Sivan Rubinstein, Migration Through Dance at the Migration Museum

Posted: March 24th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Installation, Performance | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Sivan Rubinstein, Migration Through Dance at the Migration Museum

Sivan Rubinstein, Migration Through Dance, The Migration Museum, March 14

Migration Through Dance

Migration Through Dance at the Migration Museum (photo: Paula Harrowing)

The mental concept and the physical details of maps guide the everyday course of human travel, where the features of a particular country or a city can be easily accessed online or in a guidebook. For migrants and refugees, the map is more of a geographical route of escape and arrival in a safe destination where the details of the map are perhaps less important than word-of-mouth knowledge of borders, checkpoints and pathways.

Sivan Rubinstein is one of the five choreographer/dancers who make up the current Swallowsfeet Collective. She has a family interest in maps — her father is a cartographer — and has thought deeply about their significance. She has used maps as signifiers of the world in which we live, as a philosophical entity that embraces all our activities. In MAPS that she presented in 2017 three dancers begin by creating a world map on a bare stage using white salt. As we sit around watching this map choreography, the shape of the world as we know it — or as we are used to seeing — takes form. The dancers describe it in terms of time differences and differentiate between the geological, the political and the social map. With their steps, meetings, confrontations and incantations they then transform it, erasing the contours, the seas and the landmasses with their bodies in a poetic analogy with the way governments have over the ages settled, pacified, conquered, seized, appropriated and robbed other lands as a measure of their power and influence. MAPS finishes, however, on a note of spiritual optimism with the tracing in the salt of a universal Mandala.

This year Rubinstein has developed the concept further, joining forces with the temporary home of the Migration Museum housed in the London Fire Brigade engine workshops on Albert Embankment in Lambeth and with Dr. Sarah Fine, a senior lecturer in philosophy at King’s College London to present Migration Through Dance.

As Rubinstein says, ‘dance is the movement of the map’, and within the museum’s migratory environment she has again created the outlines of a world, not out of salt but out of white tape in a configuration by Hamish MacPherson. We sit around three sides but this is a participatory performance called Active Maps with guitar accompaniment from Liran Donin; those who wish to be involved are invited to populate the map. Rubinstein invites us to walk our own migration and to land where we consider home; there is a large concentration of feet over England. She then invites us in turn to stand somewhere on the map where we don’t feel welcome and where we have family or loved ones. If the map was a plan of a house, where might we build an extension? It is the kind of game that could be played on a stadium scale. Perhaps the most controversial suggestion is to pull up the tape and place the former borders of our world in a sticky heap in the centre. What results is a different kind of space made up of connections between us but the rolling up of geographical borders causes some discomfort because of our attachment to them. Rubinstein suggests we mark out our own world, but this is more problematic; the results seem to indicate as much our individual presence in a fluid landscape as it represents a new map. Interestingly there are very few borders but rather dots and open lines crossed by others, as if designed by Paul Klee. We are approaching what Rubinstein calls ‘a desire map’ in which our feet are grounded but our minds are free to roam. And then she suggests we pull up the result of our communal geography too and add the tape to the existing ball that is then ceremoniously and respectfully set to one side.

The final stage in Rubinstein’s project, Ports of Pass, gives the stage to five dancers from Loop Dance Company and Swallowsfeet Collective who dance their passports. What is it like to take on an identity as a travel document? Harriet Parker-Beldeau stamps herself with fists against her chest repeatedly and the effect of the gestures suggests not an administrative experience but an agonising one. It is a reminder of the psychological barriers that travel can throw up; the cueing like cattle at border controls, the questioning, flight restrictions, security checks and airport navigation; Daisy Farris pulls herself from one direction to another as if listening to contradictory announcements. There are intense walking paths where the performers pass each other but do not meet, breaking off into individual partnerships and groups that seek connections. As with maps, there is no ending to this journey; a final running pattern attains an expression of unison without ever arriving at a destination.

