Exceptionalism in Art’, ICA, London, 18 February 2017

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A Brief History of Ballet. Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre. https://www.pbt.org/learn-and-engage/resources-audience-members/ballet-101/brief-history-ballet/

Performance at Tate: Into the space of art tate.org.uk/research/publications/performance-at-tate

Dances of the Early Renaissance (15th Century) - socialdance.stanford.edu/Syllabi/early_renaissance.htm

 

 

 

Mafa Makhubalo

Lentswe la Setjhaba (Voices of the Land)

Mafa Makhubalo

 

 

I visit Mafa Makhubalo’s rehearsal on a sweltering September day at Collective Space, in the Junction of Toronto, where the dancers are literally dripping with sweat.  It is 30°C and they are dancing hard.  Mafa and three dancers, Kimya Hypolite, Tamla Matthews and Roushelle Reign, prepare to show a section of the work. The drummer, N’dere Nimon, has a djembe between his legs and is ready to play.  Music begins and Mafa snaps his fingers to count the dancers in, while one of the dancers second that with heavy hand claps, and they kick into an incredibly physical combination with intricate footwork, impressive upper body strength, and pulsing rhythms.  I think I stopped breathing for a moment as I took in their percussive and intense movements.  Calm and strong, the dancers seem as comfortable on the floor as they are in their feet. Their dance is at times accelerated and sharp while other moments find a flow like a wave washing over them.  Smooth meets staccato in these skilled and versed bodies.

 

The highly athletic section ends, and once they catch their breath – which doesn’t take long –  Mafa asks to see it again, working to refine and nuance aspects of the combination.  The dancers take a moment to let the beat soak into their bodies, counting in, preparing mind and body.  The pulse in the room between bodies and beats is riveting.  A fusion of contemporary, African, modern, breakdance movement, and gesture are being exploredThe individuality of each dancer shines, yet they are united by the movement and their push to accomplish their very tasks.  At times, it seems celebratory, raw, and full of release; at other times, it is controlled, defined, and rigorous.

 

As they prepare to show another section of the work, they all put on socks and rubber boots.  This preparatory ritual is as performative as it is transitional.  The performers, along with Mafa, stand straight together, then bend their torsos in a hunch so that their hands reach their boots.  The music begins, and they clap hands together and on the inner and outer boot with tempo, speed and accuracy.

 

“I was born playing gumboot,” Mafa says.  I speak with him over the phone days later, as he cares for his daughter. Mafa is a father of two.  He has a 3-year old girl and the recent addition to his family – Azania Susumu Mohau, whose name means “Africa moves forward slowly” –  was born five months ago.  If he is under-slept, it doesn’t show.  Mafa has energy to spare.

 

Mafa Makhubalo was born and raised in Sasolburg, South Africa.  Growing up, gumboot was part of the fabric of his birthplace, and came to be an integral part of his practice, career, and way of life.  Gumboot was born out of South Africa, created by miners who were denied the right to talk to each other while working. The different sounds created were distinct codes and messages to other workers.  A physical language, form of protest, and dance form was born from their oppression.

 

Mafa grew up during the time that apartheid was being dismantled and transitioning to a new era. “Most of us were gangsters, and art helped us to move away from this.”  He notes that many of his friends from his home town ended up in jail, and many of them are no longer alive.  He reflects that dance and art came as a calling to help him and others move away from the harder lifestyle they were living.  “We began asking: how can we fight without fighting?  Art taught us to love. We had forgotten to love, because we grew up angry, we didn’t know why. It became normal.”

 

Mafa tells me that through his art form he found he could express himself, find possibilities, and the hope that life was not so narrow.  “We stopped fearing our lives and ourselves.  We found courage.”  When he first applied to emigrate, he was rejected, as he didn’t know where Canada was, and he had confused Canada with the United States.  He then did his research and got a letter of support from Toronto’s Ballet Creole.  At that point, Mafa had to find his way, with no money, no friends and nowhere to stay.

 

Today, Mafa speaks of the long desire for a space, or a series where work can be presented without classification.  “Without saying because I am from Africa, whatever movement I do is African dance.  Give us an opportunity to explore what is our own voice, how to communicate with an audience, and how we relate to their presence.”  Mafa notes that his voice and practice come from various influences and forms, and need not be classified under one umbrella.  “We want to decolonize the art, but we need space to do this.  We need to start from within for it to go beyond.  We need to explore how one form relates to the other and learn to trust our own form so we can also open it up.”  Mafa mentions that a series like Contemporaneity gives resources to explore facets of the many forms and influences of contemporary artists working in contemporary times.  Allowing the artist to break out of old definitions, barriers, and taxonomies.

 

The project Mafa and his team are working on is titled Lentswe la Setjhaba (Voices of the Land).  A section begins with the song Working Hard.  Each in their own world, the three dancers seem to be getting ready for something.  To go to work, to meet someone, to work up their courage. Their distinct worlds blur as they meet and come together in movement and motion.  Mafa notes the song is “Afro-house, that’s what I’m exploring, that energy. When I listen to this lately, I become myself, more of myself.  Also I wanted lyrics to be obvious.  I don’t need to hide.  I am creating living art, living experience.  We are workers.  What are we working for?  Is it purposeful, or for the sake of work?”  He goes on to explain that the dancers are each working with their own stories & struggles in the piece. “Being lost in aspects of ones’ struggle, when do you find yourself?  When we let go, the nuance comes in and we can move forward.”

