Siobhan Davies Dance had the pleasure to present an exhibition of sound and video works by the artist Phil Coy which explored movement and choreography in new contexts.
Included in the exhibition were a number of movement based works, from a choir that sang the materials of the building they navigated to an art-packing crate that replayed the sound created by its journey from gallery to gallery, and dancers who were asked not to dance but to hold still poses for a video camera.
Material Choir (2013) investigated the choreography of sound, deconstructing the traditional notion of a choir as a group. At the performance event on 26 April, the audience were invited to become immersed in the performance as individual singers navigated paths through the building, singing about the material surfaces they encounter. Coy was originally invited to the Studios for Independent Dance’s what_now festival, Material Choir was jointly commissioned by Siobhan Davies Dance and Independent Dance.
In a second, new work, Moving Images (2013), individual dancers were required not to dance, but instead to hold a pose whilst carrying scaled photographs of architectural details taken from the position where they were standing. Coy recognised that non-movement is an important aspect of any choreography and is interested in the tension that is implied in this non-movement – a physical impossibility for any living person. Coy made two versions of Moving Images, a live performance with choreographed transformations and one specifically as a performance for camera which challenges the temporal relations between the moving image of the video recording the activity, the photograph held by the dancer, the moving body of the dancer and the inferred stability of the architecture.
Returning to London, Crate (2011-ongoing) is a standard issue wooden art packing crate that is essentially empty save for the audio equipment that enables it to record and play back its journey from one exhibition to the next; in this instance Bergen, Norway, to Siobhan Davies Studios, London. On arrival the crate was opened and the sound recorded on route was played back in the Studios. Made in part with reference to Robert Morris´s Box with the Sound of its Own Making (1961)*. The work is intended to extend the internalised elegance of Morris’s original gesture and its implied assault on the autonomous art object.
Lastly, in a formulated phrase reordered by movement (Prufrock) (2013), magnetic speaker heads attached to lengths of angle-iron leant against the wall and were captured on film by a CCTV camera. Lines have been cut from a poetry book containing the renowned T. S. Eliot poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and physically pasted to the CCTV screen alongside the image of each speaker. Movements made within the space of the work were detected and triggered the lines to be ‘spoken’ out of the different speakers from an original recording of T.S.Eliot reading the poem. The mounted speakers themselves were figurative, referencing the head and body whilst echoing the material of the architecture the work inhabits.
* Box with the Sound of its Own Making: The box consists of six pieces of nutwood that were joined to form an enclosed cube. The noises of carpentry that were produced in creating the box, some three hours of work with hammer and saw, were recorded on tape. A small loudspeaker inside the box played back those sounds, acoustically re-enacting the making of the object. In Morris’s artistic circle, the Box was also regarded as a type of musical performance. Eluding any attempt at clear classification, Box with the Sound of Its Own making highlights the relationships between sculpture and music, visual and acoustic perception, and process and object.
‘My interest in movement began quite intuitively as a bi-product of making sculpture. I realised that I wanted to foreground the processes involved in making work as much as the final objects, so I began to exhibit the physical processes involved in making works…As soon as you start performing processes in front of an audience you have to start thinking about how to choreograph and justify those movements…. It was only later that I became aware that this approach had a direct relationship to the work of contemporary dancers particularly the notion of ‘pedestrian' movement.’ Phil Coy