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Here's your chance to read comments, reviews and ideas arising out of this year's Biennial posted by specially commissioned writers, critics and theorists. The Writing Live Fellows have been generously supported by Arts Council England.

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11/15/07 04:51:07 pm
Interview between Pablo Bronstein and Rebecca May Marston, New York, 4 Nov 2007.

Pablo Bronstein Plaza Minuet at World Financial Centre, One New York Plaza, 60 Wall Street, and 80 Pine Street, 2007. Curated by Catherine Wood and presented by PERFORMA

RMM: We only have 30 minutes so I will leap in; when did you start using dance in your work?
PB: With Plaza Minuet in 2006, which was a Tate Commission as part of the Tate Triennial. It was a natural extension of my installation work where I was theatricalising space and making the viewer the performer with the walkways and pathways in the installations.

RMM: But you began working with an unknown territory of dance?
PB: Yes. It developed from my interest in ???sprezzatura??™, which is the art of aristocratic comportment; about bodily positions, manners and elegance. It developed amongst the Italian aristocracy in the 1500s, although I??™m not interested in its courtly manifestation, more the legacy and how it developed through baroque into classical ballet. Sprezzatura became preserved in, codified as ballet with the increase of behaved gender differentiation in the modern period.

RMM: Yesterday we were talking about the two separate contexts of art and dance in reference to a dance duo showing work with your gallery in London. Do you think the dance context is interested in your work?
PB: Although the dance context seems much more receptive and open than art, my work isn??™t a language that they are bothered about. Dance tolerates it and dance simply sort of does what it is asked by providing me with professional dancers, then that is it.

RMM: And you are not a dancer, nor a choreographer. How does it work? How does the work develop?
PB: Well I don??™t dance in them myself??¦

RMM: But you did in the one in Gyonata Bonvicini??™s exhibition in London and you said you??™d taken Baroque dance lessons?
PB: Yes ok that one, but that was very simple and very short, as an antidote to Frieze Art Fair. Usually the choreography is done in collaboration with the professional dancers.

RMM: Have you ever tried to choreograph yourself?
PB: Once, I tried in Munich but it was really unsuccessful and became a parody. The works are co-authored, it??™s very rare that I think of them as being me, alone.

RMM: And are the dance works, or works using dance, within the same trajectory as the rest of your practice? The same as the architectural/object based works?
PB: It??™s all linked with an architectural interest in spatial thought and the politics of space. There is a lineage through all of my work that begins with this.

RMM: And the way in which your work is heavily influenced by art and other histories, has using dance enabled you to bring in dance history apart from sprezzatura? Because in the text that Catherine Wood wrote for this she talks about a relation to minimalist 60s dance and I wondered if that was her interpretation or if it had come from you?
PB: I??™ve been interested in pedestrian movement for a while, which is based in postmodern dance history. My work balances two ideas of ???natural??™ or artificial behaviour, like the quick piece during Frieze was a ???natural??™ walk along a line (1960??™s), with a held pose (1660??™s).

RMM: For this Plaza Minuet you are doing it in four places in the financial district and there is something funny in them being in financial places because the public space is already so mannered, codified and formal, in the way people dress and behave.
PB: Yes, I was imposing a minuet on Manhattan. As with the piece in the Tate Duveen Galleries, it came a little out of my interest in a kind of institutional critique, so I place the green crosses on the floor to make a grid and attempt to delineate a symbol of ???pure??™ public space within a once-public, now privatised space. A location which resisted (with the cooperation of Tate) commercial enterprise such as the caf?© and the shop. Also the lobbies use much language associated with public space -benches, trees, paving, free access- for commercial and planning ends. My idea was to insert an emblem into these spaces which demonstrated an ideal citizen in a state of ???pure existence??™ or embodiment of values contrary to the work ethic of the places. With laying the grids on the floor, part of it encourages the distinction between pedestrian movement and mannered choreography, but when you put the pedestrian or naturalness on a pedestal it is shown as a construct anyway.

RMM: This idea of formality in your work reminds me of Rene Mackintosh and that Art Nouveau and Art Deco thing of living in spaces that envelope you and dictate how you are meant to behave, like Mackintosh chairs being so short in depth but very high-backed so you would sit straight, tall and elegant.
PB: No-one has ever mentioned Mackintosh in relation to my work??¦ The body politics of sprezzatura would be codified as queer politics now.

