'Transmissions' was keen to inveigle a camera into the intimate, concealed atmosphere of theatre backstage preparations to witness the gauche mechanics of a monumental sculpture by Enrico David being brought very subtly to motion. The movements of the giant figurative sculpture, elegantly titled 'Mantwat' were conjured to dramatise its encounter with Modernist dance legend Merce Cunningham's 'collage choreography', later that afternoon. The invitation to exhibit this sculpture in such a performative exchange came under the mantle of a short, curated series of dances in front of that and five other contemporary art works, cumulatively entitled 'Event'. Merce Cunningham has applied this title and term since the early 1960s to describe working choreographically within 'unusual performance situations'. Cunningham is of course renowned for his lifetime of inimitable artistic collaborations: Martha Graham, John Cage, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg and Willem de Kooning, number a few of the American artistic Avant Garde that form a key part of his reputation as a Modernist legend. To receive an invitation to join such a distinguished collaborative roster during Cunningham's 86th year must resonate.
Cunningham claims not to work directly in response to any stage decor, but rather to create a dynamic whereby dance and sculpture, each conceived of and created separately, are allowed to serendipitously connect. Partly given this independent scenario of performer and prop, partly my own fascination with imagining the brilliant peculiarity of Enrico's practice brought to clumsy life, but also because of the fact of a fiercely unionised situation that is necessary for the dancers to protect their creative livelihood, 'Transmissions' focuses very much on 'Mantwat', and its encounter with the cavernous Barbican theatre space. This moment itself has a proximity to performance. Enrico has been making work that forms an astute, complex and compellingly individual aesthetic constructed from contemporary and historical sources outside of purely fine art sources, and the puppet phase of 'Mantwat' seems confidently to continue that. Commissioned originally as the distinctive sculptural presence for the vast art wall at Sadler's Wells in London in 2004, the plywood sculpture has embraced and teased its politely cultural environments, poking three-dimensional genitalia and tongue at its onlookers. It achieved four distinct positions for the dancers and audience of 'Event'.
Film: Karim Rabik
- Sculpture: Enrico David 'Mantwat', Plywood, pencil and wood stain, 2004, Courtesy Cabinet, London
- Performance: Merce Cunningham Dance Company for 'Event' curated by Griselda Yorke for BITE '05 at the Barbican, London, June 2005
- Film Edit: Salwa Azar
- Thanks: Mads Perch-Nielson, Ariella Yedgar, Mark Sladen and Angela Dias at the Barbican