 

Active Maps is part of a research and dance production called MAPS, commissioned by Creative Europe’s EU-funded programme, Pivot Dance, The Place (UK), Dutch Dance Festival (Netherlands) and Operaestate Festival (Italy), and with the support of Arts Council England and King’s College London. Ports that Pass was commissioned by Loop Dance Company, and made with the support of Arts Council England, the Israeli Embassy in London, and Turner Contemporary, Margate.


Nathaniel Rackowe & Angela Woodhouse, (Un)touched

Posted: July 18th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Installation, Performance | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on Nathaniel Rackowe & Angela Woodhouse, (Un)touched

Nathaniel Rackowe and Angela Woodhouse, (Un)touched, Fold Gallery, July 15

Martina Conti and Stine Nilsen in (Un)touched (photo: Noah Da Costa)

Nathaniel Rackowe’s exhibition Threshold at Fold Gallery in Fitzrovia includes some recent wall-based light works and the diptych (Un)touched, a collaborative installation the artist has developed with choreographer Angela Woodhouse. Boundaries are a key motif Rackowe explores by pushing the edges of both form and matter. The wall-based works use fluorescent tubes and coated glass panels whose planes juxtapose and superimpose. Characteristically, Rackowe engages with light not so much as a medium but rather as a means to dissolve the material edges of the panels into transparent and reflective layers of evanescent colour. Echoing Rackowe’s ideas, Woodhouse in (Un)touched interpolates her own investigation of boundaries through movement. Their collaboration has developed over a period of three years and one can feel the maturing of the process in the work’s synergies. Woodhouse has an intuitive ability to find spaces in the choreographic firmament that have not been explored and where collaboration offers new creative possibilities, while Rackowe’s concepts of form, space and light welcome such an approach.

The material framework of (Un)touched consists of two separate structures that take up the central floor area of the gallery. The first is an elongated rectangular grid made of neatly detailed industrial panels of perforated steel and expanded mesh interspersed with ones of coated glass; the second is a low square steel platform covered with reinforced glass on which the audience can stand. The two structures relate to each other as a nave to the apse of a church and the way they both fit into the gallery makes it seem as they were made specifically for it.

Woodhouse interfaces the materiality of these structures with the choreographed movement of two dancers, Stine Nilsen and Martina Conti. The audience is invited to walk around while Nilsen and Conti wander through the maze of intersecting planes as if engaging in a game of silent encounters that are only fulfilled in the mirroring of the dancers’ movements through glass and in their fading reflections. Occasionally they hold the gaze of a member of the audience, so that watching them we experience mutating levels of intimacy that emerge and then recede into a proximity that is never achieved. The sequencing of fluorescent lighting that in turn makes the glass panels transparent (fleetingly bringing dancers and audience into close visual proximity) and opaque (reflecting an image of both dancers and audience back on themselves) intensifies the interplay of presence and absence, of invisibility and appearance. In addition the perforated steel panels create pixelated images of the dancers’ bodies placed behind them, whilst open spaces in the structure reveal the fullness of the body and intermittent blackouts reset our threshold of vision. It is in these multiple views that the full value of (Un)touched emerges and where the visions of Rackowe and Woodhouse meet. The dancers breathe life into the inert structure and partner it through the choreographic journey while the audience becomes an integral part of such a journey through the visual permutations of each change of perspective.

Following Nilsen’s and Conti’s beguiling game in the ‘nave’, after a short pause the audience is invited into the ‘apse’ to congregate around the second structure; the two dancers reappear under the glass, as alive and motionless as fish seen from the surface of the water. Again the fluorescent tubes inside the structure and on the walls above it create changing degrees of transparency through the glass although our perspective is relatively fixed. We are invited to walk on the surface but the sense of standing over the dancers is an ambivalent pleasure as they move lithely beneath us. Because of the limited space under the glass, the intimacy between dancers is physical, sensual, as Conti nestles her head under Nilsen’s arm or Nilsen rolls over to embrace Conti’s shape. The two bodies seem suspended in the changing lights, making their shapes and forms flit between transient beauty and our own figures peering into the glass, our reflections descending to the ceiling. The entire performance challenges our mode of interaction with the subject, from voyeuristic distance to the intimacy of regard and tentative physical communication as Nilsen and Conti rediscover what touch might mean at the edges of proximity. They engage with each other and with the audience in such a calm, ordered way that although there is no musical accompaniment to the performance, the movement and light contain within them an implicit auditory sensation of serenity that reverberates through the small gallery, completing the sensory universe that Rackowe and Woodhouse have created. The applause at the end breaks the reverie and returns us to our reality.


