The Complete Works, by Nina Beier (1975, Aarhus, Denmark), is a performance in which retired dancers dance, individually, every piece of choreography they performed in their careers, re-enacting them in chronological order, without interruptions. One after the other, the movements are drawn in the space. The same body, many years later, moves from one position to the next, carried by muscle memory, to imagined music and accompanied in memory by a now absent corps de ballet. In this visit to their own past, each dancer recounts the history of choreography and contemporary dance.
The performance takes place at the threshold between mental space, where each dancer searches for the memories of their now finished career, and the visual manifestation of those memories in sketched-out movements. Each gesture is not only itself but an echo of what it once was. Without the dimensions and intentions it incorporated in the past – on a stage, under lights, to music –, without the full force of a young and routinely trained body, without rehearsals. It is a marking, an annotation, an indication; at once a representation of a step and a summons, the minimum presence capable of prompting the body's memory and bringing out the movements that follow, which appear, as though chained together.
Nina Beier is interested in the presence that pulses between representation and the thing itself. In many of her installations, the artist uses objects that when removed from their environment and devoid of their function are capable of assuming new behaviors and evoking new voices, without losing their usual appearance and the purposes they have assumed throughout the history of their use, nor the economy of their presence in the world. In bringing these objects together, coming from different cultures and laden with different stories, new meanings are created. A cigar is still a cigar when embedded into a porcelain sink, but what conversation is established in the meeting of the tobacco leaves, worked on by hands for the enjoyment of smokers, and the waterproof sterility of sanitary ware?
Caroline A. Jones, Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).
Greenberg’s Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).