This summer, Barbican Art Gallery presents the first ever performance exhibition of the New York- based choreographer and dancer Trajal Harrell. Following a two year residency at The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2014 – 2016), this ambitious project stages over 14 of Harrell’s performances including one of the earliest works he created in 1999, right through to now in a changing, daily programme of live performances.
The Art Gallery will be transformed into a space where performances, featuring a selection of different dancers, some including Harrell himself, are scheduled to activate at certain points with film projections elsewhere. Visitors can explore the immersive space, choosing their own route between performances and stage installations. The selection of works for the exhibition reflect Harrell’s experiments with dance and exploration of diverse dance forms from Japanese butoh dancing to hoochie koochie, postmodern and modern dance, Classical Greek dancing, erotic dancing, voguing and entertainment, alongside his signature use of fashion runway movement, to create performances that are an exquisite blend of fact and fiction.
Rather than historical re-enactments, Harrell rethinks how we process and interpret our pasts by creating dialogues between ideas and movements from across the globe spanning many cultures and centuries. He imagines how historical scenarios could have happened differently and in doing so is able to explore ideas around emotion, the body, gender, femininity and culture. Harrell’s best known for the series, Twenty Looks or Paris is Burning at The Judson Church (2009 – 2013) which created a lively dialogue between postmodern dance and New York’s voguing scene by posing the question: what would have happened in 1963 if someone from the voguing ballroom scene in Harlem had come to downtown to Greenwich Village to perform alongside the early postmoderns at Judson Church?
Included in the exhibition is Harrell’s earliest work, It is Thus from a Strange New Perspective That We Look Back on the Modernist Origins and Watching It Splintering into Endless Replication (1999) which was his first exploration of the fashion runway and voguing, and set the foundation for future performances such as Twenty Looks …
Trajal Harrell said: “One of the really exciting aspects of a performance exhibition of this scope is that the work born in the past comes alive in the future. Performance is, in fact, only of the now. So in this incredible context of Barbican Art Gallery, this is, truly, something only of this moment.”
Trajal Harrell: Hoochie Koochie runs at the Barbican Every Thursday to Sunday 20th July – 13 Aug 2017 Find out more and book tickets here.