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CATEGORY: PERFORMANCE SERIES

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Being Moved: The Caravan Project

That thing that looks like a hollowed-out vintage caravan in MoMA’s Agnes Gund Garden Lobby, from now until January 21, is just that. And those bulky, muscular curtains—clinging to all sides—are in fact made of leaves, sweet potato stems, and other organic detritus. And yes, those are real people—dressed in gauzy, powdery garb—moving slowing around, or nestling inside of, the vehicle.

Installation image courtesy of Leora Morinis

Eiko & Koma. The Caravan Project. 1999/2011/2012/2013. Installation image courtesy of Leora Morinis


Installation image courtesy of Leora Morinis

Eiko & Koma. The Caravan Project. 1999/2011/2012/2013. Installation image courtesy of Leora Morinis


What you’re seeing is The Caravan Project (1999/2011/2012/2013) a work by legendary dance duo Eiko & Koma. They have been making work together since 1972, and their history is detailed at length on the Internet and in many books, so I’ll focus here on the lesser-known story of the Caravan’s journey to MoMA and the performance about to unfold inside it.

On Monday afternoon, the Caravan arrived at MoMA from its storage space in Hackensack, New Jersey. We had to stop traffic on 54th Street for a few minutes as Koma expertly reversed it into the loading dock. And from then on, there was very little margin for error as the art handlers guided it through MoMA’s mezzanine. Despite being sealed and unadorned, it had already taken on anthropomorphic airs—seeming to me like some sort of oversized, burrowing animal, ungainly in its slow but determined movement.

Installation images courtesy of Leora Morinis

Installation images courtesy of Leora Morinis


Installation image courtesy of Leora Morinis

Eiko & Koma. The Caravan Project. 1999/2011/2012/2013. Installation image courtesy of Leora Morinis

Installation image courtesy of Leora Morinis

Eiko & Koma. The Caravan Project. 1999/2011/2012/2013. Installation image courtesy of Leora Morinis


Installation image courtesy of Leora Morinis

Eiko & Koma. The Caravan Project. 1999/2011/2012/2013. Installation image courtesy of Leora Morinis


Installation image courtesy of Leora Morinis

Eiko & Koma. The Caravan Project. 1999/2011/2012/2013. Installation image courtesy of Leora Morinis


The last image above depicts what the Caravan looked like as the installation was wrapping up late Tuesday evening. Illuminated from the inside and parked askew, it sits below Tony Smith’s Untitled (1962), and in front of Rodin’s Monument to Balzac (1898). That unlikely grouping—each a figure in its own right—and the nearly finalized Caravan itself, has left me with a couple of observations:

Even though the performance has yet to begin, the Caravan feels fleeting. As though it had been on-the-move and needed a quick parking space, and MoMA graciously obliged. On the other hand, it appears as though it was abandoned here decades ago, and somehow managed to remain invisible until now. Decaying in plain sight. These impressions of either happenstance or near-permanence each lend the Caravan a serenity I did not anticipate. In the busiest thoroughfare of the Museum, it seems at ease.

I’m reminded here of a story about Eiko & Koma recently told to me by a friend who’d had them as teachers at Wesleyan University. She described how, in class, they asked students to isolate under-loved or under-danced body parts: “Dance from the back of your neck,” “dance from your armpits.” In another exercise, they encouraged students to dance as if each finger had a separate persona, and in a third, students were asked to move as though plants were blooming from their bodies. These requests—dancing from minor parts of the body; reconceiving hands as a quorum of autonomous subjects; trying to adopt an arboreal pace—resonate with the Caravan’s feel and function in the Museum (albeit on a different scale). The Caravan is a slow moving organism, operating in a minor key and with a temporal sensibility that seems to rub MoMA against the grain. It invites close and extended looking, an unanticipated meditation in and on an often frenzied space.

Eiko & Koma: The Caravan Project, held in conjunction with the exhibitions Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-Garde and Performing Histories: Live Artworks Examining the Past, is presented in the Museum’s Agnes Gund Garden Lobby during Museum hours from Wednesday, January 16 through Monday, January 21.

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Voluntaries Service: MoMA Teens + Dean Moss

Teens assisting with Dean Moss’s Voluntaries performance at MoMA

Recently, a group of our In the Making and Cross-Museum Collective teen alumni were given the opportunity to assist choreographer Dean Moss as he finished his preparations for Voluntaries (created in collaboration with visual artist Laylah Ali), for MoMA’s recent dance performance series Some sweet day. Read more

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January 10, 2011  |  On Line, Performance Series
Drawing in Space: On Line Performances at MoMA

Xavier Le Roy. Still from Self Unfinished. 1998. Photo © Katrin Schoof

There’s a long history of dance and performance both inspiring and being influenced by the visual arts. The current MoMA exhibition On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century, on view on the sixth floor, is full of examples of artists trying to capture dancers’ moving bodies in drawings, paintings and sculpture, as well as documenting them on film. If a line is the trace of a point in motion—an idea at the heart of On Line—then a human figure moving through space can be seen as a drawing in air, an insertion of drawing into the time and three-dimensional space of our lived world. Read more

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December 28, 2010  |  Performance Series
A “Walk-in Performance” at MoMA by Patti Smith and Michael Stipe


On Sunday, December 19, MoMA visitors were treated to a “walk-in performance” by artist and musician Patti Smith, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of prominent and challenging French writer and political activist Jean Genet. The performance, in MoMA’s Marron Atrium, could not have been better. I picked Patti up in a car at 11:30 a.m., and Michael Stipe had joined her, so we all drove to MoMA with the guitars, and at noon sharp, Michael opened for Patti with a heartbreakingly beautiful song by David Bowie about Jean Genet, “The Jean Genie.” Read more

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December 20, 2010  |  Artists, Performance Series
Allora & Calzadilla: Making Joyful Noise at MoMA

In the video interview above, artists Allora & Calzadilla (Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla) talk about their piece Stop, Repair, Prepare: Variations on “Ode to Joy” for a Prepared Piano, which is being performed at MoMA through January 11 as part of the Performance Exhibition Series. The duo have the remarkable talent for being playful and political at the same time. In their work they often juxtapose two contradicting elements, creating something new and unexpected. For Stop, Repair, Prepare: Variations on Ode to Joy for a Prepared Piano, the artists cut a hole in the middle of a grand piano and hired professional pianists to stand in it and play Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy,” upside down and in reverse, while walking the piano around the exhibition space. The result is a marvelous performance piece that is at first startling, then hilarious, and lastly, thought-provoking. Read more