“Brown has defined the cutting edge of American dance since her first experiments at the Judson Dance Theater in the ’60s.” —Village Voice
An icon of contemporary dance, Trisha Brown has consistently pushed the limits of choreography, creating some of the most compelling and visually powerful work of the past four decades—from her roots in the experimental Judson Dance Theater Collective to her early site-specific dances that took place on rooftops and walls to the fluid, precise movement of her 30 years of staged pieces. The Walker Art Center and Northrop Dance at the University of Minnesota present an evening of new and classic dances on Friday, April 25, at 8 pm at Northrop. Works include Foray Forêt, a signature piece by the company originally commissioned by the Walker in 1991 (featuring the sounds of an invisible marching band), and Present Tense, a new work set to the music of John Cage. Brown’s latest, I love my robots, is “a work of irresistible charm and silliness” (New York Times) with a sweet and subtle score by Laurie Anderson. The event is part of the ongoing Year of Trisha tribute presented by the Walker, Northrop Dance at the University of Minnesota, and the University of Minnesota Dance Program.
An extensive exhibition of Brown’s drawings, including a large-scale piece she is creating live on the exhibition’s preview night, April 17, anchors the Year of Trisha. The company returns in July to perform in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and neighboring Loring Park; their roster includes the first U.S. presentation of Brown’s Walking Down the Side of a Building since it debuted in New York in 1970. Other programs include lectures, classes, workshops, and a residency through the University of Minnesota’s dance department. “People look for connections in my work that stem from knowing me in dance. Polydiscipline people have a hard time introducing their other talents,” Brown says.
Brown first performed at the Walker in 1971 as part of the pioneering performance/dance collective Grand Union (which also included David Gordon, Yvonne Rainer, Steve Paxton and other luminaries from the Judson Dance Theater era) during an extensive residency which included stage performances, site specific pieces, and teaching.
Brown’s own company has since conducted five residencies here and premiered three dance works through Walker commissions. At the April 17 preview/opening for the exhibition Trisha Brown: So That the Audience Does Not Know Whether I Have Stopped Dancing, Brown will improvise movements across a large piece of paper on the Medtronic Gallery floor, holding charcoal and pastel between her fingers and toes, drawing on the fly. Audiences can watch her work from a live video feed in the Cinema or a live webcast on the Walker Channel (channel.walkerart.org) and the footage of the artist’s performance will then be projected onto the gallery floor throughout the run of the exhibition. Brown’s finished piece will hang nearby. “I don’t just come in with my holsters loaded with charcoal. I get involved in—the word ‘mystery’ comes to me—the mystery of space,” she says. “I have the same adrenaline and heartbeat going as I enter the paper as I do going onstage.” Brown has also collaborated with visual artists many times during her career.
Robert Rauschenberg created the set pieces for Glacial Decoy, her first dance work for proscenium stage, which the Walker commissioned in 1979. In the mid-1970s, Brown devised a personal notation for her dances, because she thought the language she had been taught was insufficient to describe her movements. She drew cubes representing the reach of her entire body, dividing the boxes into numbered squares and using them to paint movement-by-movement schematics for her dancers.
The Year of Trisha celebration has special historic importance for both the Walker and for Brown and her company. Increasingly the Walker is interested in identifying artists who naturally blur lines between artistic disciplines and/or cross over between them.
Trisha Brown’s work has been shown in group and solo exhibitions, most recently Documenta 12, and she has directed numerous operas. She is the first woman choreographer to receive the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and has been awarded many other honors, including the National Medal of Arts in 2003. She was named Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the government of France in 1988; was elevated to Officier in 2000; and then to the level of Commandeur in 2004. Brown’s Set and Reset is included in the baccalaureate curriculum for French students pursuing dance studies. At the invitation of President Bill Clinton, Brown served on the National Council on the Arts from 1994 to 1997.
Tickets to Trisha Brown Dance Company’s Present Tense, Foray Forêt, and I love my robots are $42, $36, $31 ($35, $29, $25 Walker members) and are available at walkerart.org/tickets or by calling 612.375.7600.
Preview, Performance, and Reception
Thursday, April 17, 7 pm, Free
Cinema and Bazinet Garden Lobby
Free tickets available from 6 pm at the Bazinet Garden Lobby desk
Immediately prior to the opening of So That the Audience Does Not Know Whether I Have Stopped Dancing, Brown will make a rare solo appearance to inaugurate the show, improvising a large-scale performative drawing in the Medtronic Gallery that will be simulcast live to visitors in the Cinema and online on the Walker Channel (channel.walkerart.org). The resulting work, synthesizing drawing and dance, will be included in the exhibition. A reception follows and the exhibition opens at 8 pm.
Target Free Thursday Nights is sponsored by Target.
Trisha Brown: Talking Art and Dance
Tuesday, April 22, 7 pm
Free tickets available from 6 pm at the Bazinet Garden Lobby desk
Join modern dance legend Trisha Brown for a rare public appearance and discussion about her remarkable career as both a dance innovator and a visual artist. Performing arts senior curator Philip Bither and visual arts curator Peter Eleey, add their insights on Brown’s contributions to contemporary art and moderate audience questions.
This lecture is made possible by generous support from Aaron and Carol Mack.
The Gertrude Lippincott Talking Dance series is made possible by Judith Brin Ingber.
Trisha Brown: So That the Audience Does Not Know Whether I Have Stopped Dancing
Medtronic Gallery, Walker Art Center
April 18–July 20
While Trisha Brown is best known for her innovative choreographies that revolutionized modern dance, she has for many years made drawings and other works beyond the stage that integrate the performing and visual arts. Trisha Brown presents a particular occasion to consider the lesser-known visual arts practice of one of the most acclaimed contemporary choreographers at a moment of increasing interest in the broad sweep of her work and its influence. Drawing has long featured prominently in Brown’s maverick practice, shifting from a tool for schematic composition into a fully realized component of her broader investigation into the limits of her own body.
The exhibition takes inspiration in its structure from Brown’s interest in reorienting the performer and audience, with a performance installation that places live dancers on the wall of the gallery, and a participatory audio work that invites visitors to lie on the gallery floor and contemplate the ceiling. The former work, Planes (1968), is a major early performance that includes a film by Jud Yalkut and soundtrack by Simone Forti; the latter, Skymap (1969), was Brown’s one attempt to engage the ceiling as a performative surface.
The exhibition centers on a broad survey of Brown’s drawings going back more than three decades, concluding with a large drawing to be performed by the artist at the opening for inclusion in the show. To a significant degree, the arc of Brown’s work in drawing parallels her developments in dance, and footage of seminal performances is present throughout the exhibition. Turning to video to help compose dances freed Brown to make her drawings more “private and experimental,” says exhibition curator Peter Eleey. “Looking at 35 years of Trisha’s drawings, you watch her discover and embrace ways in which the line she draws can have bigger and more direct connections to her body and its movements.” Whether she is working within the frame of a sheet of paper, on the wall, or on the stage, Brown delights in the play between structure and improvisation, between repetition and invention, and between choice and chance. “I get involved in the mystery of space,” she says. “I have the same adrenaline and heartbeat going as I enter the paper as I do going on stage.”