Dance improvisations for camera by U-M’s Peter Sparling
Where do we encounter translation in everyday life? What is translation? Who translates? Why translate? What lessons do we learn from translating? How can we make translation more visible?
— Website home page for U-M Fall 2012 LSA Translation Theme Semester
In response to UM LSA fall semester’s theme of translation, UNTRANSLATABLE! confronts the theme head-on, or body-on. The seven-screen installation consists of videos of dancer/choreographer/video artist and U-M Thurnau Professor of Dance Peter Sparling performing danced improvisations for the camera.
The largest screen (10’ x 14’) features ten sets of dance improvisations videotaped in Paris during the fall of 2012. With then, Sparling asks:” Can the viewer, as I did while dancing, let my movement be “abstract”: a hypermobile (albeit middle-aged man’s) body improvising in rectangles of empty space, framed by the camera and in editing, with no meaning or narrative intended other than its subliminal effect on each witness made by the interplay of weight, flow, time and space?” Sparling defies the audience to translate his movement when there is no system of signs making up a movement language or no story to tell.
But Sparling dares to contradict himself. Unable to resist the thrill of editing in Final Cut Pro, he immediately set to work translating the raw materials shown in UNTRANSLATABLE!, creating the twenty-five short screendances of The Paris Series. Eight of these works appear on a large flatscreen monitor next to UNTRANSLATABLE! The exhibit is open through Oct. 19.
Four Translations are works directly inspired by or translations of literary and musical texts, ranging from T.S, Eliot, Benjamin Britten, Walt Whitman and Bach.
Water Alchemy is a video montage created from photographs by Ernestine Ruben of Sparling moving underwater at night in a pool lit by two beams of light. The images are striking for their distortions, caused by interaction of the movement of water, light and body. The surreal phantasmagoria is set to the vocal music of Gesualdo.