ISSUE 009 // MARCH 2018 // ISSN 2206-9615
CONTENTS Introduction 4 - 9 Durational Performance 10 - 21 Run Via Skype Chat What Moved Me: 22 - 29 Crossing From Visual Arts Becoming Monstrous In The In-between
30 - 39
An Attempt At 40 - 51 Singularity
Critical Dialogues is a biannual online publication. The next issue is scheduled for June 2018. Sign up to Critical Pathâ€™s e-news to stay informed. http://criticalpath.org.au
CRITICAL PATH STAFF Director Claire Hicks General Manager
PUBLICATION STAFF Guest Editor
Designer Lucy Kearney Cover Designer
Critical Path respectfully acknowledges the Gadigal people, the traditional custodians of the land where the organisation is based. 3
Lizzie Thomsonâ€™s four-channel video installation White Record, 2015, Commissioned by Carriageworks for 24 Frames Per Second. PHOTO: Zan Wimberley, Courtesy the artist. Image of four screens with a green tint are seen hanging adjacent from each other in a dark room.
Dance and visual artâ€Ś it is such an uneasy pairing and yet it persists. Perhaps it is this very uneasiness that makes it attractive. The trend of programming dance performances in museums and galleries over the past decade has sparked some lively and at times fraught discourse among artists, curators and scholars. Important work has been done, and continues to be done, in addressing the challenges involved in this restless pairing. These challenges range from negotiating disparate economic models and understandings of time and labour, to the tensions between varying historical narratives on trans-disciplinary experimentation.
Examples of work responding to these challenges include scholar Erin Brannigan’s writing on dance in galleries which aims to re-centre dance, by asking what it is about dance that the visual arts is desiring; the current exhibition “A Different Way to Move: Minimalismes, New York, 1960-1980” curated by Marcella Lista and presented at Carré d’Art in Nimes, which seeks to highlight the influence of American Postmodern Dance on the development of Minimalism; Sara Wookey’s recent residency at the TATE Modern involving a weekly movement practice for museum staff, in order to question the role of dance in the museum; and numerous critical texts which point to the often undervalued labour of the skilled performer in exhibitions, written by artists including Abigail Levine, Yvonne Rainer and Sara Wookey. 1 When Claire Hicks invited me to guest edit an issue of Critical Dialogues on the topic of dance and visual art, I was interested in bringing a slightly different perspective to the conversation. I was keen to hear from artists and curators who are engaged in experimentation across and between dance and visual art, with a focus on how these activities are providing space for questioning, and possibly expanding, their practices. What do these experiences and experiments across different methods, contexts, mediums, ideologies, modes of spectatorship, histories, futures, economies, speeds and languages offer one’s practice? What emerges when a practice exceeds the limits and possibilities of its originating artform? How might a practice that has been born from the nexus between artforms behave? Given the dialogic nature of the topic of exchange between dance and visual art, I proposed that contributions take the form of conversations between people about conversations between artforms. The responses to this proposed framework reveal a wonderful and thoughtful resistance; resistance to the disciplinary categories of dance and visual art, and resistance to the
contributors’ practices being defined by these disciplines. At times, these writings wrestle head-on with the impossibility of distinguishing the point where one artform ends and another begins, and at other times they consciously avoid the act of naming ‘dance’ and ‘visual art’ altogether. Angela Goh and Bhenji Ra articulate a shared strategy that aims to resist assimilation into any given context or performance platform. In what they describe as, “Always showing up as the alien”, Ra and Goh propose a kind of “monstrous” dialogue whereby they always already position themselves as the Other, with no intention of becoming like their host (the institution). Their use of the drawing game known as Exquisite Corpse puts this desire into practice by simultaneously embracing collaboration and rejecting it. It is a dialogue working at the limits of a wilful not-knowing; a dialogue which ensures that one cannot become like the other through the act of exchange because one never knows, or truly understands, what the other is doing. And yet, its parts work together in producing singular, irreducible beasts. In what might be understood as the flipside to Goh and Ra’s practice of maintaining themselves as the Other, Daisy Sanders and Ivey Wawn develop a writing practice that moves towards a singular voice, by erasing their own names from the dialogue and collapsing their two perspectives into a single text. This writing-towards-monologue connects with an aspect of Wawn’s choreographic practice, which she refers to as radical nondifferentiation. Here, Wawn is interested in approaching the world in ways which ‘diffuse boundaries’ between entities. Radical non-differentiation implies an ethics of togetherness, attentive to responsibilities that we each have to all beings and non-beings who happen to share this world.
Sanders and Wawn developed their collaborative writing practice via email correspondence over three months. During this time, the text wandered through various ideas, thoughts and questions that delve into the problems of defining some things as dance and other things as visual art. The gentle and insistent meandering of their text resonates with feminist scholar Sarah Jane Cervenak’s theory of wandering as resistance. In Cervenak’s words, “To wander is to renounce the limits imposed on one’s movement, to live and act in excess of the moorings of someone else’s desire. To make and unmake one’s own way”. 2 Susan Gibb writes of her work as curator with the Amsterdam-based organisation “If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution”. Without a fixed venue for presenting its performance program, “If I Can’t Dance” can in a sense be understood as an organisation that wanders… moving in counter-point to the paradigm of the static, dance-desiring museum. Gibb speaks of the imaginative freedom that this allows for artists and curators to develop projects that may spill into multiple venues and formats, unfolding over a two-year timeframe. In this model, time becomes the supportive container for the projects, with spaces coming in response to each project’s particular qualities and trajectories. Time and space also come into focus for Matthew Day and Latai Taumoepeau in their hour-long performance. It is a performance that happens over a social media online chat, connecting time zones and spaces across the southern and northern hemispheres. For both Taumoepeau and Day, an engagement with space includes an engagement with the poetic, material, functional and signifying potentials of the physical stuff in surrounding spaces, from objects to architecture. Through this curious engagement, these two artists have invented many wonderful practices, such as mimicking a local bower bird’s pursuit for blue
objects, or collaborating with objects that share the same weight as the artist. Ultimately, Day and Taumoepeau’s discussion articulates choices and activities that operate in a place of tension between working within the existing constraints of the immediate architecture of a studio or performance venue (including physical constraints, but also cultural values), and yet also wilfully constructing unique environments that push up against these existing spatial and temporal conventions, so as to bring the content and context of an artwork into alignment with one another. This wrestling between entities, in order to find a point where a relationship can be productive, involves an openness to enter into dialogue with another. And as we know, dialogue demands a complex set of activities that stretch across a scope of listening and yielding, to resisting, interrupting and redirecting a line of inquiry. Like wandering, dialogue cannot be predetermined. It seems apt then that the following conversations come under the umbrella of research, in the spirit of experimentation and indeterminacy.
