Kim Brandt, Clear Night, 2016. Rehearsal view, April 22, 2016, Pioneer Works, Brooklyn. Photo: Kate Enman.
Kim Brandt’s smart, affecting, weird-form dances never take for granted the bodily habits or functional protocols of modern choreography and its users. Here she talks about her latest work, Clear Night, 2016, commissioned by Issue Project Room, comprising eight unique, daily performances from Friday May 20th to Friday May 27th at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn.
I LEARNED TO DANCE from a former Rockette in rural New Hampshire. She had a studio that was in the middle of a parking lot that separated two trailer parks. I loved it, and I was in love with her. At some point in my teens I was ready to branch out. In high school I found modern dance, and I was like, here are my people.
At the same time that I was learning how to dance I was surrounded by other bodies in pain, bodies struggling, bodies giving up, bodies trying to escape themselves. I felt my body was at risk a lot of the time. I watched a man nodding out on the subway platform yesterday and I almost had an anxiety attack. I saw that on a nightly basis as a child. I went through a long period of being dissociated from my body. And I’m still wading through how much that has influenced my adult approach to dance, which is very much from the outside-in.
So I’m coming to dance right now as a maker, through my eyeballs. It’s not a physical exploration for me—I’m asking the dancers to explore through movement while I explore through sight, hearing. Each day of Clear Night there will be a different performance; there are many ways to move from here to there (wherever there is) and I wanted to explore a variety. Sometimes that journey is fast and sometimes it takes a long time. Sometimes there is a clear ending and sometimes there isn’t. I’m trying to make decisions that are in service of the work, that aren’t driven by what I think is a good idea.
There’s no sound and no lighting—no artificial lighting and no constructed sound, I should say. There are beautiful windows in Pioneer Works, and the shows are at different times of day to make use of variations in natural light. It’s also a multiuse space, so the sound of the works could include public radio played from a resident artist’s studio, or tugboats nearby in the river. It begins at 8 PM on Friday and ends at 8 PM the following Friday, and the discrete performances add up to this experience of one thing. One show.
I started working with large groups of people for a piece at the Kitchen, part of the 2014 Dance and Process series. The instructions for that score were for twenty-four people to construct a large pile, and to hold the form as long as possible. When they can’t hold it anymore, they dissolve it across the space. It established a movement vocabulary I wanted to continue exploring. And if I can explore what the criteria is to execute that vocabulary, there’s a huge range of how those materials (space, bodies, time, light, etc.) affect the viewing and performing experience. The range of experience between the performer in the work and the viewer seeing the work is vast. I’m always talking with the dancers about the ocean of difference between what it feels like for them and what it looks like to me. I like communicating in this liminal space.
During a residency last year at Issue Project Room, I worked with a core group of ten dancers and brought in more as performance opportunities arose. Some of the scores in the show I’ve done in the past; some are modified. Most are new. The space at Pioneer Works is huge, with two balconies, and I’m taking advantage of looking at movement on both a micro and macro level—cellular and galactic.
I’m thinking about the viewer, trying to make a more open experience for them. They can sit wherever they want, come and leave whenever. There’s no cleverness to this, no surprises. It’s an invitation to bear witness to the process of performing this work. Maybe I approached it as, like, my own group show. A group show of just Kim.
teamLab, Blossoming Life II – A Whole Year per Hour, Dark, 2015, four-channel digital projection, color, 60 minutes, looped. Photo: teamLab and and Pace Gallery.
On December 15, 2015, the Tokyo-based artist Takashi Kudo came to Silicon Valley to begin preparations for an installation at Pace Art + Technology, Pace Gallery’s new project space in Menlo Park. Kudo is one of three spokespeople representing the over four hundred collaborators in teamLab, an art collective that rethinks the idea of the art installation by allowing it to take numerous forms as evanescent, immersive digital environments, such as gardens, towns, aquariums, or even fields of fire. Here, Kudo discusses the collective’s new artwork/exhibition, “Living Digital Space and Future Parks,” on view at Pace Art + Technology through July 1, 2016.
