Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Indexical, Alphabetized, Mediated, Archival Dance-a-Thon! at WAAP

Prior to last night's Ballet BC performance, my colleague Roxanne and I hiked over to the Wil Aballe Art Projects (WAAP) space to take in artist Evann Siebens' exhibition The Indexical, Alphabetized, Mediated, Archival Dance-a-Thon. Siebens is a former National Ballet of Canada and Bonn Ballet dancer; she has also studied filmmaking and philosophy at New York University, and as part of her multi-media practice has made several award-winning dance films. For this show Siebens has ransacked her archive of dance footage to create a video installation that via multiple monitors and projections showcases the movement of a range of local and international artists. Mixed media collages featuring image and text, along with a reproduction of Yvonne Rainer's famous "No Manifesto," accompany the installation, contributing to Siebens' own "personal manifesto and mediated lexicon" on how to translate dance to film.

And yesterday she showed us how in an accompanying performance series called "Moving Camera Improv," which took place at her nearby studio. Following a mass choreographic walk to the studio, spectators encountered plastic orchid factory's James Gnam and Natalie LeFebvre Gnam performing a structured improvisation to a recorded audio score of John Cage reciting an interview with Robert Rauschenberg. A camera with a live projected feed was perched on a rolling dolly; every now and then James would move it to so as to zero in on Natalie's feet, or else to project different sized and configured images of his own body on different parts of the studio walls. Justine A. Chambers followed with a mashed-up reperformance of two iconic postmodern works from the Judson Church era: Trisha Brown's Homemade, in which she famously danced with a projector mounted via a baby carrier on her back, her live movements synchronizing with mediated images of the same dance that played across the studio's walls, ceiling and audience; and Yvonne Rainer's Duet, which ends with a series of 19 poses that she and Brown first cycled through in 1963. In Chambers' combining of these works, the recorded images of her performing Duet further recombine in uncanny ways with her fully present and fluidly embodied movements, not least because she does not pause between each pose, so that in concert with the doubly ambulant projections (that is, Chambers moving on screen, but also moving the screen around the studio) there is produced what it only seems appropriate to deem a wholly new concept of montage.

Finally, the series concludes with Siebens herself taking up a camera to capture the live improvised movements of her three collaborators. In so doing, she demonstrates not only that her movement training is still deeply embedded in her body, but also--and likely as a result--that she has an intuitive feel for how to maneuver a camera both in relation to the bodies maneuvering around her (including those in the audience) and the general ambient environment (as when, in a wonderful moment, she gently palpates the camera in response to the thrumming soundscore and James' pulsating arm and wrist).


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