Re-stagings No. 1:
July 23-27, 2017 | 12-6pm
“5. Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.”
Sol LeWitt, Sentences on Conceptual Art (1969)
The 3,744 lines that comprise Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #56 (1970) take Abigail Levine twenty-five hours to complete, five hours of movement each day for five days. In a 12 x 12’ square, Levine performs the Wall Drawing one line at a time, following LeWitt’s instructions as he wrote them. Sound designer Dave Ruder captures the sound of each line, the pencil’s mark amplified via contact microphones and played back into the room. As the drawing is performed, a sonic archive accumulates around it in a multi-channel sound installation in speakers spread throughout the space.
For LeWitt, the written instructions for his drawings, rather than the drawings, were the works themselves. This distinction creates the opening to read LeWitt’s instructions as a choreographic score. Levine describes her relationship to LeWitt’s drawings through dance:
“When I looked at LeWitt’s early graphite Wall Drawings, the lines spoke of physical precision and long-practiced technique; they spoke of the idiosyncrasies, the physical events of their execution. Looking again at LeWitt’s wittily concise instructions, I realized they read, without modification, as movement directives.”
The transformation from visual work to performance foregrounds LeWitt’s interest in duration and his regard for the exacting, embodied labor that produced his works. These issues were significant to LeWitt’s politics and practice and are central for Levine in approaching his work. They also belie the idea of the Wall Drawing as a purely rational exercise. Rosalind Krauss observes, “For what we find is the ‘system’ of compulsion, of the obsessional’s unwavering ritual, with its precision, its neatness, its finicky exactitude, covering over an abyss of irrationality.” Following from LeWitt’s assertion that “Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists,” the translation to performance brings the narrative, ritualistic, and even devotional qualities of the Wall Drawing to the fore.
Choreographing LeWitt is the first work in the series Re-stagings which reads modern and postmodern visual artworks as scores for performance. Re-stagings decodes the choreographic logic and somatic ideas built into visual art works. The series focuses on works that share an interest in embodiment, time and labor, including those of Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris, Richard Serra, Carl Andre, and Walter de Maria, all of whom were closely associated with dance and performance artists of their era.
Historically, minimalist and post-minimalist visual works were recognized for incorporating into the viewer’s experience the gallery site beyond the object’s spatial boundaries. Levine’s Re-stagings do something similar for the objects’ temporal boundaries: through performance they bring the work of making the work out of its occluded temporal ground and into the figure of the dancer in the gallery, unearthing the bodies and labor implicit in the objects, drawings, and texts and incorporating them into our experience of the original work. As dance is presented and historicized increasingly as visual art, Re-stagings responds by claiming these visual and conceptual works as dance.
Re-stagings 1: Choreographing LeWitt will be performed continuously during gallery hours, from 12-6pm, on each consecutive day from Sunday, July 23 until Thursday, July 27. A closing reception will be held Thursday, July 27 from 6-8pm. This project has been developed with the support of New Music USA, Marina Abramovic Institute, Knockdown Center, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Center for Performance Research, and producer DIORAMA.
Abigail Levine’s works have been presented at venues including Movement Research Festival, Mount Tremper Arts Festival, Danspace Project, Gibney Dance, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Smack Mellon, Kennedy Center, Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, and internationally in Brazil, Mexico, Greece, Canada, Cuba, and Taiwan. She often works in close collaboration with sound artists, including Derek Bermel, Erik DeLuca, Paula Matthusen, Dave Ruder, and Tyshawn Sorey. Levine was a reperformer in Marina Abramovic’s retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art and has also performed in the work of Carolee Schneemann, Asad Raza, Clarinda Mac Low, Larissa Velez-Jackson, Will Rawls, and Mark Dendy. In 2014, Levine learned Yvonne Rainer’s iconic 1965 work Trio A, coached by Pat Catterson, and has since performed the work live and for film. Levine is a 2017 Mellon Artist in Residence at the Center for Performance Research and a visiting professor in dance at Wesleyan University.
Dave Ruder is a Brooklyn-based vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, composer, collaborator in collectives Varispeed (Performa, 2014 Whitney Biennial, Mount Tremper Arts), thingNY and Reps. Since 2013, Ruder has been the driving force behind Gold Bolus Recordings, which documents the work of NYC’s greatest musical minds. Ruder’s work The Gentleman Rests, a meditation on the certification of the 2000 presidential election, was commissioned by the Jerome Foundation and Roulette in 2014 and restaged at JACK in 2016. Ruder has collaborated with choreographers Kimberly Bartosik, Joanna Kotze (2013 Bessie Award), Abigail Levine, and Dysan Tynek, among others.