Brody Condon, Shana Moulton, Yemenwed
Curated by Courtney Malick
Bard College, New York
(Re)Move/(Re)Frame is an exhibition project that includes a series of three performances by, Brody Condon, Shana Moulton and the collective Yemenwed. Each performance will occur at a different time and place outside of the CCS Galleries throughout the duration of the exhibition. Experimental engagements in video and installation with documentary materials from each performance will be visible in the CCS Galleries as well as online. The project explores ways that recent technologies offer new points of entry into events, performances and exhibitions, and to this end, the entire project will also be documented and thereby expanded through audience participation.
This exhibition links the performance work of Condon, Moulton and Yemenwed in order to highlight a new direction towards theatricality within the genre that they all share. Each of their works include a blurring of boundaries between live performance, video and installation and is grounded in choreography, costumes, sets and reiterability. (Re)Move/(Re)Frame also looks closely at documentation and expands the meaning-making of both performance and exhibition by way of online documentation and audience generated content. The project furthermore utilizes the physical space of the CCS Galleries, which is at a remove from the scene of action itself, to explore not only how one accesses the meaning of a performance or exhibition after the fact, but also demonstrates ways in which exhibitions are performative, temporal sites, whose meaning is always in an indeterminate state of flux.
Patrik Sandberg Interviews Curator, Courtney Malick for V Magazine, May 2011
For her thesis exhibition at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College in upstate New York, curator Courtney Malick brings together three performances by three different artists happening in three different places at three different times. The connection? The context. Cleverly titled, the website that accompanies this project acts in part like a catalog, but at the same time it also attempts to stretch what can be considered documentation and therefore also explores how we conceive of the afterlife and fluctuating meanings of performance art. On the eve of the show’s opening this weekend, V sat down with the curator to discuss performance, the internet, and what it means for an artist to perform in a world of camera phones.
V: What is the concept of (Re)Move/(Re)Frame?
COURTNEY MALICK It started out as a way to explore the relationship between the adaptation of documentary strategies into performance and a heightened sense of theatricality that I feel currently pervades performance and video art, but that I think is also very prevalent throughout most aspects of our current mediatized moment. What I realized is that actually theatricality and documentation have a lot in common. Specifically, they both stand in contrast to the ephemerality and nostalgia of the singular moment in which a performance took place because both documentation and theatricality have a flattening, framed effect. It was that flattening that performance art originally stood in resistance to in the 1960s and ‘70s. But today we embrace and manipulate flatness to interesting, complex and unusual ends. So it is ultimately the intrinsic bind to a particular space, site or context that this project aims to move outside of.
V: What led you to select the three performance artists involved?
CM: I have known of all of their work for several years to varying degrees. The relationship between Moulton’s and Yemenwed’s work stuck out to me more vividly in the beginning. However, having also been following Condon’s practice, and getting to know him more, I realized that his work levels the conceptual framework of the project. This is because his works remains more minimal and focuses on broad gestures, movements and projections, whether personal or social, (I guess this show also proposes that perhaps there is no or little distinction between the two). He invites an element of chance and free-form to his performers that I feel is well contrasted by the intense choreography in the work of Moulton and Yemenwed.
V: What was Brody Condon’s performance like? What has been the resulting documentation?
CM: Condon’ performance, entitled, Line Up (After Trisha), takes Trisha Brown’s seminal piece, Line Up (1978) as a conceptual cue. In Brown’s performance, long poles were placed on the ground in a line and the performers were tasked with finding ways to move their bodies around them without moving the configuration of the poles. Condon’s piece is sort of the inverse of Brown’s, so the movement of the performers is de-emphasized and they are used almost as vehicles in order to perpetuate the continual movement of the poles that must remain touching at their ends. I have thus read this work as a comment on the ways that subcultures and sub-identities form within larger social structures. To me, Line Up (After Trisha), speaks to technological methods of connectivity, the ties between them being integral to their ability to continue to move and exist recognizably amidst the vastness of cultural networks.
It is also important to note that is the third iteration of this piece. It was first performed at PS 1’s MOVE! festival in the fall of 2010, at which time he collaborated with Rodarte on the costumes. It was then performed a second time during Miami Basel 2010 for a daylong event called, The Island, curated by Shamim Momin. During that performance the performers wore beach appropriate clothing and waded into the water as they moved with the poles. Where the PS 1 performance was very formal, taking up three rooms with red, yellow and blue lights and with the performers wearing custom made costumes, the first iteration was by far the most comppsed, the most theatrical even, and this was also the iteration that was open to the largest public. In Miami the formal-ness of the performers attire and the setting of the piece had decreased, and while the event was still open to the public, it took place at a remote site that ended up being difficult to get to. For the performance in (Re)Move/(Re)Frame, we have gone all the way backwards, closing the performance to the public altogether, and considering the barest, most essential qualities of the work in a rehearsal-like mode. Its documentation thus far takes the form of a video and installation of the wooden poles used in the performance, which is currently on view at the CCS Galleries, as well as a series of still images that will be presented on the (Re)Move/(Re)Frame website. However, remember, since the website opens the framework of documentation to the project’s audience, I cannot determine what the final result of all of the documentation of this piece will be at this time.
