In search of lecture performances that have the capacity to “push the boundaries between art and life” (Midler, 2011, p.13), I found “Veronique Doisneau” (2004), choreographed by Jerome Bel, a work that quietly criticises the institutional and social structure of ballet. Aside from the clever use of gaze and focus, in that it reminds the audience of their own social class because of how Doisneau addresses each tier of the auditorium separately, what resonates with me most, is the biographical tone of the work and how illuminates the hierarchy of the bodies within ballet productions. For instance, in a solo re-enactment of a corps de ballet scene from Swan Lake, Doisneau performs movement that is rarely witnessed by audiences because of focussed they are on the main body; the principal dancer. Seeing one woman execute a dance, that is usually performed by 32 women simultaneously, is powerfully eye opening. The long pauses and the repeated gestures clearly show the pain and endurance that is required by dancers to be able to successfully play the role of human décor. The idea that we are looking at bodies, as opposed to women, or subjects, is relevant to some of my previous research concerning objectification in pole dance. However, considering how often dancers are referred to as bodies or instruments, I feel like the questions about the objectified body in pole dance are actually more applicable to other styles of dance. If a choreographer works with a concept that requires no element of subjectivity from the dancer, then the dancer is left to stand as an object. An object that is manipulated to create art. If a body was used in this way for something other than art, it would be considered exploitation. I must explore this in further depth…
On the subject of Art, Brian Eno’s discursive lecture; “Who Is Art for?” recently taught me more about functional art and how it encompasses stylistic decision making. Using a screwdriver as an example, he discusses how the practical part of the tool (the head) always remains the same, yet there is a little more freedom in the design of the handle. From this, he poses that most stylistic art works, such as a sculptures, can be located along an axis of functional tool to useless art object. Of course, artist intention, cultural context and position in time all play a massive roles in how said art object is perceived and understood by onlookers, but here, I am interesting in the artist intention.
The sophisticated choices within the decision making process of creating an art work are all a result of one central question; “what if”. What would it take to suggest another world? What does this world look like with the values of one person? How can a person present their view of the world to an audience? How can the ego of an artist be the driving force behind stylistic choices? These questions seem pretty straight forward, yet the intrinsic value behind the stylistic object is often comprised by damaged imagination whereby an artist can either surrender to societal norms and audience expectation, or they can take control and display their own interpretation of the object. This idea of surrender and control / conform or transgress, presents a new realm for an artist as they make their choices.
I used the ideas discussed above as stimulus for one of my physical explorations this week. At first, the movement was very literal as it was either controlled or admitting defeat, however, as time went on, I became more engaged with aesthetic decisions based on neutralising gender and challenging contrived perceptions of pole movement.
I’ll be back next week with more to share, but in the meantime, you can see my daily updates by following me on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook