Restagings No. 2: Of Serra (to movement) is a new performance installation by choreographer Abigail Levine and composer Paula Matthusen, presented in June 2018 concurrently at Fridman Gallery in New York City and Vox Populi Gallery in Philadelphia. Of Serra begins with the forms of Richard Serra’s iconic Prop sculptures—steel plates and rods precariously balanced between walls and floor. The performance makes a substitution of materials—replacing steel forms with human bodies—to bring forward the experience of time, physical effort, and direct, bodily encounter that were central, but often less observed, elements of Serra’s work.
Of Serra is composed of three looping solos that are repeated at intervals throughout the run of the exhibition. Dancers perform against graphite panels mounted on the gallery walls, creating a visual record of their movement and work. Composer Paula Matthusen’s sound design highlights the performance’s departure from sculpture, measuring and reflecting changes in position through shifting sound. In the gallery, the viewer encounters the time and physical effort of the work’s creation, accumulating visually and sonically over the weeks of the exhibition.
Restagings No. 2: Of Serra (to movement) brings together a unique set of collaborators. The project builds on Levine’s work at the intersection of dance and the visual arts, both as a choreographer and as a performer with artists including Marina Abramovic, Yvonne Rainer, and Carolee Schneemann. Composer Paula Matthusen’s nuanced work with live electronics and cross-disciplinary collaboration make her an invaluable contributor. Curator Tina Plokarz brings experience working across performance and the visual art both as Assistant Curator at Philadelphia Contemporary and as Director of Exhibitions at Vox Populi Gallery. Vox Populi, the oldest collectively run gallery in Philadelphia, has a long history of supporting experimentation and risk-taking across the arts and has a diverse, established following in Philadelphia and beyond. In New York City, Fridman Gallery is a unique voice, supporting work that crosses between visual art, experimental sound, and performance.
Of Serra is the second work in the series Restagings, which reads modern and postmodern visual artworks as scores for performance. Restagings decodes the choreographic logic and somatic ideas built into visual art works. The first work in the series Choreographing LeWitt was performed in July 2017 at Fridman Gallery in NYC. Of that work, Chloë Bass wrote in the journal Women & Performance, “Watching Abigail Levine dance/draw the 3744 lines making up Sol Lewitt’s ‘Wall Drawing 56,’ I was struck by the feeling that I was in a training camp for something essential toward fixing the present moment.”
Restagings unearths the bodies and labor implicit in objects, drawings, and texts. These performances bring the work of making the work into public view through the figure of the dancer in the gallery. They stage questions about the recent upsurge of dance within the visual arts and of the valuation of time, labor, and the body in broader contemporary culture.