Artist’s Statement

My goal for this piece was to allow audience members to accompany my dancers on their own personal journeys to reject social/personal constrictions on their bodies to reach a higher state of consciousness. I want the bodies present onstage to become so in tune with themselves and their movement that they forget they are performing in a public space. How was I to do this without knowing the personal backgrounds of my dancers? Or even what provoked them to move without hesitation?

I solved this dilemma by primarily creating a semi-structured space in which the dancers oscillated between an extremely present and performative world to a more private and personal collective amongst themselves. Dances performed at African-based religious ceremonies (Vodoun, Candomblé) were integral to the formation of the space I created for my dancers. Moreover, sensual and highly postured shapes (choreographed movements) characterize the dancers’ movements within the hyper-performative world, while their movements within their more private worlds are characterized by their own personal styles, or how they choose to move uninhibited (improvisation).

The dancers must realize that there will always be outside distractions (an audience, pestering reoccurring thoughts) that will inhibit them from reaching that higher state of consciousness. Thus, within the piece they must strive to find their own self-confidence and comfort in order to block out distractions and unwanted attention. Audience members should gradually realize that their gaze becomes irrelevant, and that the dancers are living and supporting each other within their own collective.

-Constance W. Harris

Week 7 Readings and Videos

Enacting Others, Politics of Identity in Eleanor Antin

While reading this piece, I couldn’t help building up great anxiety. I feel that’s hard to evade whenever you are an African-American looking at someone of a different skin color performing black face. One becomes extremely sensitive to the performer’s motive(s) and whether or not this performance is meant for humor. It appears to me as if the authors of this piece are in a way defending Antin. They are trying to justify that Antin isn’t frivolously appropriating the physical and social characteristics of this black ballerina, but is in actuality embodying and performing the complexities of racial and ethnic identity. She is not putting on this performance to poke fun at or hurt ‘black culture’.

I can appreciate that only to a certain extent, however. Any identity, be it gender, ethnic, sexual, is extremely complex. If one decides to make a piece of artwork appropriating an identity that is unnatural, it is expected that their will be some questioning from those who are of that identity. Performing black face, whether it be for a minstrel show or high-class performance art, is problematic.

The article kind of deviates away from this ‘problematicness'(?) by in a way emphasizing that the notion of blackness isn’t always related to African-Americans and that other ethnicities can easily appropriate blackness due to collective oppression. One side of me wants to immediately label that as problematic and cast it aside since it diminishes the unique complexities of the African-American experience, and the individually unique experiences of black people throughout the diaspora, and instead globs it into more of collective human experience. However, another part of me is hesitant to jump to that conclusion because a lot constructive bridges are made and differences are cast aside as a result of collective hurt.

This piece is hard to unpack…Antin I don’t think is able to build that bridge with her appropriating blackness. It is all an imagined performance, I don’t feel there’s much embodiment of the experience of a black ballerina. It seems more as if she is able to ‘pass’ physically…any talented actor with the right makeup artist can do that. I think reading her book/journal of her artistic journey may give me more insight into how she was able to truly embody the experience of a black ballerina, but until then, I’m going to remain skeptical.

Dave Hickey on Vanessa Beecroft

This article gives attention to mediums that artist use for their work: painting and tableau. Hickey explains how when an artist uses painting, especially when exhibiting nudity, they are attempting to translate the innocence of their gaze onto the canvas. However, when the product of the artist’s gaze is put in public it loses its innocence. Hickey then gives focus on Beecrofts’ work and her use of tableau. The author states that the women portrayed in Beecrofts’ artwork have more vitality than the female models used in other paintings. Instead of painting these women’s images on another medium, Beecroft instead paints on the women. The use of this type of performance art and the female body helps to display the mysteriousness and opacity of women.


Eleanor Antin

I couldn’t help but keep the article about Antinova in mind while watching this. Her works are extremely varied, you see her dealing with issues with over consumption, gender, and overall human experience. I was particularly intrigued by her works that deal with ballet. If I remember correctly, she likes the art form, but ultimately sees it at totally ridiculous. I found this ironic, again connecting back to her portrayal of Antinova, since she was a ballerina and it probably encompassed just as much of her identity as being, female, and black. Since Antin uses ballet for satire and juxtaposition I’m still confused as to why she would still want to portray this woman…I’m not the biggest fan of Antin…

David LaChapelle

Pop art. I like how he mentions that is art is accessible and that it is not solely reserved for the elites. He works a great deal with juxtaposition and irony. At first glance, his works sometime appear racy and outrageous, but when you take a deeper look, it is apparent that he has embedded many socially relevant issues and themes. The composition of his pieces are fascinating. Sometimes it’s as if you are looking at a soft, painted portrait and sometimes a still life from a movie. Also, his use of color really helps to grab the viewer’s attention, and causes them to examine his work closely.