A huge thank you to Claire Hicks, Laura Osweiler, Kate Nguyen, Leah Grycewicz, Lucy Kearney, Matthew Day, Susan Gibb, Angela Goh, Bhenji Ra, Daisy Sanders, Latai Taumoepeau and Ivey Wawn for bringing this edition into being.
REFERENCES Brannigan, E., ‘Dance and the Gallery’, Dance Research Journal, vol. 47, no. 1, 2015, pp. 3-25. Cervenak, S J., Wandering: Philosophical Performances of Racial and Sexual Freedom, Durham and London, Durham University Press, 2014, p. 145. Levine, A., ‘Being a thing: the work of performing in the museum’, Women and Performance: a journal of feminist theory, vol. 23, no. 2, 2013, pp. 291-303. Lista, M., (ed.), A Different Way To Move: Minimalismes, New York, 1960-1980, Germany, Hatje Cantz, 2017. Rainer, Y., ‘Open Letter to MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch’, Art Info, 2011, http://blogs. artinfo.com/artintheair/2011/11/14/readyvonne-rainers-final-letter-decrying-marinaabramovics-moca-performance/, (accessed 12 July 2017).
E Brannigan, ‘Dance and the Gallery’, Dance Research Journal, vol. 47, no. 1, 2015, pp. 3-25; M Lista (ed.), A Different Way To Move: Minimalismes, New York, 1960-1980, Germany, Hatje Cantz, 2017; S Wookey, ‘Morning Movement Practice @ TATE’, S Wookey [blog], http://sarawookey.com/dance-in-museums/ morning-movement-practice-tate/, (accessed 20 July 2017); A Levine, ‘Being a thing: the work of performing in the museum’, Women and Performance: a journal of feminist theory, vol. 23, no. 2, 2013, pp. 291-303; Y Rainer, ‘Open Letter to MOCA Director Jeffrey Deitch’, Art Info, 2011, http://blogs.artinfo.com/ artintheair/2011/11/14/read-yvonne-rainersfinal-letter-decrying-marina-abramovicsmoca-performance/, (accessed 12 July 2017); S Wookey, ‘An Open Letter from a Dancer who Refused to Participate in Marina Abramovic’s MOCA Performance’, Art Info, 2011, https://taboofart.com/2013/09/11/an-openletter-from-a-dancer-who-refused-toparticipate-in-marina-abramovics-mocaperformance-2/, (accessed 12 July 2017). 1
S J Cervenak, Wandering: Philosophical Performances of Racial and Sexual Freedom, Durham and London, Durham University Press, 2014, p. 145. 2
Wookey, S., ‘An Open Letter from a Dancer who Refused to Participate in Marina Abramovic’s MOCA Performance’, Art Info, 2011, https://taboofart.com/2013/09/11/an-openletter-from-a-dancer-who-refused-toparticipate-in-marina-abramovics-mocaperformance-2/, (accessed 12 July 2017). Wookey, S., ‘Morning Movement Practice @ TATE’, S Wookey [blog], http://sarawookey. com/dance-in-museums/morning-movementpractice-tate/, (accessed 20 July 2017).
LIZZIE THOMSON Lizzie Thomson is a choreographer and performer. Her practice interrogates processes of embodiment as they relate to cultural, historical and temporal forces. Her work draws on both choreographic and sculptural processes and takes multiple forms including performance, video installation, text and sculpture. Lizzie regularly collaborates with artists and thinkers including Erin Brannigan, Matthew Day, Agatha Gothe-Snape and Jane McKernan. Alongside her own work, she continues to work as a performer and has performed extensively in Australia and internationally in works by artists including Marina Abramovic, Rosalind Crisp, Tess De Quincey, Mette Edvardsen, Agatha GotheSnape, Nikki Heywood, Samuel James, Joan Jonas, Julie-Anne Long, Jane McKernan, Jess Olivieri, Gail Priest, Jochen Roller, Tino Sehgal, Brooke Stamp, Hans Van den Broeck and many more.
Lizzie Thomson: I guess I’m proposing these dialogues as a way to continue reflective conversations between artists about conversations between art forms, and of course for you both, but especially for Latai, there’s also the ongoing conversations between cultures to negotiate. What do these experiments across contexts / methods / mediums / ideologies / modes of spectatorship / histories / futures / economies /
matthew day & latai taumoepeau
Durational Performance Run Via Skype Chat
speeds / languages offer your own practices? Are there particular people or texts or events that you think your work is already in dialogue with? Matthew I just remembered how you were thinking of calling your work TRANS… I’ve been thinking how ‘transdisciplinary’ sounds so much more exciting to me than ‘interdisciplinary’, because it implies some kind of movement through things; a transformation.
[30/01/2017 11:00:05 am] START [30/01/2017 09:00:05 pm]
beer can I found in the shed. Matthew Day: Did you get the fan in Indonesia?
Matthew Day: Last pre-performance reference from Lizzie's early email.
Latai Taumoepeau: No it was a gift from my sissy Bhenji Ra. It has NTL embroidered on it 'Nothing to Lose'. My mistake it’s from the Filipines.
Matthew Day: Hi Latai. So it's 11 am here in Amsterdam - shall we begin?
Matthew Day: So then Bhenji made this fan for you - or customised it?
Latai Taumoepeau: Hi Matthew it's 9pm here in Canberra Australia.
Latai Taumoepeau: No she bought it, one for each dancer in Force Majeure’s 2015 work ‘Nothing To Lose…’ she got them from a beautiful but cheap market.
Matthew Day: I am sitting in my very small apartment and have just boiled some eggs for breakfast - what are you doing? Latai Taumoepeau: I'm sitting in my brother’s backyard in the dark smoking cigarettes to keep the mosquitoes away as it is 28 degrees. Latai Taumoepeau: What's the temperature there? Matthew Day: Maybe I should also smoke a cigarette with you, not to keep the mosquitoes away, but to sync in with you on a physical level... I don't usually smoke before dark, but I feel like it's appropriate. Matthew Day: It's 7 degrees. Latai Taumoepeau: Yes make an exception for this world premiere please. Matthew Day: Okay. I am rolling a cigarette now.
