After an enjoyable late morning train ride on the Metro-North, a classmate and I joined in the sizable line which snaked through Dia: Beacon of art cognescenti, who had gathered for a rare treat; the opportunity to see the Trisha Brown Dance Company perform within Dia: Beacon’s gallery space. For the first performance, the audience was lead through the galleries to the space dedicated Michael Heizer’s sculpture, North, East, South, West, (1967/2002). With these four-twenty-foot steel holes recessed into the ground as its background, the performance began with an engaging sense of both sterility and drama. Group Primary Accumulation with Movers (1973) was composed of simple permutations of regimented and repetitious movements. The male performers re-positioned the female dancers within the space as they motioned cycles of “Primary Accumulation” without pause.
Next, the audience migrated into the long hall of Walter De Maria’s Silver Meters (1976) and Gold Meters (1976-77); those 16 flat metal squares spaced throughout the expansive, open corridor. When we arrived, 8 equally-spaced performers patiently awaited with eyes closed. They moved their arms and heads synchronously, with eyes remaining shut; to the cadence of a simple bell, which served as their metronome. Vulnerable to time and chance; this performance would have been perfect for the Third Mind’ exhibition at the Guggenheim in 2008. Titled, Figure 8 (1974), the dialogue created between the performance, the art, and the architecture, struck me as nothing short of profound. Especially when one begins to think about the meaning behind stainless steel plates being embedded with a pound each of mostly-hidden solid gold and silver, are laid on the floor. At this moment, I became entranced in tautological mirroring of significance occurring between the space, the works in the galleries, and the performances.
Following Figure 8, came the 1963 solo La Chanteuse. Lasting 15 seconds tops, one dancer says “Oh no. Oh no,” and then fells to her side, landing on a piece of foam which had been placed by another dancer; breaking with the others who remained in a tightly expressed line.
A solo piece, Work in Progress in the John Chamberlain gallery was delicate and painterly, yet abrasive and strong at the same time. In entirety, the work focused on costume design, choreography, and the classical music accompaniment. Personally, after 25 years of visiting John Chamberlain’s works, seeing Work in Progress danced against this setting was rejuvenating experience, and offered a fresh appreciation. The tides of the costumed body in motion were seamlessly integrated within the gallery, and almost provided an explanation for his artistic state of mind.
Finally, we were lead into the basement for the Opal Loop: Cloud Installation #72503 (1980) performance. I had never been to this part of Dia’s basement. A dark sprawling space with rough hewn, freshly cut oak bleachers and simple stage lights, the site felt cold, damp and obtrusive; exactly the way it should.
Clouds of fog began to fill the room, as 4 dancers in different costumes occupied the space, conceptualized by Brown’s collaborator for the piece, Fujiko Nakaya. Each costume was an iridescent-color-fleck found in Opal. There wasn’t a second that I wasn’t enthralled with the contrasting relationships between each dancer, or the dynamism of lines and forms created therein.
After the performances, I noticed a projection of the original 1980 Opal Loop: Cloud Installation performance on view in the basement around the corner from the Bruce Nauman installations. It struck me that the performance was quite different when it came to the formal dance elements, but the overall aesthetic of the performance was (somehow) relentlessly correlative. Fascinated by reconstructing historic works of art from archival documentation, and cultural preservation through re-exhibition; and I should look further into Trisha Brown Dance Company’s strategy for reviving performances.
As luck would have it, I ran into a friend at the performance who was working as Trisha Brown’s videographer. After our performance ended, she told us that Trisha Brown herself would be performing in the 3:00 performance. Still, our experience could not have been better.