Dance X is an exhibition that playfully encourages people of all ages to move: creating opportunities through which viewers are enticed to ‘dance without realising they are dancing’ (as artist Viv Rogis describes it). Viv Rogis, Gareth Hart and Gülsen Özer, the three lead artists on this exciting new project, evolved their curatorial concept in a spirit of pooling their dance, spatial and technological knowledge to create an installation specifically for Yarra Ranges Regional Museum. Whilst most of the works combine dance and technology, including 360-degree HD video, X-Box and gaming technologies, and other works employ ‘low-fi’ materials such as cardboard boxes and flash cards, the six installations that comprise Dance X encourage experiential participation and (gently) impel the viewer/ participant to move.
The three renowned dance artists are all residents of the area and have shared interests in place-based research and practice, as well as in motivating community participation. The link to environments of the Yarra Ranges, as well as the inclusion of other local dancers in some of the works, layered upon the architectural site of the Museum in Lilydale, gives the exhibition a distinctly local connection, yet it also extends beyond these place associations.
Viv Rogis has created a choreographic game Chance or Choice, (the title/ concept referencing modern dance innovator Merce Cunningham) whereby she invited local dance artists to be photographed arcing and stretching in relation to their favourite trees of the area, demonstrating potential choreographic shapes on flash cards. The Dance X program includes a series of workshops by Rogis, an established dance teacher, facilitating children of various age brackets (from 3 years old!) to create their own dances using her game, which originated from her explorations with young children in her dance classes.
Gareth Hart’s 360-degree interactive film ‘this is all a little bit queer, isn’t it?’ features six performance artists enacting distinct and bizarre acts in the stunning Redwood Forest outside of Warburton. Viewers explore this dynamic between real and surreal, self and other, via iPads in a ‘choose your own adventure’ experience, through which they themselves are inadvertently moving in relation to the projected image.
Many people still think of dance as something spectacular or virtuosic, but Gülsen Özer’s installations draw attention to – and offer the viewer an experience of – the close-range engagement with one’s own body and surroundings that a dancer’s sensibility entails. A recorded reading of Steve Paxton’s 1970s ‘small dance’ which brings intimate focus to one’s eye socket and movement of the base of the skull, accompanies a neon sign reminding the viewer/ participant that You are Here.
In Duet, as the viewer’s walking within a 5-metre space relates to a video image of a dancer who appears to imitate your speed and proximity, we realise that this pedestrian action is potential choreography. Duet communicates an expanded understanding of dance and affirms to participant/ viewers that any body can dance.
Özer’s Virtual Dance Class brings the viewer/participant into an immersive experience of a youth ballet class (of local dance students taught by Viv Rogis), via a headset and google pixel phone, whilst the viewer is physically stationed at a ballet barre. Like You are Here and Duet, Özer has directed and designed this work using simple, formal aesthetics, for clarity of experience and reception, given that in the 360-degree format, ‘you can’t direct the audience’s gaze’. In contrast to the lack of, or ‘exploded’ ‘frame’ of the 360-degree surround video, Rogis’ In and out of the frame offers an alternative to the technological interfaces (which can be mysteriously mind-blowing to un-techno types, such as the author!) This work invites viewers/participants’ exploration of ways of seeing through the familiar form of cardboard boxes: breaking down the processes of perception and selection that are under way in the transition from live performance to a filmic point of view.
Dance and the gallery or museum are not new bedfellows, but this sort of experimental, participatory adventure is a rare treat in the outer suburban/ regional zone we inhabit. Dance X promises to be fun and welcoming, with ‘user-friendliness’ a major aspect of the project. Having predominantly worked in dance contexts, creating installations in which the viewer becomes the performer was a particular challenge and opportunity for these artists. The project, supported by a Yarra Ranges Council Arts and Heritage grant, has enabled Özer, Hart and Rogis to explore and expand their dance practices through the interaction with particular technologies and the theme of viewer participation. The three agree that the duration of the exhibition (three months) will also allow them to witness how participants engage with the works, which may inform further iterations and future explorations.
Open Wed 10 May-Sun 30 July, 2017
Yarra Ranges Regional Museum,
35 Castella Street, Lilydale
Gülsen is a choreographer and also teaches workshops in contemporary dance technique, as well as in developing choreography and creating dance theatre.