Originally performed in downtown Manhattan loft spaces in the early 1960s, Forti’s nine influential Dance Constructions are based on a set of tasks that each serve as a prompt for physical engagement. In See Saw (1960), for example, two performers must balance on a plank placed on top of a sawhorse. For Huddle (1961), seven to nine performers take turns climbing the continually shifting form created by the group’s own tightly embracing bodies. Slant Board, pictured here, features three or four performers who pull on and hang from lengths of rope as they move from top to bottom and side to side on a wooden ramp placed at a forty-five-degree angle to the floor. Forti’s use of the everyday movements of walking, climbing, and standing—in contrast to the typically virtuosic gestures of modern and classical dance—radically upended traditional ideas about what a dance can be and who should perform it. Sharing the concerns of the Minimalist sculpture of the same era, Forti’s Dance Constructions reject the notion that an artwork should be the product of an individual’s personal self-expression and demonstrate that the human body, like inanimate objects, is made up of material with mass, volume, weight, and a spatial relationship with its environment.
In 2015 MoMA acquired the rights to perform and care for Forti’s Dance Constructions. To preserve these works, the Museum will host regular workshops to teach them to a younger generation of dancers and educators.
Publication excerpt from MoMA Highlights: 375 Works from The Museum of Modern Art, New York (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2019)