Caroline Broadhead, Nic Sandiland and Angela Woodhouse: Close Distance

Posted: March 16th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Installation | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Caroline Broadhead, Nic Sandiland and Angela Woodhouse: Close Distance

Caroline Broadhead, Nic Sandiland and Angela Woodhouse, Close Distance, Wollaton Hall, Nottingham, March 11

Close Distance

An image from Close Distance (photo: Nic Sandiland)

The first impression as you enter Wollaton Hall’s Prospect Room from the narrow stone staircase is one of emerging into light and space. The first owner of this grand Elizabethan pile, Sir Francis Willoughby, had the room designed as a palatial lookout over the sylvan prospect all around, a place of privilege from which he could proudly survey and show off his walled domain. Six floors below, in the rock foundations on which Wollaton Hall stands, lived the household servants with little or no prospect at all. The architecture of Wollaton is thus an existing material imprint of a social hierarchy that no longer exists.

Close Distance, a subtle and imaginative installation by artist Caroline Broadhead, filmmaker and designer Nic Sandiland, and choreographer Angela Woodhouse, uses the present physical imprint to shed light on aspects of domestic life that can no longer be seen, and by setting the installation in the Prospect Room its creators neatly invert history by allowing servants to be re-imagined in this locus of privilege to which they would never have had access. Giving them the key to the Prospect Room was none other than Nottingham City Museums and Galleries, which now runs Wollaton Hall as a historic house and natural history museum, and which commissioned Close Distance as part of Dance4’s Nottdance Festival. This is creative commissioning at its best.

Broadhead, Sandiland and Woodhouse have added the touch of a smile to their reflections on life below stairs at Wollaton through a series of elaborate artistic conceits. The servants are represented by four dancers (Martina Conti, Kristian Tirsgaard, Vanio Papadelli, and Alice Labant) whose movement phrases, choreographed by Woodhouse, nuance the lives of the servants through silent gesture, sometimes inhabiting their despair and sometimes their hopes and aspirations. These choreographic episodes have been captured on film by Sandiland and looped on to small tablet screens embedded into items of furniture sourced by Broadhead. You may need to lift the lid of the sewing box or open the drawer of the escritoire to see the screen, but open or closed the films are running all the time — like the servants, who had to sleep on their feet. To this already complex layering of artifacts Broadhead has added samples of locally sourced material from the Middleton embroidery collection — a piece of lace or a square of luxurious carpet — that frame each screen. A gentle musical continuum of Handel concerti is pierced only by the persistent sound of the servants’ bell.

The focus of the Prospect Room is outwards, not inwards, and its only furnishing was possibly a telescope or a pair of binoculars similar to that in the installation; it was never intended for furniture so the four period items Broadhead has placed there along with the utilitarian wooden stepladder serve to reference other rooms in the house. Once arrived in the room, the privileged spectator wanders freely in this airy space from one artifact to the next in no particular order, building a sensory impression of what life might have been like below them. What Nottingham City Museums and Galleries has commissioned, in effect, is a playfully subversive display of social history at Wollaton Hall that paints the household in a way the taxidermy downstairs in the Natural History Museum can never achieve for its collection of wildlife.

One of the beauties of this kind of installation is that its very subtlety forces you to think, to contemplate and ask questions; it is an imaginative archaeology of past sensations that requires further study and exploration. In avoiding an approach to history that profiles the dates and achievements of the wealthy and powerful, Broadhead, Sandiland and Woodhouse have not only recalled an underprivileged past but have recalibrated it: it is the servants who, after all these years of confinement, have finally emerged into the light and space.

Close Distance is open at Wollaton Hall until May 1, 2017.