Oliver Husain | you are the gracious toe-twirled stumbler

Opening: Friday, 26.02.2016, 7pm | 27. February – 2. April 2016

Have a seat. It reads better while seated, and the blue chair is still free. Which blue chair? – why that one there on the map, next to the pile where you got this text.

“Not enough space.” You might counter, or you might object to its dimensions altogether. But the dancer embossed into the plastic, surrounded by notes and clefs, do you see her?

Her movements are forever frozen yet, at the same time, about to claim their space. She doesn’t seem static. The swiftly ensuing swing of her hips, the elegance with which her arms are about extend, they aren’t frozen within the image but rather incorporated into it. A perpetual dynamic defying the laws of space and time or at least a perpetual promise?

A few steps and one more turn:

Motionless movements again. Behind the color-filter stands, the movements of a mustachioed and conspicuously graceful dancer extend into the room. There’s little left to see, however, between the color filter and the work. Rather there’s only a slightly displaced image. Obviously a 3D-effect. Yet as such effects become increasingly ubiquitous in the large cinema halls of our times, the question surrounding the site of the effect becomes all the more peculiar. Is it in the space itself? In the viewer’s head? If there were no physical image, there couldn’t be an image in the mind. If the mind couldn’t process stereoscopic images, we wouldn’t be able to perceive a third dimension. This hardly concerns the dancer. In his broad everyday attire, enveloping a not altogether slender body, he seems lost in himself and his grace is somewhat amusing. Maybe because he doesn’t quite fit the usual notion of a dancer? Are these unavoidable notions still significant, the inner images we always compare the visual world with? The dancing figure, by the way, also happens to be a choreographer, in his life beyond the image that is.

Isn’t there another choreographer?

A sinewy man moves through a group of costumed people with resolute, almost frantic movements accompanied by imperious pointing gestures that could easily turn into erratic disorder at any moment. Everything in the video “Stumbler” seems like a high school production. Maybe the experience offers other matrices, yet it seems like the man whose serious and neat clothing creates a somewhat militaristic appearance is in control of the scene. That’s what it seems like for the moment, until no more structure can be recognized, and we give up trying to anticipate what this man wants or who he wants to dump where. Then suddenly, we find ourselves involved in the performance. Does he want nothing but art? Some of the people in costumes start dancing. The young men’s strikingly awkward movements, which seem bound to stumble at any moment, and their sheepish grins don’t quite convince us that we’re really at a dance performance. The choreographer receives instructions from another man at the edge of the stage. Hold your positions! Start! Yet just as something’s getting underway, just as the music starts, the image fades out. We remain stuck with what we have.

There are pieces of cloth hanging in the last room.

The artful fabrics of the easily misrecognizable dancers come to mind. Yet the designs here are rawer, more immediate. Images instead of patterns dominate. Campaigns and protests, something punk is in the air. They’re scenes from the “Bathhouse raids” of 1981: Toronto’s equivalent of the famous “Stonewall riots” on Christopher Street circa 1969 and no less significant for the self-understanding of the Canadian LGBT community.

The right to unobstructed self-determination – images can report about it, even propagate it, but no image can claim it for itself. Even at the center of the most urgent statement, there is a shimmering space of interpretation. In that center, words can only offer a temporary foothold. Who could have deciphered the content of the images otherwise? Back in the other rooms, the uncertainties masked by words return to memory. What is their coherence? Is there any? Any place to rest?

Could I take a seat in the blue chair?

Oliver Tepel