IMPRESSIONS: Walter Dundervill’s "Skybox" at Brooklyn's Pioneer Works

IMPRESSIONS: Walter Dundervill’s "Skybox" at Brooklyn's Pioneer Works
Deirdre Towers/Follow @deirdre.towers on Instagram

By Deirdre Towers/Follow @deirdre.towers on Instagram
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Published on November 2, 2017
Photo: Maria Baranova

Venue: Pioneer Works

Date: October 21, 2017

Choreographer/Costume & Sound Designer: Water Dundervill

Sculptor: Diana Puntar / Lighting Designer Thomas Dunn

Dancers: Tyler Ashley, Biba Bell, Kim Brandt, Nicole Daunic, Shantelle Jackson, Camilo Godoy, Lily Gold, Kevin Lovelady, Athena Malloy, Jeremy Roland, Sarah White-Ayon, and Eli Tamandong

Walking into Walter Dundervill’s installation for Skybox, your eyes gaze up at the high wood ceiling of Pioneer Works with its asymmetrical beams. Then, you notice the deadpan cast of 12 men and women standing, lying, or crouching. Dundervill whispers to them, one by one, and adjusts their costumes — layers of fabrics secured to their bodies with ribbons. 

Once the performance "officially" begins, the cast moves to a space where a stage is raised inches off the ground, surrounded on three sides by the audience. They walk slowly, deliberately, each in their own trajectory erect spines, their arms remaining by their side. Toward the end, someone occasionally throws a straight leg high or wings their arms up.

Skybox puts backstage center stage, with the designer acting as the principal player, his dancers surrendering to his dominance. Dundervill, wearing gold high top sneakers, tee shirt, and pants, strides on and off the stage throughout the performance, putting a wig on one of the dancers or securing a plastic bubble to someone's back with a ribbon. On the stage or in a hand, he places black small sculptures that look like twisted lava. 

A close of a man's torso that is covered in colorful material and ribbons. Bodies are running in the background.
Walter Dundervill’s Skybox; Photo: Maria Baranova

His inspired collaborator, Diana Puntar, with whom he has done two other projects, created a stylish “wall ramp,” a black “low-rider space craft/Mylar dispenser.” Midway through the performance Dundervill pushes it around the stage until he forms a Mylar moat around the stage, a rivulet that throws its liquid reflection on the ceiling. As the cast ends in a heap in the center, the scene resembles a dump overflowing with plastic.

According to press information, Dundervill intends his dancers to imagine their transformation into materials other than their own bodies, an ambition unrealized for this viewer.  

Skybox picks up where Dundervill's 2015 Arena, a three-hour installation where he draped fabric and ribbon over and around four performers, left off. Perhaps he chose the title Skybox to make the viewer think geometrically and consider the oddity of containment within the cosmos. 

The presentation is a result of The Live Feed creative residency program, a laboratory for the development of newly commissioned work. The other 2016-18 Live Feed artists are Jack Ferver, Marjani Forte, Joanna Kotze, Paloma McGregor, Bebe Miller, Preeti Vasudevan, and zoe | juniper.

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