RMM: So are you ever informal in your work?
PB: (Laughs) No. I love order and power, it relates to the queer thing and the sexualisation of power and how you actually subvert power by sexualising it.

RMM: And I have to also ask you about your costumes. They are pretty jarring, tight with Jazz shoes?
PB: Yes, I like bad taste. It??™s also important to see the body though, and the turquoise green colour relates ???80s colour schemes. Big garish spaces need big garish costumes. But the ???Jazz shoes??™ aren??™t really that, they are just a black slipper that was the closest thing to the baroque dance shoe with a slight heel.

RMM: And another thing to end on that you said last night was about the ???wall of expectation??™ that the audience comprises and how it turns into a sculptural manifestation of expectation so you prefer fewer people in the audience??¦ That is just for live work?
PB: Yes, the presence of the viewer distorts the space, sometimes, if there are enough, creating alternate and unpredictable architectural volumes. I don??™t like too many people watching a performance.

RMM: Does that relate to the fact that you are giving a private performance in a private space for one wealthy patron as well as the public performances in public spaces? Or is that more related to the history of private rendition and patronage? It seems a bit seedy.
PB: If a patron is willing to become a symbol for something seedy, long may he reign.

Rebecca May Marston

 
11/15/07 04:12:26 pm
???Review: 18 Happenings in 6 Parts (Re-doing)??™


Marc Etlin, Kyle Shepard, No?mie Solomon, and Chelsea Adewunmi performing in Allan Kaprow’s 18 Happenings in 6 Parts (Re-doing), 2007. Photo copyright Paula Court. Courtesy of PERFORMA, Allan Kaprow Estate, and Hauser & Wirth Zurich / London.

Allan Kaprow 18 Happenings in 6 Parts (Re-doing) at Deitch Projects, Nov 11.

Deitch Projects, on the Long Island City waterfront, hosted a re-doing of Allan Kaprow's 18 Happenings in 6 Parts, one of a handful of archival performances connecting PERFORMA07 with performance's recent past. Kaprow's 1959 happening, reconstituted under the direction of Andr?© Lepecki, struck me as tableau vivant, an old theatrical tradition of staging living pictures; the living bodies in the picture produce a tension between the image staged and the rolling, ticking time of the present. Although the program notes indicate that this performance is remade from the notes and scores left by Kaprow (as opposed to a wax museum reincarnation of its every gesture), my curiosity about the piece is dominated by a sense of getting access to a primary document. It's an odd tension and a hard way to view something, and it felt to me like the anxiety was shared by other folks in the audience. Were we going to be in the presence of something great and timeless? Or would we be witnessing a kind of living history?

When happenings were first, well, happening, their value lay in part in existing in a space in which there existed no vocabulary of authority to describe it. Kaprow had to stake out new terms in his writings to describe and justify the new medium of happenings. Paintings are made from paint; happenings are made from events. The assertion of equivalence of visiting a set of events and seeing a painting was a kind of meta-provocation to the audiences at the original happenings, I imagine, exceeding simply the experience of watching. The compositional language of events is now so foundational to performance, theatrical or otherwise, that it took an act of historical imagination for me to feel that same provocation. In the same way that performance art is often described as putting value in creating a performative frame around normal activities, this act of imagination asked me to put a theoretical frame around my habits of viewing. This mental exercise dominated my experience of the work, and I'm not much able to give an account of the piece itself, how it worked, what it did, or what other claims it might have made on my time.

Other people on this blog will describe the piece better. I'll offer instead a set of questions I was left with: Must performance be particularly wedded to the behavioral syntax of its own era? How do we see past anachronism and experience the vitality of the past? What does it mean to reconstruct historical work? Must it be translated into the vocabularies of our time to be not just interesting but moving? I'd also like to point to two groups making performance events that I think joyfully inherit the spirit of Alan Kaprow: AUNTS, who approach curated (and anti-curated) dance performance as a happening, and Nature Theater of Oklahoma, who take almost religiously Kaprow's call to source art materials from the most throwaway parts of everyday life.

Karinne Keithly

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