‘Radical Bodies’:
Artistic Consensus

Radical Bodies: Anna Halprin, Simone Forti, and Yvonne Rainer in California and New York, 1955–1972
New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, New York
24.05.17 – 16.09.17

Translated by Duncan Hewitt

If we want to separate out a section of the timeline from the narrative of modernist art, to explain compatibility and consensus between types of artistic expression, the 1960s would not be a bad choice. Take the US for example: following the Great Depression of the 1930s, and after all the controversies of racial identity, the American century finally arrived. The artistic norms of the period had already quietly shifted. This was not only reflected in the fusion and expansion of the creative media employed: the narrative of art history also shifted towards a broad debate about identity politics, mass media and commercial values.

The exhibition Radical Bodies revisits precisely this historical era. The curators have reconstructed the artistic interactions between the dancer and choreographer Anna Halprin and a host of other artists during the period from 1955 to 1972. It was from the debates of this era that the theory of what’s known as ‘postmodern dance’ was born. Inspired by the eclectic nature of performance art, the exhibition is a crossover between many types of artistic media, and strives to demonstrate the entire historical context to the audience.

Regrettably, this type of retrospective exhibition is inevitably limited by being unable to present the expressive strength that is at the core of performance art – its live nature. The exhibition can only transform it, and portray it, from a kind of historical, conceptual point of view. The importance of this transformation lies in the fact that, as well as conveying the sheer expressive power of such art, it can also develop it into material for academic research – providing a space for reflection, over and above the expressive form.

In the 1950s and 60s, modern dance, as an important artistic medium embodying social change, was in the midst of a very significant transformation: the theatrical-style, ‘putting-on-a-show’ type of contemporary dance was torn down from its altar by a group of artistic rebels. They sought a form of dance that would create an interaction with the audience’s sensory experience, and strove to express the reciprocal links between the unadorned human body and the spatial environment, hoping in this way to inspire the masses to reflect on body politics. However, the results of this artistic shift were by no means to everyone’s satisfaction: in 1973 the minimalist composer Steve Reich, in a summary of the relationship between music and dance, wrote, ‘For a long time during the 1960s, one would go to the dance concert where no one danced, followed by the party where everyone danced.’ And he concluded, ‘This was not a healthy situation.’

Nonetheless, it cannot be denied that the artistic consensus that Halprin and others created, based on art, went above and beyond art: it was a contemplative exploration of gender and status, social politics and community activities. And dance, as the leading expressive form of this revolution, also gradually began to enter into art galleries, public spaces, and even streets and alleyways. From 1947, when Halprin created The Prophetess in the wake of the Nuremberg Trials, to 1967, when her Blank Placard Dance, a march of urban resistance, was performed in San Francisco, choreographed activities in public spaces generally focused on fundamental questions of citizens’ rights, becoming more and more politicised as the 1960s went on. The human body, space and elements of everyday life could engage in an extemporaneous dialogue through the form of dance and the lines of movement. This eventually solidified into the basic creative approach of radical 1960s dance.

In her radical creative methods, Halprin sought to construct a model of dance that could connect all kinds of disjointed elements of theatrical dance, including separating storylines from physical movement, and dance postures from emotional prompts. It’s worth noting that this kind of improvised creation not only involved exploring many different media, including sound, space and the body; she claimed it also blurred the distinction between formal performance and the preparatory phase in which the performance was created. The various videos in the exhibition primarily show scenes of the dancers creating and rehearsing, but the impression does not appear in any way different from the final appearance of the dance on stage. The glamorous aspect of performance has been abandoned: what you see is what you get; it’s a style with a certain degree of positivism.

With the constant development of creative media, visual art, installation art and mixed media also entered a period of transformation. It’s intriguing to contemplate what was the key influence of a ‘body artist’ such as Yvonne Rainer on the visual art of people such as Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg. Or, to put it another way, what was it these visual artists saw in her choreographed works? Based on the cooperative performances involving the Judson Dance Theater and Rainer between 1962 and 1966, Rauschenberg in 1965 painted a series of portraits of Rainer and the minimalist sculptor Robert Morris; he also made use of the mattresses that were props in Parts of Some Sextets ( 1965 ), in which he participated. In the dance performance the body is like a component part of a sculpture, the ‘posture without inner thought’ described by Rosalind Krauss.

