Move Choreographing You

The show Move Choreographing You at the Hayward Gallery in London (ends January 9th)* aims to explore the interactions between art and dance, starting from the end of the 1950s. Unfortunately, despite a number of interesting works included in the show, the exhibition falls short of being a success. The selection is far from enough, the aim of the show is not adequately articulated, and we end up with too many facile, amusing, interactive pieces, plus a few others which leave one wondering why they were included (like the eight-channel video piece by Isaac Julien, whose only choreographed dimension seems to be to make the viewer move from screen to screen in order to see it: Doug Aiken is better in this regard). It is doubtless symptomatic that one of the pieces in the show is an installation by Robert Morris at the Tate in 1971, as it was reproduced in 2009: sanitized fun-for-the-whole-family, its conceptual dimension lost.

To a degree, this is also the case for the video works by Dan Graham, ‘PresentContinuousPast,’ where the image of the visitor is replayed with a timelapse of eight seconds; a remarkable piece, but presented here as a fairground attraction.  That’s the case for the obstacle course (parcours) by Bill Forsythe, ‘The fact of the matter,’ a game for (large) children that does not seem to connect to the choreographer’s work on the body and space. Christian Jankowski’s hula hoop is sage in comparison with other works using the same device. A few remaining pieces in the show are more complex, less playful and inciting reflection. Boris Charmatz’s sensory room, ‘héâtre-élévision,’ where, for 52 minutes, lying in the dark on a piano-bed, one watches video of dance as absurd as these: it is not especially fun, one does not play, but one experiments, supine, an extreme position of spectator, disoriented, disconnected, a voluntary prisoner. I also liked Franz West’s anti-ergonomic ‘adopted’ objects, impossible to manipulate, towards which one must adapt, and not the reverse; neuroses objectified, according to West.

There are two most most interesting pieces; dense, intimate, not exhibitionist or comical. The ‘Green Light Corridor’ by Bruce Nauman is so narrow that one must walk through it sideways, one’s nose against the wall, aware of keeping one’s balance, moving slowly  and cautiously; the green light adds a slight uneasiness that seizes the spectator. The other is  the installation by Lydia Clark called ‘The house is the body: penetration, ovulation, germination, expulsion,’ in which the spectator penetrates with difficulty, must struggle to maintain one’s path in the midst of loose balls and various tangles, and find refuge in this tear-shaped tent. It is of course a piece about procreation, gestation, and birth, no doubt from a feminist angle, but it is also perhaps a metaphor for artistic creation, or simply for life itself, from an angle half Catholic (you give birth in pain), and half Buddhist (the incessant cycle of life and death).

But this somewhat disappointing show (quite far from the much richer and more reflective A Theatre without Theatre at MACBA), it redeems itself (and merits a visit) through its rich archival selection, where one can see close to two hundred dance performances, organized by theme, period, artist, etc. It is a remarkable archive and I hope will remain long after the show.

*The show will then go to Munich (February to May), and then to Dusseldorf (July to September).

texte en français

Photographs by the author. Images of the works by Bruce Nauman, being represented by ADAGP, will be pulled from the blog after the show finishes in Dusseldorf.

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