What happens if the concept of occupation takes the form of a choreographic piece? What about the spiralling circularity of our daily movements being engaged as a task performance, nine weeks long, where dancers come to work-dance every day, nine hours per day?
That is the question posed at the beginning of Work/Travail/Arbeid, a project by Belgian dancer-choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, a choreographic piece, or rather — a choreographed exhibition that premiered at WIELS in Brussels from March to May 2015. The implications are unsettling as regards how contemporary dance and art exhibitions are conventionally thought, constructed, and experienced. The complex conceptual, technical, and physical labour involved is the backbone of the entire oeuvre.
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker explains that “the choreography was about organising movements in time and in space, performing dance as a laborious task, and using the duration and daily ‘time’ of the exhibition as a framework.” WIELS’s invitation was to make an exhibition as a performance and a performance as an exhibition, but with Work/Travail/Arbeid, continues the performer, “It was about bringing together parameters, questions, and possible answers to 30 years of taking dance and choreography seriously as a way of organising movement in time and space. It has been a way to work with the basic tool of the body: observing the human body, especially in its skeletal and mechanical aspects, but also as a social, emotional, and intellectual organism. Not as it would be performed on stage, but as one works on it: the different perspectives and layering of the working process.”
Dancers worked on cycles lasting nine hours that shifted over the seven opening hours of the museum. “What we were showing is the process, what we do to make a piece, step by step. We show all the individual steps, not didactically, but experientially. That’s what work has always meant for me: a constant search, not only during the rehearsal process, but also in the performances themselves.”
Work/Travail/Arbeid will be at Centre Pompidou, Paris, 26 February – 06 March 2016 (centrepompidou.fr) and at Tate Modern, London, 18 - 20 July 2016