Trisha Brown

Illustration by Gauraang Biyani

Trisha Brown: In Plain Site

Lee Serle and Bill Bragin talk about the relationship of space and dance in post-modern contemporary art.

Feb 26, 2017

This week, after having toured various cities in the United States, the Trisha Brown Dance Company brought their site-specific performance series In Plain Site to NYU Abu Dhabi. Mostly eschewing music, the dancers used everyday movements to reinterpret our everyday spaces. The idea to bring this project to Abu Dhabi began last fall when the Company’s artistic director Carolyn Lucas visited NYU Abu Dhabi. This project culminated in the activation of spaces across campus — four performances took place in seven different locations, starting from the Black Box in the Arts Center.
Bill Bragin, Executive Artistic Director of the NYUAD Arts Center, and Lee Serle, the Acting Co-Artistic Director for the Trisha Brown: In Plain Site reflected on post-modern dance performance in the context of NYUAD.
####What was the thought process behind choosing the specific sites that were highlighted through the course of the performance?
Serle: [Lucas] was very excited by the different spaces [on campus itself] and also that some of the campus hadn’t really been activated in this kind of way [before], and particularly at the science end of the campus: the Experimental Research Building, the West Plaza. There was a real conversation about activating that more creatively in the environment and how you can draw people out into that space.
Bragin: The decision to focus on sites near the ERB was to establish the sense that our programs are for everybody. We’re not just here to serve people who have an affinity for the arts and humanities. As we took a tour of the space, we really focused on some of the architecture and locations on the West side of the campus.
####With modern dance being an acquired taste, how is a project like In Plain Site aimed to impact an audience that has not necessarily been exposed to Trisha Brown’s previous works?
Bragin: There are a lot of people who feel intimidated by contemporary art and feel the need to be an expert. [This is] one of the things that I’ve always pushed against in all my career. If you put it in a populist context and take away the price and ritual barriers people can actually receive it more organically, and you realise that, as Taylor Mac says, “Whatever you’re feeling is right.”
Serle: You’re absolutely right about people’s hesitation to see contemporary art, or in this case, post-modern dance, because they might not “get it”. A lot of this postmodern work that we’re performing over the campus comes from gestures and everyday movements; placing dancers in situations where they are copying each other. I think the access point for them is really a reflection of themselves in everyday life.
[Younger people] are often the best audiences, because they haven’t been socially conditioned in any way as to how they should behave in those situations. … When they laugh and when they are restless can tell you a lot about the work and the choreographer behind the work.
####What does it mean to have Joanne Savio's photographs of Trisha Brown almost as a prelude to the live dance performance? What would you consider intersections or dissonances between art that captures movement and the movement itself?
Serle: When you refer to Joanne’s exhibition, those are artworks in themselves. They are very different from photography for archival purposes. I think having artworks that run in parallel that aren’t necessarily explanations but [still provide] information, is really helpful for an audience. They are very connected in that way.
Bragin: For me, part of it is that recognition that this company comes from a very specific artistic milieu — a New York City milieu at a certain period of time. [The fact that the company and Joanne’s work converge here] is also an important connection that can be made.
Archita Arun is Creative Editor. Email her at
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