Let’s Dance

Issue no6
Dec-Jan 2019/2020 2020
Nieuwe criteria

I have to admit that going to this show I had quite mixed feelings. I cannot say that the theme of the dance is not interesting or important one, I just feel slightly overwhelmed by recent discussion on presence of dance and choreography in visual arts and its general omnipresence in everyday culture. It’s an important component of contemporary performance, as well as, talent shows on television. When it comes to dance it seems like everyone can find something for himself. Jack of all trades, master of none, people say.

What actually do we think when we say dance? What do we say when we think choreography? Both terms seem to function replaceable. The meaning of word “dance” is very fluent and actually can be understood in many ways. Couples gliding around the dance floor to the rhythm of waltz – it is dance. Studied figures of ballerinas – it is dance. Teens twisting bodies to the disco music – it’s dance as well. A woman jiggling on a bus stop to the beats in her headphones – is this still dance?
Referring to the dictionary definition (Macmillan Dictionary) “to dance” means “

  1. to move your feet and your body in a pattern of movements that follows the sound of music;
  2. to perform the particular type of dance;
  3. If something dances, it makes a series of quick light movements”. However, in contemporary art world the initial meaning includes all fields where movement has an artistic character – from motion on stage to the arrangement of people composed by artists, based often on everyday activity.

If every movement can be dance, do we dance walking in the gallery space then? Referring to the Let’s Dance hand-out we definitely follow (perform even) some choreography. “Choreographers and visual artists are developing a focus on the sphere that is available at hand: the movements that we perform on the street, in the club, when we jog, socialize, or even, when we have sex.” – says the exhibition text.

The fact that the show takes place at the Art Stations Foundation in Poznan is not insignificant, either. Indirectly, because it is located in a shopping-business center, where all kinds of social mobility can be observed, but primarily - because it is one of the sparse platforms where the initial idea brings together dance and visual arts and makes them coexist homogeneously.

The starting points for the project Let’s Dance are works from Grazyna Kulczyk Collection, particularly Dan Flavin’s light sculpture, shown for the first time in Poland. Important in this case is the fact that one of the top American Minimalists argued that the movements in space generated by the art works is more important than the object themselves - the peculiar dance of audience in the space between them.

Let’s Dance itself seems to be designed as choreography and behaves as if it’s a dance. Each level of the three store exhibition space has a different dynamic. It starts with minimalistic and almost static (in the aesthetic sense) classic video works by Yvonne Reiner, Dan Flavin’s Untitled installation and the print of Vanessa Beecroft VB 43.019.

The amplitude of energy arises and reaches its climax in the middle floor, where pulsating films with dynamic music invites to almost ecstatic dance. The room is full of throbbing screens presenting documentation of performances and music videos. Their arrangement resembles a compilation of songs set to a shuffle mode. Works by Jérôme Bel (Show Must Go On and Shirtology) and Massimo Furlan (1973) are interspersed with music videos by Beyonce (Countdown) and The Knife (A Tooth For An Eye). The Forced Entertainment spectacle 12 a.m. Awake & Looking Down is placed next to documentation from Rick Owens’ fashion show. To name a few.

Maybe it’s because of the flashing light of the projections, dim room or omnipresence of surrounded works, but all together it gives the feeling of being in the club in the middle of the party, looking around gaze jumps from one place to another, from one person to the other, eyeing up and down. As if wanting to embrace all at once. Some shadows of things and people seem familiar, the others are total strangers. After all, everything together creates a coherent whole, a nicely designed playlist.

Moving to the last, the highest level of the exhibition space the visitor is being confronted with quite opposite dynamic. The energy has been turned into physical effort and gymnastic - seen as forms of dance and choreography. As if the song is slower, although as much intense as ones before or as if the muscles feel the pain after dancing whole night at the party. All videos on this floor create together their own dance composition. They have something in common. Maybe the rigorous dynamic of the drill or compulsion to practice makes them look like they observe each other or belong on one another. The young girl in Polska’s animation Correctional exercises moves her hand while the soldier on Zmijewski’s KR WP raise their rifles - all being measured by metrics of Jesse Aaron Green Ärztliche Zimmergymnastic and conducted in the rhythm of hula-hoop in Christian Jankowski’s Rooftop Routine.

Leaving the show the images still scrolling in my head. I guess, it’s a feeling comparable to a Youtube overdose. And indeed, there is something in the show of the browsing: fragments of prominent dance performances and artworks are placed alongside amateur videos found on the Internet. Dance is known as a form of art that doesn’t often leave behind clearly identifiable physical artifacts. Also this time, the show consist of more than 90 percent videos, but in 100 percent of what the dance really is: extreme joy and fun, drills and practice, smile and tears at once. Let’s dance then!

Let’s Dance
Art Stations Foundation, Poznan, Poland
20.06 – 18.10.2015

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Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 6 — 2020