Curator Catch-up: Dunja Rmandic on the Co3 Artistic Residency
It’s impossible to miss the elegant poise of the dancers behind contemporary dance company Co3, contrasted against the ever-changing space of the Gallery throughout their two-year residency.
Based in Perth, WA, Co3 is the state’s newest flagship contemporary dance company who share an innovative cross-arts partnership with the Gallery. In each of Co3’s residencies, you have the opportunity to take a peek into the creative process of artistic director and choreographer Raewyn Hill, as she responds to works in the State Art Collection, the building’s architecture and personal experiences.
Their next residency focuses on Hill’s response to Mirdidingkingathi Juwarnda Sally Gabori’s painting Thundi 2010, which is part of the State Art Collection. In the lead up to this next development, Coordinating Curator, Dunja Rmandic, provides insight into the ongoing project and what it means for the Gallery.
How did you come up with the idea of integrating contemporary dance with visual art?
Co3 approached us last year to start a partnership with AGWA. Raewyn was already aware of other iterations of dance in galleries that were well-received, such as in the Neues Museum in Berlin, where contemporary dance was showcased after a building refurbishment. Given that Co3 were a brand new contemporary dance company in Perth, partnering with the state Gallery was a nice start to their repertoire and their position in the Perth cultural scene.
How do you think dance can enhance visual art?
The interpretation of art is a subjective thing and dance can add a different language to that interpretation. In a way, having different forms of art in a cultural institution enhances the general experience of culture in one place.
What are the challenging aspects of combining art and dance?
Visual art is very static, whereas dance is performative. The expectations of the visitors might be shifted in terms of experiencing a quiet space as well as allowing dancers close to the works on display.
What is Co3’s process? Is their response to the State Art Collection improvised, or is there time to develop one?
Usually, we select a location and Raewyn comes in with a general concept. In one instance, we had a space partitioned off in a gallery for renovations. We thought it would be a great space for them as they could be viewed from the upper floor down. The trapezoid space was interesting to work with because although Raewyn’s starting point was the idea of circularity, she didn’t know how it might develop, what the dancers could do or how they would emotionally respond to it. The process was quite an organic and improvisational one.
Does Co3 perform in the same area each time?
They’re in different areas. They’ve been in the concourse twice already, the impromptu space in gallery one, Screen Space and the Imagination Room. The last was an interesting experience; the doors were shut so the audience could listen to them and then draw what they thought the dancers were doing. Saturday was the only day where people could go in and watch.
How do you think the unusual venue will affect their artistic process?
The unusual venue challenges the choreographer and dancers to think outside of the safe and well-defined space of the studio. By removing the familiarity, they have to develop a different approach to working. In this way, the emotional responses are always fresh and unique. They are a lot more aware of themselves in the public eye, so the process of character development between the choreographer and the dancer can be quite different.
What is the significance of Sally Gabori’s painting Thundi (2010) in regards to Co3’s next residency?
On a Saturday afternoon in 2012, Raewyn came into the Gallery with her niece. They were walking through the space where Mrs Gabori’s work was on display and her niece started twirling around in front of it. Raewyn took a blurry photo, which encapsulated the moment perfectly. It fascinated Raewyn to see her young niece responding to this landscape through movement and it inspired her to see how she could bring the painting to life through choreography.
What can visitors expect from each residency?
A lot of action, a lot of movement, a lot of laughter and a lot of beautiful words exchanged between the choreographer and the dancers. There is a certain kind of intimacy and trust between them that is quite refreshing, and something you wouldn’t necessarily see anywhere else. Although the choreography might not be finalised, it’s truly moving.
You can come and immerse yourself at the Gallery for Co3’s next residency from 19–22 October.
Photo: Toni Wilkinson