On Invisible Dances

Posted by: Martha Fleming on Dec 9, 2010
A text on Bock and Vincenzi's seven year Invisible Dances project by Martha Fleming, first published in April 2000.

This work changes dance forever in my mind. Its apparently private vocabulary is so startlingly familiar that suddenly I see and recognise in others a manifest of events which I have heretofore only felt unconsciously in the very molecules of my being. Invisible dances will get right under your skin and move you to the quick. These words are not meant metaphorically, nor are the gestures they are about. invisible dances... explores the explosion that is every nervous tic, showing in each ripple the vast release experienced by the minutest tendrils of the unimaginable net of fine nerves spinning out of every spine, standing or seated, that was present in the confines of the Purcell Room that night. Rigour can be tender.

These dances are actually sparked electrochemical acts of the body: they are also a work of art. invisible dances... immediately makes one aware of the fundamental questions: which acts, even the most infinitesimal, are voluntary, and how do we know this? Are 'involuntary' spasms actually just thoughts which are truly one with the conscious? What might 'will' be, and further, what might it be to exercise free will?

Invisible: some of the dancers cannot see what the others are doing - or see us in the audience for that matter. We cannot hear the private music they hear and respond to, their sound packs strapped to them as if it were survival gear. Thus in high relief, with some senses starved and others surfeited, differently for each on either side of the stage, the familiar prismatic rendering of subjective reality as it is moulded by physical circumstance and chosen technologies becomes visibly a strangely welcome purgatory. Here finally, is a purgatory as real as any tube train ride, a purgatory that is not apocalyptic, a purgatory that is truly phenomenological. Where is the mind, and what is it made of? Because each movement in this work starts from the muscle's nerves, and from where a mind might be located in its very fibre, we can finally ask if synapse is a thinking. How are we conscious, and how can we affirm it without mimicry, that ghoulish doubling? Pared down to its thousand singularities, invisible dances... is that affirmation.

With all the stage in its honest nudity alert to each dancer's particular movement and moment, all are equal under the light or lack of it. And yet, with each body's every act, there is a strange feeling of seeing multiply in close-up, as if each event of each spasm were getting randomly from me an attention I am moreused to having directed. Echoing in this question of free will that is present as a proposition in every instant in this work is just this very fact that there is no unspoken contract with the audience. With the utterly private work at hand for each of the dancers, a strange freedom is loosed for an audience otherwise trained to respond to a shackling narrative and to a direct address. Some people express their thanks by leaving, as nonchalantly as if this were just their stop on the Underground. Others are hungry to keep feeling free to look or to go, and so they stay.

A ligament is a tether like any other - sometimes longer, sometimes shorter than the tether that ties acts to consciousness. It's not for nothing that sinew is used for all sorts of instruments, musical and otherwise. What does its cell-memory bring to the notes it is made to play? At the end of invisible dances... a harrowing noise to equal the darkness into which we are all plunged surges out, and the dancers are sucked by its vortex into a place beyond the swinging doors. Adieu.

Martha Fleming is a Canadian-born artist living and working in the United Kingdom. Her work in Britain includes Atomism & Animism - the museum-wide installation exhibition, at the Science Museum, London. She is been Senior Research Fellow at Leeds Metropolitan University School of Art, Architecture and Design and most recently been awarded a NESTA Fellowship.
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