At the same time, this type of creative model also inspired Morris. In the summer of 1961, sometime after the workshop finished, he created Box with the Sound of its own Making. A pre-recorded 3-hour tape was placed in a cubic walnut-wood box, which continuously broadcast the sound of Morris creating the work. This sculpture was closer to dadaist humour, and indeed had entered the space of theatre art, happenings and kinetic art. It was a creation based on a consensual understanding of art. Simone Forti’s Slant Board ( 1961 ) is an even better example of the mutual influence between performance art and visual art. This is a dance prop consisting of two 4 x 8 foot sheets of plywood leaning against a wall, with five ropes tied to the top, and two boxes underneath. During the exhibition this work once again demonstrated its performance aspect, as dancers walked up and down its slope repeatedly for around ten minutes. From a metaphorical and literary perspective, Forti introduced minimalist sculpture into the creation of dance, and demonstrated the commonalities in the expressive capability of each of these art forms.

As well as having roots in mutual influences between artists, this kind of creative consensus is also, in particular, the inevitable response of individual artists to their contemporary social context. Judy Chicago believes that performance art is the art form best able to express the essence of an idea and make it comprehensible – because the vast majority of the audience will tend to use the language of performance in everyday life. Thus, from those such as Halprin and Forti who, as choreographers, intentionally weakened the powerful symbolism of nudity in performance, to Judy Chicago and Miriam Schapiro’s installation and performance space Womanhouse ( 1972 ), created under the banner of feminism, they all – despite the differences in their artistic practice – embody the response of the art world to social issues such as body politics and the repression of public opinion. Revolution and rebellion, dismantling and reconstruction, are important overriding themes that have long infused artistic creation. What is needed to create an artistic consensus is certainly not the ‘you applaud me and I’ll applaud you’ type of ‘courtesy’; rather, it is a rational radicalism based on a shared context.


《激进的身体:安娜· 哈尔普林, 西蒙· 佛提和伊万·
2017 年5 月24 日 – 2017 年 9 月16 日

如果要在现代主义艺术的叙事体系中分隔出一条时间线,来说明艺术表现形式的兼容性和共识,那么20 世纪 60 年代会是一个不错的选择。以美国为例,经历了 30 年代的经济大萧条和诸多关于民族认同的论争之后,终于临来了“美国世纪”。这一时期的艺术范式业已悄然转换,不仅体现在创作媒介的融合和扩展, 在艺术史叙事中,更是转向了对身份政治, 大众媒体和商业价值的广泛讨论。展览“激进的身体”所还原的正是这样的历史图景, 策展人建构了同为舞蹈家及编舞者—安娜· 哈尔普林 ( Anna Halprin ) 与诸多艺术家在1955 年至1972 年间的艺术交际,所谓的后现代舞蹈理论即阐发于当时的讨论话语中。基于表演艺术的总体性特质,展览借由多种艺术媒介复合交错的形式,力求为观众铺设完整全面的历史语境。遗憾的是,此类回顾展必然局限于无法突破表演艺术表现力的核心—现场性,只能将其转变为一种历史性的, 概念性的姿态呈现。而这种转变的重要性在于, 在转述纯粹的表现力的同时,可将其延伸为学者们研究资源;亦提供了高于表现形式的思考空间。

Yvonne Rainer and Andy Warhol with Barbara Rose, 1964. Photo courtesy Chen Han 伊万· 瑞纳与安迪· 沃霍尔和芭芭拉· 罗斯在一起,1964 年。陈涵 摄

Yvonne Rainer and Andy Warhol with Barbara Rose, 1964. Photo courtesy Chen Han. 伊万· 瑞纳与安迪· 沃霍尔和芭芭拉· 罗斯在一起,1964 年。陈涵 摄.

