Embodiment Abstracted: The Influence of Yvonne Rainer

Curated by Elise Archias

Exhibition Checklist (expanded)

Natalie Bookchin
Long Story Short, 2016
Video, 45:00 min.
Courtesy Icarus Films

In Long Story Short over 100 people at homeless shelters, food banks, adult literacy programs, and job training centers in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area discuss their everyday experiences of poverty. Employing the intimacy of webcam video, Bookchin offered the interviewees control over their image and voice by offering them: prompts, not direct questions; a live feed of themselves so that they could monitor their image and words; and opportunities to redo sections, skip over questions, or address topics of their own choosing. “From the start,” Bookchin said, “I knew I wanted to make a film where those experiencing poverty were the subjects, not the objects, of the film, where they were the experts and decided what was important. Poverty and homelessness tend to be emotionally isolating experiences, and are often judged harshly by outsiders. My film seeks to address this by giving those on the inside an opportunity to address outside perceptions.” The artist edited these varied accounts so that at moments when the speakers address the same subject matter, their voices join together in a kind of chorus, what she calls “an imaginary collective yet to materialize.”

Gregg Bordowitz
Habit, 2001
Video, 52:48 min.
Courtesy Video Data Bank

This autobiographical documentary (featuring artists Claire Pentecost and Yvonne Rainer) traces histories of the AIDS epidemic along two pathways: the daily routine of the videomaker, a veteran US AIDS activist who has been living with HIV since the late 1980s and the efforts of South Africa’s leading AIDS activist group, Treatment Action Campaign, to gain access to AIDS medications for their constituents. As the videomaker moves through his day, recurring memories of a recent trip to South Africa interrupt his routine, raising questions about privilege, ethics, responsibility, futility, solidarity, hope, and struggle. A highlight of the film is a conversation with Rainer about their emotional responses to extreme bodily change as a result of disease and aging and, in spite of this, the older artist’s persistent turn to the grounding reality of her own body.

Anne Teresa De Keersmaker/Rosas
(video by Gerard-Jan Claes and Olivia Rochette)
Golden Hours (As you like it), 2015
Video, 10:16 min.
Courtesy the artists

With Shakespeare’s queer comedy As You Like It and Brian Eno’s album Another Green World as its basis, this dance balances choreography and improvised movement. Interested in what happens when Shakespeare’s complex spoken expression is translated into movement alone, De Keersmaeker asked the dancers to memorize all of the text in their scenes (not just their own lines) in order to perform both speaking and listening. As the play’s narrative of attraction, repulsion, masquerade, and misunderstanding plays out, the movement flows back and forth between concretely legible gesture and unique abstract shapes, giving form to De Keersmaeker’s belief that “the body is the most individual and the most global thing.”
Performed January, 2015 at the Kaaitheater, Brussels, co-produced by Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Brussels. Danced by Aron Blom, Linda Blomqvist, Tale Dolven, Carlos Garbin, Tarek Halaby, Mikko Hyvönen, Veli Lehtovaara, Sandra Ortega Bejarano, Elizaveta Penkova, Georgia Vardarou, Sue-Yeon Youn.

Ralph Lemon
(the efflorescence of) Walter, 2006–08
Video, 19:30 min.
Courtesy the artist

This video’s central figure, Walter Carter (1907–2010), is a former sharecropper, carpenter, and gardener from Bentonia, Mississippi with whom Lemon worked creatively for eight years. Lemon and Carter were introduced in 2002 at one of the few remaining juke joints in the Mississippi Delta. The two continued to meet twice a year to collaborate in Carter's house and at locations nearby. They discussed and acted, and documented and filmed their actions. If asked, Carter would likely describe it as strange "work" that he enjoys. Over time, Lemon got to know Carter's wife, extended family, and neighbors, who in turn became involved in the art-making.
Lemon’s video is part of a larger mixed-media work composed of drawings, text, sculptural elements, projected videos, and animations that reference sources such as the writer James Baldwin, conceptual artist Bruce Nauman, African-American folktale character Br'er Rabbit, and Lemon's 45rpm records.

Simon Leung
POE, 2007/2010
Three channel video, 35:00 min.
Courtesy the artist

Inspired by 20th century artist Robert Smithson’s interest in 19th century author Edgar Allen Poe’s only full length novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, POE’s densely sedimented references accumulate in segments filmed in three cities. In New York Yvonne Rainer performs as Poe onsite at two of the writer’s former residences, allegorizing the politics surrounding the preservation of literary history in the city. In Poland (or as Leung has said, “Poe-land”), where performer Warren Niesluchowski studied performance with experimental director Jerzy Grotowski in the late 1960s, composite versions of Poe stories are acted out, exploring the gothic style as a form of camp. The Los Angeles segment includes a distant relative of Poe’s, Gregory Poe, as well as Leung’s students retelling The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, a sea adventure with racist undertones, as a story of the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, linking the "green zone" in Baghdad to the green screen in video production.
Performers: New York: Yvonne Rainer, Hong-An Truong; Poland: Warren Niesluchowski; Southern California: Gregory Poe, Michael Ano, Sandy de Lissovoy, Sean Sullivan, Marcus Civin, Lara Odell, Grant Komjakraphan, Kristine Thompson, Nils Schirrmacher.

Yvonne Rainer
Spiraling Down, 2008
Video, 30:00 min.
Video documentation of the performance at the Baryshnikov Arts Center on November 16, 2009 as part of Perfoma 09. Originally commissioned by J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Research Institute and World performance Project at Yale. Performed by Pat Catterson, Emily Coates, Patricia Hoffbauer, and Sally Silvers. Video by Julia Kläring
Courtesy Performa

Described by Rainer as “a kind of melancholic pedagogical vaudeville,” Spiraling Down is a dance for four women in four different decades of their lives. It includes both the task-like choreography that Rainer invented in the 1960s and imitations of movement from 20th century popular culture—such as Sarah Bernhardt films, the comedic movements of Steve Martin, ballroom dance, and in sports like fencing, tennis, and soccer—as well as repurposed texts from newspapers and Haruki Murakami’s memoir about running and writing. The second half of the dance, set to Maurice Ravel’s Boléro, is a structured improvisation, in which dancers have a defined set of movements, but choose when to begin and end them in response to the group.

We Shall Run, 1963
(Dia:Beacon, May 2012)
Video, 11:35 min.
Courtesy Dia Art Foundation, New York

We Shall Run, seen here in a performance from 2012 at Dia:Beacon, is performed to Hector Berlioz’s Requiem, allows the twelve performers to wear their own clothes, consists solely of the simple act of running or jogging, and can be performed by anyone, dancer or non-dancer, able to recall and enact the sequence of floor patterns, though many performers have described the patterns as complex and challenging to remember.
Rainer has said about We Shall Run, “I have rarely used the kind of repetition that causes one thing to go on forever... the constantly shifting patterns and re-groupings of runners were as essential to the effect as the sameness of the movement. The object here was not repetition as a formal device but to produce an ironic interplay with the virtuosity and flamboyance of the music.”

Meg Stuart
(in collaboration with Varinia Canto Vila as part of Highway 101 at Kaaitheaterstudio’s, Brussels. Music by Bart Aga and Stefan Pucher)
Soft Wear, 2000
Video, 14:53 min.  
Courtesy the artist and Damaged Goods

Soft Wear’s impetus was the term ‘morphing.’ Stuart’s solo dance explores not only fluid movements but a liquid identity. As Stuart describes the piece, “An image is projected and dissolved as soon as it resonates. Every single movement proposed a different body, and the results were some frightening mutations of figures irritatingly familiar.” These familiar figures include clichés of femininity and pop culture.