WE DESIRE MAGIC. We are not interested in illusionism per se, but we want to create otherworldly environments. Digital technology can allow us to access other realms. It’s shamanistic. It has the power to pull us far back in time, when the boundaries between art and life, or the “real” and the “imaginary,” were considerably more fluid.
For our installation at Pace Art + Technology, we have been focusing on elemental themes: energy waves, the universe, flowers, fire. It’s all so basic, yet utterly integral. Plato’s allegory of the cave is a nice way to understand how real the digital can be in our lives. Our artworks shouldn’t be viewed as “information.” Information can act like imagination when it’s freed from its more “pragmatic” uses. It can be fantastic—a digital interface can be a portal to another dimension.
Flowers and People – Dark, 2015, is an artwork that algorithmically unfolds in real time. It never repeats or happens in the same way. The flowers depicted within it are continually growing. If there are too many people near the work, or you move too close or too fast, you kill the flowers—they disappear. Another new piece in the show, Blossoming Life II – A Whole Year per Hour, Dark, 2015, reacts to the idea of duration, and the changing of time. We’ve created an experience that makes one hour equivalent to one year (which means that approximately five minutes is the length of one month). Different flowers will shoot up or wither according to the seasons, in rapid succession.
In Sketch Town, 2014– , gallerygoers interact with a barren, sketched-out municipality. People come in and draw, on paper, an element of the place, like a car, a house, or some other sort of building. The drawing gets scanned and then immediately becomes part of a 3-D hamlet. Within the town there are helicopters outfitted with cameras to give viewers a bird’s-eye view of the ever-developing landscape.
The idea for Sketch Town came out of our Sketch Aquariums. We came up with the Sketch Aquariums about three years ago. We made our first aquarium in Okinawa. Families came and rendered, from memory, different kinds of aquatic plants and animals, and created these voluminous, beautiful, florid environments. Compared with the one we would do later in Tokyo, this work looked very different, as the local flora and fauna were more tropical. Everything was much brighter, much more colorful. It’s a good reminder that in a world full of corporate farming and mass consumption, there are still local cultures, memories, and perceptions that can alter the landscape.
In the next twenty years everything will be connected to digital technology. The difference between developed and developing countries will be because of developed and developing companies. How do we keep beauty in a world that, more and more, seems to exist solely for the cultivation of information? The most important thing for the evolution of future generations is the idea of cocreation. Our Sketch Towns cannot be made by one person. If they were, they’d be homogeneous, boring. The Sketch Towns are vibrant because of all the different people participating in making them. We are excited to install this exhibition here in Menlo Park, as it’s a hotbed of technological innovation that’s also deeply connected to nature and the “flower power” movement of the 1960s and ’70s. It feels like the future, and the future is being made right here, right now.
Pages from Theaster Gates's notebooks, 2016.
Known for his performances, his sculptures, and his large-scale, site-specific building reclamation projects in Chicago—such as the ambitious Stony Island Arts Bank, which serves to bolster culture in an underinvested neighborhood—Theaster Gates has also sustained a drawing practice throughout his career. Powerful works in their own right, his drawings are profoundly connected to every facet of Gates’s practice. He discusses that work here, as well as his way of conceiving exhibitions and his vision for a future art school. “Black Archive,” a solo exhibition of Gates’s work, is on view at Kunsthaus Bregenz in Austria through June 26, 2016. He will also have two more solo exhibitions open this summer: at the Fondazione Prada in Milan, from July 8 through September 26, 2016, and at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, from July 21 through October 30, 2016.
I OFTEN HAVE a clear idea of the shape or structure of an artwork. I didn’t learn how to sketch; I didn’t learn how to draw. In a way, my notebook is just the place where I’m trying to communicate ideas to myself, almost recording them so I can remember that thought and can go back to it in three dimensions. What happens is a definitive stroke.
