art histories

Dance!

Workshop intervention: Karlsruhe class dances together with artists during the exhibition “Moments. A History of Performance in 10 Acts”

The uncommon exhibition project “Moments. A History of Performance in 10 Acts”, which ran at the ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art till the end of April this year, offered a considerable amount of space for the critical engagement with performances and dance in the most diverse of ways. While active participation in the exhibition project is included – this represents a particular challenge for the mediation of art. An observation by museum educationalist Anna Donderer.

We have set ourselves several objectives for the present workshop with the international preparatory class of Gutenberg School Karlsruhe. The class, comprising pupils from different countries from the ages of eight to fifteen, will be visiting the exhibition “Moments. A History of Performance in 10 Acts” at the ZKM | Museum of Contemporary Art for the second time from a total of four events. On each occasion, the pupils will once again able to undertake a journey of discovery on the look out for innovations in the exhibition space. “Moments” is an exhibition ‘in progress’, which is subject to continual change over a period of eight weeks. The acquisition, reinterpretation and new interpretation of past performances forms the thematic emphasis and these processes are researched and carried out live in the exhibition space.

Today, each group of students will produce a stop-motion film. In a very abstract manner, and only by using white lines and circles distributed across the floor, ways are found for interpreting one of the ‘works of performance art’ of the 1960s. Work will be carried out with paper brought into motion by means of the stop motion technique. There is a great deal of ground to cover with twenty pupils and within the space of merely three hours.

Unobserved by us, the participants of the artistic laboratory around Boris Charmatz plan an attempt to re-enact the work “City Dance” by Anna Halprin. The artist had performed four such City Dances in San Francisco around 1979. The population at the time was in a state of shock following the murder of Mayor George Moscone and city councilor Harvey Milk. It was just at this politically explosive time that Halprin invited the population to gather together at various places around the city and to begin dancing as a kind of peaceful counter-movement. The performer thus created a sense of community among the citizens and in this way sought to console the city.

The pupils finally return from the break, and we seek to rapidly continue our work in the stop-motion technique. And yet the artists suddenly begin laughing and dancing around the exhibition space – the pupils are taken aback. Several of them appear confused, while others listen in amusement at the artist’s outbreak. The attentiveness they show towards their work in film disappears. The first courageous ones hesitantly begin swinging before starting to dance. One boy grabs composer Burkhard Stangl’s guitar, and the sound of the song “Smoke on the water” can be heard, whereas choreograph and curator Boris Charmatz swaps shoes, socks and hat with someone else from the class.

A little later all the artists gather round in a circle and fall silent: “What are you doing?” – “Hmmm – we’re meditating” replies the dancer and choreographer Christine de Smedt. The pupil Phil Parker understands this, assumes a meditative position and whispers ‘Om’. All agree.

The pupils’ impulses also determine the group’s action. A real “ZKM Dance” emerges. The art educationalist Fanny Kranz and I are pleased: the pupils have become part of the exhibition. Sarah, a pupil, remarks: “Wow! We are now part of the work of art”. Although not on schedule, the experience and the engagement with performance that these pupils have made are invaluable.

Text: Anna Donderer

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