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
until its not and we miss it
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
as the world gets further
do not waste a movement
You own it
I can hear the audience breathing
And bags of potato chips being opened
Laughter at me? For me? With me?
do not waste a movement
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
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
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
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
leave a light on
a token, a trace, a trail
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,
Please don’t ask me
I will carry with me what is supposed to
how do I
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
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
there are no words
yet we talk back
even though failure
blue today, purple tomorrow
skin and bones
stay brave, not still
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