For instance, I initially saw the Stony Island Arts Bank as a drawing. Other people could see only the detritus and the water in the basement. But I can simply erase that stuff. Once it’s a drawing I can erase the detritus, erase the massing, because I feel like I have such a good sense of the three-dimensional. I am not overwhelmed by scale.
The blank page is a kind of metaphysics—a site where I can see whether I can reduce a project to the size of my page and whether it makes sense there. In a drawing I can work out the kinks of a work in micromaneuvers, and then it feels possible, in a way. I’m engaged in this process often; sometimes it takes a long time for me to work out something like the approach of a building or its facade or a six-thousand-square-foot gallery. Once I have that sense, then I can say to myself: Oh, if I put a line here, that divides the room in half. If I put a wall there, it divides it into one third and two thirds. If I put these two walls, it can create the eighths of a room, and then seven eighths of the room, and then I divide the seven eighths in half. Then all of a sudden I’m able to really create a world on the page. On paper I am already worlding. The page sets the parameters of the world, but one needs to decide the world’s scale, so as I am loading content into the page, I can visualize a block, or think about a building, or design a plinth, and they can all have the same amount of space on the page. Through drawing, one can imagine a city. I like that. Working it out on paper first makes me believe that I can do it.
I find it so interesting that painters use the phrase “mark-making” and world leaders ask what mark will you make on the world. Mark-making in both senses brings up the question of the relationship between one’s individual intentionality, and the context—say, a canvas and a brush—or a political office wherein one could make a mark on the world. An industrialist might make a mark on the world. Or a graffiti artist might make a mark on the world. So it depends on what kind of marks you’re invested in—what kind of mark-making you’re trying to do.
My future of art is different from what art is today. When I build my school, I’m going to teach people that whatever is taught at the MFA level is akin to elementary school. In elementary school students will learn replica, mise-en-scène, and representation. In middle school, they will learn about reflexivity, reproducibility, reaction, and reflection. In high school, students will learn to see the invisible, to understand the philosophies of the invisible, will learn physics and religion. As undergraduates, my future pupils will learn transgression, systems of power, how to be a system of power, and how to harness systems of power. They will learn how to mine for gold, dig for diamonds. They learn how to fish. In graduate school, students will learn how to levitate. Until we’re willing to think about the complexities, until we’re willing to think about the human capacity to understand complex symbols and thought forms and the invisible, we will think that murals alone can solve social problems. I would never make a mural to solve a social problem. It takes money to solve social problems; it takes hard conversations and political power—artists should also sculpt those things.
Janine Antoni’s exhibition “Ally,” which is on view at the Fabric Workshop and Museum through July 31, 2016, is a “retrospective,” redefined. This exhibition, occupying four floors of the museum, manifests as a series of performances, installation environments, videos, and sculptures. Conceived and performed by Antoni, this presentation is also a deeply collaborative enterprise, having been developed with the choreographer Stephen Petronio and movement artist Anna Halprin. A book about “Ally” will follow, edited by British performance scholar and writer Adrian Heathfield. Here, the artist talks about upending the notion of a single-person retrospective through her collaborations with Halprin and Petronio.
I’VE BEEN WORKING ON THIS RETROSPECTIVE FOR SIX YEARS, trying to address the idea why, from my perspective, I should have one. I’ve been avoiding a retrospective for quite a few years because I’m not interested in looking back—I want to move forward. But this show at the Fabric Workshop allows me to do both, and it makes the work remain alive for me. When someone gives you the opportunity to historicize yourself, that, in and of itself, is an act of creativity. You think you’ve made work, but really, the work made you.
