Saturday, October 23, 2010

Yves Klein: With the Void, Full Powers; Opening Day at the Walker Art Center

I have the incredible fortune to be able to be in Minneapolis this weekend to attend the opening festivities surrounding the Klein retrospective that was co-curated by the Walker and the Hirshhorn.

The Walker Art Center has been a favorite art pilgrimage site for me for many years. With the Bill T Jones/ Arnie Zane Dance Company I had the pleasure of performing here several times. The intersection of community participation, visual, and performing arts, that the Walker demonstrates, has long inspired me to hold the Walker in high esteem. So, I was particularly excited when, over a year ago, I first found out about the Klein retrospective showing here.

The work is brilliantly presented and I am not disappointed in the difference between how IKB can be reproduced, and the power of seeing it live. The Dimanche, Newspaper of a Single Day, in which Klein’s famous leap was published, has been translated into English, reprinted in bulk, and is given away for free in the gallery, so as to transform Minneapolis into the work of art, that Paris was in November 1960.

The opening day talk was given by Kerry Brougher, Deputy Director and Chief Curator at the Hirshhorn, Daniel Moquay, head of the Klein Archives in Paris, and Philippe Vergne, former Walker Curator and current Director of the Dia Art Foundation. The three men were jovial in their discussion and showed a clear love of the subject matter as well as a high regard for one another. Daniel Moquay has been married to Rotraut Klein-Moquay, Klein’s widow and an exceptional artist in her own right, since 1968. She is here with Daniel and after the talk I introduced myself to her, more than a bit star struck. A woman in her early seventies, Rotraut has bright eyes and an easy smile. You can see in the generosity of her expression that she has, and has had a fulfilling life.

After the talk I went back into the galleries. I was in a room that holds several Anthropometries when Daniel came in and I took advantage of the moment to ask him a question that has been nagging me since I started this research early in 2009.

“As a woman artist who is investigating Klein’s work, I am very aware of the feminist critiques of Klein that call him a misogynist for things like wearing a tuxedo while women use their naked bodies to paint all around him.” At this point Rotraut joined us. “But when I look at this work, I just find it beautiful. I see nothing that looks like objectification or misogyny. Have you spoken to any of the models for the Anthropomorphic? Do you know how they felt about their involvement in the work?”

Daniel nodded and Rotraut's face lit up with a huge smile. “That’s me.” She said, pointing to a huge canvas on a near wall, “we had so much fun!”
Daniel said that he actually had requested letters from several of the models for a different catalog because he was so tired of those kinds of critiques when in fact the models unanimously remembered the events as exciting, and rigorous, ritualistic performances. Most of them were dancers who were as excited about having the movements of their bodies recorded as Klein was. “We got to be sensual and free.” Rotraut said, “and it was so fun to see the images your body would make!”
“Klein created anthropometries with male models as well.” Daniel said.
“And he did them with his own body, and all of the Nouveau Realistes [who were mostly men].” Rotraut added.
“There was no hanky-panky going on. These were spiritual experiences for Klein.” Daniel started.
“People who see it as objectionable to women are people who bring that themselves.” Rotraut finished for him, “They brought that. We were enjoying ourselves immensely.”

Rotraut's smile as she spoke, and the gleam of joyous remembrance in her eyes made me trust her completely. I kept my cool, but I’m sure they could both see I was near tears. Here was a first hand source not only answering a key question in my research, but also giving me permission to enjoy myself immensely, and reminding me that we have no control over what audiences and critics bring to our work.

I spent the next half hour with Daniel and Rotraut looking at videos of the Anthropometries being made and hearing stories about the different women and where they are now. We then went and saw Aiko and Koma rehearsing for their installation/performance Naked that will open at the Walker Nov 2, bringing our conversation about nudity in performance/ visual art from the past into the present.

Needless to say, I still feel as though I am struggling to catch my breath from this incredible gift of a day.


echo said...

Catherine. This is immensely intriguing and exciting. You are my hero. <3 echo

MC said...

Catherine, as your collaborator and friend I am delighted to read such a beautiful and heartfelt response to your AMAZING day. The research, spirit, love and endless positive energy you're bringing to our project is so very inspiring and I cannot stop my excitement to move forward!