Not having attended much, if any, dance events this past month I decided to hot foot it over to the Museum of Contemporary Art, in The Rocks, to catch Adam Linder’s durational dance exhibition, Hustle Harder. Whilst in conversation, halfway through my bicycle trek towards the gallery, I was informed that it was closed on Tuesdays and so I rode back home reflecting on the folly of acting on impulse. Consequently, the second trip was laden with the expectation that the quality of my experience must match the effort it took to make it to the event.
The online publicity of Linder’s work includes a description of his intent to explore the gallery space as a site for the increased manufacturing of digital imagery. Somehow upon entering the space I completely forgot that aspect and instead focused on the architectural aspect whereupon Linder was also exploring what he referred to as “virtuosic angling”. Without this crucial image making component, I spent a good deal of my time in a quandary as to whether Linder had actually fulfilled his own brief.
Upon entering the gallery space, half of the six dancers I counted were performing what I recognise as contemporary dance, in sharp staccato moves akin to a children’s dot-to-dot drawing whereby large pictures are connected by a series of numbered junctures or points, whilst the other half were engaged in moving large frames about the space. Like furniture removalists, I assumed the frame movers were meant to appear inconsequential to the more obvious dance action as they crouched behind their wheeled cabinets.
Initially I sat on the periphery of the action, taking my cue from the other spectators already assembled. In this configuration we had tacitly created a conventional stage space with a clearly articulated front face. After approximately fifteen minutes I approached one of the gallery guides and was informed that we could walk around the embodied exhibit and so I did. No one joined me and no one repeated my action whilst I remained there.
When looking from what was deemed ‘the back’ I was able to put the audience in the frame, and they me. From my perspective, the embodiment from the audience represented a pedestrian mirroring of what had developed ‘on stage’ as, just as each new audience member took the cue from the existing observers, by then, the dance had similarly evolved to include gestural repertoire in cannon.
Shortly after returning to my original position one of the dancers, Ivey Wawn, barked like a dog. I couldn’t resist and while her back was turned, I woofed back to her. For a while our dog selves tentatively interacted, never touching although briefly sharing a prop between us. I guess a cheeky part of me is always intent on breaking the invisible wall that separates the performer from the passive watcher.
Lastly, I took my leave and went to find the bathroom before riding home and in looking for the toilets I spied the action from a balcony on the floor above. The dancers were sat around a frame that held a monitor from which the word FEELINGS pulsated in different hues. I recognised preening gestures, including the donning of make-up and caught one or two spoken words which may or may not have alluded to the exploitation of women on/in film. I can’t be sure if I had heard correctly, or if my mind had manufactured that scenario. I just remembered feeling somehow dissatisfied, that everything had somehow felt too manicured, from the costumes which consisted of multi textured layers of stretch lace, Lycra and thick cotton knit in monochromatic royal blue or black, to the action which never approached or signified abandon, wanton or otherwise.
It was only upon rereading the blurb advertising the exhibition that the penny dropped. Of course in readiness for the digital snap all spontaneity, all abandon has already been abandoned, been dispensed with. Then, what seemed like a conundrum in Lee Serle’s accurate summation after my comparison to the Judson Church exhibition in New York’s Museum of Modern Art, also made sense in hindsight. I had remarked upon my satisfaction in seeing the reenactment of many of those seminal performative experiments, the sense of open-ended exploration employed by those post-modernist dance pioneers, to which Serle suggested the Judson Church group were searching, whereas Linder’s performers had already arrived.
Yes, I was sitting next to Lee Serle who was mentored by, taught and performed for Trisha Brown, who happened to be an instrumental player in the Judson Church art movement. Lucky for me. Changed my whole experience.
In the gallery space individual investment directly correlates to experience satisfaction. The more you put in, the more you get back in return. Hustle Harder is on until the 20th of August, you can still catch it.
‘Til next month.
Vicki Van Hout
FORM Dance Projects
Blogger in Residence
“Adam Linder | MCA Australia” https://www.mca.com.au/artists-works/exhibitions/adam-linder/
“Judson Dance Theater: The Work Is Never Done | MoMA” https://www.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/3927