Venue 2.0

This text is an excerpt of the report of Inventur#2 by Pia Bendfeld. Download the full text on this page.

The mutual inspiration of the visual arts and contemporary dance played a relevant role during Inventur 2. The new hybrid genre Dance exhibition is currently settling in cultural institutions and houses of great international renown. Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s company Rosas played in the exhibition halls of the Wiels in Brussels, Maria Hassabi and her dancers showed their live installation Plastic at the New York MoMa, while performance artist Anne Imhof currently displays her work Faust at the German pavilion of the Venice Biennale. But it is not about a simple transformation into another medium. Institutions need to create space, in a literal and a metaphorical sense, for this kind of movable exhibition. Houses such as the London Tate Modern react to this interdisciplinary exhibition form with the construction of dedicated areas for performative art. The MoMa, too, is also sensitive to the developmental shift from a static to a performing art form, thus installing the new function of its constraints in the conception of dance exhibitions. Ana Janevski, curator at the New York MoMa, thinks the cooperation of different art forms as well as the incorporation of these diffuse genres form an enormous gain for both institutions and recipients.

Institutions need to create space, in a literal and a metaphorical sense, for this kind of movable exhibition

To transfer contemporary dance from the theatre stage (form the black box) to exhibition halls (to the white cube) unleashes organisational difficulty. The change of venue also marks a change of framework. The visitors of a dance exhibition do not view the performance during a predetermined slot, they are flexible within the opening hours of the museum. The spatial distance between audience room and stage dissolves, and recipients move freely amid the performers. So, the audience, for a part, turn into performers themselves.

The museum space permits conversation

It is said that the principle of participation instead of passiveness lends special appeal and liveliness to the concept of the Dance exhibition. The museum space permits conversation, photographs and video recording during the performance, unusual for the black box. What constitutes pleasant freedom for the observer is a major point of disruption for the performer. Maria Hasabi formulates her experiences made during the Plastic exhibition at the MoMa in the form of an audio contribution, accompanied by an Instagram picture presentation. She and her performers were treated like objects at times, she told the auditorium, objects that could be commented upon and photographed without respect. The artist criticises the excessive pictorial documentation in the exhibition space as well as the high rate of reproduction of her work in social networks, because this is not representative. Art historian and author Claire Bishop, on the other hand, does not want to moralise technical developments and mediatisation but rather determines them to be new factors that have come to make their increasing influence on the art world felt since the last Inventur.

Despite this, our reception flattens the moment and the experience of the exhibition through the “second screen”, unable to take it all in. Maria Hassabi favours an audience that admits a performance in, mentally and temporarily, to appreciate artistic demand and to better understand it. This, she maintained, should not incline artists to shape their works in a more commercial and compliant manner. Janez Janša emphasises that not only artists and institutions, but also the viewer should carry initiative to make the art experience viable.

Change in the institutions

The Dance exhibition genre challenges museums and exhibition venues, destabilising firm structures by employing uncommon technical, spatial and temporal demands, it was stated. This development takes place less in the arts and more within the institutions which become gradually more dynamic because of the dissolution of static structure and the widening of their possible activities.

The breakup of valid security conditions such as the lights turning off in the exhibition hall forces cultural institutions to discard routine, it was claimed. Claire Bishop encouraged the opening of exhibition spaces for activists in order to play even more controversial formats at such institutions. Only through the renunciation of the norm could new and impactful things be created.