Move: Choreographing You

Move: Choreographing You is an exhibition at Hayward Gallery, London from 13 October 2010 to 9 January 2011 which explores the interaction between contemporary art and dance. The experiments between visual artists such as Robert Morris and Robert Rauschenberg and dancers from Yvonne Rainer to Merce Cunningham in New York in the 1960s led to the insertion of bodily forms and movements into the visual art language, and three-dimensional objects into the landscape of dance. The exhibition reflects the exchanges between both art forms, and is curated on the premise that these exchanges should be experienced through visitor interaction and activation by performers.

Mike Kelley's "Adaption: Test Room Containing Multiple Stimuli Known to Elicit Curiosity and Manipulatory Responses" (1999/2010), photo by Alastair Muir, courtesy of Hayward Gallery

A life-size theatrical set with colorful objects ranging from a punching bag in the shape of a human form to a cylindrical bowl and a wire mesh are placed for visitors to play with. Titled Adaption: Test Room Containing Multiple Stimuli Known to Elicit Curiosity and Manipulatory Responses (2010), artist Mike Kelley modeled the set after Harry Harlow’s primate laboratory, a psychologist who investigated the impact of bodily contact and isolation on aggression and affection in monkeys in the 1950s and 60s. The set is presented with two films, a black and white dance choreography by Anita Pace in the manner of Martha Graham’s mythological dance pieces, and a large color projection of a dance filmed in Kelley’s installation of the same work created in 1999, where dance movements were derived from the monkeys in the laboratory experiments, with violent movements evoking the films of psychologist Albert Bandura’s studies of the effect of televised violence of on children. Kelley’s practice is recognized for its engagement with popular culture by recontextualizing the subject of his work, in this case, the aura of psychological studies and its pervasive influence on contemporary culture. Coursing through the theatrical set of the film which was arranged to evoke Isamu Noguchi’s sculptural sets produced for Martha Graham, are four actors including performers wearing gorilla suits. The combination of the physical laboratory with a dance expressing ritualistic gestures, and the language of the lengthy title which contributes to a mythical allure, produce a rule system where art forms are related to each other through a common theme. Born in Detroit, Michigan in 1951, Kelley received a BFA from the University of Michigan and an MFA from the California Institute of the Arts and now resides in Los Angeles.

Pablo Bronstein's "Magnificent Triumphal Arch in Pompeian Colours" (2010), photo by Alastair Muir, courtesy of Hayward Gallery

Pablo Bronstein’s Magnificent Triumphal Arch in Pompeian Colours (2010) is a monumental arch set in the gallery and forms the setting for an visitor or a dancer at intervals during the day, whose everyday movements are transformed upon stepping through the arch, making a sprezzatura-inspired flourish.  Bronstein’s installations, performances and two-dimensional works explores notions of private and public, individual and collective, by combining the language of architecture and dance. The grandiose title of the neo-classicist styled work speaks to Bronstein’s interests in drawing on the ways in which the built environment exerts power and intervenes in our everyday behaviors and use of space. According to the guidelines in the exhibition, “while the dancer performs, visitors become bystanders and etiquette decrees that during that time, no one except the performer can set foot in the space”, and the way the visitors are guided to circulate is reminiscent of Bronstein’s earlier work, Concept for a Public Square (2005) where visitors could not step across, but had to skirt around a low wall demarcating an area of dead space. The imposition of the guidelines satirize the continuing nostalgia and reverence for architectural structures which exude a sense of authority and grandeur, and the ways the public or the ideal citizen conforms to these conventions. Bronstein was born in 1977 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and attended the Slade School of Fine Art and Goldsmiths in London, where he now lives.

Christian Jankowski's "Rooftop Routine" (2007), photo by Alastair Muir, courtesy of Hayward Gallery

On entering the second level of the exhibition, one is drawn towards lively music from a film, Rooftop Routine (2007) by Christian Jankowski. The video is of Chua Suat Ling, of New York City’s Chinatown, hula-hooping and setting off a chain of hula hoopers across twenty-five rooftops in the area. It was a formal gesture to Trisha Brown’s 1973 Roof Piece which tested the impact of distance on improvised movements and involved dancers dressed in red across half a mile of rooftops in downtown New York. In similar fashion, Rooftop Routine played on the limitations of the camera in capturing the sequences of all the movements in one shot, and viewers of the film are left to imagine the communal experience and the visual rhythms of the hula hoopers with their circular movements against the grid-like views of the city. The participants’ prominence in Jankowski’s works are emblematic of his process, where he collaborates with people from all walks of life, from fortune tellers and magicians to street performers. In this case, it was a chance glimpse of Chua Suat Ling’s daily hula hoop routine, which provided Jankowski with the inspiration for the piece. Jankowski’s performance-based works continue the spirit of the improvised nature of the dance movement from the 1960s and 70s, from its concept and process through to its eventual performance. Hula hoops are placed in front of the video, for visitors to practice or to follow the instructions given by the red-suited Chua Suat Ling on the screen. Jankowski was born in 1968 in Göttingen, Germany and is now based in Berlin. His recent solo exhibition, The Perfect Gallery, was held at Pump House Gallery, London.

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