Matthew Day: Beautiful but cheap markets could this be a description of the conditions in which we are now working perhaps? Latai Taumoepeau: Yes indeed… this free resource lo-fi technology is the performance space for this duet of ours… Actually I refer to it as making limitations work super hard. I have a very Tongan approach to making work, which starts with an assumption of abundance and being very practical with what you actually have or what you can access. I work with my cultural practice of ie: ta-va (time –space) and fuo-uho (form - content). I’m obsessed with the meaning and poetry of materials. Latai Taumoepeau: Do you have any objects or residual props associated with performances that exist in your bag or person? Have you lit your cigarette yet?
Matthew Day: Actually I bought an ashtray on Saturday. Latai Taumoepeau: I'll fan myself with my gold Indonesian hand-held fan. Latai Taumoepeau: I'm ashing in an empty 4X 11
Latai Taumoepeauâ€™s performance work Stitching up the Sea, 2015, Blacktown Arts Centre. PHOTO: Katy Green Loughrey, Courtesy the artist. Latai Taumoepeau performing amongst broken glass bottles. 12
Matthew Day: Yes - my new work seems to require a lot of things - I have 2 suitcases in my room which contain a silver floor and some large pieces of silk.
Latai Taumoepeau: I was doing an international residency at Bundanon and I didn't know what to expect. So I took my little 1.8 x 2 metre blue tarp to play with in a natural environment.
Latai Taumoepeau: Silver floor... please elaborate.
Matthew Day: Is this when you were working with the idea of the bower bird?
Matthew Day: It's a silver insulation material that I got from Bunnings. I have 6 rolls of this in Melbourne and now I have a cheaper 'touring' version here in Amsterdam.
Latai Taumoepeau: Yeah... I was experiencing territorial behaviour in my neighbourhood, so I tried to gentrify a bower bird by building a mansion with my tarp. He ended up stealing all my blue objects in the end... I was very happy with that result.
Matthew Day: It’s a bit of a nightmare. Matthew Day: But I love it, and it seems that it really is necessary for the work. What the floor really does is to literally create a grounding for the work. Matthew Day: And yes - I lit my cigarette- I know why I don't smoke during the day - it gives me headspins. Latai Taumoepeau: I'm in love with materials as collaborator... it sounds like my long love affair with tarpaulins. Matthew Day: When did your love affair with tarps begin? Latai Taumoepeau: Ooh the silver sounds glam. Latai Taumoepeau: It began in 2009 I think… Its accessibility, functionality and mode of crisis reflected so many of my environmental concerns. Its ability to make or break a large spatial boundary, and be transformed into various forms with its own soundscape was so attractive. It speaks to my cultural concept of performance where movement, song, oratory and sound are inseparable and that work must have a function. Matthew Day: What did you first use it for? I'm imagining a blue tarpaulin - is this right? Latai Taumoepeau: Yes initially blue but I’ve upgraded to white tarps.
Matthew Day: Who stole the objects? Latai Taumoepeau: The bower bird did... Initially Vicki Van Hout and I mimicked the bird’s behaviour by stealing blue objects from the other artists to construct this new building project within a lantana bush, directly beside the elaborate bower bird nest of sparkly blue bread clips, metallic wrappers, paper clips and blue confetti amongst other extraordinary tiny objects. Latai Taumoepeau: After constructing this space it felt necessary to place and process the body in this new but personal context. So, I offered a site specific improvised performance for the attending artist residents. The artists identified their own blue belongings, which they claimed back at the end of the performance and the remaining small objects were taken by the bower bird, which looked very nice. Latai Taumoepeau: What do you do with the silver floor? Matthew Day: I guess the silver floor is a way to create a kind of environment in which the work can take place - I also work with timber constructions - a few large panels, some timber frames and also with the silk I mentioned earlier.
Matthew Day: These materials are, to a large extent, the work. In addition to these materials there are also movement materials - dance or choreographic scores, which I perform in and with the space in relation to these materials. Matthew Day: The place where this happens is very flexible. I've been experimenting with different formats for the work - both in terms of spaces and durations. Latai Taumoepeau: How did you come about selecting the materials? What's their relationship to each other? Matthew Day: I guess over the course of 3 years while I was making the work I experimented with working with objects, things, materials in lots of different ways. Matthew Day: First I started working with a railway sleeper and a bag of sand. Latai Taumoepeau: Does your body bring the objects together? Matthew Day: Both of these were selected in relation to the weight of my own body - the premise was that I would work with materials that were the same weight as me.
Matthew Dayâ€™s performance work Assemblage #1, 2016, Critical Path. PHOTO: Claire Hicks, Courtesy the artist. Image of Matthew Day wearing a painters uniform, licking the floor.
Latai Taumoepeau: Did the objects change at any point? How did this impact the body? Matthew Day: Pretty quickly other materials entered the scene out of necessity - i.e., I couldn't drag the sleeper across the wooden dance floor without using something under it (a t-shirt) in order to protect the floor. Matthew Day: I was disappointed by this at first, but then it became exciting to consider the imposition of the building itself as architecture. Matthew Day: The materials were finally selected after much trial and error - and now I have chosen the materials for many different reasons; weight, colour, texture, movement, semiotics, materiality, relations and their transformability. I approach the materials on a very formal level, yet more and more I am experimenting with ways to transform them into temporary landscapes to inhabit – silks become tents that I take rest in for example, and these transformations create spaces of imagination perhaps. At the beginning, because the materials were so heavy, I was a kind of slave on a physical level. I was literally bent over to support their weight. As I started to work with lighter materials, I was able to suspend them in different ways and extend them and my body into space. Matthew Day: Over time the heavy stuff was abandoned. Latai Taumoepeau: Did remounting this work in different spaces impose itself on the work? Matthew Day: Yes, but also the context of working at Dancehouse, which imposes certain values and demands on how I deal with the materials in space. I recently installed the work in a theatre space in Amsterdam. The performance area was not quite big enough for the work, so I removed the seats from the
seating bank and installed the work up into the seating bank and had the audience sit around on the periphery of the space. This was an interesting experiment that allowed me to work directly on the architecture of the site, and inhabit a kind of threshold space and literally erase the dominant perspective of the theatre. Latai Taumoepeau: Beautiful objects. Yes necessity wow… This reminds me of my collaboration with Paschal Berry at Blacktown Arts Centre (BAC) as provocateurs working with local community groups and programming. Part of the premise of our investigation posed the questions: how does the art centre impose itself on what an ethnospecific community group may do in its space? Are their cultural practices limited by the space and its own culturally specific purposes? The BAC architecture was originally a Christian church that has been converted into a black box theatre and white cube gallery space that is a council owned space. Its operational hours are generally during Local Government Area working hours. From my cultural perspective the architecture conflicts with what a Tongan performance space may be, which is generally an open/outdoor space that enables large village/clan processions from funerary rituals to celebrations, sport events and material culture presentations to name a few. My Pacific people have a diverse practice of arts and culture that may be compromised to fit into a western art space or rejected completely. The absence of particular communities may be evident of the imposition of architecture on performance culture and in turn their practice may be minimized by these conditions. This reinforced my de-centering of western arts structures within my development and presentation of work. I often say, “The more ancient I am the more contemporary my work is”.
