All posts in “dance”

Object of the Week: Trio A

Yvonne Rainer’s Trio A is a masterpiece in movement. The work, choreographed over a period of six months in 1966, is part of a larger work titled The Mind is a Muscle. Currently on view in the contemporary galleries is a solo performance of the same piece, filmed in 1978 on 16-millimeter film in Merce Cunningham’s studio.

Today Rainer is celebrated for her many contributions to modern dance and film. Continually exploring the relationship between dancer and audience, she pushes against the conventions of classical and modern dance. The video of Trio A captures, in a way photographs cannot, the subtlety of her actions. Bending, tapping, gliding, twisting, pacing, turning (all without looking at the camera!) the precision of Rainer’s seemingly simple gestures is mesmerizing.

The simplicity, or ordinariness, of her movements is one of the many reasons Trio A is considered canonical. Indeed, her sequence of small gestures read as ordinary; however, when art historian Julia Bryan-Wilson—who has studied, screened, and analyzed the performance countless times—found herself learning the choreography directly from Rainer in 2008, she found a new appreciation for the exacting nature of the work:

I could not always reconcile what I knew to be the required gesture…with the limitations of my body as I wobbled, tripped, and fell. My knees didn’t bend the way they were supposed to; my sense of my center of gravity and balance was totally off; and as Rainer once said to me, her brow furrowed with concern, “Do you even know how to run?” For it turns out that most of our received ideas about this dance are slightly misleading; it is not full of “everyday” actions (for instance, it includes a free handstand in the middle of the room, and balance en demi pointe while wearing tennis shoes).

Rather, it is exhausting, it is strenuous, it is very physically challenging, and Rainer has incredibly precise ideas about the ways the body needs to configure itself, where exactly the gaze should land, how even the fingers should be positioned. One does not sloppily move through a series of somewhat improvised or random motions; every tiny movement is prefigured, and it takes a great deal of concentration and work. Far from a free-form, unstructured terrain of unconstrained movement, Rainer’s instructions were a reminder that dance, though it can be deeply pleasurable, is equally a discipline, concerned with techniques of training and regimes to shape the body.[1]

After rereading Bryan-Wilson’s “Practicing Trio A,” I had the privilege of going down to Big Picture: Art after 1945 on the third floor and watching the work again. My experience was dramatically different this time around; with extra attention paid to the smallest of Rainer’s gestures (which the film’s “Details” section facilitates), it became clear how much intentionality is imbedded in every action. There is magic in the way Rainer effortlessly configures herself in space, but it is far from effortless—each moment is measured and calculated. Rainer just makes it look easy.

– Elisabeth Smith, Collections Coordinator

Image: Trio A, 1978, Yvonne Rainer, digital video transferred from 16mm, 10:30 min., Modern Art Acquisition Fund, 2017.13 © Artist or Artist’s Estate
[1] Julia Bryan-Wilson, “Practicing Trio A,” October 140 (Spring 2012): 59. If interested in reading the essay, you can access the PDF here: http://arthistory.berkeley.edu/pdfs/faculty%20publications/Bryan-Wilson/jbwpracticingtrioa.pdf.

 

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Encounter the Experiential Art of Paige Barnes at Olympic Sculpture Park

If you’re visiting the Olympic Sculpture Park in the next three months you might encounter the new artist in resident of SAM’s pilot residency program as part of Winter Weekends. Paige Barnes is a movement artist whose dancing is sinewy and soft. Even the angles she creates from ankle to elbow appear like feather tips, tilting and adjusting to the surrounding atmosphere. While at the Olympic Sculpture Park her movements are directed by visitors’ pulses.

Having recently completed a degree at Bastyr University to become a licensed acupuncturist practitioner, Barnes uses a medical vocabulary to describe the quality of the pulses informing her movement, but is not approaching the pulse diagnostically. In fact, once she takes a pulse there is no exchange until after she takes the visitor’s pulse again, after the multimedia performance, and notes any differences in heart rate and quality in reaction to the experience.

“fast flick & that knee flick It’s not the birds but the burrows that wild flying beetle who is all marmalade.” –Vanessa DeWolf, Video: Vida Rose

Far from medical in her vocabulary, is the text of Vanessa DeWolf, a writer working with Barnes who crafts a personalized poem for the visitor in response to Barnes’ dance. Visitors are given this poem, as well as a walking score based on different parts of the body that offers a suggested guide through the park. As Barnes dances, animator Stefan Gruber begins drawing. His digital marks are highly repetitive, leaving ghostly traces behind on the projected image of his work in progress. During a break in Barnes’ movement, bassist Evan Flory-Barnes begins a solo that continues once the dancing begins again. Making her way back across the room, Barnes comes to rest in front the visitor, whose pulse has beat all this creative energy into action. DeWolf reads aloud the piece she’s been writing this entire time and Gruber plays the animated version of the drawing he’s been making. Played linearly, the marks make a line drawing that moves and morphs, the previously disjointed marks now a visual echo of Barnes’ movement.

