Thursday, July 26, 2012

Dancing the News

With News Animations, Simone Forti uses her body and language to relay episodic impressions of the contemporary world; what she calls “dancing the news”.

I can more easily access the raw store of fragmentary thoughts, feelings, and speculations out of which I build my understanding of the world. A News Animation performance involves improvising with movement and spoken language, taking off from the fluid, flickering, dream like image of the world brought to us by the news media. Moving and speaking at once, gives voice to the place between thoughts and muscular or visceral sensations, between verbal syntax and the body's syntax of sudden moves, hesitations, slumps and changes of facing. It reveals a process which is usually very private.

Forti began constructing the News Animations in 1986, through an improvisational process of generating drawn and written responses to the daily news. She is a gleaner, a collector of both transitory events and cultural markers.

Simone Forti, News Animations, Graphite on paper. 
Courtesy the artist. Photo by Brian Forrest.

Forti collaborated with Terrance Luke Johnson and Brennan Gerard to present her most recent iteration of News Animations at Barnsdall Gallery Theater in conjunction with the Made in LA exhibition. Forti entered the space as her two male collaborators sat as observers on either side of the stage. She began speaking about the discovery of the oldest constellation as she extended her arms above and then down to the ground. Forti laid on the ground and spoke about loan bundles and the historic roots of usury, the practice of making loans with abusive interest rates. She moved between language and movement like a woman having an interior dialogue, she was thinking through movement.

Simone Forti, News Animations (solo), LA><ART, June 12, 2012

In the next section of the work, Terrance Luke Johnson unpacks books from a canvas bag as he speaks of the Weimar Republic, Carl Schmidt, and the fragility of American Democracy. He steps upon his books to cross the space, reminding us of the book’s physicality in opposition to the e-reader he holds in his hands. Like a scattered professor, he pronounces disjointed fragments of knowledge while moving books around on the ground. This passage concludes with Johnson carrying an unwieldy stack of books on his forearms as he discusses the embarrassment of carrying one’s book “like a girl”.

Brennan Gerard emerges from his seated position bantering about bundles and loans as he fluidly echoes the gestures Forti made earlier in the work. He talks about the Style section of the paper, and Bloomberg’s daughter and usury. He falls to the floor and says “oops” as he references the falling financial market. At this point Johnson enters the space and the two men move around each other like rotating planets, carrying books upon their forearms and discussing the objecthood of the book.

The final section of the performance begins with a tender and playful duet between Forti and Gerard as she wrestle-holds him to the ground before pushing him forward in an act of birthing. All three performers began to move about the stage at a frenetic pace, as they vocalize references to Occupy Wall Street through personal narrative and exclamations like “bang” and “wack”. The performers turn around one another waving sheets of newspaper like fluttering birds. A body is covered in the paper, reminiscent of a child's fort or a made-shift homeless shelter. Forti rips the newspaper into strips as she tells a story about her Italian grandmother using newspaper as toilet paper back in the old days.

There is a kind of democracy in Forti’s work that deemphasizes the age and gender of the performers; they are all equal citizens sharing a communal space. However, her final narrative reminds us of the temporal nature of the News Animations and of the generational diversity of the group. Forti and Johnson, both in their seventies, have different histories than the young Gerard and it refreshing to witness a movement dialogue between bodies at various points in their lives. Forti has been performing the work for over twenty years, so it is interesting to consider how the work shifts in response to both current events, and her growing personal history.

Ephemera from Forti’s work, including writing and drawing, is on view at the Los Angeles Municipal Gallery, Barnsdall Park as part of the Made in LA exhibition through September 2. She will perform News Animations at the Hammer Museum on August 16 and again at the Barnsdall Gallery Theater on August 30.

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