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Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker: Work/Travail/Arbeid
Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Work/Travail/Arbeid. 2015. Installation view, WIELS centre for contemporary art, Brussels, March 20–May 17, 2015. © 2016 Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. Photo: Anne Van Aerschot
The starting point for Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s Work/Travail/Arbeid is a simple question: Can choreography be performed in the form of an exhibition? To answer that question, one of today's most important dancer/choreographers reimagined her stage performance Vortex Temporum (2013)—choreographed to the eponymous work by the late French composer Gérard Grisey—for a museum space, away from a conventional theater setting.
Work/Travail/Arbeid is not De Keersmaeker’s first project to be performed in the museum space; in 2011 she performed the solo Violin Phase, part of her very first piece, Fase: Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich (1982), in MoMA's Donald B. and Catherine C. Marron Atrium. But with Work/Travail/Arbeid the artist imagines the choreography as an exhibition. The dancers from De Keersmaeker’s company, Rosas, and the musicians, from the Ictus ensemble, are not simply bringing dance into a museum, they are reinterpreting dance in the space of MoMA's Marron Atrium in the form of a five-day exhibition, accessible continuously to the audience during public hours. The original hourlong piece has been expanded to a nine-hour cycle, with each hour offering different choreography and combinations of seven dancers and seven musicians.
Work/Travail/Arbeid is an itinerant exhibition, first staged at WIELS in Brussels over nine weeks in 2015; then at Centre Pompidou; and then moving to Tate Modern in London. Each space presented different challenges of adaptation and reconceptualization, a dynamic that continues with the version being re-choreographed and re-created for the unique dimensions of MoMA’s Marron Atrium. The result is a project that transforms the very material conditions that have long been essential to dance—and in particular the rigorous structure and choreographic language for which De Keersmaeker is known—into an entirely new form of exhibition. The expanded duration of Work/Travail/Arbeid reveals new insights into the complex conceptual, technical, and physical labor that is essential to the practice of dance.