Why Is It So Difficult to Talk Critically About Socially Engaged Art?

Ashley Duffalo

mnartists.org

December 10, 2014

an excerpt

I had another one-on-one interaction on that same visit with dancer Dolo McComb, who is a collaborator with BodyCartography Project, a Minneapolis-based choreography/dance confab who were resident artists in thinking making living from late October to mid-November. The afternoon I visited, BodyCartography was rehearsing their piece closer, which is best described as:

a practice in being present. It is a performance intervention for two strangers (audience and performer) in public space that evolves into a communal experience. It is an invitation for engagement and empathy. Together we will examine how the space of connection between performer and audience can function as a site for transformation. closer lays bare the power of live performance to facilitate a re-enchantment of physicality and presence.

For 10 minutes, I followed McComb as she moved throughout the spaces of the Nash Gallery, trying to keep a safe distance, not knowing what to expect. What began as a slightly uncomfortable, self-conscious experience became something like an intimate wordless conversation. At one, transformative moment, McComb was standing right against me, shoulder to shoulder; our breath slowly synchronized, and I felt a great empathy for this woman I’ve never met. I also had an increased awareness of the space surrounding us, particularly when McComb was stretched out on the cold lobby floor while I sat on a bench nearby.

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