The starting point for Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Work/Travail/Arbeid is a simple question: Can choreography be performed in the form of an exhibition? To answer that question, one of today’s most important dancer/choreographers reimagined her stage performance Vortex Temporum (2013)—choreographed to the eponymous work by the late French composer Gérard Grisey—for a museum space, away from a conventional theater setting.
Work/Travail/Arbeid is not De Keersmaeker’s first project to be performed in the museum space; in 2011 she performed the solo Violin Phase, part of her very first piece, Fase: Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich (1982), in MoMA’s Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium. But with Work/Travail/Arbeid the artist imagines the choreography as an exhibition. The dancers from De Keersmaeker’s company, Rosas, and the musicians, from the Ictus ensemble, are not simply bringing dance into a museum, they are reinterpreting dance in the space of MoMA’s Marron Atrium in the form of a five-day exhibition, accessible continuously to the audience during public hours. The original hourlong piece has been expanded to a nine-hour cycle, with each hour offering different choreography and combinations of seven dancers and seven musicians.
Work/Travail/Arbeid is an itinerant exhibition, first staged at WIELS in Brussels over nine weeks in 2015; then at Centre Pompidou; and then moving to Tate Modern in London. Each space presented different challenges of adaptation and reconceptualization, a dynamic that continues with the version being re-choreographed and re-created for the unique dimensions of MoMA’s Marron Atrium. The result is a project that transforms the very material conditions that have long been essential to dance—and in particular the rigorous structure and choreographic language for which De Keersmaeker is known—into an entirely new form of exhibition. The expanded duration of Work/Travail/Arbeid reveals new insights into the complex conceptual, technical, and physical labor that is essential to the practice of dance.
Concept and choreography: Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker
Original curator: Elena Filipovic
Artistic consultant: Ann Veronica Janssens
Dramaturgy: Bojana Cvejić
Artistic assistant: Femke Gyselinck
Dancers: Boštjan Antončič, Frank Gizycki, Carlos Garbin, Marie Goudot, Cynthia Loemij, Sarah Ludi, Julien Monty, Michaël Pomero, Camille Prieux, Gabriel Schenker, Igor Shyshko, Denis Terrasse, Thomas Vantuycom, Samantha van Wissen
Music: Gérard Grisey, “Vortex Temporum” (1996)
Music director: Georges-Elie Octors
Piano: Jean-Luc Plouvier
Flute: Chryssi Dimitriou
Clarinet: Dirk Descheemaeker
Violin: Igor Semenoff
Viola: Jeroen Robbrecht
Cello: Geert De Bièvre
Costumes: Anne-Catherine Kunz
Technical direction: Joris Erven
Sound engineer: Alexandre Fostier
Technicians: Michael Smets
Artistic coordination and planning: Anne Van Aerschot
Costumes coordination: Heide Vanderieck
The artist gratefully acknowledges WIELS Contemporary Art Centre and Rosas for initiating Work/Travail/Arbeid, which has been made possible with the support of De Munt/La Monnaie, BOZAR – Centre For Fine Arts, Kaaitheater, Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Ictus, BNP Paribas Fortis, BNP Paribas Foundation, WIELS Patrons, and Rolex Institute.
Organized by Ana Janevski, Associate Curator, with Martha Joseph, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Media and Performance Art; produced by Lizzie Gorfaine, Performance Producer, with Kate Scherer, Assistant Performance Coordinator.