THE NATURALNESS OF PERFORMANCE. PERFORMANCE AND/IN NATURE
by Alanna Lockward
Yet nature is made better by no mean
but nature makes that mean.
So o´er that art
which you say adds to nature,
is an art
that nature makes.
You see, sweet maid,
We marry a gentler scion to the wildest stock
and may conceive a bark of baser kind
by bud of noble race.
This is an art which does mend nature-change it rather;
THE ART ITSELF IS NATURE.
Some of the artists in this video-art selection have chosen to work exclusively within the context of Nature and its phenomena; sometimes documenting the aftermath of its contemplation and others intervening it, and eventually combining both. For others, the approach to Nature is occasional, or even tangential.
Reynold Reynolds, Secret Life, 2008, sound, 5:00, and (right) Agnes Meyer-Brandis, CCS-Trailer, 2008, sound, 5′ 30”, courtesy of ArtLabour Archives
The nature of time is a central preoccupation of Reynold Reynolds´ new series. In Secret Life (2008) the artist approaches the unperceivable conditions that frame life. A woman is trapped in an apartment that experiences a collapse of time. Without the certainty of time, she is unable to keep her location, and her mind neglects the organization of the experience, leaving her only with sensations. The thoughts escape from her and grow like plants out into the space around her, living, searching, overtaking her apartment, wild threatening her; then dieing and decaying like animals.
According to Reynolds: “Time is about movement and change, like our experience of reality. Without change life does not exist. Photography does not capture this experience. Video is fixed because the relation between time and number of pictures is given, while in film one must decide on the frame rate (24 frames a second or 16, or 48, etc.). When using a film camera choices have to be made based on the relationship between the amount of light available, the frame rate, the sharpness of motion, the length of the film and even the price of film: F stops, feet, feet per second, minutes per roll, pictures per second, exposure time, depth of field and euros per meter. Video hides all these fundamental choices and relationships from the artist.”1
Maya Deren, At Land, 1944, silent, 15:00, courtesy of ArtLabour Archives
Nature and rhythm play a central role in Maya Deren´s 16 mm At Land (1944). As in all of her films, the concept of the human condition reaches far beyond the frontiers of surrealism where some conventions insist on framing her. In this film black & white film with no sound, a woman emerges out of the ocean and starts an ongoing search of inner awareness, with Nature as an ally and “normal” circumstances as a disorienting paradigm. Thanks to her own engagement as dancer and performer, Maya Deren´s choreographic use of the camera was a constant in her brief but seminal filmography.
Alette Simmons-Jiménez, Revolution & Evolution, 2000, sound, 2:12, courtesy of ArtLabour Archives
In Revolution Evolution (2003), Alette Simmons-Jiménez codifies a new vision of Nature’s performatic talents. She classifies Nature’s energy through different manifestations by combining found-footage and original material. Classic tilt-down shots of Hollywood 30´s choreography, with circular ensembles displaying precision and glamour, dissolve into a collage of twirls alluding to the similarities between human existence and the forces of gravity.
Alexia, Miranda, Caída de Los Cuerpos, 2008, sound, 2:25, courtesy of ArtLabour Archives
The same preoccupation is treated organically in Caída de los Cuerpos (2008) by Alexia Miranda. The artist, a trained dancer, literally falls down a hill, her body almost melting with the softness of its volcanic ashes. This need to re-enact vertigo, that human experience repeats over and over, is incorporated in this video-performance with moving serenity.
Ellen Harvey, Rose Painting, 2005, silent, 30:00 Courtesy of ArtLabour Archives
What could be more natural than a Rose? But Ellen Harvey’s Rose Painting (2005) is by no means an attempt to portray nature. Her video-performance only refers to Nature tangentially for the purpose of assisting her need for a a sort of litmus test, for finding-out how the viewer feels about artists — is the artist crazy enough to paint with her own blood?
Agnes Meyer-Brandis, CCS-Trailer, 2008, 5:30, Courtesy of ArtLabour Archives
Agnes Meyer-Brandis is the founder of the Forschungsfloss FFUR / Research Raft for Subterranean Reefology, a small institute whose chief aim is to explore and confirm subterranean phenomena and unknown life forms. Cloud Core Scanner (CCS): An Artistic Experiment in Weightlessness (2008) is the newest addition to Meyer-Brandis´ continuous dialogue with Nature which is exceptionally sustained by flamboyant scientific paraphernalia. As we can appreciate in this video-documentation, she has now moved-up to the sky and is literally living in clouds, at least for the duration of her research on their secrets. The artist’s juxtaposition of scientific research, relational humour (all of her pieces become at some point interactive) and unconventional formal solutions is simultaneously unpretentious and groundbreaking.
IngridMwangiRobertHutter, Cryptic. A Traveller’s Diary, 2007, sound, 15:04, courtesy of ArtLabour Archives
The name IngridMwangiRobertHutter responds, according to Simon Njami, to “ [a]… decision to appear as through a name, artistically inseparable from that of her accomplice, [which] illustrates her journey of some years, one that has taken her through various stages of maturation from a self-cantered singular “I” to the more problematic “We”. Of course there are numerous examples of artistic couples but they are always considered as being two separate entities”2. As in much of her video-art, photography and performance work, in Cryptic: A travellers Diary (2007) IngridMwangiRobertHutter creates transgressive landscapes with her body, refusing to accept the “naturalness” of geography and history ´s rules of exclusion. This conductual relationship to Nature could also be appropriated in the context of this selection, as affiliated to the heritage of avant-garde filmmaker Maya Deren, who institutionalized the notion of private-screenings as an “art” event. What we are experiencing today in white-cube and other multiple projection spaces is nothing else but the aftermath of Maya Derens´s vision of the moving image’s inescapable status as a non-massive, critical discursive media.
1. Reynold Reynolds 2008. Secret Machine, an Essay on Time. From Muybridge, Duchamp and Stan Brakhage to modern physics. Alanna Lockward interview with the artist.
2. Simon Njami. Beyond the Mirror. In IngridMwangiRobertHutter, 2008. Along the Horizon. Catalogue. Il Trifoglio Nero: Genova.
Exhibition images by Gonzalo Posada León.
The video-art project Naturaleza Intervenida was initiated by Juan Ramón Barbancho and sponsored by Junta de Andalucía, and co-curated by him, Nilo Casares, Andrés Isaac Santana and Alanna Lockward. Each curator selected seven artists for a week exhibition during one month. Proudly supported by VideoArtWorld.
Iniciarte, Seville, November-December, 2008
Maya Deren, Ellen Harvey, Agnes Meyer-Brandis, Alexia Miranda, Reynold Reynolds, IngridMwangiRobertHutter, Alette Simmons-Jiménez
©Copyright Alanna Lockward