Boris Charmatz: Talks about "Moments: A History of Performance in 10 Acts"

Article excerpt

BORIS CHARMATZ

THE IDEA OF A MUSEUM OF DANCE was given to me by my longtime collaborator Angele Le Grand some years ago, but it took me a while to think it through. I am sure that the doorway into dance is sometimes too narrow, predetermined by conditions that are no longer relevant: There's a need for an alternative way in, one that makes it possible to reflect, experiment, exhibit, produce, learn, show, read, write--as well as to actually dance. As I see it, this would be something quite different from the main institutional spaces that exist: the dance school and the theater. I became interested in the gap between the "dancing museum" as pure joke (is it really possible to name a public space this way?) and the heavily loaded notion of the museum as an institution. In between what is signified by museum and by dance (however problematic these terms remain), there is a black hole that could be the project's exact aim, a space where architects, critics, visual artists, performers, dancers, archivists, and citizens could experiment. I like the idea of the evolving history of dance as a working draft.

For "Moments: A History of Performance in 10 Acts," we wanted to avoid ending up with a reification of archival materials, so--in collaboration with the artist Johannes Porsch, who is responsible for the exhibition design--what the other curators and I decided on was a kind of exhibition-in-progress, staged in four parts over the eight-week run of the show. In the beginning, the gallery will be completely empty; apart from the displays and a few transport boxes, loan lists, etc. The installation of the first part will happen after the opening of the exhibition, when most of the ten great and pioneering artists who are the focus of the show will be present to create installations that document their own historical performances, with scores, photos, texts, and films--as if they were organizing their own archives. In the second phase, I will create a "lab" with performers, a musician, a filmmaker, and various thinkers (Alex Baczynski-Jenkins, Nikolaus Hirsch, Lenio Kaklea, Jan Ritsema, Ruti Sela, Christine De Smedt, Gerald Siegmund, Burkhard Stangl, and Meg Stuart). The idea here is that a younger generation will confront these archives. I would almost describe this part as "confrontation versus reconstruction," but the lab really is an experiment, so we don't know yet horx it will manifest.

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One important thing is that we aren't just intending to "animate" the museum and the history of dance but to produce our own archive as well. In the third stage of the exhibition, for example, Israeli artist Ruti Sela will be editing footage taken during the "lab" into a film, which will be on view from mid-April on. I'm hoping to work with her on a performance in which I'll try to find a way to confront the "mythic" art of the ten pioneers, on camera, without entering the mode of either reenactment or reconstruction. That said, it's quite possible I could fall in love with the score-paintings by Channa Horwitz, for example, and spend night and day trying to get them through my brain to produce the best dance interpretation I can think of.

The last section is dedicated to a group of "witnesses" from various European art schools and other organizations, ten of whom will have been following the progress of the show. …