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Thursday 5 April 2012

Samuel Levack and Jennifer Lewandowski | Danse-moi vers la fin de l'amour | French Riviera | London

Text by Bethany Rex

Danse-moi vers la fin de l'amour is the culmination of a two year project by the artists Samuel Levack and Jennifer Lewandowski. The project explores the freedoms that result from the hedonistic ritual of dance, paying particular focus to the aesthetic phenomenon of a dancer isolated from the crowd.

The project was launched with a series of private performances of people dancing, which were filmed by the artists and processed via a combination of material and digital techniques. These films are now on show as part of the immersive installation in which visitors encounter a sculptural assemblage of stage lights, mirrors and found materials, digital video, photographs and music by Das Hund, the experimental band formed by Levack and Lewandowski in 2010. Sound interesting? We thought so.

Jennifer Lewandowski took some time out to tell us more.

BR: Could you start off by telling me a bit more about the project?

JL: We’ve been playing around with themes of dancing for a while, especially with out of gallery public performances, but this project really commenced when we invited friends to our studio for a series of private performances. We shot several takes of them dancing to their chosen music and reworked this footage striping it of the sound and breaking down the image with fast cuts and slowing the speed in the aim of creating something that felt continuous, like a looped dance move, repetitive and rhythmic. It’s grown a lot since into something altogether fuller, along the journey we began to create a soundtrack for the film and that’s when we formed Das Hund, our music project, which is very much a work in progress but pulls together other thoughts we have of rock music and performance and allows us the freedom to experiment with noise.

BR: Why did you decide to work in film for this project?

JL: We had been watching experiemental works by Jack Smith and the early super 8 films by Derek Jarman and were captivated by their essence, colour and mysticism, their timelessness. We wanted to present the dancer as a psychedelic form that swirled around in a headiness of colour and exuberance, as a metaphysical being. We found the use of projections helped break down the picture to produce this sensation. But actually this show does not only use moving image, we’re also revisiting installation, a medium we haven’t worked in for a while but are very happy to return to. We have layered sound and moving image with photographs and screen prints to create a loose installation; more of a room to enter or a space to be in, a feeling or emotion. 

BR: The image of a dancer isolated from the crowd is a powerful one. When did you first become interested in dance as a subject?

JL: Dance is such an integral part of being alive, it’s an amazing feeling to dance. So primal, so traditional and yet so of the moment. The image of a lone dancer is strong and independent in a blissful state of freedom and expression. Each person who came to dance had such a different style, the dancer’s personality really came through and that was quite beautiful. I believe the desire to dance to the rhythm of music is an innate reaction, every culture has dance as a prominent part of their existence. I don’t recall a time when dance wasn’t an inspiration.

BR: What are the challenges in putting on an exhibition of your own work, in your own gallery, that opens with music from your own band? Aren’t you a bit tired of yourselves at the end of the day?

JL: Haha, NO! We’re brilliant, ha! Of course it’s hard work running a gallery and putting on your own exhibition, you have to do everything yourself but it’s hard work putting on any exhibition and there are two of us so that helps. We enjoy it or else we wouldn’t be doing it. The music side of things doesn’t particularly complicate it any further, sound and performance are just other mediums we use to explore our ideas. We’re going to do a gig in May as a closing event rather than at the opening though, just to take off the pressure a little. The sound in the installation will be a live studio recording.

BR: What are your hopes for the exhibition and what reaction do you expect from the viewer?

JL: We want the whole room to feel uplifting, dreamy and a little spacey, an immersive environment that people can hang out in and get a little lost in the projections and the music.

BR: What have you got planned next for French Riviera?

JL: We’ve just launched a new series of sound art commissions for the gallery answerphone, Please wait while we contact your bank, first up is a piece by Nicholas Pankhurst. He’s patched together stolen recordings of disembodied voices by calling office blocks late at night when empty and used them to create a new dialogue.

The next gallery show will be Leslie Kulesh, a wonderful and vibrant artist from San Fransico. Check her at lesliekulesh.com

After that who knows, we tend not to work too far in advance, plus we have to fit ourselves into the plans. We have a group show opening at 319 Scholes in NYC this May and are also in discussions about an extended collaboration at another gallery in London so things are looking pretty busy for the year already!

Danse-moi vers la fin de l'amour, 06/04/2012 - 13/05/2012, French Riviera 309 Bethnal Green Road, London, E2 6AH. www.frenchriviera1988.com

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