Matthew Day: Perhaps I could ask why the move from blue to white tarps - how did this happen, and why is it significant for you. Latai Taumoepeau: The BAC project resulted in a new work ‘Stitching Up the Sea’ which features the white tarpaulin. My blue one wasn’t big enough and the aesthetics didn’t work, and my cousin had a huge white one. It’s a stronger grade and it was free. So I guess it wasn’t necessarily an upgrade but a necessity. Latai Taumoepeau: What's the duration of your performance? Matthew Day: Oh - it's variable – 3 hours is good. Matthew Day: I'd like to try 6. Matthew Day: It can also be 1 hr - but less interesting.
MY PACIFIC PEOPLE HAVE A DIVERSE PRACTICE OF ARTS AND CULTURE THAT MAY BE COMPROMISED TO FIT INTO A WESTERN ART SPACE OR REJECTED COMPLETELY.
I WOULD SAY THAT IT'S NOT A VIRTUAL REALITY BUT AN AUGMENTED ONE - MEANING THAT THE ALTERNATE DIMENSION ENTERS REALITY RATHER THAN WE ESCAPE TO AN ELSEWHERE.
Matthew Dayâ€™s performance work Assemblage #1, 2016, Critical Path. PHOTO: Claire Hicks, Courtesy the artist. Image of Matthew slumped sitting on his hands with silver aluminium tied around his shoes.
Latai Taumoepeau: I find playing with time live really incredible. Do you find being live inside of durational performance is perhaps like being in another dimension? Matthew Day: Yes. Totally. If I were to use the language of technology, I would say that it's not a virtual reality but an augmented one meaning that the alternate dimension enters reality rather than we escape to an elsewhere. Matthew Day: It's not another dimension in the sense of theatre, but rather the work exists in the actual place where it is happening, and the materials act as kind of doors to possibilities that are extra ordinary. Matthew Day: But not extraordinary I think. Latai Taumoepeau: I believe that this space of time we are referring to could be an alternate dimension. Culturally speaking it is also described as creating a state of order within chaos. The point is to reach faka’ofa’ofa (harmony, symmetry and beauty). The most meaningful ancient Tongan performances for me are all durational ones. We have compositions that go from sunset to sunrise or low tide to high tide; a natural cycle and duration of time that the body continuously moves within. I try to make my work this way, to produce va lelei – beautiful socio-spatial relations through Tongan ideas, concepts and practice.
Matthew Day: We have 2 minutes left of our performance. Latai Taumoepeau: In my most recent iteration of ‘Stitching up the sea’ in London I crushed empty glass bottles from the local pub with my brick sandals attached to my feet, attempting to make a glistening sea of glass shards. It ended after two hours because it was programmed for two hours, but it was at that point that I was only beginning to access this extra ordinary alternate dimension or order. It’s actually an amazing space to process oneself in. So I totally get why you would want to extend your performance to six hours. My problem is I want others to participate in making order with me. Matthew Day: Okay wow!!! Matthew Day: Okay time! Latai Taumoepeau: Okay… goodnight… enjoy yoga today!
[30/01/2017 12:02:21 pm] [30/01/2017 10:02:21 pm]
LATAI TAUMOEPEAU MATTHEW DAY Latai Taumoepeau is a Punake, body-centered performance artist. Her story is of her homelands, the Island Kingdom of Tonga and her birthplace; the Eora Nation – Sydney, and everything far and in-between. She mimicked, trained and un-learned dance in multiple institutions of knowledge, starting with her village, a suburban church hall, nightclubs and a university. Latai activates Indigenous philosophies and methodologies; cross-pollinating ancient practices of ceremony with her contemporary processes and performance work to reinterpret, re-generate and extend her movement practice and its function in and from Oceania. She engages in the socio-political landscape of Australia with sensibilities in race, class and the female body politic.
Matthew Day is interested in the potential of choreography to imagine unorthodox relationships and propose new ways of being human. Utilizing a minimalist approach, Day works with duration and repetition, approaching the body as a site of infinite potential and choreography as a field of energetic intensity and exchange.
Raised in Sydney, Matthew was a teenage ballroom dancing champion. He went on to study Dance and Performance Studies at the University of Western Sydney and at the Victorian College of Arts. Day has been artist in residence, and presented his work extensively in Australia and Europe. He has just completed a Masters of Choreography at the DAS Graduate School in Amsterdam.
