We have looked at four contemporary artists. But I would like to end my little presentation by looking back at the work of Arnie Zane, who died in 1988 from AIDS, just before the blossoming of the digital revolution. I curated a major show of Arnie’s work in 1999 at the museum.

In the early 1970s Arnie Zane was a photographer decidedly interested in projections and cinema who later dropped most of his work in photography as his activities as a choreographer and dancer with his partner Bill T. Jones increased. Bill has always had deep regrets that Arnie was unable to find a way to integrate his two obsessions: photography and dance.

In the early 70s Arnie’s ingenious attempts to merge photography and dance utilized projections, audio tape and video, but this amalgamation was technically awkward. More significantly, there were few precedents to synthesize these media, and no single instrument that could bridge their differences and discontinuities.

First Portrait Drawing
Flash video
| 1 min 04 seg | 1.7 Mb

We are looking at a series of lantern slides made up from pieced and taped together photographs entitled First Portrait which derive from Arnie’s first solo performance work. Arnie performed this dance, dressed in white and balancing on a stool to the voice of Enrico Caruso singing “la Donna Mobile” before a back projection of lantern slides of rooftop self-portraits. As in all his work Arnie was interested here not in the mandates of dance, which would emphasize progression and narrative, or the mandates of dance photography, which would emphasize the athletic moment, but rather visual order, repetitive geometric structures, chance juxtapositions, and precise psychological timing.

Using early video equipment Arnie then attempted another transformation of this material into film. Here is a recently rediscovered video First Portrait Drawing from the early 70s.

Bill T. Jones, in his miraculous dance from 1993, Still Here, with the technological and conceptual aid of the computer and digital technology was able to pick up where Arnie left off.

Still Here integrates dance, projection, photography, video, and the theatrical around the emotional, social, and political counterpoint of youth and age, disease and vitality.

In Still Here, Bill is able to explore the complex relationships of exchange that exist between the frame of the stage and the frame of the photograph, between observer and object, spectator and dancer, and between the dancer as performer and the dancer as spectator of the projected image. Arnie Zane, unfortunately never fully realized this integration in his own work, though Bill is thoroughly convinced that if Arnie had only had a computer, or lived into the digital age, that he may indeed have realized his dream of media synthesis.


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