“And with her long unbroken beach and owls softly cooing this might be the softest hunt ever” –Vanessa DeWolf, Video: Sage Mailman 

Hesitant and fluid, occasionally staccato, intermittently delicate, Barnes creates improvised repetitions that flow like the blood, sometimes thick and viscous, sometimes thin and light. This chain reaction of artistic media is using landscape is a metaphor for the body: the liver is a meridian, the kidneys are a water element controlling fear and willpower.

Glimpse the process of this residency taking place Saturdays–Mondays in the PACCAR Pavilion. Weekends, Barnes and DeWolf will take pulse readings from 2–3 people and Mondays, the entire artist crew will take 2 pulse readings. Attend the Winter Weekend Art Encounters to see the ongoing outcomes of these pulse readings. The Friday, January 27 Art Encounter, Bridging Pulse, will be informed by the prior public pulse readings and feature the core group of artists. February’s Friday 24 Art Encounter will not include animation but will feature 10 dancers interacting with each other and responding to multiple pulse reading stations. For the third and final Art Encounter on March 31 will present Vanessa DeWolf’s writing as a lead character in a more intimate and contained performance.

“I’m available as a marble ten the pages open to where I will find it again” –Vanessa DeWolf, Video: Bruce Clayton Tom

At each Art Encounter you’ll notice a pulsing light directed outwards from the PACCAR Pavilion. This is the work of Amiya Brown, yet another collaborator in Page Barnes’ menagerie. Let this light, programmed to pulse at the pace of various Northwest lighthouses guide you safely towards these subtle and beautiful encounters.

–Chelsea Werner-Jatzke, Copywriter & Content Strategist

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Object of the Week: Country Ball 1989-2012

In 2013 SAM acquired a video work by contemporary artist Jacolby Satterwhite that would later feature in the SAM-organized exhibition Disguise: Masks and Global African Art (an iteration of which has just opened at the Brooklyn Museum to wide recognition). Though Disguise was still in the planning stages, Satterwhite’s video, called Country Ball 1989-2012, had so much eclectic visual interest, and it was displayed with such a distinctly digital vision, that it was chosen early on as a representative piece for the Seattle show.

"Country Ball 1989-2012" by Jacolby Satterwhite

Country Ball 1989-2012 is a maelstrom of dancing figures and neon elements, a wild ride for its nearly thirteen minutes of running time. Here’s the artist himself talking through his thoughts and creative process:

Using the whole computer-generated landscape and the various vignettes that appear throughout the video, the artist brings together different modes of communication to create a new way of expressing that is distinctly his. Dance comes to the fore as a versatile language with meaning in a range of contexts. As the artist narrates, the genus of the work lies in a Mother’s Day cookout in the park (by the way, thank you to all the moms!), enlivened by choreographed dance. The artist himself performs dance in eccentric dress to add his own movement and personality to the work. Even the viewer’s perspective seems to dance as it meanders through this dynamic virtual landscape.

Re-presenting a home video and introducing the artist’s original dance performance, and itself being a museum-owned artwork, Country Ball 1989-2012 illustrates what a wide spectrum of contexts and environments feature dance as an act of importance and value.

—Jeffrey Carlson, SAM Collections Coordinator

IMAGES: Country Ball 1989-2012, 2012, Jacolby Satterwhite, HD digital video with color 3D animation and sound, running time 12:39 mins., Seattle Art Museum, Modern Art Acquisition Fund, 2013.3, © Jacolby Satterwhite.
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Two Sculptural Pair & A Next 50 Affair

There is a display in SAM Downtown’s Wright & Runstad Gallery for African Art holding two pairs of sculptures that provide a transcendent view of “togetherness” and what it means for the spiritual to be connected with the earth. The first is a pair of “Male and Female figures” made by the Baule of central Cote d’Ivoire. The painted wood sculptures represent spirit spouses that inhabit another world parallel to this one, and are prescribed by diviners to promote a healthy living situation between spouses. Imbued with power by the diviner each sculpture is given individual attention by its client in order for the power to be activated. Beside this pair resides a set of Congolese harps carved with faces at the end of their long curving necks to keep their players company and watch their every move. Atop flexed, carved legs their bellies would be filled with sound as the harp couple was played by two musicians travelling as a pair. During their travels the performers recited history as their livelihood and sang legendary epics.

