Magazine article Artforum International

Movement Research: Michael Ned Holte on Sharon Lockhart's Five Dances and Nine Wall Carpets by NOA Eshkol, 2011

Magazine article Artforum International

Movement Research: Michael Ned Holte on Sharon Lockhart's Five Dances and Nine Wall Carpets by NOA Eshkol, 2011

Article excerpt

FOR NEARLY TWO DECADES, Sharon Lockhart's films (and, more recently, HD videos) have maintained a consistent approach to their varied subjects, whether laborers or children playing--so consistent, in fact, as to constitute a kind of signature. Employing a fixed frame and tending toward long takes in a highly structured (if not precisely structuralist) sequence of shots, Lockhart's lens could be described as empirical in its apparently cool remove. In Goshogaoka, 1998, the camera, in a series of long takes, records a squad of adolescent Japanese girls practicing basketball drills in a gymnasium, sneakers squeaking along the wooden floor with military precision. The more recent Double Tide, 2009, is composed of two fifty-minute shots of a solitary clam digger extracting bivalves from the coastal muck, the first filmed at dawn, the second at dusk. The clam digger traverses space but never leaves the confines of the screen, while the sky gradually, dramatically transforms from night to day and back again. In both of these works, the activity takes place for a fixed camera, or within the space delimited by a fixed camera; there is little we know or can learn about its subjects beyond their movement within the frame.

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Yet in each of these works there is also a palpable sense of the artist behind the camera: a suggestion of questions asked, directions given, and relationships forged beyond the proverbial scenes. Lockhart's unseen presence is felt precisely at the moment when the human subject engages the intensified edges of the fixed frame and the vast world beyond it. (One of my favorite moments in Goshogaoka occurs when one of the otherwise-stalwart girls grimaces--to the filmmaker, presumably--after misdribbling the basketball.) In a word, Lockhart repeatedly assumes the role of choreographer, organizing a sequence of human movements within the immobile rectangle of the screen.

So perhaps it seems inevitable that she would turn her considerable attention to dance as an explicit subject. Her new body of work investigates Israeli "dance composer" and textile designer Noa Eshkol (1924-2007), who in 1958, along with engineer Abraham Wachman, developed the Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation (EWMN)--a grid-based sign system capable of describing all human and animal locomotion. The centerpiece of "Sharon Lockhart I Noa Eshkol," Lockhart's current exhibition at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, is Five Dances and Nine Wall Carpets by Noa Eshkol, 2011, an installation of five films that interpret Eshkol's choreography. The installation has been designed by architecture office EscherGuneWardena, frequent Lockhart collaborators, and notably, it's the artist's most elaborate multichannel work to date.

The Israel Museum exhibition also includes "Spheres," 2011, a series of photographs--"still life" images, paradoxically--of seven soldered wire and mesh spheres designed by Eshkol and Wachman as pedagogical tools to describe locomotion of specific limbs around a central axis. Lockhart has situated these objects against a gray backdrop photographing them in various positions as they spin. Additionally, a video by Lockhart, Four Exercises in Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation, 2011, and archival material, including examples of Eshkol's notation, are on view at the Center for Contemporary Art in Tel Aviv.

Eshkol was the daughter of Israeli prime minister Levi Eshkol, but despite her relation to such a public figure, the choreographer's work rarely engaged an audience beyond her students. …

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