New York

Simone Forti

Sonnabend Gallery

Simone Forti is a dancer and sometimes performance artist whose work has involved such movements as young children and animals make. I have not seen her perform, but by most accounts there is a good deal of the primitive in her dancing, as it employs and describes motions that are supposedly un- or precivilized, and in her talk as well, where she refers freely and eclectically to various mysticisms.

Her recent show (produced with the technical help of Lloyd Cross) consisted of holographic images of her, lit by candles and mounted on the wall or, in the central and best piece, on an orange crate. Although the ostensible purpose of the pieces was to give a three-dimensional picture of Forti dancing, they render her so crudely that it is hard to see much of what she is doing, let alone to grasp the nuances of her movements. This is no defect, though; instead, the holograms’ crudeness lets the pieces be interesting in their own right, as constructions in which Forti’s image is only one element.

Entering the darkened room in which these works were shown, what one saw was four semicircular sheets of plexiglass, each one glistening alone above a flickering candle. Only upon stepping close to a piece could one see Forti, and then she was phantomlike and elusive, liable to change shape or color or disappear altogether when one stepped even an inch to the side. The sense of the whole production was of a group of strange devotional objects, little shrines built of incongruous materials—the frail, flickering candle and rough, splintery crate combined with the austere, technically precise plastic of the holographic sheet; and then, when one stepped in intimately to discover what these shrines contained, one found it equally odd—a woman crawling on all fours, or raising and lowering her arms in some inexplicable calisthenic.

Beyond being mysterious, charming and funny these pieces are fecund with paradoxical meanings. They are at once religious and cold as technology, crude and then perfect and precise as technology. In fact, they employ an extremely rarefied, elaborate technique called “integral” holography, which allows one to show a three-dimensional image, in motion, from every vantage point (front, back and sides) and in rainbow colors as well. For all this sophistication, the final image is obscure and hardly legible, and as Forti has it entirely dependent, if it is to be seen at all, on pretechnical, capricious, flimsy firelight. Among the many metaphors one can find in these works, one senses Forti, who crawls inside them dimly like an animal in its burrow, as someone straddling two worlds. As we know her in her holographic image, she is literally the product of the laser beam and the votive candle, and cannot exist without either one.

Leo Rubinfien