Yvonne Rainer and The Aging Avant-Garde

I have been returning to some old material about Y.R. and updating it. Along the way, I’ve gained a new appreciation for her new choreography, which I had initially dismissed (sorry!) and ceased to follow. In particular, I have been taken with her use of aging as a figure that straddles a number of literal and metaphorical constructs: aging dancers, aging art, age-old art, the economics of aging, the inexorability of aging, the denial of aging, etc… We are all already old: that’s the truth of precariousness. Or as Jasbir Puar puts it, everyone is well on their way to debility. Another elderly metaphor: the ineffectiveness of political rhetoric or “rants,” across the political spectrum. For Rainer, however, this rhetoric is still all we’ve got. Plus, it’s sometimes (often) true, even it does not do anything. For more on this, I refer readers to her films. The incessant verbiage produced in The Man Who Envied Women really stands out, not to mention the fact that it does not ever visually depict the female protagonist in an all-too-literal attempt to take of the libidinal economy of cinematic spectatorship (and inevitably fails, but that’s not the point.)

It is interesting to compare this approach to political “failure” (see Halberstam?) to other choreographers, such as Keith Hennessy’s Turbulence (a dance about the economy) and koosil-ja (I am capitalism).




A link to a treat: The Concept of Dust or How do you look when there’s nothing left to move? (Note: this title is itself too long, verbally excessive, counter-productive)

In search of relief from text, we turn to images… unless they look back at us? (Kristina Talking Pictures, 1976)


Or a related counter-look from another favorite, Chantal Akerman:





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