Tuesday, April 9, 2013

I Don't Get It

Artist Molly Brennan installing sculpture
At a faculty event recently one of my senior colleagues shared that she just doesn’t get art, or dance. While that disappoints me in some ways, I found her honesty refreshing. The natural urge to search for meaningful patterns in life, leads many, when looking at art, or dance, to the same exasperated revelation: “I don’t get it.” The truth is, more often than not, there is nothing specific to get. Art can be, but is not often, about communicating a clear, specific message. From my perspective, it is most often about the experience, the spark of connection, between the artwork, the viewer, and the artist—not the message. For example, a series of singular events, makes no attempt to convey a message.

Rather, the work developed out of an exploration of three continuums: the micro to the macro, the biological to the technological, and the fragmented (singular) to the connected (series). If I arrived at any final message it might be Leonardo Da Vinci’s quote:  “Learn how to see. Realize everything connects to everything else.” But even that is not purposeful. The dance that developed while exploring the three continuums is its own animal; it does not exist to serve the delivery of a message. It just is.

As I observe the rehearsals, I have learned to see that for the continuum of micro to macro, the video collage begins with cells, some life affirming and some life negating, and expands to images of the cosmos. The dancers, paralleling this continuum, begin in an amoeba-egg-organic shape and develop throughout the piece to wild, disparate individuals, each swirling around their personal axis.

For the continuum of biological to technological, the work integrates organic movement phrasing derived from developmental movement with technological elements through projections of video footage, interactive multimedia, and technical athletic movement.

For the continuum of the fragmented to the connected, the simplest use of this is seen with the dancers working in pairs, groups, and then individually. More subtlely, movement phrases ‘on stage’ parallel the ‘off stage’ performer working the projections. And, with the use of pre-recorded footage of audience members in the lobby before the concert, the viewers also participate as performers projected on stage. Furthermore, the sculpture, created by art student Molly Brennan, integrates the inorganic and organic as well as the ceiling shapes of the theater into the stage space.

Is there a message? Not purposefully so. My own bias and view of the world, one that sees inter-connectivity as universal, seems to have unconsciously shaped the work.  But that was an accident. Besides, why try to get across a meaning in movement when it could more succinctly be put into words like Leonardo did long ago. Freed from the idea of art as a form of literal communication, the dance can just be. 
“Learn how to see. Realize everything connects to everything else.” ~ Leonardo Da Vinci

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