Introduction

Precarious Movements: Choreography and the Museum is a project that aims to bring artists, researchers and institutions into dialogue about best practice to support the choreographer and the museum, and to sustain momentum in theory and practice around dance and the visual arts. The project was awarded a Linkage Grant of nearly $400,000 over three years from 2021 to 2024 worth double this amount including in-kind support from partner organisations University New South Wales (UNSW), National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), TATE UK, Art Gallery New South Wales (AGNSW) and Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) and independent artist Shelley Lasica.

Against the backdrop of intermedial experiments in the mid-20th century, the 21st century has seen dance and choreography appear more frequently in art galleries and museums. This is forecast to accelerate, propelled by curatorial inquiries and critical developments associated with a reinvention of the museum. However, processes and protocols concerning performance conditions specific to choreography, curatorial practices, acquisitions, collection, conservation and theory have lagged behind. The project addresses this problem and its principal aims are to:

  1. Articulate best practice in the life cycle of choreographic work when it enters the museum and gallery.
  2. Model best practice in commissioning, curating, conserving, presenting and interpreting choreographic work in the museum and gallery context.
  3. Develop new critical understandings of dance and the art institution to support further development in the field.

Precarious Movements puts artists and creative practice at the centre of its inquiry, engaging their knowledge and experience as primary research, and supports dancers and choreographers as important end users. Associated Australian artists include Agatha Gothe Snape, Lizzie Thomson, Jo Lloyd, Deanne Butterworth, Helen Grogan, Latai Taumoepeau, Brooke Stamp, Victoria Hunt, Sarah Rodigari, Jess Olivieri, Alice Heywood, Rhiannon Newton, Brian Fuata, Amrita Hepi, Ivey Wawn, Angela Goh and Adam Linder.

Background

Precarious Movement: Choreography and the Museum connects and consults with a broader network of artists, curators, archivists, museum educators, theorists and writers via an email google-group with 63 members and regular closed and public events.

The initial event was the 2016 Sydney Biennale salon, Choreography and the Gallery, at the AGNSW (27 April 2016) in partnership with UNSW. This was followed by a series of research workshops:

  • Choreography-Gallery-Practice: Workshop (Sydney, UNSW School of Arts & Media and Art & Design, 28 February - 1 March 2019) where the research problem was identified and the core team connected.
  • Choreography and the Gallery Workshop (Melbourne, NGV and VCA Studio, 15-17 October 2019) where AGNSW, MUMA and TATE participated and the research project was articulated.
  • Manuscript Workshop: Choreography, Art and Experimental Composition 1950s -1970s (Sydney, UNSW School of Arts & Media, 13 December 2019) to finalise our Linkage application 2020 and undertake a manuscript workshop of Brannigan’s forthcoming monograph.
  • Precarious Movements: Choreography and the Museum (Sydney, UNSW School of Art & Design and AGNSW, 10 - 11 March 2020) with public sharings and a sold-out keynote by Louise Lawson, ‘Keeping it Live: Conserving Performance at Tate.’
  • Precarious Movements: Conversations, a three-part online program co-presented by MUMA and Precarious Movements: Choreography and the Museum (20, 27 October and 3 November 2020).

An Australian Research Council Linkage 2020 Grant worth over $A1 million for the period 2021-2023 was submitted in April 2020 through UNSW with an outcome announced October 2020.

  • Dr Erin Brannigan (Lead Chief Investigator)

    Erin is a Senior Lecturer in Theatre and Performance at the University of New South Wales and works as a writer, academic and curator. Erin’s academic publications include Moving Across Disciplines: Dance in the Twenty-First Century (Sydney: Currency House, 2010), Dancefilm: Choreography and the Moving Image (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011) and Bodies of Thought: 12 Australian Choreographers, co-edited with Virginia Baxter (Kent Town: Wakefield Press, 2014). She has published articles in journals such as Senses of Cinema, Writings on Dance, Brolga, Dance Research Journal, Performance Paradigm, Performance Philosophy, Broadsheet, Runway and International Journal of Performance Arts and Digital Media, alongside several book chapters. Her monographs in progress are Choreography, Art and Experimental Composition 1950s -1970s  and The Persistence of Dance: The Conceptual and Material in Contemporary Art and Choreography. Other projects are New Paradigms for Performance Pedagogies (UNSW T&L Grant with Dr Bryoni Trezise) and Dancing Sydney: Mapping Movement: Performing Histories (an archival project with Dr Julie-Anne Long and Dr Amanda Card).