I’ve always cherished my previous collaborations with choreographer Stephen Petronio—we’ve a great deal of history together. But when I saw Breath Made Visible (2009), a film by Ruedi Gerber on Anna Halprin’s life and work—she is a pioneer of postmodern dance—I was blown away, and I wanted to know who this woman was. Anna and I had a very deep connection when we met. As we were thinking about the retrospective, I asked her to look at a body of my work, wondering if she’d be willing to make a dance out of it. But she wanted me to be the dancer! And of course, anyone could be a dancer to her! She knew immediately what she wanted me to do: “You have to work with paper. And maybe you’d like to take off your clothes.” She wanted me to improvise a movement performance using rolls of brown paper like the ones originally employed in her seminal 1965 work Parades and Changes. Then she called all her friends and invited them onto her famous outdoor deck to show them what we were doing. She wanted me to experience an audience, because I’m not a seasoned performer. But she was intrigued by the fact that I move innocently, not self-consciously. I don’t move like a dancer. There’s nudity in this piece, and that’s a challenge for me. When she performed Parades and Changes in New York in 1967, she was arrested for doing it in the nude. But this piece was made to humble and honor the body. It’s an interesting negotiation because of an unclothed body’s relationship to sex. How do I take people past the sexualization of my body to another space? I don’t necessarily want to remove any of the sexuality—it needs to be acknowledged—but it should evolve into other sorts of meanings.
Once a week for fourteen weeks at the Fabric Workshop, I will perform my own paper dance surrounded by thirty-six crates that contain my works—they’ll be laid out as audience seating. Each time I start the performance, I will open a crate and bring the work out to sit with the viewers, so that my works can witness the dance too. Twenty-two rolls of paper will be leaning against the wall, and each time I perform I’ll take a roll and transform it through the dance. The paper’s endlessly malleable, always producing images—it directs me. When I perform, one of my pieces will be out at the same time. I will treat each instance of this like a small show by creating a narrative line throughout all the performances, accentuating various aspects of my pieces and how they relate to the dance. But I do have to say, there’s something incredibly significant for me while my works are in their crates. They’re still alive for me without being seen, and it’s comforting to be surrounded by my history. But they have an uncomfortable presence too—a burdensome weight. I can feel them in the room, like people standing there. The work can still support me when crated and “invisible.” The paper is alive and the past work is still alive—absence and presence coalesce, exist at the same time. During the time between every performance, there will be a film fragment from a fifty-one-year-old recording of Anna’s Parades and Changes playing among the crates, to make the show feel “in process,” in flux, unfinished. It’s the first time I’ll truly be working with the notion of duration, and how meaning evolves over time. Creative work isn’t linear—it’s more of a spiral.
Janine Antoni talks about her life and work
For Rope Dance, 2014, Stephen and I won’t do a lot of dancing. We do enough for people to absorb, and then we immediately invite people in, handing them the titular prop as a tool to connect and draw lines in space. Anna was very interested in Stephen’s ability to direct, so she asked him to guide. She likes the way he has a kind of command that makes participation comfortable. This is the brilliance of Anna’s intuition: being able to look at you and make the most of your perspective. Stephen and I were struck by the quality of Anna’s attention while we were dancing, and we wanted to capture that. When the performance is not taking place, a video of Anna looking at us performing will be shown. An audience member will be able to see the whole dance expressed on Anna’s face.
Stephen will do a solo performance of Anna’s The Courtesan and the Crone, 1999, where she was seducing the audience with sexual gestures, slowly revealing her body. Stephen’s been dealing with gender issues in his dance since the early 1980s, and for him to do that performance as a man adds a whole different twist. It’ll allow us to really bring theatre into the gallery space.
This retrospective of my artmaking, told through dance with Anna, Stephen, and myself, has evolved into an interpenetrating partnership that allows me—allows us—despite the onus of the past, to continue reinventing and making new work.
