Covering the Trisha Brown Ground

September 23, 2010

The exhibit on Trisha here in Lyon covers Trisha from A to Z, if there can be such a thing without live dancers. (The actual performances were last week before I got here.) It gives a luscious opportunity to contemplate her work over time. Seeing the video of her in the rooftop piece (early 70s), wearing bright red, happily sending out semaphoric signals to other dancers on other rooftops, is just lovely. It makes me wonder when she started that liquid movement vocabulary that was later emulated all across the U. S. and Europe.


But of course I know, I was there. It was in 1975, just after the period of her amazing equipment pieces that I started working with her. The development from LOCUS to SOLO OLOS and then SPILL brought more fluid movement. LOCUS was very measured, precise; two-dimensional movement, moving into three-dimensional space. SOLO OLOS strung movements together with a strictly Trisha logic. And SPILL, a sort of detour off the beaten path of SOLO OLOS was a more rambunctious segment of the very logical SOLO OLOS—more kinetically initiated, a more daring ride.


And then came the day that we saw Trisha working on WATER MOTOR and all hell or rather heaven broke loose. She

really danced like water gushing and spurting all over the place. No one else ever performed it, but Babette Mangolte made a gorgeous film of it. But what this exhibit celebrates is Trisha as a visual artist. Seeing it, you understand that Trisha was always a visual artist. There’s a direct line from her roof piece, where the human figure is set against the SoHo tapestry of roof tops and water towers, to her drawings of body parts. She has aways created art from the human body. Her early drawings better, were part of the work she was doing with us back then. They are beautifully geometries with a human shading to them. The thumb drawings came right out of ACCUMULATION, (rotating the thumb in and out was the first move). And

then there are the full body drawings. Peaceful, spacious.


In a way this exhibit, here in Lyon, is her return to the art world, which she feels is where she began. As part of Judson Dance Theater, she learned from artists like Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman. In the brochure accompanying the exhibit she is quoted as saying, “If I wanted to do painting or dance I was on the border between the two up to the accumulaton pieces, which was when I really entered the world of dance.” And i would say that, although those accululation pieces had a big impact (both Bill T. Jones and Ohad Naharin have used the accululation form), her real impact in dance has been the lush, river-with-tributaries vocabulary of movement that has replaced the whole concept of ballet’s épaulement or modern dance’s contraction and release. You now see echoes of her gurshing-water way of moving everywhere.


If you’re anywhere in Europe till the end of 2010, try to visit the Musee d’Art Contemporain to see this. I thank the Biennale de la danse for co-sponsoring this exhibit.



Visitor at the exhibit, “Pour que le public ne sache pas que je pourrais avoir cessé de danser,” looking at a video projection of Trisha body-drawing on the floor. Courtesy Biennale de la danse