Sharon Lockhart: Rotation Notation
▪ From November 4, 2021 to February 27, 2022
▪ Curated by Manuel Cirauqui
▪ Film & Video Gallery (103)
From November 4, 2021 to February 27, 2022, the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao will be running Sharon Lockhart. Rotation Notation, the third and last exhibition of 2021 in the Film & Video Gallery, a Museum space devoted to showing fundamental works of video and moving image art, and sound and video installations.
This exhibition shows a video installation and photographs by Sharon Lockhart (b. 1964, Norwood, USA) based on her encounter with the works of Israeli choreographer Noa Eshkol (b. 1924, Degania Bet kibbutz–d. 2007, Holon, Israel) soon after Eshkol died. Lockhart’s discovery of Eshkol’s works led her to further her formal exploration of human motion and expand the collaborative dimension of her work through her engagement with the choreographer’s manifold and largely communally-enacted practice.
The works of Lockhart pay particular attention to human activity and its modes of organization, be it social or solitary. Ranging from labor to sport, and from child’s play to choreography, Lockhart’s films specifically confront the complexity and poetic depth of seemingly simple movements. Tight and disarming, her works are exercises in observation where the world’s existence turns palpable in the very fact of its being documented. As the stillness of the lens emphasizes the modern aspiration to technical objectivity, situations are presented as though they were recording themselves.
Lockhart pushes the mechanics of cinema into a form of meditative self-reflection, a framework in which performers —actors, subjects, bodies— manifest as concrete bearers of presence, gesture, and relation. The artist’s consideration of the consistency and limits of authorship are intrinsic to her research on objectivity and the automated reproduction of visual reality at 24 photographic frames per second. Reality makes the film as much as the filmmaker, and once movement and light are encoded into film, they can be reanimated and analyzed through endless playback.
The video and photographs on show bring forward the American artist’s idea of artistic mediums as vehicles for welcoming and collaborating with other artists. In the installation Four Exercises in Eshkol- Wachman Movement Notation (2011), the dancer Ruti Sela — a collaborator of Eshkol’s and member of her Chamber Dance Group from 1969 until the choreographer’s recent passing— executes calculated movements among four identical grey volumes, designed by Lockhart to reference the space that the dancer’s body occupies as she moves through each exercise. Changing composition for each of the four dances featured, the volumes are sized according to the dancer’s measurements. The height of each volume is equal to her height with raised arms, while the width of each is her wingspan. In an act of tribute and appropriation, the careful succession of actions in Lockhart’s work epitomizes the notation system developed by Eshkol and the architect Avraham Wachman in 1958. This rigorous method, known as EWMN, is capable of registering the entire range of a body’s potential motions and is still used today in dance scores, the study of animal locomotion, and the diagnosis of behavioral disorders such as autism or Asperger’s syndrome. In developing an inventory of numerals and symbols, Eshkol and Wachman used a set of spherical models in which the possible rotations of the joints and limbs of the human body could be inscribed.
The spheres appear in a series of photographs by Lockhart, titled Models of Orbits in the System of Reference, Eshkol-Wachman Movement Notation System (2011), which can be seen at the entrance of the Film & Video Gallery. Within a circular framework of metallic wire, conical shapes made out of mesh represent the path of a gesture in space. Bearing resonances from Eadweard Muybridge’s pre-cinematic studies of bodies in motion, Lockhart’s photographs capture the spinning orbs, yielding entirely different forms. These may be correlated to the performer’s action in the video, as her moves materialize various sequences from Eshkol’s scripts.