on Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker

ArticleClaire Bishop at Artforum:

THE ART WORLD’S FASCINATION with relocating dance into the gallery has been gathering steam for well over a decade—and as of this spring it shows no signs of abating, despite the numerous conundrums that encumber the transition from theater to white cube. Of all the stage-to-gallery transpositions I’ve seen, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s recent exhibition at Wiels Contemporary Art Centre in Brussels resolved these dilemmas most impressively. This one-work show was based on the Belgian choreographer’s sixty-minute dance Vortex Temporum, first performed by her company Rosas in 2013. As a theatrical production, the piece opens with six musicians from the avant-garde ensemble Ictus seated onstage with their instruments. Seven dancers appear and gradually begin to move in circles or swing their limbs in spiral formations while following white chalk lines mapped on the floor in a mandala-like arrangement. The musicians also move around, following the same chalked paths, as they play Gérard Grisey’s eponymous 1996 composition, a challenging work by the late French composer and cofounder of “spectral music.”

Extremely difficult, somber, European-style high culture, then—and this was certainly how Vortex Temporum was received when first performed: The New York Times described it as “terribly hard work. . . . It is utterly dry and no fun at all,” while the London Telegraph called it “narcolepsy-inducing.” There was every reason to fear that the piece would be just as grueling at Wiels. Its new title, Work/Travail/Arbeid, did not bode well. But what made the production first endurable and then rapidly hypnotic was precisely its removal from the economy of evening entertainment and its invitation to watch over the course of the day, or week, or month.

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