Mesmeric Monument
Work in progress notes
Liane Lang
May 2010, Riga


For Mesmeric Monument I approach sculptures, monuments and spaces, which have a reference to each other and share ideological origins. Some objects like the Statue of Liberty and the Soviet Victory Monument are ideologically in conflict with one another, but share some formal roots. I approach the objects with a basic choreography, transcribing or imagining a visual description of the body in space and in movement, using both props and dancers. My starting point for the initial sketches is Labanotation. I use this term only as a reference, as I do not undertake a meticulous diagrammatic transcription, but a visual description of the potential radius of the body, the direction of movement and the interpretation of this movement, which has been arrested in bronze or concrete. Rudolf Laban (1879-1958, Austro-Hungary, a dancer, a choreographer and a dance/movement theoretician) seems a fitting starting point for this project in several ways. His choirs, choreographing the mass movements of people, have an actual as well as conceptual relationship to Nazi mass choreography, which usually took place around a monument or monumental space. This was re-interpreted for the Communist marches and parades. The seemingly great contrast between the avantgarde choreographer and the totalitarian space of performance is here blurred and fluid. The ambiguous relationship between artist and power is mirrored in the situation of the artists who made these big political monuments and sculptures.

The notation of movement appears in the project in several forms. The soldiers in front of the Statue of Liberty from 1935, involved in a frantic dance, the crowds at the Soviet Victory Memorial from the Soviet era, a flurry of bodies crowding around the monument in a ritualistic celebration. These dancers are found objects, their choreography in direct relation to the ideology of the object. In contrast a more gentle demarcation of space occurs when the small single figure travels along the edges of the Victory monument and when the figures, at Salaspils Concentration Camp Memorial travel the field as shadows or silhouettes. Here I think of the notation of impossible movement, which is implied and subconsciously perceived in the giant concrete or bronze figure, frozen eternally in a shape, it’s extension and direction pointless and impotent, but still legible. Giving by proxy or through small interventions a turning circle to the monolith, his movements are to re-animate him into a new visibility and context.

The installation of Mesmeric Monument in the gallery is the antithesis of the monument, dissolving the solid, immobile and inaccessible. Traversable and fragile the installation exists in light and movement. The final sequence is twice removed, the monuments projected onto the white bodies of dancers in a darkened space, they become visible only through their movement, their bodies determining what is revealed and what is obscured.

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