What Moved Me: Crossing From Visual Arts
Wrong Soloâ€™s (Brian Fuata and Agatha Gothe-Snape) performance work Untitled, 2009, Commissioned by Campbelltown Arts Centre for What I Think About When I Think About Dancing, PHOTO: Heidrun Lohr, Courtesy the artists. Image of Brian Fuata and Agatha Gothe-Snape performing in an art gallery space. 22
Saturday, 25 February 2017, 21:55, Amsterdam I have struggled to write, not because of a lack of desire to be in conversation, but perhaps because of being slightly overwhelmed by the scope of the topic for discussion—the crossovers between dance and the visual arts. Having worked as a curator for ten years, I have increasingly realised that my driving interest is artists—their lives, practices, and work—with thematic, disciplinary and institutional questions being secondary, or developed in response to this. I have a similar feeling towards curating—I am less interested in it as a discourse, and more as an enacted practice articulated through production in time and space. By this I mean I am interested in the doing rather than the saying, and in taking all aspects of production as markers of meaning and shapers of form. So I will try and write within these lines, having also been pleased that Lizzie suggested that perhaps I concentrate on projects I’ve been involved with. My formal training was a Bachelor degree majoring in Art History and Theory and Museum and Heritage Studies at the University of Sydney. This study was complemented by me taking up curatorial roles within various art organisations in Australia. My engagement with performance on the other hand was initially outside of formal training, and was more of a vocational pursuit developed through an interest in theatre, music and film. A synthesis of these interests came together in 2009 when I was invited to support the curators of an exhibition project, What I think about when I think about dancing, at Campbelltown Arts Centre — an interdisciplinary art space on the outer limits of greater Sydney. The project’s ambition was to consider the intersections of visual arts and dance, and was spearheaded by the Centre’s Director, Lisa Havilah, and Dance Curator, Emma Saunders, — which was at the
time a rather new role within an Australian institution. The project responded to the Centre’s architecture, which featured a black box theatre space, rehearsal studios, white cube gallery, and extended its presentations out into the local community through the use of public, commercial and domestic spaces. Significantly, the project had a contemporary focus, with the works included being predominantly new work commissions that were developed across residencies within the Centre’s various spaces. As curators we worked closely with each of the artists to develop their works, which followed their individual and diverse interests in ‘dance’, both as a topic and a practice, while also responding to the temporal and spatial conditions of the architectures for presentation. For example, many artists chose to work in spaces that they were unhabituated too, as well as show works in progress rather than a completed piece. In this way the project fostered a shared space of learning, favouring open-ended engagement, responsiveness and immediacy, which was mirrored in the interdisciplinary sharing at the heart of the curatorium.
The contemporary focus of the project was also a response to our grappling with the question of what gets written in or out of dance and visual arts history. This played out in curatorial discussions on what it would mean to bring in historical works to the project. If we did where would we begin? In the warehouse lofts of New York or the Bauhaus, for example? These conversations also circulated around our consideration of Campbelltown as a context and the demographics of its surrounding community — a dynamic mix of cultures and class. What would it mean to favour works that came from an academic tradition of dance over something like hip-hop or folk dancing, for instance? And how do we grapple with the social meaning of dance beyond its disciplinary traditions? With these questions in mind the project aimed to be neither exhaustive nor reductive, but rather used each artists’ particular interests to guide its movement and open up multiple points of departure.
THIS IN PARTICULAR ENHANCED MY CONSCIOUSNESS OF TIME AS A STRUCTURING PRINCIPAL IN THE CURATORIAL WORK THAT I WAS DOING
As a young curator, the project was formative for me in a number of ways. Firstly, it was the initial stimulus that led me to pursue an understanding of contemporary dance and dance history. I actively engaged in conversations with practitioners in the field, and shared with dancers language particular to visual arts, on issues such as the materiality of objects, the extended temporality of exhibitions, and concepts of site. From this, I also began to critically approach the burgeoning presentations of dance, or the use of its language such as ‘choreography’, within visual art contexts. This in particular enhanced my consciousness of time as a structuring principal in the curatorial work that I was doing, which offered me new ways to think about presentation formats, as well as the body — be that an art object or person — by casting my thinking into the idea of their ‘life’ and ‘movement’ in new ways.
Most recently, these questions have led me to my current role as a curator at If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution — an Amsterdam based arts organisation interested in the typology of performance and performativity in contemporary art. Established in 2005, If I Can’t Dance is notable for its idiosyncratic approach to working with time and space. Inspired by the collaborative model of the theatre, the organisation articulates itself across two-year programmes termed Editions, which comprise artist commissions and production led research projects. Each of these productions follows their own trajectory unfolding in numerous venues and formats over time. On a day-to-day basis, we work out of an office in Amsterdam, and travel extensively to produce and present productions in the Netherlands and internationally.
Working without a fixed space means we can move in and out of disciplinary houses and cultural contexts—with us often stating that time is indeed our house. It is a liberating way of thinking, and a productive and exciting way to do so alongside artists—with the studio and the moment of presentation often maintaining a connective tissue.
Wrong Solo’s (Brian Fuata and Agatha Gothe-Snape) performance work Untitled, 2009, Commissioned by Campbelltown Arts Centre for What I Think About When I Think About Dancing, PHOTO: Heidrun Lohr, Courtesy the artists. Image of Brian Fuata slouching between the two beams with a red cylinder covering his face.
...WHY AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR ARTISTS TO ENGAGE WITH CURATORIAL PRACTICE? AND TO THINK ‘PERFORMANCE’ OVER DANCE OR VISUAL ARTS?
Wrong Solo’s (Brian Fuata and Agatha Gothe-Snape) performance work Untitled, 2009, Commissioned by Campbelltown Arts Centre for What I Think About When I Think About Dancing, PHOTO: Heidrun Lohr, Courtesy the artists. Brian Fuata and Agatha Gothe-Snape walking between beams in a gallery space.
Alongside these activities, If I Can’t Dance also works in partnership with a number of educational institutions in the Netherlands delivering courses within their curriculum. Of particular relevance is a course titled ‘Curating and Performance’ that we teach across the second, third and fourth years of the School for New Dance Development (SNDO) bachelor degree. The course commenced in 2015 upon the invitation of the newly appointed Artistic Director, Bojana Mladenovic, and is testament to her progressive thinking to address new ideas affecting dance and the broader cultural field within the school. The student body is international, and each comes from very diverse performance backgrounds—be it musical theatre, circus, ballet, to name a few—and are there to think through dance practice anew. In the course, alongside acting as conversation partners to presentations of their work, we try to open the students’ thinking up into interdisciplinary dimensions, including asking such questions as why and what does it mean for artists to engage with curatorial practice? And to think ‘performance’ over dance or visual arts? We also spend a lot
of time talking about language, in an expanded sense (including the language of spaces, materials and the body — such as light, weight, scale, etc) and thinking about what it means to build a vocabulary and select from it to communicate ideas. We do this all in light of the questions that guide us, considering how to be attentive and listen to an artistic practice within a practice of ‘caring’. So I will finish here in this pedagogical situation, a site of learning that provides the time and space for these questions to be asked and enacted.
