Pitch black installations pay tribute to dance star Yvonne Rainer in BFI Southbank display

By Rebecca Norris | 19 January 2011
A black and white photo of a dancer
© Jack Mitchell
Exhibition: Yvonne Rainer: The Yvonne Rainer Project, BFI Gallery, BFI Southbank, London, until January 23 2011

The Yvonne Rainer Project stands as a tribute to the complex career of this celebrated dancer, choreographer, film-maker and thinker, comprising three films selected by curator Chantal Pontbriand which serve to represent Rainer's self appraised avant-garde style.

Pontbriand states that this is not an ordinary exhibition, but one which takes the artist, Rainer as its subject. Each piece brings to life her unique ethos and draws on works by other artists, from various disciplines, that she admires.

Rainer's influences are most visible in the main installation, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan: Hybrid, created in 2002, which includes disjointed texts documenting various revolutionary schools of thought, hailing from post World War One Vienna.

The installation is an almost interactive experience, which demands a lot of its audience. A video orbits the walls of an arrestingly dark room, forcing onlookers to constantly turn their bodies in order to keep up.

The whole experience is made more disorienting by the fact that it is impossible to both watch the dance – which goes on in the margins of the screen – and absorb these portions of fairly complex philosophy, which do not flow in an easily digestible order.

After leaving the round room, visitors can chose to enter either of the blacked out mini-cinemas to watch two of Rainer's most recent pieces of choreography.

Both of these pieces explore themes of feminism and challenge the audiences perception of classical forms of dance and traditional classical music.

Punctuating the exhibits are books, DVDs and CDs which Rainer used to find her inspiration. Among them visitors can find works by James Joyce and Jack Kerouac as well as volumes exploring ideas of gender and sexuality.
Pontbriand states the she would like visitors to leave to exhibition with a sense of the “wonderful philosopher that Rainer is.”

“The works are quite demanding,” she adds. “But if you allow yourself to open up to them they can open up a whole new world for you in turn.”
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