William Forsythe’s Choreographic Objects, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston USA
Forsythe (1949), a dancer and choreographer trained with classical ballet rules, explores the breaking and transformation of these rules through a series of works that started in 1990, under the title Choreographic Object. Forsythe’s choreographic style is both postmodern and de-constructivist, exploring the unexpected, based on improvisation, as part of the process creating the works. His work focuses on space and dynamics and this is evident in Choreographic Objects, as they consist of architectural and performance installations, combing choreographic and visual arts.
The exhibition hosted by the ICA consists of three main areas: installations spread in the whole room area, inviting the visitors to move through the space, perform actions and become part of the work, installations and smaller works which again invite the visitors to move, this time with restricted and smaller movements, and video installations performed by professional dancers. In creating his series of Choreographic Objects, Forsythe’s challenge was to create new ways to document dance without the participation of professional dancers. And this is evident in the exhibition, where the installations covering the whole rooms invite the visitors to participate, following the artist’s instructions for each work. As each visitor will approach the situation differently, and in the process of learning through trial and error, they appreciate their own capacities and limitations.
The visitors enter the exhibition facing a floor to ceiling screen feed by a hidden camera that replays the visitors’ movements through an algorithm that transforms their actions. Most visitors enter the room skeptical, mostly because of the intimidating huge screen, feeling that they are being watched, however once they realized how the exhibit works, they go into the process of moving around the room and dancing, in a way challenging the screen to follow their movements. The distorted images created through the algorithm, urge the visitor to reconsider their own image and actions, how these are perceived by others and in way to embrace what is considered as different.
But the work that brings the visitors to their limits, is the room full of suspended rings. The visitor is asked to move across the room without touching ground, just using the rings. Do you have the physical strength to complete the task? Are you focused enough? Because as in every physical exercise body and mind need to work together to achieve a result. Because of the uneven way the rings are suspended, the participant unconsciously performs everyday movements, for example when sitting down or when trying to avoid something. Depending on whether you completed the task or not, the work makes you question whether you are strong enough or whether you need to exercise more. On the other hand, it makes you question: I did not complete the task, so what? Do I need to try again? Do I move on? Although the feeling of failure is dominant in the room, as untrained people are asked to perform an intense and exhausting exercise, the concentration that the participants put in completing the exercise most probably makes them forget about everyday worries, or of things that they should not worry at all.
The last work of the exhibition invites the visitors to perform the exact opposite action. Whereas the visitors tried to use the rings to move across the room, with the work of suspended pendulums the visitors are invited to move across the room avoiding the moving pendulums. The objects are suspended from automated grids and programmed to move asynchronously. This results in visitors trying to move through the space by making movements through the challenge of their perceptions and reflections. The visitors are trying to avoid the objects that actually see they are about to hit them but also of the objects they suspect will hit them from the side or from behind.
Just have in mind; before visiting exercise and do some stretching, it will definitely be helpful.