Susan Gibb is curator at If I Can’t Dance, I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution, a curatorial production house for performance related art and research based in Amsterdam. Originally from Sydney, Australia, there she ran the twelve-month independent curatorial initiative Society (2011—2012), and has held curatorial positions at the interdisciplinary art centers Carriageworks (2011—2012) and Campbelltown Arts Centre (2009—2011). Recent independent projects include Sriwhana Spong and Maria Taniguchi: Oceanic Feeling, at the Institute of Contemporary Art Singapore (2016); the development of live improvisational and email performances with Brian Fuata for Performa15, New York, (2015); A Planet With Two Suns with Agatha Gothe-Snape at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2013) and Kunstvlaai, Amsterdam (2012); and What I Think About When I Think About Dancing, at Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney (2009).
In response to the topic of dance and visual art, the following dialogue unfolded through collaborative writing and use of the drawing game known as Exquisite Corpse.
angela goh & bhenji ra
Becoming Monstrous in the In-between
Angela Goh and Bhenji Raâ€™s performance work for Rogue Agents, 2017, Presented by Auto Italia and Firstdraft, PHOTO: Catherine McElhone, Courtesy the artists. Angela Goh and Bhenji Ra performing in a dark basketball court topless, wearing climbing belts
We don't so much see ourselves as moving between any two, three, four or infinity worlds, but rather trying to occupy all at once, or maybe none at all. We're navigating, conspiring, permeating and perverting every platform or opportunity we can. Being categorical is useful for contextualising, sometimes things need to be named to be understood, and of course conditions of labour, attention, economy etc., diverge between worlds. But, perhaps for us the strategy lies somewhere in understanding each different world we arrive in, but remaining un-understandable to those worlds. Always showing up as the alien. Evolving new monstrosities each time we land.
it from a conversation about difference into a liquid orgy of getting together again and again, producing weird offspring, and then getting maternal and caring for it. Really caring, like love unconditional, like we want the best for it, to grow and prosper beyond ourselves. Occupying multiple worlds is about constantly knowing yourself and unknowing yourself. And, in between, growing an extra foot, or upgrading to eyes on your fingers (all the better to see you with), ears on your ass cheeks (all the better to hear you with), and toothed mouths in all your bodily crevices (all the better to eat you with). We're eating up the world while it consumes us. Ouroboros. It's cyclic. It doesn't end, that's too nostalgic. But it doesn't begin either, that's too expectant. It just continues, eats, evolves, and is always at work. Monsters don't sleep, otherwise when would they hound you?
Not in a way to be novel, new, or deliberately confusing for the sake of it, but in a way to present an opportunity for transformation, or interspecies co-mingling, adding to the gene pool, making it strong, surviving. Transforming
WE DONâ€™T SO MUCH SEE OURSELVES AS MOVING BETWEEN ANY TWO, THREE, FOUR OR INFINITY WORLDS, BUT RATHER TRYING TO OCCUPY ALL AT ONCE, OR MAYBE NONE AT ALL.
Angela Goh and Bhenji Ra, series of drawings: Becoming Monstrous In The InBetween, 2017, Courtesy the artists.
"Becoming Monstrous in the In-Between" by Angela Goh and Bhenji Ra comes after their collaboration for Rogue Agents, aÂ collectively authored project produced by artist-run organisations Firstdraft Gallery in Sydney and Auto Italia South East in London. Rogue Agents explored "alternative models of being and desiring" through live performance and two workshops. Goh and Ra performed in Rogue Agents at Firstdraft Gallery on 1 April 2017.
BHENJI RA Bhenji Ra is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice combines dance, choreography, video and installation. Her work is often concerned with the dissection of cultural theory and identity, centralizing her own personal histories as a tool to reframe performance. With an emphasis on occupation and at times collective action, her work plays with the multiplicities of spectacle while offering strategies to resist the colonial gaze and western performance framework. Collaboration is key to her work as she often accesses her own community as both a catalyst to generate theory and material, as well as an essential critical voice. Her collaborative video series ‘Ex Nilalang’ with artist Justin Shoulder, has been exhibited at the 8th Asia Pacific Trienalle at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane, M+ Museum in Hong Kong and The Australian Centre of Moving Image in Melbourne. She recently performed her work ‘NRG’ in collaboration with Angela Goh in Auto Italia’s group show ‘Rogue Agents’ with the support of the Kier foundation. In 2016 she was awarded the ‘danceweb’ scholarship in which she participated at the Impulstanz Festival in Vienna under the mentorship of Tino Sehgal. She is currently occupied with being the ‘mother’ of a young, western Sydney based vogue house named ‘Slé’ whose work consists of hosting events and ‘balls’ for the intersections of community and performance.
ANGELA GOH Angela Goh is an Australian dancer and choreographer. She is working with dance in theatres, galleries, and telepathetic spaces. Her work often deals with tropes of femininity; the supernatural; and dance as both a form and as a force. Angela’s works have been presented in a multitude of formats across Australia, as well as in France, Belgium, Denmark, the USA, the UK, and South East Asia. Recent presentations include PS122 New York, the Asia-Pacific Triennial of Performing Art, Next Wave Festival, Auto Italia UK, and Performance Space, as well as appearing around Europe as part of Galerie’s Group Show, including at the Saal Biennal, Tallin, and La Biennale de la Danse, Lyon among others. She was recently awarded Best Artist in the 2017 FBi Sydney Music Art and Culture (SMAC) Awards.
Presented with the opportunity to enter into a dialogue around the nexus between visual art and dance, the conversation below emerged, around frames and naming, and opening up infinite spaces of questioning. We decided to compile our dialogue into a text that does not show who has written what, that comes perhaps from a singular entity, an entity that may be somewhere between Daisy and Ivey in a gesture for spaces between categorisation.
daisy sanders & ivey wawn
An Attempt At Singularity
OCT 2016 FEB 2017
Image of a person performing in a grey space wearing a bright green sheet.
