Sunday at Club Row Rochelle school saw the first of the Agrifash projects get underway. A kind of test project which should soon be on the site. Pablo Bronstein and architect Etienne Descloux. Created – what we tend to call an ‘environment’ in which a core of dancers performed. The space made reference to Pablo’s favourite post-modernist temple – Paternoster Square – of course Pablo really hates po mo, he is just loving it to take away the hurt. The ‘environment’ has it’s po mo jokes a - Neo classical urn (cement fondue), use of James Sterling Green and as Pablo delightedly points out a brown gloss paint from the Farrow and Ball range and although it has the hue of smeared shit, it’s from the kitchen range and called Wainscot (half height wall panelling, farmhouse style). Pablo’s always-dirty snigger suggests he loves the idea of the bourgeoisie of England covering their painstakingly selected kitchens with smeared shit – in fact check Pablo’s brother’s myspace for his take on what he’s been doing with his life and the aforementioned.
Michael Smythe has brought together some remarkable people to dance, film and generally help out. Deborah May. Sets up an array of cameras and sorts Pablo out re how it needs to be. There is great feeling of confidence with her obvious experience and professionalism, you can feel really quite confident that the cameras are on and that the lenses have been cleaned and that ….. You know the list, I have myself done and employed people who have done everyone of these fuck ups. The dancers are led by Adam Linder, a dancer from the Michael Clark Company, and he is good, everyone in the crew seems suddenly to be really into dance and whispers how brilliant one or other of the dancers are. Not that I am decrying the craft of dance and it is true that some of the dancers are especially ‘good’ the actual differences between them are tiny, what makes one ‘brilliant’ and another not is a bit of a mystery. I guess you could easily say the same for painting or any of the other art forms (actually having a brother who is the director of a ballet company I do know what differentiates brilliant from good, but I can’t tell you – only because it would take to long and it’s boring).
Michael - mighty atom - is running up and down stairs carrying impossibly large architectural features on his head – this is a stage set so it’s all slight of eye – but still the sight of Michael with a Corinthian column 20 times his size running down a fire escape is amusing. Basically after all is set up Pablo goes through a whole series of configurations and steps with the dancers – it looks really good, especially on the screens. There is undeniably a bit of Star Trek in there, I can practically feel myself as a slightly portly older man in a skin tight t-shirt staggering through the columns clutching my head and moaning ‘pain’ as I am trapped on a planet dedicated to the worship of post modern architecture controlled by a enigmatic force able to inflict pain at will. Pablo tells me to fuck off, actually he makes me leave the set because I am so annoying – I think that’s mainly because I keep taking photographs and giggling with Maria – disturbing Pablo’s concentration, which is intense and one has to say he has balls, basically acting up as director/choreographer to a group of professional dancers takes some guts. There should be interviews of Pablo by a couple of the dancers online soon so you see what they thought.
Maria Benjamin of Guest Room filmed the whole day from a back stage perspective and this is really what I was concentrating on – the back story and how that is made evident, interesting, honest, funny you know all that stuff. It is - as every documentary film maker knows - sooooo frustrating, the best conversations are always off camera, or the background noise is to extreme, this ‘good’ material is always slipping away from you and of course the presence of a camera alters people’s behaviour – extra stretching in the case of the dancers, heightened frivolity in the case of art people and shyness and reticence from most other people. The mix of people involved in the project gave a great range of context/critique, there was Catherine Wood and Nicky Verber from Tate and Herald Street respectively, both good talkers willing to take the piss out of Pablo in an affectionate way, and offer different - more serious - perspectives on his output, i.e. publicly funded and commercial – the film being made will be shown in January at Herald street along side the Agrifash broadcast. Then there was the young guy that built the set, I didn’t get to talk to him but he for sure had a story, an ‘a’ level student undertaking Ramadan – also really interesting and sharp, with thoughts and perspective on the show, all the dancers and their backgrounds the dance culture the attitude to hair and food and all the body stuff, there was a lot of stretching and touching, adjusting and all that – the dance world is so crude, I get the impression it is Fuckforever territory (this is the title of a film that Adam Linder made - see it on youtube).
I always liked a story my brother told me from when he was as student at the Rambert Ballet School. He was backstage at Covent Garden with his friend watching Nureyev rehearsing, throughout the rehearsal Nureyev keeps looking at them, really intensely. At the end of the rehearsal Nureyev motions for them to come onto the stage - they are really excited, Nureyev has seen something special about them, Nureyev motions only for my brother to come forward and then begins to circle him as he stands in the centre of the stage thinking ‘oh my god, he thinks I have something, I could be a brilliant dancer, somehow he’s spotted what no one else could see, the great man is going to discover me’ finally Nureyev stands nose to nose, stares deep into my brothers eyes and speaks for the first time, his intense blue eyes and his so famous face burning into my brother’s very soul, and he says slowly in his strong Slavic accent ‘I vant to fuck you leetle boy’. Well you know it was the 70’s.
In all the excitement of getting Pablo’s project underway, and done I forget to think about what it all means and why in the hell we are commissioning it, actually why it appeals to me - and it does – Pablo’s work is widely considered as Emperor’s new clothes territory, even his own gallery say that, hell even Pablo says that. I remember reading Pablo’s proposal to Grizedale maybe 4 years ago and all of us going for no reason ‘yes that’s good, definitely’ and that happens rarely. But this work is different (from other art) in its references, Pablo’s interest in the Baroque is kinda cute, but some dance and some self conscious reference to a formal age of etiquette doesn’t make for compelling work. Equally the half joking interest in 80’s architecture and it’s ham fisted reference to Pablo’s real love – but the relationship between these things, the examination of the wound, the cauterising of it through repetition, the contemporary reconstruction, the desecration of formal values, the ideas of beauty and order smeared with shit – this has a little more bite, a critical analysis, Pablo is the typical disappointed romantic trying to come to terms with a way to be – just like my brother and Nureyev.
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