    Dr Rochelle Haley (Chief Investigator)

    Rochelle is a Lecturer, School of Art & Design, University of New South Wales and researcher engaged with painting, drawing, movement and performance to explore relationships between bodies and physical environments. For over ten years, Haley has worked at the forefront of the intersection of visual arts and dance: an emergent area of research gaining international momentum. Her interdisciplinary approach to movement merges painting and choreography to investigate space structured around the sensation of the moving body. Haley’s work aims to re-imagine the dynamism of material surfaces of representation to discover methods that are sensory, kinaesthetic, affective and rhythmic. She has exhibited internationally and at leading national venues including UQ Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art Sydney, Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and UNSW Galleries. Her work has been profiled on ABC Radio National, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, Art Monthly Australia, Artist Profile Magazine and Art Collector.

    Hannah Mathews (Chief Investigator)

    Hannah is Senior Curator, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne. Hannah graduated with a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne in 2002 and has worked in curatorial positions at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne (2008-16); Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (2005-07); Monash University Museum of Art (2005); Next Wave Festival (2003-04); The South Project (2003-04); and the Biennale of Sydney (2000-02). Hannah’s key curatorial projects include Shapes of Knowledge, MUMA (2019): Alicia Frankovich & Lili Reynaud Dewar, MUMA (2018); The humours, MUMA (2017); Ulla von Brandenburg: It has a Golden Yellow Sun and an Elderly Grey Moon, ACCA (2016); Derek Kreckler: Accident & Process, PICA, Perth and national tour (2015-ongoing); Ryan Gander: READ ONLY, ACCA, Melbourne (2015); Framed Movements, ACCA (2014); In the Cut: Contemporary Collage, ACCA (2013); Power to the People: Contemporary Conceptualism and the Object in Art, ACCA (2011); NEW11, ACCA (2011); Johanna Billing: Tiny Movements, ACCA (2009); Primavera, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2008); and Old skool (never lose that feeling), PICA (2007).

    Shelley Lasica (Primary Research Associate)

    Shelley is an independent artist based in Melbourne. For more than 30 years, Shelley Lasica has pushed the confines of dance, choreography and performance. Her practice is defined by an enduring interest in the context and situations of presenting choreography. Throughout her career, she has been making solo performances that function as a means and a reason for showing work. This practice provides the basis for generating ensemble works that question the collaborative and interdisciplinary possibilities of choreography. She regularly collaborates with visual artists, including Tony Clark, Helen Grogan, Anne Marie May, Callum Morton and Kathy Temin, in order to create dialogues between different modes and means of presentation. Lasica’s choreographic works have been shown nationally and internationally within both visual art and theatre contexts, including Melbourne Festival; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Chunky Move, Melbourne; Artspace, Sydney; Centre Nationale de la Danse, Paris; Siobhan Davies Studios, London; Dance Massive, Melbourne; Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne; Murray White Room, Melbourne; and Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne.

    Carolyn Murphy (Partner Investigator)

    Carolyn is the Head of Conservation at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW). Carolyn’s research interests include investigating the ways in which museum and conservation practices impact artists and their works held in museum collections, with a particular interest in installation and time-based artworks. Previously Carolyn has worked at several cultural institutions, including the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Canadian Conservation Institute and the Queensland Art Gallery. Carolyn undertook a Getty Fellowship at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco after completing a Bachelor of Applied Science in paper conservation at the University of Canberra. Carolyn has also completed a Bachelor of Arts majoring in History and Law, and postgraduate qualifications in Museum Studies and Writing.