There is something a little immobile about writing. The sheer momentum of life force, words, thoughts, ideas, complexity, all distilled becoming black crisp letters on a screen. Distilled also when spoken into words (into naming), those words and names have a whole history of attachments and associations which immediately make more complicated the thing which has been written/named. So suddenly I'm wondering about the immobilising force that 'dance' or 'visual art' may or may not have as it: Distills Names Generates artefact Lives Is grown Is allowed Is landed I saw a performance at the MCA in November by Lyndal Jones â€“ one of her Prediction
Pieces (1981-1991/2016). As I watched her performance, beginning again, and beginning again, and again, seeing how the same parts linked up in subtly different relations, I marvelled at the intricacies and the subtleties of this powerful and absolutely modest work, that asked for a bit of your attention to detail in order to fully uncover the special nature of what it had to offer. It was filled with prompts that got me thinking about the future, predictions, expectations, and what is or is not knowable, especially as a woman, and even more as a woman involved in art. Itâ€™s interesting, because when I went to write to her in thanks for the performance gesture, she was impossible to get in touch with, simply a ghost in the parallel universe that is the internet. What I want to say is that, although her work isnâ€™t dance necessarily (she is described on the MCA website as a performance and installation artist), I could feel myself understanding the work through dance, or choreographic thinking.
IT WAS A DANCE FOR ME BECAUSE EVERYTHING DANCES AND I AM ALWAYS DANCING
A dance background lays the foundations for a particular mode of understanding the world and especially for understanding works of art. So I can understand most things, even if in the most subtle of ways, as some kind of dance. Richard Serra. Dia Beacon upstate New York. Huge falling circular cylindrical structures. Which I walked amongst. I am not sure if I would not describe my experience with Richard Serra's 'visual' ('sculptural’) art as 'dance'. It was in a gallery style space. I could wander, ponder and view the work at my leisure. This is a way of looking often invited by 'visual art' frames. There were huge objects made of steel. They were 3 dimensional. This meant my perspectives could be shifted from looking at, to looking within the object, shifting my own body in relation to the art work, being inside the art work. It was very quiet. It was an invitation to listen. This is sometimes invited in a particular kind
of frame for 'dance' - the quiet that falls as the lights darken in a black space, the magic of the proscenium arch theatre. I was moving around freely. Often an audience for ‘dance’ sit still to observe. My listening attention was drawn to my own momentum, the details of my moving body, the inside intricacies. Visceral is one word that comes to mind. I loved the feeling of being there. My foundations, my own mode of understanding, it was a dance for me because everything dances and I am always dancing. I was eating up the huge shapes and beautiful light with my eyes. The artist created for me as much a visual experience as a physical one. Does visual mean it must be visual art and physical mean it must be dance? Are we defining the thing that has been created or an encounter with it? Why does either need to be definitively named as something?
Pink tinted collage featuring a person 43
Image of a person performing, taping up different scraps of paper on the wall.
Embodied empathy. That's a thing that the frame of watching 'dance' can offer. You observe another moving body and your body responds, they say mirror neurons in your brain dance the dance too(!), your muscles tighten, your heart races. Something was happening in my body as I 'observed' and 'moved amongst' Richard Serra's works of 'visual' art, and that something felt akin to embodied empathy. The aliveness of my cells was heightened by these huge quiet sculptures. doughnut Letting words flow freely from the voice feels more direct, more transparentâ€Śsomehow more effective than words flowing onto the page/screen. So it is interesting that our last dialogue ended around this immobilising force that we are continuing to wrestle with in trying to name what is perhaps unnameable.
Black holes and supernovas ~ Huge explosive/implosive, productive/ reductive forces, not even nearly graspable by our imaginary capacities. from google: supernova noun ASTRONOMY a star that suddenly increases greatly in brightness because of a catastrophic explosion that ejects most of its mass. black hole noun ASTRONOMY a region of space having a gravitational field so intense that no matter or radiation can escape. informal a place where money or lost items apparently disappear without trace.
narrowing in and broadening out personal | universal proximal| distal many binaries… I work with this idea of radical nondifferentiation in my work, which is a kind of approach to engaging in the world that attempts to diffuse boundaries, break down binaries and find more opportunity for mutual benefit as a result of mutual respect. Maybe it also has to do with hospitality. So it is interesting in respect of this conversation, as we have been asked to explore a binary… here and there - more binaries I can’t say if my practice is the result of some kind of cross pollination between visual art and dance practices, but what I can say is I have never been interested in fitting into a box. Ticking boxes I CAN do, and fulfilling certain requirements for a certain purpose, yes I CAN do that - I can tick your box so that you can say you have given an opportunity to someone who is culturally and linguistically diverse, if you can provide me the space, time and resources to work on my art ambition. But I am a matrix, or maybe a sphere or a cylinder, <curved edges>, and that may not be contained by the proposed box, or form. I am adaptable, and my practice, with its resulting outcomes is also adaptable. I believe that this is important; to be fluid, as water is strong. There is however an understanding of formats and institutional offerings that is necessary in order to be fluid and changeable. If I were invited to a museum to present something, I would not do something that I might do in the theatre. I may work from a similar idea in the beginning, but of course the outcome would be responsive to the conditions of a gallery space, where the visitor has a very different economy of attention to that of a theatre. I once heard that in a gallery people spend an average of 7 seconds in front of a painting. Therefore, if I present a dance in a
gallery, I should be ready for people to spend only 7 seconds looking at what I am doing and require a different dramaturgical strategy. In a work interpreted for Tino Sehgal called These Associations (2012) at the Tate Modern, or Temporary Title, 2015 by Xavier Le Roy at Carriageworks, we engaged the visitor in a kind of social contract. With a moment of direct address, for example, one person to another, there is a window of opportunity; an opening of a relationship that is broader than the exhibition setting. All of a sudden manners and learned social relations come into play. People become less guarded and more penetrable as they flicker into their learned social manners. This is also a format - to play with. The situation never ceased to be an interaction within an artwork. This is where I find it exciting to sit in a space that is without clear boundaries as to whether it is dance, choreography, visual or whatever. I mean, who cares anyway? spiraling - a double helix again from google: Double helix is the description of the structure of a DNA molecule. A DNA molecule consists of two strands that wind around each other like a twisted ladder. Each strand has a backbone made of alternating groups. Perhaps we name works of art as certain things so that people can access those works. My brother spoke to me about the importance of defining and describing so that the work can be shared in. I felt positive about what he was saying. So that audiences can be developed. So that art can grow and reach. But does it mean that people come in to understand things as ‘like that’ or ‘a bit like that’ or ‘not like that’? Do we interpret all things in relation to other things? When does it start? How would it be to be as a child with sensory curiosity but little
