ICA exhibit provides visitors with interactive experience


Graham Krewinghaus

A new interactive exhibit at the ICA invites its visitors to be thoughtful about the movements they make, drawing inspiration from the artists dance background.

Graham Krewinghaus, Staff Writer

A large room, filled with people moving about and enjoying themselves, acts as an entrance for the exhibit. A digital display covers the back wall and acts almost like a mirror, replaying the room’s events, but warping the motions of the crowd as it does so. The display creates a peculiar sort of distortion, like something out of a hallucination, or maybe a Snapchat filter. One’s natural instinct might be to wave their arms about, or dash across the room, and wait to see what the display generates; in fact, many do exactly that.

This kind of odd, playful interaction between the art and its audience is everywhere in William Forsythe’s exhibit, “Choreographic Objects,” which is featured in the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) from now until the end of February 2019. In “Choreographic Objects,” a well-known dancer and choreographer offer a more gleeful interactive form of entertainment.

Forsythe has spent much of his career choreographing dance in Frankfurt, Germany. His specialty in ballet is evident in the uniquely interactive piece in the second room that many visitors spend a half an hour or more toying with. This room is filled with densely packed plastic rings suspended from the ceiling in an installation titled “The Fact of Matter.” It looks like a jungle gym designed for acrobats, and although climbing on the structure is both tempting and encouraged, it is much harder to navigate than it looks. The nature of the suspensions is such that any movement leads to spinning, stretching, and twisting, and at times, it looks like a dance, in which the ropes and gravity take control.

Another room recalls a misconception of Forsythe’s childhood about the direction of gravity. His poses in videos on the wall are reminiscent of dangling, floating, and spinning, although the camera’s positioning is what creates this effect, disillusioning the viewer. Through the doorway, chalkboard messages invite visitors to toy with that sense of direction, with instructions like: “Walk nine steps away from the bench, then with your eyes closed, walk backward and sit down.” This guidance blurs the line between art and its audience, directing the latter to move, dance, and create art of their own.

Later pieces grow more conceptual, such as a two-foot-tall crawl space designed to restrict movement, thick rubber bands you are encouraged to tie into knots, and a particularly hard-to-open door. The final piece, which fills up a large room, consists of dozens of metal weights suspended from the ceiling like pendulums, only inches from the ground. Pistons in the ceiling keep them in perpetual motion; it is amusing to dodge between the swinging weights in a meandering path, which many do, laughing as they move about. This piece, titled “Nowhere and Everywhere at the Same Time,” evokes a feeling of impermanence and constant changes, extending the focus on motion that has been presented throughout the exhibit.

As much as it is a museum installation, “Choreographic Objects” feels like a performance piece on repeat, in which the museum-goers become the dancers. Whether it comes by watching a distorted mirror, weaving through a jungle gym of rings and rope, or dodging between moving string, visitors are prompted to be conscious and deliberate about each movement, paying attention to motion the same way a ballet dancer would while performing an intricately choreographed piece.