    Lisa Catt (Partner Investigator)

    Lisa is Curator, International Art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) where she contributes to the acquisition, exhibition and care of the contemporary art collection. Recently she has worked with artists Eko Nugroho, Julian Rosefeldt and Yona Lee. Her interest in media, performance and installation art led to her central involvement in the AGNSW TimeBased Art Project. In 2017 she was selected, with her colleague Asti Sherring, to participate in a time-based media art workshop run by the Museum of Modern Art, New York. She has held curatorial positions at the National Museum of Australia and National Gallery of Australia, and has completed a Bachelor of Media Studies and a Master of Liberal Arts (Museum Studies) from the University of Adelaide and Australian National University, respectively.

    Louise Lawson (Partner Investigator)

    Louise is the conservation manager of time-based media conservation at Tate. She is responsible for the strategic direction, development and delivery of all aspects relating to time-based media conservation at Tate. This requires working across a wide range of projects and programmes: exhibitions, displays, acquisition, loan-outs and collection care initiatives. She has been developing how performance artworks in Tate’s permanent collection are documented and conserved. This work is expanding to consider choreographic artworks. Her conservation practice is rooted in the care, activation, documentation and transmission of such artworks.

    Pip Wallis (Partner Investigator)

    Pip is Curator, Contemporary Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. She curates exhibitions, contributes to Australian and international contemporary art collecting, and writes and edits publications at NGV, where she has organised exhibitions by Helen Maudsley and Hito Steyerl, and performances by Adam Linder and Simone Forti. Pip sits on the Exhibitions Committee of West Space and 1856, and is a member of Matter in Flux. She was previously Managing Editor, X-TRA Contemporary Art Quarterly Los Angeles; Curator in Residence, Chisenhale Gallery London; and Curator, Gertrude Contemporary where she organised exhibitions by Brian Fuata, Claire Lambe and Atlanta Eke, Kate Newby, and Tahi Moore.

  • Precarious Movements: Conversations

    Tuesdays 20, 27 October and 3 November 2020

    Catherine Damman, ‘Presence at the Creation’, Artforum International, vol. 57, September 2018. The issue was never whether dance belongs in the museum or gallery, but rather what we do with dance—and how we treat dancers—once it’s there …

    Precarious Movements: Conversations is a three-part program of talks with artists, curators and conservators that reflects on what happens when works of a choreographic nature enter the museum. Each session focuses on a particular phase of a work’s museum life cycle: how its presentation challenges existing display systems and program infrastructure; how its ephemerality and mutability confront current collection and acquisition frameworks; and how a choreographic work’s particular relationship to body, memory and social networks might shift institutional practices of archiving and preservation.

    Co-presented by MUMA and the Precarious Movements: Choreography and the Museum research group, this program reflects on the various types of knowledge transmission that occur at each stage of interaction between artist and museum, and how choreographic practices themselves might change the structural and material form of the museum. It advocates for the centrality of the artist’s voice and the capability of the museum to listen. Links to recordings are in each section.

    Tuesday, 20 October 2020

    Session 1. Points of Tension: Presenting Work Within the Museum Space

    Agatha Gothe-Snape (artist), Amrita Hepi (artist) and Latai Taumoepeau (artist)

    Moderator: Hannah Mathews (Senior Curator, MUMA)

    Three artists—each working with choreography in distinct ways and regularly invited to work within the space of the gallery—share their experiences of presenting work of a choreographic nature within the white cube. Whether programmed as a commission, intervention, exhibition, performance or event, the works of these artists have challenged how museums produce and present art. In what way can institutions be more adaptable to artists whose work falls outside the modes of artmaking traditionally held in such institutions? How can artists learn to better navigate the institution and advocate for their practice? These case studies identify the points of tension between artist and museum, and suggest how they might be overcome.

