Performing Bodies

Manuela Reyes
Oct 21, 2014 2:13AM

The exhibition, Performing Bodies is a tribute to Robert Rauschenberg’s capacity to envision the future through the technological art performance series, Nine Evenings. The show will express the way in which Rauschenberg creates an awareness of the human body through performance, creating dance improvisation as a subtle expression of the actions of the body. 

Open Score, Rauschenberg’s performance part of Nine Evenings, evoked a dialogue of the body through a tennis match inside The 69th Regiment Armory, in New York, October 14 and 23, 1966. New technology, dance, music, theater and performance were employed. The racquets of the two tennis players, Frank Stella and Mimi Kanarek, had contact microphones that picked up the echoes produced by the sounds of the balls and projected them through speakers. A group of 500 performers were hired to become part of the artwork. By doing a series of activities-- touching someone else, touching their own bodies, hugging, drawing rectangles in the air, holding out handkerchiefs in the air, brushing their hair, moving close and apart or taking off their jackets—utilize the body to communicate an artistic expression. Rauschenberg captures their images in the middle of the darkness with infrared filming and projects them on a screen as part of the performance. 

Performing Bodies will incorporate a multidisciplinary approach with different artists and media. Painting, sculpture, performance documentation through photography, as well as Rauschenberg’s lithographs and mono prints will be exhibited. The central pieces of the show will be the works by Rauschenberg and Susan Weil, Female Figure and Untitled [double Rauschenberg] and Rauschenberg’s Autobiography. These first two pieces show the human form as faceless, yet expressive, as if caught in the middle of a performance. This return to a simplistic display of the human form is replicated in the work of Ana Mendieta and Dennis Oppenheim, as they address the body in a performative manner. Other works will include—Diego Rivera’s Untitled (Soaring figure), study for the ceiling of the mural Allegory of California, Pacific Stock Exchange Luncheon Club, San Francisco; Henri Matisse’s Nu bleu I (Blue Nude I) and William de Kooning’s Seated Woman;Alexander Calder’s work, Helen Wills, a woman playing tennis, will be a direct tribute to Open Score.  Rauschenberg’s Untitled [Cunningham dancers], Booster, and Autobiography are also selected for the exhibition, as they are visual representations for his performative works. 

Being aware ofRauschenberg’s interest in collaborations with other artists, Performing Bodies will be the first time a collective exhibition portrays Rauschenberg’s vision of the language of the body. The exhibition will create a reflection of the viewer and their awareness of their body as a performative tool. Rauschenberg’s capacity to envision this subject in the future will be addressed by questioning our role as human beings relating in our modern society.   

Manuela Reyes