For the second performance in the SoundSpace series, musician and doctoral student (Butler School of Music), Steven Parker was asked by The Blanton to draw from the museum’s resources as a source for his cross-disciplinary approach to collaboration and use of novel context for live performance. In this mobile concert and dance, musicians and dancers performed in three adjacent galleries, creating a distinctive sensory experience that melded form with movement.
For me, the strongest piece as a collaborative whole may have been the first with Elizabeth Lee on cello and Beth Terwilleger’s strong dance performance. The music was Aerial Ballet by Ethan Greene (b. 1982). Greene’s was one of two special contemporary compositions featured. As Greene describes it, a “re-imagined recitation of Cornelius Eady’s poem of the same name”… and “impressions of Eady’s language — particularly the poem’s recurring declaration, ‘I am not done with my falling,’ which in its most literal sense, is a story of dubious flight and inevitable fall.” Also because as Greene expresses, the dancer and musician are “tied together visually” in that “many of the dancer’s gestures are a response to the motion of the bow moving across the strings.” During a chance fire drill, I got an opportunity to chat with Greene outside the museum. He told me that he completed the score for Aerial Ballet in an inspired two weeks. I also had occasion to speak with Lee and Terwilleger, both as lovely and gracious outside of the performance as when immersed within. It’s true for me that in this piece, musician and dancer made a perfect coupling.
The second performance in the Susman Gallery featured Molly Emerman on violin and dancer Magdalena Jarkowiec. This J. S. Bach (1685-1750) piece Sonata No. 1 in G minor was set against a more somber landscape, from a flat wooden spherical floor piece composed of several substantial smaller jagged blocks to stunning bottle cap wall tapestries. True to this tone, the three movements opened with Adagio leading into the more formal but inquisitive Siciliana and ending with a playful Presto. In this as in the next performance, the dancer interacted with the floor exhibit as if to understand and recast it in response to nuances of the music and complimentary movements of her own body.
But perhaps the most singularly impressive visual performance took place in the Tate Gallery, in and around Cildo Meireles’s installation Missao/Missoes [How to Build Cathedrals], 1987. Where the Susman Gallery seemed spare and austere, the Tate was cozy and sensual, almost a reflecting pool or glowing canopy, a tree of life or snapshot umbilical linking heaven and earth. But let me back up, Missao/Missoes is 600,000 coins (pennies to my eye), 800 communion wafers (the cord?), 2000 cattle bones, 80 paving stones, and sheer black cloth. A description of the piece says that the artist “makes reference to the 17th and 18th Century Jesuit missions in southern Brazil, Paraguay, and northern Argentina…. His “evocative contemporary ‘cathedral’ exposes the hidden agenda behind these missions, highlighting in particular the relationship between wealth (the coins on the ground), agricultural exploitation (the suspended cattle bones), and religion (a column of communion wafers connecting the ‘land’ and the ‘heavens’).” So, all told, a two-fold enterprise. Whereas the performance was beautifully anything but; instead, it further accentuated the reflective pool with shimmering candlelight and two flutes, Joanna Martin and Francois Minaux, in Duet No. 1 in E minor, W. F. Bach (1710-1784; eldest son of Johan Sebastian) complimented by the crane-like dance of Lisa del Rosario.
Parker, also a Donald D. Harrington Fellow, concluded the performance on trombone with Mike Svoboda’s Concert Etudes. Svoboda (b. 1960) himself worked several years with Frank Zappa and is noted for his jazz and world music influences. For this culminating piece the entire expanse of Huntington Gallery became another element in itself (the beginning and the end) as dancers Emily McLaughlin and Beth Terwilleger made their way from one end to another, at times weaving in and out of gallery archways and thereby creating even more depth of field. The bold colors of the paintings and sculpture in this gallery lent a fanfare feel to the close of the performance: the first movement itself of the same name, with Wah-Wah in the middle, and Tube at the end.
You’ll not want to miss Parker’s second offering coming this spring, so keep a keen eye to The Blanton. The “only southwest venue” for El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa, a retrospective by the Ghanaian-born internationally renowned artist, which spans the work of four decades and includes some 60 works from public as well as private collections. Look also for Third Thursday offerings like the screening of Fold Crumple Crush: The Art of El Anatsui (2011, NR).
Blanton Museum of Art
The University of Texas at Austin (MLK at Congress)
Austin, TX 78701
HOURS OF OPERATION:
Tuesday – Friday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Open until 9 p.m. on the Third Thursday of every month.
ADMISSION: Members: free
Current UT students/faculty/staff: free
Seniors (65+): $7
College students with valid ID: $5
Youth (13 to 25): $5
Children 12 and under: free
Thursdays are free, all day, to everyone (donations gratefully accepted).