    Tuesday, 27 October 2020

    Session 2. Square Peg: Rethinking and Reconfiguring the Museum Collection

    Lisa Catt (Assistant Curator, International Art, AGNSW), Victoria Hunt (artist), Shelley Lasica (artist) and Tania Doropoulos (Director, Anna Schwartz Gallery) 

    Moderator: Pip Wallis (Curator, Contemporary Art, NGV)

    There is a notable absence of choreographic works in museum collections. Obstacles seem to exist at the most fundamental level—the very way museums understand the art object and structure the process of collecting. This session looks at how artists and institutions are confronting the limitations of current acquisition frameworks and are considering ways in which collections might make space for living practice and immaterial context. Shelley Lasica and Tania Doropoulos look to Lasica’s work Dress: A Costumed Performance with Designer Martin Grant, 1998–2019, as a model for how artists might approach the acquisition of their work. Artist Victoria Hunt discusses her experiences within institutional contexts, reflecting on how museum ontologies and temporalities might be challenged and changed. And curator Lisa Catt discusses how the archive might circumvent institutional hierarchies and dependencies on objecthood to represent a wider range of artforms within a museum collection.  

    Tuesday, 3 November 2020

    Session 3. Preservation Through Knowledge Transmission: From Artist to Institution

    Louise Lawson (Conservation Manager, Tate) and Robert Lazarus (Associate Lecturer, Grimwade Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation, University of Melbourne)

    Moderator: Stephen Gilchrist (Lecturer, University of Sydney)

    The preservation of choreographic work lays challenge to the core principles of traditional museum model—perpetuity and permanence. What processes might better serve the preservation of choreographic works? And how might knowledge transmission occur within and without the institution? The speakers in this session discuss case studies and experiences of archiving and conserving works that engage with body, memory and social networks. Louise Lawson discusses ​the conservation practice and processes that are being developed at Tate to preserve performance art. Robert Lazarus will reflect on the importance of stretching our understanding of conservation practices through the nature of the artworks themselves, and how this responsive approach can shape the teaching and learning of new generations of conservators.

  • Precarious Movements: Choreography and the Museum (Sydney, UNSW School of Art & Design and AGNSW, 10 - 11 March 2020)

    Precarious Movements: Choreography and the Museum Research Forum 2020 brought artists, researchers and institutions into dialogue about best practice to support both the choreographer and the museum, and to sustain momentum in theory and practice around dance and the visual arts. This workshop and series of public panels involved research team members Hannah Mathews (MUMA), Pip Wallis (NGV), Louise Lawson (Tate UK), Shelley Lasica (Independent artist), Carolyn Murphy & Lisa Catt (AGNSW), Erin Brannigan & Rochelle Haley (UNSW), and a network of local artists, curators, theorists and writers. The program culminated in a sold-out keynote by Louise Lawson Keeping it Live: Conserving Performance at Tate.

    Schedule:

    Activity time Activity location Activity description

    9.30am - 12.30pm

    UNSW

    A&D Blackbox

    Artist led workshops with Shelley Lasica & Lizzie Thomson.

    1.30pm - 2.30pm

    UNSW

    Galleries Foyer

    Precarious Movement: Choreography and the Museum team panel

    • Erin Brannigan & Rochelle Haley (UNSW)
    • Shelley Lasica (independent artist)
    • Carolyn Murphy & Lisa Catt (AGNSW)
    • Hannah Mathews (MUMA)
    • Louise Lawson (Tate)
    • Pip Wallis (NGV)

    This panel discussion outlined where this research group comes from, what we have been doing, what we hope to achieve, and our interest in community input to help shape the direction of future work.

    3pm - 4.30pm

    UNSW

    Galleries Foyer

    Open discussion and workshop around glossary / taxonomy of terms and topics introduced in panel. This 90 min session was driven by audience discussion / questions / input.

    5pm - 6pm

    UNSW

    Galleries Foyer

    Keynote by Louise Lawson (Conservation Manager, Tate) Keeping it Live: Conserving Performance at Tate

    The keynote is accessible on mixcloud here.

    It is also listed in the ‘Research Forum’ playlist on UNSW Galleries Mixcloud.