View of William Kentridge's Triumphs and Laments: A Project for Rome, 2016, along the embankment of the Tiber River. Photo: Luciano Sebastiano
William Kentridge had the audacity, in 2012, to propose an 1,804-foot-long drawing along the banks of the Tiber River, the largest public art project in Europe. It has recently come to life with the help of Kristin Jones, a New York–based artist who strongly believes in the notion of collaboration and acted as the artistic director of the whole project. Jones has worked with Kentridge for many years, against all manner of bureaucratic obstacle, to make Triumphs and Laments: A Project for Rome—an epic frieze with ninety figures, some as high as thirty-two feet—possible. This gargantuan work explores the contradictions of the Eternal City, from its myth-laden past to the present. (Preparatory sketches and other materials for the frieze can be seen at Galleria Lia Rumma in Milan for the artist’s solo exhibition there, “Triumphs, Laments, and other Processions,” on view through May 24, 2016.) The frieze will be inaugurated with a performance, conceived by Kentridge and the composer Philip Miller, on April 21, 2016, Rome’s 2,769th birthday; a second iteration of the performance will occur on April 22. This piece, a thirty-minute-long procession along the banks of the Tiber, will feature two bands with a mix of African and Italian musicians, along with two hundred volunteers. Here, Kentridge talks about this massive undertaking.
THE PROJECT STARTED IN 2002 WHEN KRISTIN JONES, who has worked in Rome for many years, took me to the site. In 2007 we considered a large-scale projection of images on the embankment, but the costs for that would’ve been crazy. In 2011 the first drawings were made. After that, the search for permissions began. In 2015 it became clear that we would get approval, so the final images became more solidified. The process started out with sketches, then charcoal drawings on paper, then ink drawings. And from the ink drawings, stencils were made. It was important to keep the sketchy feeling of the drawings, yet have them clear and simple enough for the cutting of the stencils. And then there’s erasure, the washing of the travertine walls along the Tiber (with warm water and magnesium bicarbonate—very ecological) where decades of graffiti and pollution have accumulated. Just imagine, from that darkness, where thousands and thousands of drawings were made on top of one other, and us, erasing and cleaning the dark away, until ninety figures managed to emerge. In a few years, the images will fade, so that a new history can be drawn again. It will be sad, but poignant, to watch it dissolve over time.
At first, I was very interested in this tension between the Jewish ghetto and the Vatican, because the site for the work is right between them. We did our research, but the series of figures we came up with were terrible, so the project shifted. We dove headfirst into the histories of Rome, investigating all of its triumphs and tragedies, all throughout time. Then the art historian and professor Lila Yawn and her wonderful team of students came into the picture—they did the enormous job of researching the images I needed, which took about three years. They pulled together 150 images of Rome’s triumphs and 150 images of Rome’s tragedies. But then we fell into a trap: How do we choose? What do we choose? Who’s writing the history here? Those questions became the heart of this project.
What we’ve come up with is a provisional history, of course. It’s syncretic, too. It’s a South African perspective on Roman history that takes into account contradiction, vainglory, utopian idealism, loss. This is not an exhibition where people are coming to see “good” pictures. It’s an illustrated guidebook that shifts the viewer back and forth in time. For instance, we see an image of a boat and think of the Roman galleys full of slaves being shipped across the Mediterranean. But it’s also a “contemporary” boat with migrants coming in to Lampedusa. We’re spanning centuries.
I’ve also used iconic images from Italian cinema and conflated them with historical events. For instance, there’s a picture of Anna Magnani getting shot, taken from Roma Città Aperta (Rome, Open City), 1945. Magnani’s a stand-in for Giorgiana Masi, a young woman killed during a 1977 demonstration by the bridge in Trastevere. I also thought of including the revered Italian general Giuseppe Garibaldi, but instead I put in his wife, Anita—an image I took from the statue of her on the Gianicolo—so that we have a representation of woman as both hero and victim. There’s also the death of Remus, culled from a Renaissance engraving, and a depiction of the death of Pier Paolo Pasolini. There is a skeletal she-wolf, burdened by history and expectation. The image of Mussolini on his horse is taken from a mural I saw in Naples. The mural has bullet holes—they could’ve been made during the German occupation. There are images from the Fosse Ardeatine massacre in 1943; images of ousted Jews; and three figures taken from the Arch of Titus, carrying the treasure of Jerusalem. There’s a figure depicting the collapse of history that combines Bernini’s Ecstasy of Saint Theresa, 1647–52, with barbarian fighters from the Great Ludovisi sarcophagus, 250–60, as well as the Renault car where the corpse of Aldo Moro, the secretary of the Christian Democratic Party, who was killed by the Red Brigades in 1978, was found. There are spots of ironic humor, too: King Vittorio Emmanuel II sitting on a mock horse, and Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg from La Dolce Vita (1960), bathing in a tub instead of the Trevi Fountain.
