Dancing with Beckett


“Hamza, could we get some fans in here?” a woman in a sheer black top, with a black bra underneath, asked the Renaissance Society curator, Hamza Walker, AB’88. Murmurs of agreement echoed through Cobb Hall’s film studies theater, packed with art connoisseurs and students fresh from viewing the museum’s newly opened exhibit, Failure is an Option.

The exhibit—a five-screen video installation and related drawings—features the videography of Berlin-based artist Peter Welz, who filmed the actions of choreographer William Forsythe. Welz, who considers himself primarily a figure sculptor, outfitted Forsythe with cameras at various angles to trace his movement from different perspectives. Welz titled the piece whenever on on nohow on, a line from Samuel Beckett’s Worstward Ho and reference to the artists’ shared appreciation for the writer.

Welz, with rolled-up sleeves and cuffed jeans, emphasized his interest in “reduction” and “figures moving in space.” For Walker, however, Welz’s work was an occasion to intellectualize about modernity, “the dead horse I just love beating,” he said, laughing. Walker asked, “At what point does modernity begin to take shape?” He noted that modernity is often considered “a distinct historical epic,” so that modern dance “is spoken of as a break from ballet.” Yet for Forsythe, modern dance includes ballet because ballet provides a “framework for movement.”

As Walker and Welz discussed their differing perspectives, an audience member called out to Walker, “I think you’re overintellectualizing it.” To which he responded, “That’s what I’m paid to do.”

The exhibit runs through October 30, and the museum will host “a barrage of concerts”—five remaining—for its duration.

—Meredith Meyer, ’06

Photo: Artist Peter Welz listens as his work is interpreted.

September 23, 2005