Art and Dance: Unpredictable Variations
Virtual Exhibition "Breaking Steps" curated by Elena Sorokina, currently fellow of the Whitney Curatorial Program.

  Anyone could dance anything – a film, a poem, an action – during the 1960s interdisciplinary crossover. Pushing the limits of thier creative activity, many visual artists have engaged with dance since. For some practitioners such as Yvonne Rainer, Bruce Nauman or Rebecca Horn, the concepts of body and movement became a crucial part of their work. Others like Tracey Emin, Karen Kilimnik or Kara Walker, opted for integrating singular but powerful appearances of dance in their work.

The following presentation of works provides some examples of the way that contemporary artists reflect on dance, engaging it both metaphorically and with unmeditated directness. Yvonne Rainer navigated as close to the world of early Fluxus as to dance. Her innovative choreographies used film and slides during the nascent years of performance; she began as choreographer and continued as filmmaker. Similarly, Rebecca Horn's work evolved from moving body to moving image. Tracey Emin, on the other hand, wasn’t particularly engaged with movement research, but she employed dance as metaphor for psychological liberation. In the video here, her traumatic teenage experience is counterweighted by her adult body engaged in a dance of jubilation. The strong feminist message of this work challenges “classical” representations of the dancing feminine body as a moving “object of desire.”

Some artists reflect on the collective aspects of dance and on its integration within popular culture. Techno and hip-hop became the predominant dance forms of the 80s and 90s. “Percussion music is revolution” famously noted John Cage. The techno beat as an euphoria generator renders bodies immaterial. While Rainer insists on the materiality of the body in movement, the techno body, as represented by Andreas Gursky’s large-scale photograph of a Frankfurt rave, dissolves in light. Break dance, as a part of the hip-hop culture, has much more “real” involvement with identity politics. Initially developed outside of the mainstream, hip-hop has become an important referent for artists like Paul D. Miller (alias DJ Spooky) or Susan Smith-Pinelo who either identify or challenge the cultural values and ideologies associated with the style.
  Yvonne Rainer
Five Easy Pieces
Yvonne Rainer
Sketch
  Tracey Emin
Why I Never Became a Dancer
Tracey Emin
Sketch
  Bruce Nauman
Revoving Upside Down
Bruce Nauman

  Rebecca Horn
Dancing Canvases
Rebecca Horn
Galerie Thomas Schulte
 
 
  Paula Rego
Dancing Ostrich from Walt Disney's Fantasia, 1995
Paula Rego
Collection Saatchi Gallery
  Christoph Steinmeyer
Disco Inferno
Christoph Steinmeyer

  Susan Smith-Pinelo
Dances with Hip Hop
Susan Smith-Pinelo
Courtesy Fusebox, Washington, D.C.
  Bruce Nauman
Still from Jump
Bruce Nauman
Still from Jump
 
  Kara Walker
Danse de la Nubienne Nouveaux 1998
Kara Walker

  Karen Kilimnik
my ballet, the Queen of the Night, International Ballet Classique, Anastasia Babayeva + Denis Gronostayski
Karen Kilimnik
303 Gallery
  Russian Landscape with Nine Bottles
May Day
Andreas Gursky

  John Armleder
Untitled (Global V)
John Armleder
Ace Gallery
 
  Kehinde Wiley
Easter Realness #4
Kehinde Wiley
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
  Paul D. Miller
Trial/Dance III
Paul D. Miller
Paula Cooper Gallery
  Karen Kilimnik
Swan Lake
Karen Kilimnik
303 Gallery
  Dave McKenzie
Edward and Me
Dave McKenzie

 
Elena Sorokina is an independent curator and writer based in New York. She is currently a fellow of the Whitney Curatorial Program. The catalogue of her show “Crude Oil Paintings “ featuring petroleum and oil industry, will be available at White Columns in January. For more information please visit www.whitecolumns.org