Re-stagings No. 1:
Director & Choreographer: Abigail Levine
Sound Score: Dave Ruder
5. Irrational thoughts should be followed absolutely and logically.
Sol LeWitt, Sentences on Conceptual Art (1969)
Choreographing LeWitt is a new multi-day performance work by choreographer Abigail Levine, the first work in the series Re-stagings. The 3,744 lines that comprise Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #56 (1970) take Abigail Levine twenty-five hours to complete, five hours of movement each day for five days. In a 12 x 12’ square, Levine performs the Wall Drawing one line at a time, following LeWitt’s instructions as he wrote them. Sound designer Dave Ruder captures the sound of each line, the pencil’s mark making amplified via contact microphones and played back into the room. As the drawing is performed, a sonic archive accumulates around it in a multi-channel sound installation in speakers spread throughout the space.
For LeWitt, the written instructions for his drawings, rather than the drawings, were the works themselves, creating an opening to read LeWitt’s instructions as a choreographic score. Levine describes her relationship to LeWitt’s drawings through dance:
When I looked at LeWitt’s early graphite Wall Drawings, the lines spoke of physical precision and long-practiced technique; they spoke of the idiosyncrasies, the physical events of their execution. Looking again at LeWitt’s wittily concise instructions, I realized they read, without modification, as movement directives.
The transformation from visual work to performance foregrounds LeWitt’s interest in duration and his regard for the exacting, embodied labor that produced his works. These issues were significant to LeWitt’s politics and practice and are central for Levine in approaching his work. They also belie the idea of the Wall Drawing as a purely rational exercise. Rosalind Krauss observes, “For what we find is the ‘system’ of compulsion, of the obsessional's unwavering ritual, with its precision, its neatness, its finicky exactitude, covering over an abyss of irrationality.” Following from LeWitt’s assertion that “Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists,” the translation to performance brings the narrative, ritualistic, and even devotional qualities of the Wall Drawing to the fore.
Choreographing LeWitt is the first work in Levine’s series Re-stagings, which reads modern and postmodern visual artworks as scores for performance. Re-stagings decodes the choreographic logic and somatic ideas built into visual art works. The series focuses on visual artworks that share an interest in embodiment, time and labor, including those of Sol LeWitt, Robert Morris, Richard Serra, Carl Andre, and Walter de Maria, all of whom were closely associated with dance and performance artists of their eras.
Historically, minimalist and post-minimalist visual works were recognized for incorporating into the viewer’s experience the gallery site beyond the object’s spatial boundaries. Levine's Re-stagings do something similar for the objects' temporal boundaries: through performance they bring the work of making the work out of its concealed temporal ground and into the figure of the dancer in the gallery. Performance unearths the bodies and labor implicit in the objects, drawings, and texts and incorporates them into our experience of the original work. As dance has been presented and historicized increasingly as visual art over the last decade, Re-stagings responds by claiming these visual and conceptual works as dance.
Re-stagings 1: Choreographing LeWitt will be performed continuously during gallery hours, from 12-6pm, on each consecutive day from Sunday, July 23 until Thursday, July 27. A closing reception will be held Thursday, July 27 from 6-8pm. This project has been developed with the support of New Music USA, Marina Abramovic Institute, Knockdown Center, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, Center for Performance Research, and producer DIORAMA.