Choreographic objects by William Forsythe at the Museum für Modern Kunst in Frankfurt
Natalia Gozzano interviews Mario Kramer, curator of the exhibition (1)
NG: Introducing your conversation with William Forsythe in the exhibition catalogue, you points out the convergences of his Choreographic Objects with the research in contemporary arts related to «line, movement, sound, compositional structures and performative aspects in space». How your work as curator contributed to the Forsythe selection of the works of art of the museum for this exhibition?
MK: It was an almost three-year-long dialog between William Forsythe and myself and a quite intense collaboration between our teams. I am familiar with his work since I came to Frankfurt in 1990. In this period, I saw all his performances with the Frankfurt Ballett and the Forsythe Company. As the head of collection of the MMK for 25 years, I also know the building and the collection in all its details. Step by step we selected works from the MMK collection to create an intense dialog with William Forsythe's choreographic objects. It was very important for both of us from the beginning of this project to find the right space for each art work and to create a good rhythm in a kind of parcours of works. The architectural quality of our building was very helpful in this case.
NG: One of the basic idea around which the exhibition resolves, as Forsythe claim in your conversation, is that «In order to know, you must move, as movement is fundamentally knowledge creation», and City of Abstracts and Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time, No. 3 are the works more emblematic in this sense, since involve directly the “moving” visitor.
In which way, acording to you, visual arts play a role in this idea?
MK: I believe that you always have to move to make an experience in your life. Literally - as a physical movement - but also intellectually. And this is an important part of our evolutionary practice. In front of a work of art you have to sense the physical quality as well as the intellectual one. You not only have to move your body, you also have to move your brain.
NG: The Fact of Matter, (see unclosed n. 10) the choreographic object made by more than 200 rings hunging in a room that the visitor have to cross just using them, without the feet touching the ground, engage a sort of hard comparison between the image we have of our own body – in terms of co-ordination, strenght, reactivity – and what actually we become during the crossing. The Leonardo’s Vitruvian Man comes to mind, already “put in motion” in the drawings by Carlo Urbino (fig. 1) and then in the Chronophotographies by Étienne-Jules Marey (fig. 2), as a new step in the expression of the moving body.
What do you think about the idea that The Fact of Matter could also be seen as another way to stimulate the knowledge through the movement?
MK: This is exactly the case. I saw the piece the first time at the Biennale in Venice 2009 and I thought: O.k., I am quite sportive and agile. Let's do it. And I completely failed, because I started without thinking about what I was doing. After two or three meters I had to give up, because I was completely exhausted. You have to think first and you have to concentrate on your legs and not on your arms. Only then you will reach the end of the tunnel.
NG: One of the works of the MMK selected for the exhibition is Santiago Sierra’s 111 constructions with 10 elements and 10 workers (fig. 3), a set of 111 photographs each of one showing ten workers helding a flat plane in a different position. Forsythe defines this work a «choreography par excellence», in which «the actual movement between frames is left to the imagination». The “invisible” ballet performing from frame to frame could be related to a conceptual art work? At which degree imagination could be “trained” to see this invisible?
MK: I am convinced that visual art and especially music, but of course also literature, has the ability to train you to see the invisible. And I think that is the reason why people are still reading books, going to concerts and visit museums - to make such an experience.
NG: The work by Marcel Duchamp 3 Stoppage étalon (fig. 4) (a straight horizontal thread one metre in lenght fallen from a heitht of one metre naturally lays on the floor in a curve shape so its lenght is not one metre anymore) is for Forsythe «of primary importance in the development of choreografy in the 20th century». Not only for the “aesthetic of chance” (Herbert Molderings) which has deeply influenced the visual arts and performative arts as well; but also because it reveals our mental habits toward classification and, so, invite us to go beyond them. Which are the art works of the MMK collections more related to this Duchamp’s idea?
MK: You have to realize that the thread is still one meter long, even it lies on the floor in a curved shape. Duchamp's work is maybe the most radical gesture one hundred years ago and one of the most influential ideas for the art world of the 20th century. Suddenly, given and fixed categories like time, measurement and weight were not the only truth anymore. The aleatoric principle was found and radically changed the thinking of so many artists of the 20th century like John Cage, Marcel Broodhaers, Joseph Beuys and many others. The thematically most related artists from our collection are Nam June Paik, Andreas Slominski, Sturtevant and Andy Warhol.
NG: Works as Walk with Contrapposto by Bruce Nauman and Hand Catching Lead by Richard Serra (fig. 5), only to give some examples, explore seminal structures of body’s movements and functions which are fundamental both for visual arts and for dance.
In which way, acording to you, this exhibition provided an environment to reflect and to perceive the relationships between dance and visual arts?
MK: Our collection starts in the early 1960s, with the American Pop Art, the Minimal and Concept Art and with performative aspects as well. You will find numerous works of art in our collection, which you can perfectly bring in such a dialogue. Franz Erhard Walther for example (fig. 6), Fred Sandback's three-dimensional drawings in space, Rosemarie Trockel's early videos, Igor and Svetlana Kopystiansky's Incidents or Francis Alys Time is a Trick of the Mind (fig. 7) and Tino Sehgal.
1) English texts of the questions edited by Paola Fogarizzu.