Danspace Project explores curation.
Fri Jan 1 2010
Ralph Lemon recalls that the first idea Judy Hussie-Taylor wanted to discuss after becoming Danspace Project’s executive director in 2008 was the notion of a guest-curated series—otherwise known as a platform. Hussie-Taylor, who has known Lemon for 20 years, wanted to expand upon the idea of artist curation by creating a new space for thinking and flexibility within performance forms. As Lemon, a choreographer and multimedia artist who conceived the first round, riffs in a recent e-mail exchange, the resulting program was “a drive-by. A hit-and-run. Suiting me perfectly.”
For Hussie-Taylor, part of the inspiration for the program came from arriving at Danspace Project and being faced with 25 to 30 weeks of programming: “I was trying to personally get my hands on it,” she says. “How do you shape this? I want to see more context around what’s being presented. I thought, If I’m dealing with maybe four guest curators and they’re working with three or four artists, maybe we can get to some other deeper level of connection and conversation about what is being presented and why.” She is also intrigued by the ongoing relationships that artists have with one other. “There’s an under-the-radar dialogue that happens,” she continues, “and what if they were compensated and encouraged to continue that? There is a depth to those relationships that interests me, and I don’t feel like it’s visible enough.”
In “i get lost,” Lemon explores trance and alternative states of consciousness in contemporary performance and dance. As he sees it, the idea of getting lost “seems terrifically self-involved, eccentric—auteuristic even?” (He has subsequently begun thinking that the point of his theme has something important to do with getting lost and finding grace.)
His platform, which begins this month with residencies and performances, includes a discussion between Robert Steijn and Maria Hassabi on Friday 15 (they will talk about their collaboration that will be unveiled in April), David Zambrano’s Soul Project beginning January 21, and a shared program between Souleymane Badolo and Judith Snchez Ruz in February. On January 26, Anthology Film Archives presents footage of Haitian voodoo practitioners in “The Haitian Footage: Maya Deren Unedited,” and on January 23 there will be a discussion with the “i get lost” participants.
Subsequent programs will feature curation by Juliette Mapp in March and, starting next fall, by Trajal Harrell and Melinda Ring. Mapp focuses on a group of local artists—David Thomson, Shelley Senter, Katy Pyle, Jen Rosenblit, Elaine Summers, Deborah Hay and Paige Martin—in “Back to New York City.” Her title is taken from the end of the song “Just Like Tom Thumb Blues” by Bob Dylan: “I’m goin’ back to New York City, I do believe I’ve had enough.”
“It’s a very poignant sentiment to me and one that I feel I have been able to connect to many times in my life,” says Mapp. “We might present the larger phrase in some context or another, but it’s about being back in this place that fuels so much creativity that I feel like we’ve been diverted from in some ways. There’s so much emphasis on what’s going on in Europe right now, yet people continue to make work and to find ways to support themselves as dance artists in New York.” Mapp’s platform, in a sense, is about refocusing the energy of what’s happening, as she puts it, “right here, right now.”
And just as vital—and fitting in with Hussie-Taylor’s idea of providing more context—a catalog ($12) will accompany each platform. Lemon’s will be edited by his frequent dramaturge, Katherine Profeta, and Mapp’s will be overseen by Ursula Eagly. “As we are engaged in a time-based form, so much of the best work disappears,” Hussie-Taylor explains. “Maybe we have wonderful video if we’re lucky, but most of it’s not so wonderful. I felt that if we were going to have a platform, part of the contextualizing would be to have an artifact—something you could take away that might be a little idiosyncratic depending on the curator.”
She views Platforms as part of a larger research project called Choreographic Center Without Walls—in light of the fact that plans to move the theater to Brooklyn are, according to Hussie-Taylor, in limbo. “This also came out of thinking about the choreographic center back when we were full steam ahead,” she says. “What about focusing on the content rather than the bricks and mortar? It’s going to be years, even in the best-case scenario, so I decided to use this period of time for research and development. I know there are going to be mistakes, and in the end you might go, Oh, this is just too much work, and it doesn’t really add up to anything.” She pauses and laughs. “But I don’t feel that will happen.”