Flora Wiegmann, Dyslexicon, c. nichols project, April 2–30, 2014
It’s been a long time since I last wrote on this blog about Flora Wiegmann’s work, about three years in fact. Her presence, however, has been a welcome constant on the LA scene, as she consistently finds intriguing ways to connect contemporary dance with the visual arts. Her enactment of conceptually framed, site-specific movement works in galleries, museums, artist-run spaces, and private homes is part of her ongoing quest “to recontextualize dance and grant it new possibilities for communication, and to question the limitations inherent in time-based performance.” Wiegmann’s most recent project, unveiled at the newly founded c.nichols project in Mar Vista, seemed to present a logical apex of sorts for her line of inquiry.
The intriguing Dyslexicon utilized written dance notation, which has typically been used to preserve historic dances for the purpose of study, within a standard commercial gallery’s framework for exhibiting art objects. Wiegmann first composed six different “scores” for individual movement works—these were prose texts that consisted of fairly generic instructions such as “spin left, bend over, fix gaze on something blue,” etc. She then made vinyl wall panels with these texts, giving each one a different color to differentiate them, and installed them in the gallery as though they were drawings or paintings. Nine different dancers (Rebecca Bruno, Margherita Elliot, Busy Gangnes, Jil Stein, Christine Suarez, Alexa Weir, Lisa Wahlander, Wiegmann, and Allison Wyper) were engaged to execute the works, using gallery hours as rehearsal/performance time.
Wiegmann’s texts thus became living artworks, coming to life at the hands of a different dancer each day. Although presented like a static exhibition, the living variations that were possible in the resulting works were manifold; not only did each dancer have her own different style and pace, she could also interpret Wiegmann’s simple directions as she saw fit. Dyslexicon culminated on April 30 with a final performance and closing reception that brought together all nine dancers. Throughout the evening, groupings of one to four dancers would take turns simultaneously interpreting one of the scores (pink, green, etc.). Seeing the dancers together underscored the extent of the variation possible in these works; most of the time, they didn’t even look like they were performing the same dance, even though they all embarked on the same set of directions at the same time.
Dyslexicon calls up a number of fruitful historical references. The concept and presentation of the work could certainly be called minimalist, with its simplicity, uniformity, and focus on the medium’s raw materials. The purity and consistency that are the hallmarks of minimalist art, however, are completely confounded here. Likewise, thoughts of Yvonne Rainer’s Trio A, an iconic work that neutralized spectacle and made the practice of contemporary dance accessible to untrained practitioners, are inevitable. Whereas Trio A must be taught from person to person, however, Dyslexicon simply makes itself available, via text and video, to a dynamic spectrum of interpretation.
Dyslexicon does have one important thing in common with Trio A: both are ultimately intended to function as multiples, to be re-performed and re-inscribed by an indeterminate number of interpreters. c.nichols has amassed a digital library of the performances that took place at the gallery; a short teaser featuring Maggie Elliot and Wiegmann can be seen here, and there are plans to upload more. Wiegmann also has plans to use the choreography in other forms.