the life in the work – REALTIME

26/03/2013

philipa rothfield: tracie mitchell, dance screen retrospective

MANY WORDS HAVE BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT WHETHER TO APPROACH ART IN TERMS OF THE WORK ALONE OR IN RELATION TO THE ARTIST. TO WHAT EXTENT DOES THE ARTWORK SPEAK FOR ITSELF, AND TO WHAT EXTENT OUGHT IT BE VIEWED THROUGH THE PERSONA OF THE ARTIST? 

Retrospectives are a great way to circumvent this dilemma because we can see the life work of the person without needing to resort to biography. Life is in the works, plural.

Tracie Mitchell has produced a body of dance films spanning some 25 years. It was an inspired decision on the part of Angela Conquet, artistic director of Dancehouse, to show all these works together. Not only do they reflect a significant creative output, they offer the viewer an opportunity to flit between films, to experience their differences and to allow the experience of one to influence the other.

Predictably, the works were shown in chronological order. From a blurred three-minute ‘haiku’ (Whitehouse #1, 1985) to an extended, full colour film, the common denominator is Mitchell’s own developing eye.

Time changes everything though. Many of the performers from these films were sitting in the audience, draped over beanbags, watching their former selves onscreen. Mitchell was herself present and primed to share this greater part of her own life. So the viewing experience, quite apart from the films, was redolent with the passage of time in that Proustian sense.

Cinema is itself a succession of temporal captures, which in their serial multiplicity stage a complex choreography of movement.