Invisible Histories is a new dance work by dancer, choreographer and filmmaker Mary Wycherley created specifically for galleries.
Bringing together Wycherley, sculptor Rory Tangney and award-winning sound artist La Cosa Preziosa, Invisible Histories will premiere at Limerick City Gallery of Art on Saturday 14th July before touring to Carlow, Skibbereen and Derry.
The piece has been created with dialogue with one of the foremost figures in British dance, Siobhan Davies. In advance of Saturday's premiere, here are extracts from conversations between Davies and Wycherley during the development of the work.
Wycherley: I'm interested in these slippages between art forms and how the dance artist can navigate through these different forms. Bound up in that is the question of identity. How do we identify as dance artists when our work moves through so many different terrains? And does that even matter?
Davies: What strikes me is that a dancer is the material and the work. We are not mediated by being a drawing or a sculpture or even a text. We are the idea and the act. We are the performer and with no additional instrument or text we look much the same as we did when we woke up, got out of bed and came to work. I am fascinated by what happens in the transitional moments between being me and then being me as a maker using the same body.This transition teaches us something: We can’t leave ourselves behind but we can alter where some thresholds exist within us.
Wycherley: I think this recognition is also a wonderful foundation in which collaboration can unfold. When moving across different art forms there is often an openness and a revealing, yet also a challenge in communicating the nature of these transitional moments. Finding a shared language becomes a significant element when working across these different fields of practice.
In the gallery the expectation is quite different. People enter into the gallery with a different sense of time, of space and a different sense of what a body might do.
Davies: I have enjoyed hearing about dance work from people who come from different disciplines and use their language to describe something they have seen in us. Their turn of phrase wakes me up to something I might have taken for granted as less explainable and now I have the chance to say more.
We both spoke a bit earlier about how, as younger dancers, our bodies had been imprinted by techniques that we had learned from other people. We had learnt a movement language, a technique, which at a certain point didn’t have the capability to express what we felt or were attempting to communicate. The technique I was involved in filled my body with information and a fair amount of tension and I felt strangely alienated from that movement. So I felt that I should be the movement rather than adopting moves from an outside source. We are a body rather than having one.
In a gallery we share a place and air with our audience and have a common movement range. I began to seek out the point at which a dancer’s movement becomes performative and involving for the audience yet remains recognisable. I am very moved and energised by how little and how much is drawn in the earliest of cave drawings and I am similarly trying to concentrate on how much is or is not needed in movement. In a gallery space, the scale, the timing of the transformation from a day-to-day figure to a performing figure has a value. I try to feel the space between myself and the person watching as a connective tissue.
Something to be nurtured and not broken. But it is easy to break it and fascinating to work out why it breaks and how to remake it. Too little or too much can break a thread.
Davies: We both know how hard it is simply to make movement that works in front of an audience. People might perceive that we just move around a bit and then find something that feels right, and it’s so distant from that. There is so much more going on in the development of movement that feels essential to this particular work. Could you talk a little about this?
Wycherley: The variety of things our bodies can do is extraordinary, yet sometimes the challenge when creating a work is to ask the question; "What is essential?" This question was incredibly important in Invisible Histories yet I felt I couldn’t pursue this on a stage. In the gallery the expectation is quite different. People enter into the gallery with a different sense of time, of space and a different sense of what a body might do. This is why developing this piece in the gallery was so important to me, offering me a special space to push this question and my focus on movement further.
I try to feel the space between myself and the person watching as a connective tissue.
Davies: I have learned that preparing to make work and performing for the gallery space, gives me very different possibilities than making work for theatre. I am not just altering one space for another by moving into a gallery. That for me does not feel like a real relationship to the place or people working or visiting. So there are different methods that both you and I have had to generate in order to prepare ourselves for the gallery situation. Can you talk about some of the changes that you’ve experienced in considering the gallery space for this work?
Wycherley: One of the core questions in Invisible Histories is the relationship between the moving, breathing, living body and that of the static sculpture. How do I inhabit the same space as the sculptural object and how does the object relate to a moving entity. Additionally, how time manifests in movement and in the gallery, changed my consideration of structure and made me rethink the notion of an arc that I am more familiar with when working in dance and film. Dance is time based, we see it unfolding over time but the sculpture exists in a time but it doesn’t unfold over time.
Invisible Histories will premiere at Limerick City Gallery of Art on Saturday 14th July - for more information go here.