Researching Dancing Museums. Traces of the international research seminar held at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice #1


Since its debut, Dancing Museums has attracted the interest of numerous researchers who work on related issues, located at the intersection of dance and museology. It is a field of study that has particularly expanded in recent decades, incorporating new multidisciplinary approaches and points of view. The following texts are the result of a seminar day that took place in Venice in October 2019. Led by prof. Susanne Franco and Gaia Clotilde Chernetich, the seminar at Ca’ Foscari University involved young scholars, curators and researchers from different European countries. The following texts are the traces of the discussions that took place and that laid the foundations for new reflections and future collaborations.

 

Sheila de Val Madsen

The Breathing Room, Arken Museum of Modern Art, Denmark. 'World of Love' by P. Piccinini.

The Breathing Room, Arken Museum of Modern Art, Denmark. ‘World of Love’ by P. Piccinini. Photo courtesy S. de Val Madsen

Understanding “facilitation” as an umbrella term to encompass the different forms of engagement between gallery visitor and dance artist, I draw on historical examples from the past sixty years together with my primary practice-led research carried out during two residencies at Arken Museum of Modern Art in Denmark, and the Dancing Museums project in order to develop a “posthuman ecology of participation”. Tracing the line from the collaborative Happenings of the 1960s, and offering examples from six seminal dance artists and choreographers, as well as my own practice-led research, I investigate the evolving relationship between the dance artist, gallery visitor and the gallery artefacts and space. Through my practical research, and in particular, with the work of bio-artist Patricia Piccinini, I propose that when the dance artist also takes a posthuman and new materialist stance in the process of developing their creative encounters with gallery visitors, it allows for engagement that respects “otherness” (Braidotti, 2013), gives agency to all participants, and proffers an embodied experience that prompts us to potentially engage holistically and harmoniously with the materiality of the gallery environment. Advocating the dance artist as a/r/tographer (artist, researcher and teacher) and conceding the entangled role they must inhabit, I propose that the dance artist as facilitator must acknowledge and embrace the multiplicity and complexity of their roles and indeed needs to be able to draw on this enmeshed identity in order to create an environment conducive to embodied and reciprocal creativity. Seeking to create a «posthuman ecology of participation» that is based not only on the dance artist’s own unique artistic practice but also on one that acknowledges spaces, environments and objects as active contributors to the creative process, encourages us to go «beyond the confines of bound identities» to «create ways of thinking, perceiving and sensing». Useful here is Braidotti’s suggestion that by «transposing us beyond the confines of bound identities art becomes necessarily inhuman in the sense of nonhuman in that it connects to the animal, vegetable, earthy, planetary forces that surround us» (Braidotti, 2013, p.107). This proposal for an enmeshed, sustainable co-existence with non-hierarchical structures opens for re-thinking ways of creating and engaging within an art gallery context. The dance artist can act as catalyst for the gallery visitor in seeing and perceiving dance and art in a new light and where the posthuman turn is seen as an opportunity, in Braidotti’s words to decide together what and who we are capable of becoming, and a unique opportunity for humanity to re-invent itself affirmatively through creativity and empowering ethical relations (Braidotti 2013, p.195).

Bibliography:

Braidotti, R. (2013). The Posthuman, Polity Press, Cambridge, UK.

Springgay, S. & La Jevic, L. (2008). A/r/tography as an Ethics of Embodiment, Qualitative Inquiry, Vol. 14, Nr. 1, Sage Publications.

After graduating from Dartington College of Arts Sheila de Val Madsen went on to have a career as a professional dancer and teacher in the US and Europe before taking an M.Ed at Exeter University. She is now completing a PhD on the Dance Artist as Facilitator in a Gallery Context at the University of Manchester. E-mail: sheila.devalmadsen@postgrad.manchester.ac.uk

 

Melina Riga

My research perspective explores how dance could serve as a medium able to facilitate audiences’ engagement with art, to create thus the conditions of an exchange between a work of art and museum visitors and transform them into aesthetic appreciators. In particular, I am focusing on three different aspects of the intervention of dance in the museum:

  • Dance and embodied cognition: how dance could be connected to the process of embodied cognition, the cultivation of the imagination and the creation of personal knowledge in the context of a museum visit?
  • Body, artefacts, space: how does the impact of a dance intervention in a museum relate with the exhibition mode in the museum, the architecture of the building and the performed space in which the dance takes place?
  • Dancing, moving, behaving: how does dance in the museum space generate new rhythms concerning the movements of the visitors within an exhibition space and how it could lead to the liberation from the museum behaviour codes?
DM-Louvre-Lucy-Suggate-et-public-©-Oscar-Ortega

Dancing Museums. Louvre. Lucy Suggate & public. Ph. Oscar Ortega

Dancing Museums – The democracy of beings (2018 – 2021) and Dancing Museums – Old Masters, New Traces (2015-2017), constitute two of the most recent and relevant projects of dance in the museum space, two projects that have a significant role in my research. Their several residencies, workshops and seminars have been giving the opportunity to dance artists, choreographers, curators, museum professionals, researchers and museum visitors, to create, experiment, experience and exchange knowledge and ideas, expanding the ways of being and “seeing” in the museum space.

Melina Riga holds a Bachelor’s in Communication and Media Studies from the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, and a Master’s in Museum Studies from Leiden University, NL. She lives in Bologna where she works as a museum operator/educator for the Civic Museums of Bologna. E-mail: mousicomel@gmail.com

 

edited by Gaia Clotilde Chernetich