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Maria Hassabi’s STAGING (2017) in the galleries of the exhibition Merce Cunningham: Common Time, Walker Art Center, 2017. Photo: Thomas Poravas; courtesy the artist.

Maria Hassabi

Since the early 2000s, New York–based artist and choreographer Maria Hassabi (b. Cyprus, 1973) has developed a distinct choreographic practice involved with exploring the relationship of body to image and defined by sculptural physicality and extended duration.

For the premiere of her commissioned work STAGING (2017; February 8–14, 2017), eight dancers performed continuously during gallery hours in public spaces and within the galleries of the Walker-organized exhibition Merce Cunningham: Common Time (February 8–July 30, 2017). The performers’ presence in these locations formed a sculptural movement installation that unfolded as a progression of highly formal choreographies composed of stillness and decelerated movements. As part of this durational dance piece, Hassabi realized a two-part installation titled Lighting Wall #1 and Lighting Wall #2. Situated at the entrances of two different galleries and physically removed from the dancers, the shifting lights reflected the spatial and temporal configurations of the choreography in performance.

A component of the larger STAGING production, Hassabi’s STAGING: solo (2017)—a live installation performed by a single dancer—was subsequently acquired by the Walker for the collection. Oscillating between dance and sculpture, subject and object, live body and still image, the work tests conventional forms of viewership and of museum collecting practices. Developed in close collaboration with the artist, the acquisition not only ensures the integrity of Hassabi’s choreographic voice but also establishes a plan for future training of the work’s performers by the artist and a group of her trusted collaborators. In addition to the live dance, Hassabi also conceived archival and sculptural iterations of the work, which can be exhibited independently of the performed piece.

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