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IMPRESSIONS: David Gordon "The Matter/2012: Art & Archive"

IMPRESSIONS: David Gordon "The Matter/2012: Art & Archive"
Garnet Henderson/Follow @garnethenderson on Twitter

By Garnet Henderson/Follow @garnethenderson on Twitter
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Published on November 7, 2012
Ian Douglas

Being Interesting...

IMPRESSIONS: David Gordon The Matter/2012: Art & Archive

Edited, Choreographed and Directed by David Gordon

Performers: Valda Setterfield, Scott Cunningham, Karen Graham, Leslie Cuyjet, Lauren Kelly Ferguson, Andrew Champlin, David Irwin, Jeremy Pheiffer and students form the Department of Drama at NYU Tisch School of the Arts

Danspace Project, New York

October 25-27th, 2012

November 7, 2012



Garnet Henderson for The Dance Enthusiast

During a panel in October, David Gordon remarked, “What happens when you get to be this old is that people want to give you money for your archive. I have tried to be interesting in my archive.”

He delivered the same statement at The Matter/2012: Art & Archive, presented at Danspace Project as part of their Platform 2012: Judson Now.

© Photography by Ian Douglas

The piece begins with the performers -everyone dressed in black- entering the space in stately, snaking lines. They move to Ludwig Minkus' Kingdom of the Shades from the ballet, La Bayadère. Led by  Valda Setterfield, Gordon’s wife and longtime creative partner,  the measured steps of this pedestrian task carry a noble air.

The Matter/2012: Art & Archive is, in one respect, a tribute to the artists with whom Gordon has worked throughout his career. At several points, names of performers scroll across the back wall of the space in acknowledgement. A special focus of this night's tribute is Setterfield, who is often the centerpiece of Gordon’s work. She performs snippets of her famous solo based on stop-motion photographs by Eadweard Muybridge. Meanwhile, Gordon and Setterfield’s relationship is on display. At one point, as Setterfield dances, we hear a recording of the couple trading jabs back and forth and laughing all the while, as Gordon says, “We haven’t fought yet!”



© Photography by Ian Douglas

A particularly striking moment comes as the entire cast performs Gordon’s 1962 solo, Mannequin, in unison. The performers sing quietly while gently wiggling their fingers as and slowly sinking down to the floor. The effect is eerie, but beautiful, as a litany of voices just too quiet to distinguish floats through the theater.

Projections play a prominent role. A running commentary of sorts, they provide details on the genesis of each piece, as well as a loose transcript of  conversation between Gordon and Setterfield. There is also archival footage from past performances, including a video of Gordon and Setterfield in Chair, a 1975 production where they thread themselves through and around two folding chairs. Performers recreate a version of Chair onstage while footage plays. Images of pioneers such as Elizabeth Streb and Bill T. Jones performing Setterfield’s Muybridge solo are projected.





© Photography by Ian Douglas

The work drives to an unexpected and enthralling climax before reaching its conclusion. While The Photographer by Philip Glass plays in the background, the entire cast sets up folding chairs in horizontal lines across the stage, reminiscent of Kingdom of the Shades. This time, instead of taking measured steps, they dart and lunge around their chairs, moving with increasing urgency, but never losing their pedestrian quality. Setterfield dazzles in her leading role, delivering her Muybridge solo with inherent grandeur. From her position on an elevated platform, she looks as if she is conducting the other dancers, her orchestra. The effect is brilliantly satisfying. Gordon innovates while paying tribute to his older work and he has succeeded in adding another "interesting" creation to his archive.



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