V: What can we expect from the coming performances by Shana Moulton and Yemenwed?
CM: Well, I wouldn’t want to give everything away… But I can say that Yemenwed’s performance is titled No Image and it takes the common, again flat, form of a TV crime series as its template. As I mentioned, the performance is highly choreographed and formalized, it includes original scores, costumes and a sculptural stage set, all of which will be on view in the (Re)Move/(Re)Frame exhibition at the CCS Galleries at Bard College.
Moulton’s performance is titled I Lost Something in the Hills. Since it will take place in Manhattan and it is open to the public, Moulton’s performance represents the most public work within the (Re)Move/(Re)Frame series. I Lost Something in the Hills takes as a reference point the therapeutic practice of ‘Snoezelan’ rooms, a treatment for patients with autism, high anxiety and nervous disorders that is based on soft interiors and warm, glowing lights, among other things, which was particularly popular throughout Scandinavia in the 1970s.
V: How does the Internet factor into performance art now?
CM: In this project it has to do, again, with flattening and the possibilities that it opens up rather than the limitations that it imposes. Or perhaps to take it even further, we could see the ways that limitations of placement and framing that are clearly essential to the Internet, can in fact be productive and generative. That said, I spent a considerable amount of time in my written thesis discussing the ways that the collapse of the screen of the television and the screen of the computer have effected, and will continue to effect, how we receive information. Where the television was once understood to be a solely outward projecting, domestic object, today most television programs are available to watch on the Internet and ordinary people are infiltrating its once exclusive set of “stars” everyday. Likewise, content such as that on Youtube or Vimeo now often finds its way onto different television shows. Furthermore, the current level at which one can interact with and manipulate their television experience will only continue to increase with devices such as Tivo and the like. Not only does this mean that people are spending more time fully immersed in the realm of a flat screen and finding ways to become an actant upon and within it, but it also means that our capacity for, and our field of space for "traffic" has shifted, which thus allows marketing and advertisements to infiltrate into our daily lives in numerous and often subliminal ways.
What is particularly interesting to me is that these artists, and others who are working through similar issues, could find lots of ways to explore these social and technological shifts through media that is never live, and a lot of emerging internet/new media artists are doing just that. However, each of the artists included in (Re)Move/(Re)Frame continually perform with moving bodies in space and often, though not always, in front of a live audience. To me this kind of physical grounding in their work points to an important implication that the they are calling attention to; that it is not only our routines or the imagery that we ingest that will slowly morph as a result of new, faster, more complex modes of communication that we buy into and engage in, but in fact those changes will extend all the way out to our actual bodies and the ways that we look, move, behave and interact with one another.
V: Would you consider curating a performance that involves live stream?
CM: Yes. In fact, one of my very early ideas for a public mediation event for this project was to have the artists in dialogue with each other live on the Internet, (either with just text or with video, on Skype most likely), and to project it for an audience who could potentially also join in the conversation. That is still an idea that I think could be interesting, but it didn’t make sense for this show. That is of course not the same as presenting a live performance via a projected feed. I have only seen it done once and I have to say I did not find it particularly effective. I think that the reasons for showing performance that way would have to relate to the show or the context of the specific work and not just be done as an alternative to having to pay an artist to fly out for a performance or something like that. I would also like to remember that Orlan was showing live feeds of her surgical performances in galleries as early as, and throughout the 1990s, a perfect example of a performance that could never take place in a public setting, and whose content would still be very powerful, and emphasize the role of the voyeur in interesting ways even if seen via a live feed.
V: Do you hope to see an expansion with physical performance and the online realm?
CM: It seems to be a bridge that some performance artists that I know are still somewhat uncomfortable with. Again, it is of course most important as a curator always to begin with the work itself and find what conditions suit it best. As I mentioned, it made perfect sense for this project, for me to accompany it with a website, especially because these performances are all, to some extent, re-iterative, Brody’s more so than Yemenwed’s and Moulton’s. I think it is ultimately an inevitability that performance artists will have to face. Though I tend to be a bit obsessed with the idea of documentation, or more precisely I am obsessed with a fear of later regretting not having documented what turns out to be an important event, there are at times good reasons to refrain from documentation.
While (Re)Move/(Re)Frame is trying to posit documentation as a tool that can open a work up for multiple interpretations, that does not mean that literally any interpretation will suffice, which is a risk you take when you allow events to be relayed only through hear-say or storytelling. What is even more unfortunate or limiting than the fact that undocumented work could potentially be misunderstood in retrospect, is the tendency for such work to accrue some sort of precious or legendary status that I personally do not find productive, particularly when looking at a work that took place more than 20 or 30 years ago. The reverence with which such undocumented work gets imbued over time seems to keep it too tightly wedged into the context within which it was made—certainly an undeniable aspect and contingency of that work—but by no means the only lens through which we ought to evaluate it and assess its current relevance.