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Move-Me Booth Move-Me Booth
BILL VIOLA HAS WRITTEN OF THE POROUS NATURE OF MEMORY, WHICH HE CHARACTERISES AS AN UNFOLDING PROCESS, CONTINUOUSLY BEING “UPDATED, MODIFIED AND INVENTED.” BRIGHTON’S DANCE FOR CAMERA FESTIVAL 2007 REFLECTED THE IMPORTANCE OF LINEAGE WITHIN THE COLLECTIVE HISTORICAL MEMORY OF THE GENRE, AS THE FORM FINDS WAYS TO REIMAGINE ITSELF BEYOND THE BOUNDARIES OF THE PREVIOUSLY KNOWN.

Expanded from a single day’s event, and this year included under the umbrella of the Cinecity film festival, Dance for Camera’s three days of screenings were programmed by South East Dance’s Mairead Turner, Vicky Bloor and Charlotte Miles into several distinct strands, grouped around a central retrospective. Prefaced and contextualised by Martina Kudlácêk’s documentary In The Mirror of Maya Deren (2002), guest curators Christiana Galanopoulou of Athens-based Videodance, and Alla Kovgan of Kinodance in St. Petersburg, assembled a programme of Deren’s best known works, including Meshes of the Afternoon (1943), At Land (1944) and Ritual in Transfigured Time (1945-6). Live musical interpretation of the latter two pieces reflected and enhanced the filmic interweaving of dream states, water-based imagery and dislocating temporal distortions into a web of mesmeric liminality. An additional program examining Deren’s creative legacy included Kovgan and Jeff Silva’s highlighting of the medium’s material properties in Arcus (2002), by means of an assured use of inky negative and close cropped shifting frames.

Elsewhere, Horizon of Exile (2007), Isabel Rocamora’s meditatively-paced, desert-set, black-clad exploration of landscape and female identity, formed part of the Challenging Perspectives program, while the Dance 4 Film Preview showcased a range of work for televised broadcast in the UK and Australia. Here, Liz Aggis’ alternating usage of colour and monochrome in Diva (2007) underscored a simultaneous portrayal and subversion of both her performance persona and the process of filming itself, with Roman Kornienko and Maria Sharafutdinova’s 10 Exhalations (2006) of the title represented visually as a cloud of white vapour, utilised as a highly stylised shorthand device charting the narrative arc of a relationship from enraptured eye-gazing to abandoned cough.

The festival’s opening night program set out to explore non-traditional ‘dance’ content, including a range of work foregrounding elements such as camera journey and conceptualisation. Rajyashree Ramamurthi’s More Stories (2007) led the viewer through an immersive world of richly wordless narrativity, drawn from personal history and combining monochrome animation with lush colour coding, evoking the heightened sensual response of childhood recall. Becky Edmund’s Sand Little Sand (2006) presented an unvarnished and expansive Argentinean landscape comprising sand, road, rock, wind and sky, where the subtle and ambiguous movement of the sand itself, forming momentarily into puffs and clouds, was revealed at the work’s end as the by-product of a dancing figure, previously erased from shot [RT77, p36]. Olive Bieringa’s Small Dance (2007), situated the upright figure of contact improviser Steve Paxton against a grouping of flowering plants, fronting a two-storey wooden house. For the duration of the single-shot work, Paxton remains immobile, while the viewer’s eye is inexorably drawn to the gently swaying foliage and flashes of movement from an upstairs window, calling attention to the understated motion of the natural world and the everyday.

Viola has also noted the ephemerality of the electronic, stating that “images are born, they are created, they exist, and, in the flick of a switch, they die.” Two installations, housed for the festival’s duration in the foyer of Brighton’s Lighthouse building, dealt in strikingly divergent ways with the lifespan of the image, while bypassing traditionally-oriented notions of seated, single-screen viewing.

Katrina McPherson and Simon Fildes’ Move-Me Booth, co-produced by Goat and Ricochet Dance Productions, utilised the familiarity and accessibility of photo booth culture to provide a meeting ground for choreographic input and public participation. Set against a plain white background and captured by a fixed, front-on camera, participants require nothing more than a willingness to interpret verbal instructions, enacted within the structural confines of the space, and selected from a varied menu of choreographic options, ranging from hip-hop to improvisation. Hosted on the installation’s web-site, the resulting images contain moments of poetry and abstraction, emerging from the configuration of an inadvertent grouping of bodies or the extreme close-up of facial features to camera. The series of solos, duets and trios also functions on the level of social document, testament to a mix of ages, backgrounds and expectations recorded along with each participant’s movement journey, and stored as data in an electronic afterlife.

Contrastingly, viewers for Billy Cowie’s In the Flesh (2007) lift a tent-like flap to enter a physically confined and darkened area akin to a magician’s cabinet, as a space set apart from the rules of everyday reality. Georges Méliès wrote of the potential for the moving image to contain “all of the illusions that can be produced by prestidigitation, optics, photographic tricks.” Using a projector, an angled mirror, and a pair of 3D spectacles, Cowie transforms a flattened, floor-based image into what he terms “a Spectrefilm” as a female figure manifests, simultaneously solid and insubstantial, as a William Gibsonesque life-size virtual presence, capable of reaching out towards the viewer and eerily connecting gaze. The pared down simplicity of this concept extended to a minimal soundtrack, consisting of piano and spoken word, and to a slowly-paced and carefully considered movement vocabulary, as a hand reaches to connect with an upwardly angled foot in an infant-like exploration of the limits of physical form. A shift from a foetal curl into an angled arrangement of elbows and knees ends with a careful placement of hand, feet and forehead to ground before the figure vanishes entirely into the darkness of a momentary blackout, subsequently rematerialising to start her brief life cycle over again.

Stan Brakhage describes the trees in the opening shot of Maya Deren’s A Study in Choreography for Camera (1945) as attaining “a state of dance.” Dance for Camera demonstrated that there is both audience and appetite for work willing to explore such expanded notions of dance and how it can be defined and experienced within a contemporary screen context.


South East Dance, Dance for Camera Festival, Cinecity, Brighton, Nov 30-Dec 2, 2007; www.southeastdance.org.uk/danceforcamerafestival.html

RealTime issue #83 Feb-March 2008 pg. 24

© Chirstinn Whyte; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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