 

As they dance, rhythms meet movements, each a separate entity, but also layering over each other to create complex patterns and narratives. “Together we find that rhythm that moves us. Rhythm is a human internet, we are able to send signals to each other, connect, and Iisten to each other.”

 

Through these rhythms and connections Mafa is interested in questioning, “How does one adopt their own culture into different cultures, and still be able to have a sense of comfort in who they are?  Gumboot tells stories, stories from those who came up with this form, it came from the pain of the miners. It is a revolutionary and protest dance, and we are using gumboot as a way of retaliating in our own field and world.”

 

Through themes of work, rhythm, and pattern, conversations are created between body and spirit, protest and resilience. As these songs, stories and histories radiate, they land us very much in today. In the moment. And very much in contemporary times.

 

 

-Jenn Goodwin. October 2017

 

 

 

 

 

EXCUSES

created for the dance "Accidents for Every Occasion"

 

I'm Sorry…

I didn’t mean it

I wasn’t thinking

Im embarrassed. I cant believe I did that. It’s a fine line really isn’t it. I ignored the signs.

I didn’t understand the instructions

 

 

I had no idea

I was framed

I was drunk

I was hurt…

I had other plans

I deserve it

Im cleansing

It was too late to call

I needed to feel something

You were away

 

It was cold out

I didn’t want to sleep alone

Im holding it for a friend

Im not from here

I was Pre menstral

It was a spur of the moment decision

I didnt know you would take it like that

You can be so sensitive

I was Nervous

I didn’t want to send the wrong message

The networkwas down 

The sun was in my eyes

I went out on a limb

I have to go

I was faking it

I don’t know when to stop

I cant say no

I got sick of waiting

I listened to my gut

Hey…I was misquoted

 

I was brought up catholic

I did it for the money

I did it for love

I didn’t know it was my last chance

I didn’t know it meant so much

I don’t own a watch

I haven’t slept

I was bored

I was in heels

I could not control myself

It wasonly 1 night

I blame myself only. And maybe you alittle bit.

 

 

I fell asleep

I fell of my bike

I was falling in love

I felt ignored

I was falling apart

I felt confused

I just fell into it

 

I didn’t think it would actually hit you

I didn’t know it would hurt

I was at my wits end

I was fucking pissed off

That song was playing

 

I couldn’t sleep

I pressed snooze

I pressed send

You pushed my buttons

You pushed your limits

You pressed play

 

I was distracted

I lost my patience

I lost track of time

I lost my confidence

I lost your number

I lost my keys

I lost my phone

I fucking lost it

 

 

He was greek

the lighting was perfect

He told me what I wanted to hear

I was on vacation

I left it at home

Im on my way to a wedding

Ive just come from a funeral

You looked at me and I melted

My defences were down

My parents were teachers

 

 

I am the youngest of 3

I am spoiled

I was lonely

I was high

I was listening to public enemy

I was between a rock and a hard place

you said you loved me

I thought I could handle it

It was highly recommended

It was cheap

I was young

 

It seemed poetic at the time

I didn’t ask questions

I didn’t understand the directions

I believed the hype

It was on sale

I believed you

I hoped for the best

I hoped to for something else

I was star struck

It was a 2 hr special of the simpsons

I forgot
 

I was taken for a ride

He took me for someone else

I took it standing up

I took it for the team

I was taken by him

I took the brunt of it

I took the heat

I took what I could get

 

I don’t know what its going to take

I don’t know when to stop

STOP

 

 

Care: Summerworks 2016 Curatorial Statement

 

A button I once owned declared, “Kindness is an act of rebellion”. Kindness, and notions of care, are associated with nurturing, tenderness and softness, and sometimes need to be just that. Yet care can also be harsh, tough, combative, conscious and loud. Care can be an agitator that embraces criticality. We care, so we make art, speak up, see shows, hit the wall, tread gently, go it alone, and come together. Care as a concept and philosophy has a deep rooted history in the ethics of early feminists and continues to be considered and rejected. In my opinion, care is needed more then ever, both as a response to minor quotidian dramas and the overtures of the catastrophe present in all of our lives.

Our bodies carry us through our lives.  The power of dance as a medium is its ability to connect us to our own bodies, and in turn, to the bodies of others. Throughout my life with dance and through the curation of this series, I have encountered artists who bring care to their craft and their community through the large and small issues that fuel their work. There is always potential for a reciprocity of action and intent between performers and viewers. We care that you are here, that you care enough to come, to buy a ticket, to applaud or leave, to discuss or dislike. The works in this series provide access to what each artist cares about. Care takes time. Thank you for placing your attention on these exceptional artists and this work that they care to make.

-JENN GOODWIN