Rape of Africa/Beauty and Art Making

Looking at these three posts gave me a load to think about. Within the first few seconds of looking at LaChapelle’s ‘Rape of Africa”, one cannot deny that the composition of the piece is flawless. Especially in comparison to Botticelli’s work you see that the two are very similar, but very different. From watching LaChapelle talk about his views on beauty and art making, you can see how much of that influence this particular piece. The work is full of ‘beautiful’ people, including supermodel Naomi Campbell, some statuesque male model, and undeniably cute dark skinned little boys. According to LaChapelle, the use of this beauty helps to draw in the viewer and in a way trap them into dealing with the heavy issues at hand, rape, race, exploitation, environmental degradation, etc. Even though LaChapelle claims that his work is accessible and not only relevant to intellectuals, this particular piece made me question that. I wondered if an African artist who has lived in the heat of any the prevalent conflicts present in some parts of Africa would be able to use so much irony, beauty, and juxtaposition…I would go as far as to assume, no. I feel like LaChapelle’s use of ‘beauty’ (which is relative) is a mere sugar coating for a sour pill. Even though the pill does what it needs to do in the end, there is a slight distraction or tricking the senses. I feel like an artist who lives through these horrors wouldn’t have time to layer on all of these things and would themselves along with their audience confront the issue head-on.

Ultimately, I feel LaChapelle’s work is reserved for the elite, who have time to unpack the small, horrifying details and then decide whether they would like to do something about it or not. I feel a great sense of privilege in his work, but it’s beautiful to look at nonetheless.

Vanessa Beecroft/Kanye West

Vanessa Beecroft’s piece involving women wearing nothing, but pantyhose I feel is extremely important to our western world in this day and age. It is noticeable that even though spectators for the work may have felt an initial shock and uncomfortability (not only from the nudity, but the barrier established between the models and spectators) they gradually felt a sense of normalcy. This was helped by the fact that Beecroft didn’t only use size 0-2 models, but women of many, but not all shapes. This allowed some of female spectators to see themselves in the exhibition. We all know that there is so much stigma held against nudity in Western culture and that often times it is hypersexualized. This piece stands as a wonderful prompt for dialogue concerning this topic. However, the lack of women of various ethnicities and more body types diminished from this piece’s effectiveness. This probably would have caused even more uncomfortability and may have stimulated more constructive self-reflection.

Moreover, Beecroft’s and Kanye West’s collaboration was another beautifully composed piece of visual art. Prior to watching the video I had heard of the rumors about the video being indirectly dedicated to he and his ex-girlfriend, Amber Rose, relationship. This tainted my viewing. It was like watching a story in a fairytale book unfold, however, there is no happy ending. I tried my hardest to see exactly where Beecroft had the most influence (since there was so much collaboration on the video, not just from Beecroft and West, but also the famous music video director, Hype Williams). Unfortunately, I haven’t seen enough of her work to be like, “That is definitely Beecroft”

I feel like an extremely definitive part of the video that helped to set the tone was when Kanye said something along the lines of, “Don’t trust anything the media says” when talking to his new girlfriend, a bird. I didn’t enjoy seeing his girlfriend portrayed as a helpless bird that Kanye has to take care of and sort of educate her in the proper way to behave in society. She however, was unable to conform, and upon realizing this found her agency and ascended into the sky like a phoenix. There was a great deal to take in from the video. However, I feel like an overarching theme is that our modern society is simply not receptive to those who are different than the majority (especially from the allusions to Michael Jackson in the beginning and the KKK).


Week 2/27/2012

Since I’ve been working on trying to clean up previous movmements with my dancers, I’ve gone ahead to create more stuff. I want some part of my dance to be very strong and athletic and I want my dancers to be able to feel somewhat free from the audience’s gaze/judgement in order to achieve full embodiment. Do you all think that the movements might be to strong for this…I’m trying to make movements in which dancers can get into it and not worry about technicalities? What sort of movements would you all suggest for this?

Week 2/20/2012

This past week I’ve been trying to work with a less structured/form conscious quality of movement. I didn’t focus on trying to work on technique, but I wanted the movement to try to be as natural for each dancer as possible, I don’t think I achieved that yet. However, I thought some interesting things happened nonetheless.