20 世纪50 年代晚期至60 年代,现代舞作为一种体现社会变革的重要艺术媒介,正经历着极为重要的转型;剧场式的, “装腔作势”的现代舞蹈被一群艺术反叛者拉下神坛,他们追求与观者的感官经验产生互动的舞蹈形式,力求表现朴素的人体形象与空间环境的交互作用,并期望借此引起大众对身体政治的反思。而艺术变革的结果并不令所有人满意,1973 年,极简主义作曲家史蒂夫· 里奇 ( Steve Reich ) 在总结音乐与舞蹈的关系时,写到:“20 世纪60 年代的很长一段时间里,人们会去观赏一场无人舞动的舞蹈演出,然后参加所有人都在跳舞的派对。”并且将其总结为:“这真不是一个健康的状态。”尽管如此,不可否认的是, 哈尔普林等人所构建的艺术共识是基于艺术且高于艺术的,是关于性别与身份, 社会政治与社群活动的反思探讨。而舞蹈作为这项革命的先锋表现形式,也逐渐开始进驻画廊, 公共空间乃至街角巷落。从 1947 年,哈尔普林在纽伦堡大审判期间创作的《女先知》,到 1967 年旧金山上演的城市抗议游行《空白海报舞》, 公共空间的编舞活动总是聚焦于公民权利的核心问题,并且在60 年代间变得愈加政治化。人体, 空间及日常构件都可通过舞蹈的形式和动作流线展开即兴对话,这最终构成了 60 年代激进舞蹈的基本创作方法。

在即兴创作方法上,哈尔普林试图构建一种可以整合戏剧舞蹈中各类非耦合因素的舞蹈模式, 即从物理动作中分离出故事情节,从舞蹈姿势中分解出情感线索。值得一提的是,这种即兴创作不仅在于探索声音, 空间, 人体等多种媒介,同时还“模糊了正式表演和构成表演的准备阶段之间的区隔”。展览中的几组影像重点表现了舞者们创作及练习的场景,在画面效果上与最终的舞台呈现并无二致,抛却了华丽的演出效果,所见即所得,颇有几分实证主义的风格。

随着创作媒介的不断拓展,视觉艺术, 装置艺术及综合媒介也开始介入了变革。有趣的是,像伊万· 瑞纳 ( Yvonne Rainer ) 这样的“身体的艺术家”对诸如安迪· 沃霍尔和劳森伯格的视觉艺术的核心影响是什么,或者说他们在她的编舞作品中看到了什么呢?基于 1962 至 1966 年间与贾德森舞团和瑞纳的合作表演, 劳森伯格曾在 1965 年为瑞纳和极少主义雕塑家罗伯特· 莫里斯创造了一系列肖像画;其中还运用了他所参演的《六重奏的某部分》中的床垫道具。身体在舞蹈表现中就像雕塑构件一样,即罗莎琳德· 克劳斯 ( Rosalind Krauss ) 所形容的“没有内部思想的姿势”。这种创作模式同时启发了莫里斯的灵感。1957 年夏, 工作坊结束后不久,他就创作了《箱子与它发出的声音》—一个核桃木的方盒子里有一个制作好的三小时录音带,不断发出莫里斯制作这件作品时的声响。这种雕塑更接近达达主义的幽默, 并且已介入了剧场艺术, 偶发艺术和动力艺术的空间,是一种基于艺术共识的创作。而莫里斯为西蒙· 佛提 ( Simone Forti )创作的“倾斜的板子”,更能说明表演艺术与视觉艺术的交互影响。这是一个由两块 4 英尺乘 8 英尺的胶合板制作的舞蹈道具,斜放在墙边,上面系着五根绳子,下面还有两个箱子。这件作品甚至在展览中重现了它的表演效果,舞者来来回回地走上走下约十分钟左右;佛提从隐喻性和文学性的角度将极简主义雕塑引入舞蹈构筑之中,恰恰体现了二者表现力的共通之处。

然而,这种创作共识除了来源于艺术家之间的交互影响,更是个体艺术家在面对时下社会语境时做出的必然反应。朱迪· 芝加哥认为表演艺术是最能够直接表达内容主旨,并被人理解的艺术形式;对于绝大部分观众而言,他们在社会活动中也往往会使用到表演艺术语言。因此,从哈尔普林和佛提等人作为编舞者刻意弱化了裸体在表演中的强烈性征,到朱迪· 芝加哥和米里亚姆· 莎佩罗在女权主题下创作的《女性之屋》装置;艺术实践形式虽各有不同,但都体现了艺术界对身体政治和舆论压制等社会议题做出的回应。革命与反叛,拆解并重构,是始终贯穿艺术创作的重要母题,艺术的共识所需要的并不是那种如果你为我鼓掌, 我就为你鼓掌的“友善”;而是基于同一语境下的合理的激进。

1. Robert Morris,quoted in Maurice Berger, Labyrinths: Robert Morris. Minimalism, and the 1960s ( New York: Harper and Row, 1989 ),pp.25.