Lauren Bakst: To Huddle
February 7, 2017
In December 2016, Danspace Project and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)’s Department of Media and Performance Art collaborated on an unprecedented Research Residency with artist Simone Forti, on the occasion of MoMA’s acquisition of Forti’s Dance Constructions (1961). During the weeklong residency, Forti, invited guests, and the public engaged in discussions and workshops to ensure that this work is brought to the dance community and the new generations who will carry it forward. Below, artist and performer Lauren Bakst responds to her experience working with Forti:
Lately, I’ve been relating my experience of performing to that of becoming and unbecoming thing. When I perform, I loop from being subject to object and back again. Sometimes, I’m both at once. I imagine watching myself from a distance and I know that what it looks like is very different from what it feels like. This gap excites me.
I think this gap excites Simone Forti, too. Speaking of her 1961 Dance Construction, Huddle, during her recent Research Residency at Danspace Project, Forti said in her most playful way, “It still feels great to do it, and it still feels great to see it.” Forti articulates succinctly and without hesitation, “Huddle is both a dance and a sculpture.” As a participant in the workshops led by Forti, I had the opportunity to both watch and enact this dance-as-sculpture, sculpture-as-dance. Here are some reflections from the outside and the inside.
What it looks like: While watching others “huddle,”—the title functions as both a noun and a verb—I zoom in and out from micro to macro. I notice the adjustments of one foot in relation to another. I notice an arm wrapped around a back, the texture of shirt fabric under a hand. I notice what I’m seeing and also what I’m not—I’m not seeing the fronts of bodies; i.e.: I don’t see faces. So instead of seeing parts that belong to specific individuals, I’m tuning into parts that belong to some kind of disjointed whole. If I blur my focus, I see an organism in an ongoing process of expanding its shape and returning, expanding and returning. But if I snap back, I find my gaze is present with the negotiations and constant re-organizations of the group as each member works their way around, up, and over only to return to the huddle again.
What it feels like: Inside the huddle, it is dark. I have one hand wrapped around the back of the person next to me and another on my thigh. Our heads are all pointed toward the center, creating a shadowed enclave. It is hard to know exactly what is happening at any given moment. We are constantly adjusting, constantly ready–ready to support weight or anticipating our own path away from the center of the group, to move around, up, over, and return. I feel the support from the floor coming into my feet, and the tension between the sides of my body and the persons next to me. I am aware of my breath and the breath of those around me. We lean into each other to create a foundation, and at the same time an invisible energy force is being created in the space between all of us. I feel the weight of the group shift to negotiate each person who makes the climb, and I toggle between connecting to the strength of the group and the vulnerability of making the journey or of holding someone else’s weight as they do the same. In the huddle, I’m not really thinking. I’m just doing.