Thanks to a Lisa Ullmann Travelling Scholarship, Neon Dance Choreographer and Artistic Director Adrienne Hart spent 6 days in New York in April 2019 where she met with programmers and curators interested in presenting her work ‘Puzzle Creature’, an hour long performance work inspired by the artist / architect duo Arakawa and Madeline Gins. She also spent time researching Arakawa and Gins archives at the Reversible Destiny Foundation to help inform future projects.
Having spent 2 years researching and developing Neon’s latest work ‘Puzzle Creature’, which has been inspired by artist / architect duo Arakawa and Madeline Gins, it was wonderful to spend time in New York, the city that Arakawa and Gins called home for 40+ years and discover more about their lives and the work they created together.
On my first day, I was able to attend the Arakawa exhibition ‘Diagrams for the Imagination’ at the Gagosian Gallery, which is around the corner from Central Park. I then took a short walk to Castelli Gallery to see some of Arakawa’s very early work, which is rarely on display. I had read so much about his coffin series and have collected books and digital images of his later work included in the Diagrams for the Imagination exhibition. However, on encountering the artworks in person, I thought about the power of experiencing objects in person; material and maker intertwined through a process, and as such how artworks can acquire a viscous nature. The paint on canvas or cement fashioned into forms, cushioned by padded material and set within a wooden box, sticking and having a more lasting impact than their digital counterpart. Experiencing Arakawa’s works in person, I was reminded that every time you copy a jpg image, more holes appear and information is lost. It made me think about sharing work in the online sphere.
The next day, I attended a screening of Arakawa's experimental film from 1971 "For Example (A Critique of Never)" at the Emily Harvey Foundation. This film was originally premiered at the Whitney Museum in 1972. Along with the Reversible Destiny team we then headed over to Pioneer Works in Red Hook for the venues Second Sunday event. Pioneer Works is an artist-run cultural centre, which opened in 2012. Imagined by its founder, artist Dustin Yellin, as a place in which artist, scientists, and thinkers converge. The three-story redbrick building was built in 1866 for what was then Pioneer Iron Works. We walked around the gallery and watched a local band play, upstairs housed a tech lab with 3-D printer, virtual environment lab, recording studios and so much more.
Having been invited to talk at Columbia University in 2018 at the opening of the exhibition ‘Arakawa and Madeline Gins: Eternal Gradient’, it was so nice to catch up with the curator Irene Sunwoo. I also had the pleasure to catch up with American choreographer and media artist Jonah Bokaer who mentored me 10 years ago! I met with a diverse range of venues, organisations and institutions during the 6 day trip including MASS MoCA, Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, CUNY Graduate Center, Japan Society, Harkness Dance Center and Danspace Project.
Hanging out with the Reversible Destiny Foundation team, I managed two trips to the archive where materials including poetry, paintings and architectural plans by Arakawa and Madeline Gins reside. There’s so much more than I could possibly have explored on this short trip however the team helped me refine my search and find materials that relate to my current project; developing a site specific version of Puzzle Creature for Setouchi Art Triennale. The site we’ve chosen for the performance is Kou beach on Teshima Island (Japan). I’m especially grateful to ST who picked out some experiments and proposals that were never realised and reminded me of a chapter in one of Madeline Gins’ published books titled ‘Critical Beach’. These works demonstrate the sheer breadth of A&G’s legacy and its ability to transcend genre, medium and time.