memory, things remaining new and unique and not in relation to anything? Part of me wants less comparisons and part feels exhausted just imagining the overload of always new always new always new. Imagine an alternative reality where all works were just advertised with the same simple poster: WORK OF ART. TIME. PLACE. It's a huge proposition to think about. What other word/s could be used in place of 'WORK OF ART'? What logistics would NEED to be planned/forewarned/made clear for the safety and enjoyment of us all, the variety of our unique needs? Art Accessibility. There’s a can of worms. A discussion we won’t open here. >>> My most recent work was part of Strange Attractor 'dance and cross-disciplinary lab'. I settled myself inside the Canberra Contemporary Art Space. I've not seen any other work there, so I could be wrong, but I made an assumption that the space, a large white walled room, had featured paintings and sculptures, works that would usually be called 'visual art'. But I also know that the space has been used by musicians and dancers, and prides itself on being flexible and supportive to the diverse desires of resident artists. I wanted a space where people would wander in and out, encountering my work at random intervals over an extended period of time. I began work on a Thursday afternoon and considered it a continual evolving process that was 'ended' when the walls were painted the Sunday ten days later. I was writing on the walls, huge and tiny. I created a three-walled cavern of safety and lived in it. What happened inside the cavern unfolded around me, and others could peer in as if to a 3D painting, or walk right amongst my work. The work was sculptural. Where I wrote, where I dropped my bag, how I placed the paper pieces, pencil sharpening and the apple I had half eaten was purposeful. Because I was working with great
attention to physicality and space, using my whole self. Seeing, hearing, sensing, thinking, resting, going, doing, being. The durational nature of my work meant that its arc, its peaks and troughs of energy were clear to me over the ten days but not to someone looking in for just ten minutes. I wouldn't want to call my work dance or visual art particularly. I'm grappling with some things: How to invite audiences to experience work in the way that best gives them access to it, at the same time, allowing the artist to realise the work’s potential. Is the work alive if I am not in it? The answer feels like no, not really. The work is always inside me and always in response to the matter I encounter.Is the work alive without anyone else looking in on it? The answer feels like yes. But looking in shifts the work immeasurably. Where is the frame of my work? I often have to define it, most especially in terms of the physical space I am responsible for and attentive to, otherwise I get overloaded and can't concentrate. The ‘work’ is the aliveness in my physical body. A constant dance of research. It is a verb, not a noun. When a frame is created - a space, a time, an onlooker or many - then the work is given a context and some temporary edges. But as the frame dissipates, the work does not. The platforms for sharing art, and/or pure logistics are usually what determine how my work is captured. I sculpt my work in response to where and with whom I might be sharing a tiny glimpse of it, a glimpse into what is actually a continual – living – evolving - endless process. Sometimes I think about choreography as the artful sculpting of energy and space. Creating an environment into which someone - say ‘audience’ - walks and immediately feels the
hairs bristle on their skin. It is charged. And if the choreography is for the ‘audience’ to be quiet, to walk slowly, to meditate counting rice (Marina Abramovic in residence at Pier 2/3 in Sydney, 2015)... or if the dance is to be liberated in the anonymity of wearing a faceless mask, heart pounding, exploring the many floors of a dark mysterious hotel (Sleep No More, by PunchDrunk at the McKittrick Hotel, NYC) the power of the energy in the space makes this clear. This is the sense of ‘dance’ around those sculptures at Dia:Beacon (Richard Serra). The physical design of the space has an impact on the moving body encountering that space. The choreography is the construction of the whole universe one can enter and experience. We drink it in with our eyes, ears, bodies. It is whole. It is not specifically visual, aural or physical.
Why do we call any work ‘dance theatre’?
Do we have to call this ‘Cross Disciplinary art’? ‘Dance theatre’? ‘Immersive’? ‘Experiential’? The last two words seem slightly more adequate, albeit annoying... life itself is immersive and experiential...
A binary term, should we not call it ‘dancetheatre-music-visual design?’ if it - let’s say - incorporates all of those elements (if not more)? Cyclical. Back at naming, framing, categorisation, differentiation. Nexus. Double helix. Doughnut. Black hole.
WHAT WAS I DOING IN MY CORNER OF THE ROOM? I WAS OBSERVING THE EBB AND FLOW OF ENERGY IN MY BODY, AND RESPECTING AND FOLLOWING MY NEED FOR MOVEMENT AND FOR REST.
Image of a person performing, lying among paper on the floor.
Image Left A green tinted collage of a person, created in scrapbook like manner.
PHOTOS: Martin Fox, Ivey Wawn and Matt Cornell, Courtesy the artists.
DAISY SANDERS Daisy currently bases her dancing-thinkingwriting-resting-researching embodied artistic practice in Perth. She is a 2013 BA Dance WAAPA graduate. Her original works include Status Room (2014), PACES (presented as an Australia Council Key Organisation Emerging Artist, 2015) and A Resting Mess (2017). In 2017 Daisy was a Young People and the Arts Fellow (awarded by Culture and the Arts WA) and achieved the award of First Class Honours through artistic practice-led research. Daisy’s current curiosities have emerged from an extended personal experience of illness: 3 years with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has led Daisy to become deeply attuned to her internal capacity for intentional rest vs. activation. Daisy is generating an artistic practice that accounts for rest, listening and waste within the realm of movement and energy. She aims to continue developing artistic methodologies and presenting works that generate an aesthetic and visceral regard for rest itself, as a way of promoting sustainable action both in bodies and politics.
Ivey Wawn is an independent artist studying Political Economy at the University of Sydney. She makes her own work for a range of contexts and has the pleasure of contributing extensively to the work of other artists, as a dancer and collaborator. Her interests are many, but are currently most occupied by a fascination with microbial relations, and complex systems of slow transformation. Her work, and artistic development, has enjoyed the support of; AirSpace Projects, ALASKA Projects, Ausdance NSW, Australia Council for the Arts, Bundanon Trust, CRACK Theatre Festival, Critical Path, DanceWEB Scholarship (Impulstanz, Vienna), DirtyFeet, Ian Potter Cultural Trust, ReadyMade Works, Shopfront Contemporary Arts and Performance, The NOW now, and Underbelly Arts Festival, among others.
In volume #9, artists and curators explore intersections between dance and visual art.