Walter Benn Michaels at nonsite:
In 1968, Yvonne Rainer wrote an essay criticizing “much of the western dancing we are familiar with” for the way in which, in any given “phrase,” the “focus of attention” is “the part that is the most still” and that registers “like a photograph.”1 Her problem was not the standard complaint that the movement essential to dance is falsified by a still photograph. It was instead that the western dancing she wanted to break away from had the aesthetic of the still photograph built into it—it was already too photographable. What she wanted instead was a dance that refused that aesthetic, that really would be falsified by being photographed. In 1971, James Welling started taking dance classes at the University of Pittsburgh. When, the following year, he started at Cal Arts, he made the decision to become an artist instead of a dancer, but he continued to be interested in dance and especially in Rainer’s essay, which he “read and reread,”2 even as his decision to become an artist turned more specifically into the decision to become a photographer. And much later, in 2014, realizing that he “wasn’t finished with dance,” he began making still photographs of dance performances.