Auckland

Alicia Frankovich, Volution, 2011, still from a color film in 35 mm transferred to HD video, 2 minutes 41 seconds.

Alicia Frankovich, Volution, 2011, still from a color film in 35 mm transferred to HD video, 2 minutes 41 seconds.

Alicia Frankovich

Starkwhite

Alicia Frankovich, Volution, 2011, still from a color film in 35 mm transferred to HD video, 2 minutes 41 seconds.

The performance Jumping Guy, 2011/2012, added a carnival touch to the summer-evening opening of Berlin-based New Zealander Alicia Frankovich’s exhibition “Bodies and Situations.” The darkened gallery, filled with bustling, chatting viewers, was further animated by the presence of a male performer in exercise gear who bounced on the spot, seeming not so much athletic as just exuberant. The continuously looped digital projection Volution, 2011, was the main light source in this room; it showed other performers in a sunny Berlin street, circling one another and jostling in a pantomime of someone intervening between two people fighting. Their movements appeared to provide rhythmic cues for the live actor, as did those of a large silver fabric disk that shone out of the darkness across from him, Man Walked on the Moon, 2011, which bobbed and spun like a soft Len Lye sculpture, tugged up and down by a flywheel and electric motor on the ceiling. On closer inspection, the disk could be seen to be a photographer’s reflector, a clue perhaps to the fact that the action in Volution was shot on 35-mm film (transferred to HD video) and loosely derived from a scene in Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights (1931), one character’s stiffly swinging arms and comically awkward bending from the hips directly echoing his famous slapstick. When the live performance concluded, the crowd was offered a serving of Pavlova, a desert believed to have been created by a Wellington hotel chef to honor the ballerina Anna Pavlova when she visited New Zealand on a 1926 world tour. More than these conceptual connections to dance and place, or cream pies in faces, however, the meringue, whipped cream, and fresh fruit, like the heat and sweat, acted to amplify the works’ sensory impact and skittish tenor.

As a topical reference in much recent art, dance and appropriations of its framings of gesture and interaction draw considerable charge from the immediacy of the sight of the body as an empathic stimulus. The possibility of this instinctive relation with the viewer also contributed to the coherence of the selection of works in “Bodies and Situations.” In a smaller side room was the video projection Genet Piece, 2010, which depicts a young man in close-fitting pants and a T-shirt with sleeves sometimes rolled up. In one shot backlit against a curtained window in front of a radiator, in another positioned farther into the spartan bedroom, his image is also in perpetual motion. Audibly directed from off camera, he turns in a rapid shuffle, here cradling his own shoulders, there fingers in pockets, thumbs framing his crotch, the camera trained on his hips. The allusion to Jean Genet’s Un Chant d’amour (A Song of Love, 1950) played up the erotics of a body presented for viewing, but such ethical complexities were not simply laid out for decoding. While Frankovich’s actors were believably playing themselves, in everyday clothes and unadorned settings ranging from Berlin streets to the gallery itself, the sundry references in the choreography abstracted them from such particularities. In this way the works did not obscure the deep entanglement of bodies and their movement in cultural specificities, yet succeeded in presenting it as compelling beyond any programmatic significance.

Jon Bywater