As an art conservator, Karen Zukor preserves and restores works on paper – one of those being a rare edition of Euclid’s Elements. Her engagement with the book was a driving inspiration for ODC Dance’s new work, Triangulating Euclid, a collaboration between Brenda Way, KT Nelson and Kate Weare, in which Zukor’s voice is heard as part of the sound score. She spoke in person at ODC Unplugged February 15, discussing how works of art move through the hands of collector, curator and conservator, and listening to her in a dance studio, I couldn’t help but think about how time-based art such as dance, without a tactile objecthood, is collected.
I think we are all collectors and will focus on that role in this post. While institutions, academia and individuals increasingly address collecting dance with attention to intellectual property and transactions surrounding rights to an ephemeral art form, anyone who encounters dance automatically becomes a sort of collector. All the dance you’ve seen composes your collection, and this collection is not about ownership but rather about shared time and space.
Dance collecting through experience and memory is so deeply connected to place, as one’s collection runs parallel to movement through geographic locations. The collecting occurs unevenly, the remembered details becoming a patchwork of that to which we paid attention. On March 9, ODC Dance previewed Triangulating Euclid at the Center for the Arts in Middleton, CT. This week they’re back in the Bay performing the Dance Downtown season at the Lam Research Theater – the collection of ephemeral experiences tied to geographies in time.
Since my “dance collecting” habit moved to San Francisco in 2009, I’ve explored some abundant aspects of dance made in this city by the Bay – maverick individuality, experimentation, culturally-specific, site and aerial work as well as queer performance. Recently returning from Wesleyan University’s Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP) in Connecticut (along with ODC Theater Director Christy Bolingbroke), Austin Forbord’s “Artists in Exile” rose to the top of my mind. During the film, Bay Area dance makers discuss their sense of place in this particular region, outside of New York City.
While in Connecticut, despite globalization, proliferating communication channels, and touring, conversations about Bay Area artists came only from those of us who live in San Francisco, even in a room full of knowledgeable and passionate dance professionals gathered from across the country. This served as a reminder of how the transmission of knowledge about dance occurring outside the Big Apple still happens largely on the ground, person-to-person, one voice at a time.
As transit to and from the East Coast highlights factors that differentiate disparate dance environments, I recognize the presence of the tech industry in the Bay Area as paramount and unlike any other place. Whether directly or indirectly, the density of tech companies and resulting concentration of economic, social and cultural capital impacts how dance makers live and work. More about dance artists and tech in a post to come, but in the meantime, read this essay by Rebecca Solnit, which stoked my alarm about the soulful vibrancy of San Francisco and volatile landscape for artists.
So how can you, dear dance collector, help capture the history you experience? How, why and where are you collecting fragments of the ephemera? Encouraging an inclusive compilation of dance from the past fifty years, the Bureau for the Future of Choreography is in the process of crowdsourcing dance history. Organizer Moriah Evans describes the Flowchart Project as “A call to map the past fifty years of dance, choreography and performance history because a lot of that information is stored in the lives and bodies of the people who did those things, and it isn’t necessarily readily accessible yet, and it hasn’t been historicized yet.” Anyone can participate by sending a flowchart to dearBFC@gmail.com and if a few more people from San Francisco’s rich performance hub submit to the project, the dance history books of the future might include more voices from the West.