     

  • Choreography and the Gallery Workshop (Melbourne, NGV and VCA Studio, 15-17 October 2019)

    Schedule:

    Tuesday, 15 October 2019

    NGV Australia: Ian Potter Centre

    • 10am - 11am Erin Brannigan orientation session – what we have achieved and what we need to do
    • 11am - 12pm Pip Wallis
    • 12pm - 1pm Rochelle Haley
    • 1pm - 2pm Lunch
    • 2pm - 4pm AGNSW (Carolyn Murphy) and Tate (Louise Lawson) on conservation, collection and acquisition
    • 4pm - 5pm Erin Brannigan facilitates debrief

    Wednesday, 16 October 2019

    Black Box 221, VCA, 234 St. Kilda Rd 9am-12pm

    Guests:  Zoe Theodore, choreographers Deanne Butterworth and Jo Lloyd, artist Helen Crogan and artist-academic Carol Brown – Head of Dance VCA to join us 9am-12pm

    • 9am - 11am Shelley Lasica – major themes of the project and choreographic practices
    • 11am - 12pm Hannah Matthews
    • 12pm - 1pm Lunch
    • Ian Potter Centre Theatre, Federation Square 1pm - 3pm
    • 1pm - 3pm Pip Wallis leads group presentation to NGV contemporary art and publications teams
    • 3pm - 5pm Erin Brannigan facilitates debrief with team at a local venue

    Thursday, 17 October 2019

    NGV Australia: Ian Potter Centre

    • 10am - 12pm Advice from UNSW on the Linkage program
    • 12pm - 1pm Discussion of any changes to Linkage
    • 1pm - 2pm Lunch
    • 2pm - 4pm General debrief and forward planning. Plan B regarding unsuccessful grant

    Manuscript Workshop: Choreography, Art and Experimental Composition 1950s - 1970s by Erin Brannigan (Sydney, UNSW School of the Arts & Media, 13 December 2019)

    Download Choreography, Art and Experimental Content chapter outline

  • Choreography-Gallery-Practice: Workshop (Sydney, UNSW School of the Arts & Media and Art & Design, February 2019)

    Choreography-Gallery-Practice: Workshop 2019 brought 20 artists, academics and curators together at UNSW Art & Design to sustain momentum in theory and practice at the nexus between dance and the visual arts. The focus was on sharing current research and generating new possibilities, both individual and collective. Workshop leaders were Lizzie Thomson, Shelley Lasica, Sarah Rodigari, Zoe Theodore and Jess Olivieri. The focus was on practice and participation; transferring methods in practical experiments to ‘try-on’ different approaches to shared problems/ideas.

    The project included a public event (a sharing of findings) on Friday, March 1 from 5pm to 6pm in the Nick Waterlow Gallery, Paddington.

    This event was a follow-up to a salon on Choreography and the Gallery, an event that was part of the 2016 Biennale of Sydney and held at AGNSW. It is supported by UNSW School of the Arts & Media and Art & Design.

    Organising Committee

    • Erin Brannigan (academic SAM)
    • Rochelle Haley (artist, academic A&D)
    • Hannah Mathews (senior curator MUMA)
    • Shelley Lasica (artist)
    • Lizzie Thomson (UNSW/SAM PhD and artist)

    Schedule:

    Thursday, February 28 2019

    • 10am Introductions (Erin)
    • 11am - 1pm Session with Shelley Lasica (see below)
    • 2pm - 3pm Session with Sarah Rodigari (see below)
    • 3pm - 4.30pm Session with Jessica Olivieri (see below)
    • 4.30 - 5.30pm Wrap-up (Erin)

    Friday, March 1 2019

    • 10am - 11am Re-orientation (Erin)
    • 11am - 1pm Session with Zoe Theodore (see below)
    • 2pm - 4pm Session with Lizzie Thomson (see below)
    • 4pm - 5pm Discussion and forward planning (Erin)
    • 5pm - 6pm Sharing with visitors

    Sarah Rodigari

    Walking and Falling

    Since 2011, Sarah has been working with social modalities such as conversation and walking as a way to document relational knowledge about the intersection between art, life and labour. She uses this process to inform the creation of poetic, text-based ephemera and performances.

