Is choreography solely a visual art? How much does the artist control the art before the audience takes over? Do the artist’s intentions matter? Or is art concerned only with the interpretation of the audience? Perhaps the only important relationship is between the audience and the art itself, rendering the artist irrelevant. This idea of “the death of the author” has since made its way from literary theory to other art forms and is part of what TransDance artists attempted to explore as part of scheduled audio and video installations at Medrar.
In the installations, the work of several artists was featured under the overarching theme of bodies as physical documents. One such work was Mirette Michel’s Slow Shutter, which was an audio-only installation that left much to the audience’s imagination. The performance was originally designed as a visual performance to be seen, heard and experienced but Michel said she wanted to experiment with choreography as something you not only see but imagine. The audio performance was played through speakerphones hidden behind a couch in a largely empty room.
The room had no furniture save for the sofa, a high ceiling, a large doorway but no door, one open window, a wooden floor, dim lighting and a strange symmetry. The audience sat on the floor, taking in the performance that was meant for their hearing, their imagination, perhaps even their memories, but never their vision.
The performance was an experimental mix of acting, dancing (that one would have to imagine) and what seemed to be live music, ranging from violins and strings to Chopin’s famous Prelude no. 4.
The audience was left to imagine what the choreography looked like; they could hear only footsteps, instruments, people shouting, performing, sparse dialogue lines and an assortment of other eclectic sounds.
On the floor, seated next to the audience, was the artist herself. Michel looked deeply focused and engaged in her performance and was there for multiple playbacks. “[As the artist] I know what everyone does and where and when they do it. The audience does not and the focus is on their interpretation as they find images to fit the sounds they hear,” said Michel.
“One of the audience members who had seen the show before in Alexandria said that listening to it imparts a different interpretation than seeing it. The emphasis becomes on other things. For some, the emphasis becomes on the music. For others, it is the dialogue because it is the most solid and least debatable element and for others still it is the actions of the performers: are they sitting, standing, laughing, crying, et cetera?”
Michel added that interpretation was the vital element, “the artist’s intent is not the focus, but rather what the audience thinks or makes of it.”
Other notable works included a short film titled My City, by Egyptian artist and filmmaker Randa Ali. Ali’s memorable opening scene of a Metro carriage’s floor gives way to a dancer and the relation between her body, herself and her city. The film features beautiful images and captures a certain nostalgic feel of Cairo that has long been one of Ali’s infatuations.
“There is a love/hate relationship with the city in the film. The dancer who is featured in the film loves the city as she walks through its streets, but she also feels out of place in it. There is a certain state of disconnection between other people who are shown in the film, also dancing, and herself. She is dancing to a different tune,” said Ali.
FLAT, by Chevan Likitbannakon, featured capturing ballet through photography, focusing on the mundane (in the setting itself), and on movement through vivid images that intermarry both art forms.
The installation will run until 22 October at Medrar and attendance is free. Sometimes the artists will be present; open to questions, rethinking interpretations of their work, and above all, waiting to hear yours.