Taken together these objects bring to mind the exhibit Theaster Gates: The Listening Room where objects form a collective history and repurposed materials find new meaning as art. The collection of records taken from Chicago’s now defunct Dr. Wax record store reminds me of the spirit spouses who are deserving of more attention. Giving attention to the records in SAM’s twice monthly DJ sets in the Listening Room (come listen next week May 3 & 6!) has allowed people in our community to come together at SAM through music. Although the spirit spouses must be decommissioned of their power by the diviner before they enter the museum the enduring coolness in their expressions continues to give meaning to their remedial function. Similarly the decommissioned fire hoses lining the walls of the Listening Room evoke memories of the civil rights movement in the 1960s where protestors were sprayed with these high pressure hoses during race riots. Our collective memory is jarred by Theaster Gates who saw value in an art object where others saw scrap material.

 

 

 

Considering this communal environment brings up another project Theaster Gates is involved with – the upcoming performance of “red, black & GREEN: a blues” coming to the Intiman Theater for Seattle Center’s Next 50 festival 30 May – 2 June.  The performance is collaborative and interactive, written for the stage by performer, activist, and educator Marc Bamuthi Joseph. Bamuthi is working with a host of talented artists including set design by Gates. Click here to learn more about Marc Bamuthi Joseph and the Living Word Project and watch videos on the performance “red, black & GREEN: a blues.”

 

 

The central question addressed by Bamuthi is, “what sustains life in your city?” This is something he asked many people through the Life is Living festivals he has curated since 2008 in various U.S. cities and forms the inspiration that went into writing “red, black & GREEN: a blues.” By incorporating “the voices of people often left out of discussions about living green,” this conversation on the environment succeeds where others have fallen short, and actively seeks a reimagining of where we place value in our community.[i] This forms a collective experience that, through the stories Bamuthi has engaged and the recycled materials of Theaster’s set inspired by row houses, express our social ecology with power, grace, and rhythm.  The success of this performance comes from the belief that “ultimately we are interdependent and stronger through collaboration,” which, like the Congolese harps and Ivorian spirit spouses, helps us maintain good relations and feel connected with the earth.

-Ryan R. Peterson, Curatorial + Community Engagement Intern


[i] Source: Mapp international productions website. Artist proframs, artists and projets, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, red, black & GREEN: a blues. Last accessed 24, April, 2012. http://mappinternational.org/programs/view/214

Top photo: “Male and Female Figures,” wood, paint, Ivorian, Baule & “Pair of Harps,” wood, skin, fabric, Congolese, Ngbaka. Photograph by the Author. Taken 4/24/12. JPEG file.

 

 

 

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Gauguin & Polynesia Opening Weekend Activities

Saturday, February 11
Celebrate the opening of Gauguin and Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise at SAM with Tahitian dancing and drumming brought to you by Te Fare O Tamatoa and their peformance group Te’a rama! Be prepared to experience a Marquesan haka (a Polynesian traditional welcome)  followed by additional performances.

Contours will be onsite providing temporary Polynesian-inspired tatoos to kids, teens and adults.

  • Polynesian temporary tattoos, 11 am–3 pm
  • Te Fare O Tamatoa Presents: Tahitian Drumming and Dancing by the Te’a rama performance group
    Haka (welcome and call to performance) in Brotman Forum at 11:30 am & 3 pm
    -Performance in Plestcheeff Auditorium at noon & 3:30 pm

Te’a rama in action!

Sunday, February 12
The excitement surrounding the arrival of Gauguin and Polynesia to SAM, the only U.S. stop, continues with a special Tahitian concert performance by Halau Hula O Napualani & Kohala. Get a Polynesian-inspired temporary tattoo from Contours, who will be onsite from 11 am–3 pm.

  • Polynesian temporary tattoos, 11 am–3 pm
  • Halau Hula O Napualani and Koahala (Polynesian dance performance), in Brotman Forum at 11:30 am & 1:30 pm

And be sure to check out the traditional Polynesian welcome flower arrangement in Sarkowsky Hall.

Traditional Polynesian floral display at the Seattle Art Museum in celebration of the exhibition "Gauguin & Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise," on view from February 9-April 29, 2012

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