    In this workshop, Sarah will share research methodologies about support systems and reproductive labour in artistic production that she has recently been developing while on residency in Paris. Over the past months, Sarah has undertaken a series of walking conversations with choreographers, architects, philosophers and writers, focusing on ideas of strike and withdrawal through subjective, non-linear or minor forms of attention and expression. She is interested in how this is situated within a critique of art.

    Workshop outline: Sarah will begin by briefly introducing her research and present an excerpt of the performance text she has been developing, this will go for about 10-15 minutes. Following this, Sarah will share her methodology by inviting people to go for a walk in pairs for approximately 20 minutes, the walk will be led by an enquiry topic. We will spend the remaining 20 minutes collectively discussing and reflecting on the process.

    It would be ideal to do this towards the beginning of the two days as the walks are best experienced when people don’t know each other very well / at all. It’s also a nice way for participants to get to know each other’s practice.

    Shelley Lasica

    The session will comprise two parts and address, in different ways, notions around the development of ideas individually and collectively and the relationship and implications embedded between these modes. The transmission of ideas in making work and its distribution through choreography as a subject for discussion and a mode of production that encounters the areas of originality, the body, truth and context; accumulation of and releasing from knowledge.

    Zoe Theodore

    Considering the possibilities and limitations of space, duration, labour and spectatorship, I will share my research and curatorial findings from exhibiting choreography in gallery contexts. This research will draw upon my experiences working within various types of visual arts settings (museums, commercial galleries and kunsthalles), and explore ideas related to embodiment, intersubjectivity, documentation and participation.

    Lizzie Thomson

    This practice-based session will explore a process for generating text alongside embodied sensations. We will work together in pairs or trios. We will sit on chairs. We will touch things and be touched by things. We will speak and quietly celebrate this speaking. We will write. We will be attentive to things both possible and impossible, both alive and dead, both expressed and repressed. This research is loosely inspired by the genre of Closet Dramas written by women in the 16th and 17th centuries. It reflects my ongoing interest in interdisciplinary research, blurring the boundaries between dance, performance, visual art and writing. It questions the performance-maker’s trajectory towards the theatre and the gallery. It gives space for the artist to say no to self-promotion, at least for a short moment. It embraces the possibilities of an introverted performance with no audience other than the chairs that support our weight, the four walls that listen in to our conversations and the occasional cockroach that avoids our feet to stay alive.

    Jess Olivieri

    It might have been otherwise: Feminist methodologies for reconsidering dance in the gallery

    “How do I then act the bricoleur that we've all learned to be in various ways, without being a colonizer ... How do you keep foregrounded the ironic and iffy things you're doing and still do them seriously. Folks get mad because you can't be pinned down, folks get mad at me for not finally saying what the bottom line is on these things.” 1

    We will take this characteristically slippery assertion from Donna Haraway to propose methods that destabilise disciplinary hierarchy. This workshop will build on my PhD and curatorial research that address the live/document binary. Specifically focusing on Real Real, a performance program I have created as Curator of Contemporary Performance at Campbelltown Arts Centre. This workshop will involve theory and practice. http://c-a-c.com.au/real-real-performances/

    1Donna Haraway quoted by Susan Leigh Star, “Power, Technology and the Phenomenology of Conventions: on Being Allergic to Onions”, The Sociological Review VL 38, New Jersey: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 1990) p. 49

    Participants

    Erin Brannigan, Lizzie Thomson, Shelley Lasica, Rochelle Haley, Sarah Rodigari, Zoe Theodore, Jess Olivieri, Deanne Butterworth, Alice Heywood, Helen Grogan, Rhiannon Newton, Ivey Wawn, Nikki Heywood, Julie-Anne Long, Brooke Stamp, Anny Motokow, Pip Wallis, Brian Fuata