Trisha Brown Dance Company - perform 'Spanish Dance' to Bob Dylans song 'Early Morning Rain' Photo: Hugo Glendinning

The art of presenting art

A striking new exhibition looking at the current trend for setting or presenting performance work in art galleries is now on show in the Drama department at the University of Exeter. 

Photographer Hugo Glendinning’s exhibition ‘White Box Performances’ ‘investigates the role of the photographer in performance documentation. 

Glendinning has worked as a photographer for 25 years and his output stretches across the cultural industries from fine art collaborations in video and photography, through production and performance documentation to portrait work. He has worked with most leading British theatre and dance companies and is regularly commissioned by the RSC, National Theatre and Royal Opera House.

The exhibition is part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Creative Fellowship programme which has enabled the University of Exeter’s Drama department to collaborate with artists of national and international repute whose works have high public and popular profiles. Glendinning has fulfilled this role in Exeter for the past three years, making an invaluable contribution to Drama in his teaching and master classes. He has also been an advisor on performance documentation for research projects such as the AHRC Performing Presence Project and the Research Council UK funded Horizon digital economy research. 

Professor Gabriella Giannachi, Professor in Performance and New Media at the University said, ‘The fellowship is a bridge into the most prominent professional artistic practice, while for our collaborating artists such as Hugo, it provides an important opportunity to develop their own practice in dialogue with researchers in art and performance. The impact of his own research on the Fellowship’s topic, the role of the photographer in performance documentation has been exhibited throughout Europe and during the course of the Fellowship. The research was documented in an interview I did with Hugo about his work which will be published by Leonardo Electronic Almanac in 2011.’

Glendinning has published and exhibited his work internationally. Most notably his continuing documentation and investigation of performance photography with Exeter graduate Tim Etchells company, Forced Entertainment. Work with artists Paola Pivi, Martin Creed, Matthew Barney, Franko B and Yinka Shonibare are in private collections and museums around the world.

The exhibition at the University references Glendenning’s video work featuring Trisha Brown performing one of her  drawings of her dances at White Cube Gallery in 2003, is currently showing as part of ‘Move:Choreographing You’ at the Hayward Gallery in London and Trisha Brown at Tate Modern.

Glendinning explained the process behind one of the photographs included in the exhibition from a performance of Trisha Browns 'Spanish Dance' performed to Bob Dylan's eponymous song 'Early Morning Rain'. He said, ‘It is an exquisite piece precisely as long as the song in which five female dancers are placed in line and are gradually "collected" in a slow motion pile up of gently hip swinging advancing women. This piece was performed in the Joseph Beuys room in Tate Modern half hidden behind his work. The photograph on the wall shows Beuys at the end of another kind of corridor.’

He added, ‘My image was shot on the very last note of the song at the moment that the front dancer meets the end wall and the dancers behind collapse on her. The humour of the piece is counterpointed by the incredible precision of the advancing women who must cover the distance to the wall inch perfect for the final note, step, collapse to work. I’m still reeling from the beauty of it.’

The opening of the exhibition will include a talk by Glendinning contextualising his work ‘White Box Performances’ which will run until 17 December in the Drama Department, Alexander Building, New North Road, Exeter. The exhibition was supported by the AHRC and University of Exeter Arts and Culture.

Date: 10 November 2010

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