Blog #4 by Platform dramaturg-in-residence Jenn Joy
October 25, 2010
DD Dorvillier/human future dance corps, No Change or “freedom is a psycho-kinetic skill” (2005)
“…this state of insecurity is not natural but constructed—a political condition produced by a power on whose favor we depend and which we can only petition. To act out the precarious, then, is not only to evoke its perilous and private effects but also to intimate how and why they are produced.” —Hal Foster, “Precarious” (Artforum, October 2009)
An opening with address: a voice speaks over the undulating feedback filling the space of St. Mark’s Church to remind us to turn off our cell phones and then claims solidarity with the protestors currently taking to the streets of Paris. Calling attention to the ways in which we pay attention (reception in a state of cell phone distraction) while also aligning the work with cultural events that we cannot ignore or turn off when the door closes and the performance begins. The temperature in the church rises from the lights illuminating the audience and the stage. We too are complicit in this cultural work: Dorvillier imagines dance as a labor with political agency.
Dorvillier’s No Change or “freedom is a psycho-kinetic skill” proposes a precarious mode of address. Precarious not only in the seemingly haphazard assemblage of the cords strewn on the floor, pens taped onto microphones, iPods hanging off the sound boards, but also in the work’s process or history. I witnessed one version of the work in the Chez Bushwick studio as Dorvillier moved around the perimeter taking on the shape of the brick architectural details or the broom leaning against the bathroom door. Another version performed at Context Studios used the brilliant white cyc-wall to evoke a terrain of nothingness against which she played with and struggled against the entangled lines of cords, the idiosyncrasies of the microphone stand, and seductions of the curtain enticing her almost out the window. For me the piece speaks of the conditions of artistic labor as it transposes economic and aesthetic questions into precise and playful tactical movements. Each version imagines a kind of rehearsal space or production site with all the technical effects on view that the performers must negotiate as they wander across the space. It is as if all her rehearsal studios from Brooklyn, Vienna, Paris become collapsed into each iteration as each space produces another sedimentary situation.
Lying down among the black cords, amplifiers and microphone stands as feedback drifts through the space, Dorvillier’s body becomes another pile in the minimal terrain. She stands and wanders around the space; the objects become destinations interpellating her movements, calling out for her attention. Dragging the cords and microphone stand across the floor she uses them to investigate the architecture while simultaneously playing with their form and function. Picking up a pink pen with a microphone attached she traces the seam of her pants and Elizabeth Ward’s outline on the floor and then writes something I cannot read on the floor; the sound of each action reverberates through the space.
Posing underneath the microphone stand now balanced on its side, she wriggles out of her jeans, each awkward grunt and wrinkle amplified by the microphone in her pocket. Her gestures become sensuous, slower and through repetition her body becomes sculpture, becomes sound. Later breaking from her role as dancer, she becomes a tech moving lights across the floor as Ward begins her elegant dance with an empty coffee cup to Seth Cluett’s piano score.
No Change or “Freedom is a Psycho-Kinetic Skill” disturbs signifying and solipsistic logic as objects dance and dancers lie still and silent on the floor. There is a migratory freedom of movement in Dorvillier’s engagement with objects, the realigning of the trajectories of cords and effects of the studio, and in her intimate play with architectural idiosyncrasy. Yet the quality of movement also calls attention to the circumscription of this freedom, reminding us that gesture is always responsive to and interrogated by the spaces and objects of its surround. Perhaps this is what lends the piece its precarious quality, the acknowledgement that freedom is a skill that is always contingent and provisional.