Sorcha Dallas

Babette Mangolte

01 - 29 Oct 2010

Babette Mangolte
Rehearsal of “Performance” Hofstra University, NY, March 19, 1972
Performers: Yvonne Rainer, Valda Setterfield, John Erdman, Shirley Soffer Three Satie Spoons with Yvonne Rainer, 1972, 1972 [MANGB723579]
© Sorcha Dallas (unless otherwise specified)
Courtesy: Broadway 1602
Yvonne Rainer:Testimony to Improvisation 1972-3

1st - 29th of October

Sorcha Dallas is pleased to announce the first solo show in Scotland by the celebrated experimental filmmaker and photographer Babette Mangolte. This exhibition will feature photographic documetary work and a film made with the legendary performance artist Yvonne Rainer. This exhibition will tie in with Yvonne Rainer: Dance and Film at Tramway, Glasgow from 5-10th October 2010,, curated by Jason E. Bowman, in association with Tramway.
This exhibition presents a chronology of Babette Mangolte’s involvement and collaboration with Yvonne Rainer since their first meeting in 1972. In Gallery No. 5 there are two portraits of Rainer plus the film ‘What Maisie knew’. The Magritte like portrait of Yvonne Rainer at Cape Cod was shot as a commission for the cover of Avalanche magazine in 1972. As Mangolte’s idea of the backside shot was too experimental for the magazine the image was never published but became a legendary portrait of Rainer and part of Mangolte’s independent work of the time. It also represents how close Mangolte was with the intellectual ideas of Rainer as the photo is quintessential to the performance style of Rainer of the time. But the idea also was influenced by Mangolte’s deep interest in painting composition. The other more personal portrait photo of Yvonne Rainer Mangolte shot in Paris at the time of their first interactions. In Babette Mangolte’s recollection of the time Rainer opened her work for this period of 1972-5 to the element of improvisation, after 1975 her work became more controlled and scripted again. In 1975 Mangolte shot her first feature length experimental film ‘What Maisie knew’ in which Yvonne Rainer was one of the leading performers. The film again was based on certain elements of improvisation and had a playful tone next to an enigmatic atmosphere of experimental narration and the typical subjective dimension of Mangolte’s camera eye.
In Gallery No.9 there are a series of grouped black and white photographs. The first performance Mangolte documented was for the group ‘Grand Union’, at the time that Rainer participated in this improvisation based, radical formation group. This followed with the rehearsal of ‘Performance’ at Hofstra University which was an earlier formation of Rainer’s pivotal piece ‘Lives of Performers’, which was first staged as a live performance at the Whitney Museum with a parallel film project by Rainer, her first of this kind. Mangolte was the cincematographer of this performance based film, the resulting documentary photographs ‘Shooting Lives of Performaners’ and the 16 mm frame enlargements of scenes from the film (which characteristically present Mangolte’s dialogue with Rainer’s ideas in her camera work) are exhibited in Gallery No.9. Also exhibited in this gallery is the piece ‘Boxes’, a montage Babette Mangolte did from the photo work she did during the rehearsal of the ‘Box Sequence’ at Hofstra. The next Rainer project Mangolte shot was the performance ‘This is the story about a woman who...’ in NYC in 1973 followed by the film ‘Story about a woman who...’ for which Mangolte again did the cinematography. In both the films and 1970s performances Rainer integrated earlier dances from the 1960s such as ‘Trio A’, ‘Walk She Said’ and ‘Three Satie Spoons’.
The French-born, New York based Babette Mangolte was one of the first women accepted into the cinematography programme at L,École Nationale de la Photographie et de la Cinématographie in Paris, founded by Louis Lumiére, in 1964. She is known for her experimental film work originated in the 1970s focusing on subjectivity and in the 1980s on an examination of landscape. She chronicled with her photographs collaborative documentary work with the minimal dance scene and experimental theatrical scene of New York from the 1970s onto the mid 1980s of that time. Among the films directed by Mangolte are “What Maisie Knew” (1976), “The Camera: Je or La Camera: I” (1977), “The Cold Eye, My Darling Be Careful” (1980), “Four Pieces by Morris” (1993), “The Models of Pickpocket” (2003) and “Seven Easy Pieces by Marina Abramovic” (2007). Mangolte recently showed in the installation “How to Look” at the last Whitney Biennial 2010 and her two channel film installation “Presence” was made for the Berlin Biennale 5 in 2008. Currently her work is shown in an exhibition organised by Lynne Cook and Douglas Crimp “Mixed Use, Manhattan: Photography and Related Practices 1970s to the present” in Museo Nacional Centro de Arte, Reine Sofia, Madrid, Spain. Mangolte is represented by Broadway 1602, New York.
More Info about Yvonne Rainer: Dance and Film at Tramway: In October, Tramway is pleased to present the only European survey, combining live dance and film by world renowned choreographer, film maker and writer Yvonne Rainer. From Tues 5 - Sun 10 October there will be 6 days of film screenings plus 2 evenings of dance celebrating four decades of Yvonne Rainer’s work. There will also be a class with Rainer and a book-signing and reading event - both capacity limited. Tickets are on sale now
‘Yvonne Rainer: Testimony to Improvisation 1972-5’
The show attempts to testify about Yvonne Rainer’s process of transforming rehearsal into performance into staged events into filmmaking. Her practice was situated at a time when improvisation was a working tool in use everywhere in the theater and art world in downtown New York from the 1960s to the mid 1970s. It was also a time when Yvonne’s dance work was very much process oriented.
The Grand Union was formed in 1970 with dancers who worked with Yvonne Rainer on her piece Continuous Project-Altered daily and shared the long history of The Judson Dance Theater. The group explored improvisation to find disjunctions that could not be reasoned, mimicking chance operations devised by John Cage. The process of improvising in front of the audience liberated the relation between time, duration and movement. Something unexpected and unplanned did happen. The “present” was now erupting on the stage and the spectator was part of it, not just an outsider to it. The spectator - by being there when the unforeseen happened - created the conditions for this slippage of power between audience and performers.
Yvonne Rainer’s work in this period is about constant transformation of movements and phrases oscillating between rehearsal and play as in Walk She Said. At times she reworked a solo like Trio A and changed it into a duet for “This is a story about a woman who...”. Props had changing functions from one performance to the next like the “box” in Performance and Lives of Performers. Yvonne staged people looking at what other people were doing on stage while avoiding any direct gaze at the audience as we see in Trio A. The narrative voices often referred to what you could see or what you had heard. Perception became operational and improvisation an ingredient added to undo the precision of exacting scripted parts. Some sections were loose in their rhythms when others were staged very tightly. The balancing act between tight and loose was fascinating and is one of the charms of the film Lives of Performers.
The photographs I shot during this transitional period in Yvonne Rainer’s creative life were made to train myself. I wanted to acquire the ability to improvise in order to shoot her upcoming film Lives of Performers, which Yvonne Rainer was preparing and completed between January and May 1972 and for which I did the cinematography. Annette Michelson had recommended me to her in fall 1971 but you cannot shoot something you do not comprehend. I therefore had to learn. I owe to this fascinating moment the discovery of both improvisation and dance that were to nourish my own creative life for a long time to come. What I learned then I reflected in my first film What Maisie Knew in which Yvonne Rainer appears as a performer.

Babette Mangolte, September 2010

Tags: Marina Abramović, John Cage, Babette Mangolte, Yvonne Rainer, Rainer Fetting