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Friday, 5 February 2016

Photography, Dance and an Expression of Space

Concrete #5

If you're looking for photobooks on dance, you start with Ballet by Alexey Brodovitch, and then you're onto Irving Penn or Richard Avedon and ABECDA by Vitezslav Nezval, and there are many others, but you begin moving into the realm of coffee table books with a different aesthetic, 

There are performance based narratives like Kamitichi by Eikoh Hosoe. I think Zona by Nuno Moreira falls into this category too. Or body-based work that combine dance with contortion - Isabelle Wenzelle springs to mind - or there are works that fall outside the photobook category into art, and the book is not really the expression; instead you go into the wonderful worlds of action and performance based works where photography was just the medium of record.. 

So there aren't as many photobooks on dance as you might think (though I'm sure there are far more than I mention here). This is quite surprising in some ways; modern dance in particular goes out of its way to engage with diverse means of artistic expression. Last year I saw Rambert Dance Company perform their Three Dancers and Frames pieces. 

The Three Dancers translates Picasso's painting into a dance piece, interweaving themes of desire and desperation with sharp angles and cubist imagery (it's not a cubist painting but so it goes).

Frames went even further and recreated a Fordist production line on stage, in a dance mix that was powered by staging and lighting that was expressionist-constructivist in tone. It was fabulous. 

With that in mind, it was good to see Zoë Croggon's Arc in print. ( Arc was the winning project in the first Asia-Pacific Photobook Prize). In Arc, Croggon takes tight crops of dance performances and then collages them with images of architectural spaces as well as pictures from newspapers and the everyday. 


It's a choreographed book of how we merge with our surroundings and it is really quite fascinating. Perhaps not all the images work as well as others; there's a variety of resolutions with the crops sometimes interfering or not quite matching as consistently as others - and a flatter paper might have helped add a consistency to a book where a a range of projects have been put into the one book.


There is dance mixed with abstract spaces, so we  see a leg extended into a blue space, a hand into a pink space, and hands and feet mix with an art-centre stairwell. It's all very de Chirico and this is where the collages work best. Other work including close crops of sporting movement; a pixelated hand with a diagonal line, a diver, a basketball player, a runner mixed with a variety of shapes and forms. In places, the book is very geometrical (it reminds me in places of Siegfried Hansen's Hold the Line), in places it turns more towards the body. It's an meditation on the merging of body, space and architecture.  

Both Flesh and Not #2

It is an ambitious book, with work that goes beyond the photographic and work that makes you think and link between different areas. Croggon is not content just to make pretty dance pictures (as so many people do, hence the snotty comments about coffee table books!) but looks to extend our understanding of how we move and how that can fit into the world around us.

 Zoë  Croggon's Arc will be launched in the UK at the Photographers' Gallery, London tomorrow, 6th February at 2pm

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