Bodies, space, gesture.

Our recent trip to London included a field trip to the Tate Britain. Here, we saw Pablo Bronstein’s Historical Dances in an Antique Setting in addition to a wander through the Modern Art gallery spaces before our evening field trip to Rash Dash’s Two Man Show.

Caroline and I have talked a lot about the framing of artforms recently. In this piece of work, we are told that Bronstein:

… works across drawing, installation and performance to explore the physical and psychological impact of architecture. His work centres on a fascination with power and style that is mediated through his long-standing interest in premodern design and in social codification of periods such as the Baroque.

We are thus primed with the context of the artist’s oeuvre, the piece of work and the artist’s intentions. There is space to experience and interpret the work, however it is to some degree already framed by the information we are told.

We are also given a description of the different aspects of the work  (visual, iconographic, architectural) and further detail about the training of the dancers, what it is they perform in their poses and gestures and what they represent. Caroline and I have also talked about space to dream in art forms; to imagine, interpret, think, wander, be.  Like the dictionary definition of dream, this also relates to sensation and feeling.

For me, the space of being in the work encompassed:

visual and architectural gestures of the Baroque translated into dance and enacted through bodily gestures and movement.

performance – devised, choreographed – but also the performative in that viewers engaged with the work differently spatially and temporally; some walked right through glancing at the bodies, some sat for longer on the floor, others followed the dancers as they videos them.

disjuncture (visual, spatial, haptic) between the architecture of the Tate’s Duveen galleries, the staged visual motifs added to the space and the performed Baroque gesture.

feeling, space to dream.

Yet, I could not ignore that at the same time there was an uncomfortable tension between this ontological dimension of the work and the information very selectively and specifically given to me. Of sense, making sense and being told what sense is. Narrative, authority and power structures (gallery, language, curatorial, art criticism) are inevitably at play and serve as a useful reminder that rethinking meaning-making practices also extends to rethinking our relation to these embedded conventions.


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