There will be a procession composed of two parts and led by two different bands. One band will sing of victories; the other, laments. The bands will be placed at either side of the frieze and gradually move toward each other, meeting in the center. Two hundred people will carry lights and painted figures, like saints’ relics—they will be projected as shadows on the wall. The music, composed by Philip Miller, is a multilayered and technically challenging piece, with canons and repetitions, based on the madrigals by Salamone Rossi, a Jewish composer from Mantua—he was a contemporary of Claudio Monteverdi’s. The score will integrate Italian popular music, like tammuriata and pizzica, played by a multiethnic group of musicians. And, during a more meditative moment, we will hear a quote from Rainer Maria Rilke, recited like a prayer: “That is the longing: to dwell amidst the waves / and have no homeland in time.”
View of “Maria Eichhorn: 5 weeks, 25 days, 175 hours,” 2016. Photo: Andy Keate, Chisenhale Gallery
Maria Eichhorn makes exceptionally subtle works—minuscule gestures with magnificent reach, and consequences—that highlight the limits of institutions, and perhaps even art itself. Here, the artist discusses the preparation involved for her solo exhibition at the Chisenhale Gallery, her first in the United Kingdom, titled “5 weeks, 25 days, 175 hours,” which opens April 23 and runs through May 29, 2016. By closing down the gallery completely for the duration of the show and stipulating that no staff be available during this period, Eichhorn upsets notions surrounding time and labor connected with artistic production and capitalism.
RESEARCH, EXPERIENCES, AND VARIOUS KINDS OF REFLECTION lead me to ideas. In this case, my engagement with time and the way it’s defined in relation to labor led me to the creation of this piece. My show at the Chisenhale Gallery is a way of giving time back to the staff who work there. When they accept this offering, without their wages being suspended, the work will emerge. Jacques Derrida states in his book Given Time: I. Counterfeit Money (1991) that “to give time, the day, or life is to give nothing, nothing determinate, even if it is to give the giving of any possible giving, even if it gives the condition of giving.” Proceeding from this thought experiment of Derrida’s, I want to interrogate the possibility of suspending the capitalist logic surrounding the notion of exchange and try to make a space in life sans labor a reality, by returning time to those who lack it, or who need it.
The Maria Eichhorn Aktiengesellschaft (Maria Eichhorn Public Limited Company), 2002, which I established on the occasion of Documenta 11 and is still in existence, relates especially well to this current project. It is an entity that possesses its own stocks and belongs to no one—the money originally invested in it, a little over $56,000, is not allowed to accrue in value. My Chisenhale piece has been conceived in a similar spirit—again, underscoring that “time” belongs to no one and should somehow be reevaluated, or even extricated from contemporary economies.
That the exhibition space and gallery offices are closed is just a spatial consequence of this gesture—these are, after all, the areas where the staff pursues its labor. The institution itself and the actual exhibition are not closed, but rather displaced into the public sphere and society. A sign will be affixed to the Chisenhale gate explaining all of this, and additional information will be made available on the gallery’s website, its social media, an so on. An automatic e-mail reply written specifically for this exhibition will also include a message stating that all incoming e-mail will be automatically deleted and that said recipient cannot be reached until after the close of the exhibition. When the gallery’s employees come back to work, there will not be a great deal of e-mails waiting to be dealt with, thankfully.
The first reaction to my proposal? Hearty laughter. Then the Chisenhale’s director, Polly Staple, and I met one on one and discussed the project intensively for about three hours. After that, Katie Guggenheim, the curator of exhibitions and events, got involved. The three of us went back and forth for a long time, analyzing and reanalyzing every single facet of this work. I am entirely grateful to both of them for making this project possible.
Translated from German by Diana Reese.