action movie is a one-on-one performance practice designed to activate our sensing bodies to connect fully with the places we are. A performance in which our imagination is given space to transform our understanding of the everyday. A practice in making magic through the simple act of walking and opening and closing our eyes.
“Very few performances make the present so vivid and felt as Olive Bieringa’s action movie. A simple proposal of being guided with your eyes closed became a profound experience of my body and senses, located and dislocated in a sensuous, outdoor municipal adventure.” Judith Howard, Culturebot.
Karen Schaffman performs a variation of action movie at SFMOMA. Photo: Charles Villyard
“In a space where cultural influence usually dominates alternative aesthetic narratives, pieces of art and passersby became backdrops to our own cartographical truths.
Stairs became Friedrich’s Sea of Ice; viewers, shades of the dead or jutting throngs of ice. Our clasped hands Ariadne’s thread as we walked into existence a labyrinth of interior worlds.
For a moment I saw in her my sister, who had long ago passed away, and when she told me to close my eyes, take her hand, and walk with her through halls our own, I began to cry.”
Diana Lara performs for Sanghi Choi action movie at SFMOMA. Photo: Charles Villyard
“I placed my hand on top of his. He said, “Close.” I closed my eyes. I felt the heat of his hand. “Open.” I faced my reflection in a window. I saw Justin behind me. “Close.” I felt Justin leave me. I noticed my posture. “Open.” Justin was on the ground in front of me with his belly pressed against the window. He began rolling toward me. “Close.” “Open.” Justin was lying at my feet. “Close.” He led me down a flight of stairs. I felt his center of gravity moving through space. He led me into the rusted canyons of the giant Richard Serra sculpture, Sequence (2006). I knew when we entered the sculpture because the museum’s din receded. “Open.” The sculpture’s smooth texture looked like wood. I hadn’t noticed that before. “Close.” “Open.” I saw Justin walking away from me into the sculpture’s maze. I wanted to walk after him. He dove back into view, calling, “Close.”
Afterward, I asked Justin to describe his experience as an action movieguide:
The elements in the score are simple. Rarified. I’m working with time, duration and framing; I’m making choices based on the feeling of the other person’s body and the sounds of the space. It’s a special job. How can I make a familiar space strange? I’ve been an audience member inside the experience. Eyes closed takes me to another landscape. My attention goes sideways and backward. And then I feel ready to see something. To have something gifted to me.
When I asked Jones how BodyCartography’s connection to Body-Mind Centering (a somatic modality) informed the work, he responded, “We’re trying to engage in state, not image. How can you create choreography that isn’t about the image of the body, but about feeling?”
“But there is always composition,” I said. “Yes,” he agreed, “But it’s not composition like you might see in a Cunningham dance. Beautiful things happen, but it’s really about what can you feel.””
Sarah Baumert performs at Art Shanty Projects, Photo: Jill Emmer, Shine On Photos
This project was a Vital Matters Dance Festival commission where it premiered and was performed by Olive Bieringa in October 2016, at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis.
Winona State University
Arts Shanty Projects on White Bear Lake in Minnesota
Performance Arcade in Wellington New Zealand in collaboration with Footnote Dance
++ curated by Helle Siljeholm at Black Box Teater in Oslo
Weisman Art Museum
Walker Art Center with Young Dance
SFMOMA, San Francisco, performed as part of Robert Rauschenberg: Erasing the Rules exhibition