At the TATE modern I found myself drawn to the two photography exhibits:
Burke + Norfolk: photographs from the war in Afghanistan
And the night before I saw Gardenia by les ballets C de la B, at Saddler’s Wells which is still bouncing around in my mind.
These three artists frame the details of someone else’s story, yet their own story unfolds around the edges of the telling. They are not placing themselves at the center of the work yet they show quite a bit of themselves through the structuring of the art. I’m left seeing a beautiful collaboration between artist and subject – a blurring of intention and longing and exposure.
Now, in some ways it is quite unfair to lump these three artists together as their work is quite different from one another. But since I took them in in succession they initiated certain train of thought. In each of these scenarios I could feel the hand of the creator. My interest extends past the images and the performance. I want to know more about the people on stage, more about the people in photographs, and I want to know more about the relationship between these people and the artists telling their story. In Norfolk’s case that is the underlying intention of the work. By seducing you with the beauty of the photographs you will hear his opinions about a war-torn country and imperialism.
All of them hope to alter your perception of the world around you, through the intimate human stories they frame.
Short descriptions of the works mentioned above:
Simon Norfolk is collaborating with a man he’s never met. He chose to shadow and respond to the photographs of Afganistan taken by John Burke during the second anglo-afgan war (1878-1880). But he’s also collaborating with the subject of his photographs: The people, the landscape, the moment in history.
Alain Platel and Frank Van Laecke directing a cast of nine: 7 of whom are transvestites and transsexuals in with a long history as cabaret performers. Most have retired as performers at this point and you can feel their thrill in re-entering their drag personas in this theatrical, highly choreographed environment. We watch them transform from older men shuffling about in suits to extravagant ladies shining for the crowd. The cast also includes a young male dancer and a biological woman. Stories and images emerge and wash away, build up and then tumble along within the composition of the dance. In the marketing materials and interviews the directors stress the desire to make a play about getting older with dignity in a world where aging is not allowed.
Diane Arbus is a longtime favorite of mine. It was amazing to see so many of the photographs that I’ve gazed upon in books again and again.* Her goal was “to photograph everyone” and she ended up gravitating toward those on the fringes of society. She became very close with her subjects gaining their trust and producing quite intimate images.
*Director David Gammons introduced me to Diane Arbus in 1998 when he asked me to dance in a project based on her photographs. Rehearsing for the project was one of the strangest most disturbing, lovely, transcendent experiences. And, oddly enough, I met my husband Mike while performing this show. He was working at the fringe venue for the production so he was there for every one of the shows.