My question for this week is just in general what comes to mind when watching the movement and opinions on the arrangement.

Week 2/13/2012

This past week I decided to continue with the very structured movements I’ve been working with and put them on my dancers. After I felt that they had a strong enough grasp of it I asked them to embody the opposite of the emotions they felt that the original movements evoked. Afterwards I split them up into groups and asked them to teach each other their phrases. As of right now I’ve been working on more fluid phrases to teach the dancers. I do have a few themes in mind that are bouncing around in my head, but I feel that it is impossible for me to concretize them right now and that it will ultimately inhibit my and my dancers’ creativity, so I’m going to try my best to just explore as many avenues as possible during this ‘gathering’ experience.

What do you all find interesting in the collaborated movements, anything you feel I should build on? What emotions and themes do you see?



The Body

I really enjoyed this week’s reading on the body. I felt as if it were a great reaffirmation on how dynamic the body truly is and all it is capable of doing/representing/embodying, etc. The sections “The Body is a Sign”, “People are Bodies”, and “The Body Beautiful”. Our bodies are extremely powerful mediums, but are still susceptible due to their malleability (sp?).  I hope with my piece to be able to challenge what my body and what my dancer’s bodies are used to performing/representing. I hope to achieve the body’s ambiguous potential and embrace fluidity.

Lorna Simpson

There was so much going on in this piece, I had to watch it multiple times to get the slightest comprehension of what I was watching. Though the piece is titeld “Momentum”, that was obviously not the first thing I tried to dissect. The first few times I watched it, I tried to make sense of the afro wigs and gold paint on the dancers bodies. I tried to distinguish dancers by whether they were black or of some other ethnicity. I examined the physical characteristics of the dancers and their skill level. I felt that this things played a part in their arrangement in the space. Even though all the dancers had the exact same costume they were not at all uniform (physical aspects, skill, body shape, what moves they were doing).

But I still can’t figure out why she had to use afro wigs. At first glance, an afro can be interpreted as an African-American hairstyle, but if you think more deeply into it. Wearing an afro in any western nation is a symbol of agency and somewhat rebellion since it is embracement of how one’s hair naturally forms and rejection of applying chemicals or reshaping it into something more kempt and presentable to the general public…So you have this afro hair and then these dancers are doing these (or attempting to) do these very technical ballet moves. It’s obviously a super juxtaposition because of the nature of ballet (western, privilege) and the nature of natural African-American hair.

And then you have a few dancers who can actually do the fouttees and you can see that they are trying to do as many as they can as fast as they can. It is interesting to see that the ones who happen to have the most momemtum and stamina are at the front of the space are black…

There’s so much in this piece and I need to watch a few more times to really come out with a more logical comment…I think.

Marian Robertson

I really enjoyed watching Marian’s approach to something that is really taboo in our modern society, nudity. Particularly male nudity and even more specifically the penis is something that is more taboo to show in art as compared to breasts or a butt. I like how her portrayal of the male penis, just for this clip, is not necessarily glorifying it for its prowess, but it’s portrayed in its natural state. I feel this is very progressive.

Janine Antoni

Her approach to her artistic process and the results are fascinating. I feel that  her process and everything she produces really comes full circle and it’s continuous. Her work doesn’t stop with the end production, but it’s stuff that you can really dig into more and more. Particularly for her piece with the lard and chocolate…it encompassed so many things. To make a carving out of her face, a female face, from this material and to in a way deconstruct it again is again fascinating. Watching what little bit of her process that we as viewers got to watch was in itself a piece of art. As I was watching it, I had an urge to replicate it. The feeling of constructing yourself (face), something I know is very laborious and time consuming and then to use simple methods to slowly wash away the painstaking details you’ve created. I think it would be a moving process.

Kiki Smith

Watching Kiki Smith’s piece was extremely haunting. I feel as if I were to be alone in a room with one of her artworks I would really feel a spirit other than my own there.

Dance Autobiography

I’ve always loved rhythms and performing in public spaces. My mom helped to grow that love within me by placing me in jazz, tap, and ballet classes starting at the age of 7. I continued until I was about 11. From 11 to about 14, I didn’t have any formal dance training. I had some opportunities to dance in school plains, still pulling from the little, but solid technique I learned from a few years back. Upon entering high school, I started taking modern dance classes and continued until I graduated. When I started Dickinson, I continued with modern dance, but I have also begun to pay more attention to hip-hop, belly dance, and west african dance.