Photos by author unless otherwise indicated.
In addition to the staggering 233 modern and contemporary galleries at this year’s Art Basel (June 18-21, 2014 in Basel, Switzerland), notable were the separate spaces devoted to screening films by and about artists, performance art, and works that elude the (physical or conceptual) parameters of standard gallery spaces. The fair also encouraged dialogue by hosting daily lectures, artist talks, and panels.
One such discussion, moderated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, focused on the topic of the artist-as-choreographer, and took place early one morning, before the crowds descended. The speakers carried dual roles as dancers, choreographers, curators, and/or artists, and as such shared novel perspectives and anecdotes: Alexandra Bachzetsis, artist and choreographer, told that she selects performers based on the specific presence she wishes to convey, opting to focus less on the choreography than the people themselves, while Xavier Le Roy, dancer and choreographer, encouraged artists to accept that their works will take on lives of their own – a pertinent issue for pieces that can be executed posthumously. Yves Laris Cohen, artist and choreographer, spoke of his desire for a captive audience, and Isabel Lewis, dancer and artist, elaborated on the rejection of objecthood in her “occasions” – the name she’s coined for her works – explaining their attempt to exist not on a particular stage or exhibition, but in a specific and unique moment in time. The common thread connecting these ideas was the complex logistical considerations of orchestrating live artworks. It was evident that these art practitioners carefully consider aspects such as presence, unpredictability, unknowable audience movement, and site-specificity. What I did not realize at the time was that such conceptual frameworks would provide a constructive base for my whirlwind tour of Art Basel, which emphasized experiencing art rather than merely looking at it.