Babette Mangolte: Yvonne Rainer – Testimony to Improvisation 1972–75 (4 stars)

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Babette Mangolte: Yvonne Rainer – Testimony to Improvisation 1972–75

‘Improvisation Time in the Rehearsal Room’, a caustic poem by the late Adrian Mitchell, appeared in the 1981 edition of New Departures, Michael Horowitz’s organ for 1960s counter-culture’s literary survivors. In eight short lines, which depict the consequences of an actress calling an arrogant director’s bluff, Mitchell nails the dangers of too much artistic freedom. For freedom to work, Mitchell suggests, discipline is required, and vice versa. Anyone who has witnessed the work of veteran dance legend Yvonne Rainer will have drawn the same conclusion.

Mangolte’s photographs of Rainer’s 1970s performance-based work, contained within the Sorcha Dallas gallery’s second space, capture the insular, exploratory nature of the Me Generation in rest and motion, from the weary repose exhibited on the floorboard set of Rainer’s ‘Lives of Performers’, through tug-of-love happenings to a sequence in which an ensemble squeeze themselves into a large wooden box. Elsewhere, a soloist comes across like some silent movie Eve holding an apple aloft while Rainer’s own turns in ‘This is the story about a woman who …’ offer a series of multi-dimensional vérité studies that extend the performance’s own sense of intimacy into something even more subjective.

Dominating the first room, beyond two deliciously skewed portraits is a looped screening of Mangolte’s impressionistic 1975 debut film, ‘What Maisie Knew’. Made on out-of-date stock, and with Rainer and a cast of friends (including cherub-faced composer Philip Glass) on board, Mangolte’s camera takes a languid child’s eye view on a very grown-up world. This resembles the nouveau roman of Marguerite Duras by way of some Chekhovian country house party fuelled by sexual tension and the potential for illicit trysts.

Opening with a toe-to-head pan of one performer’s body, the pages of a Schumann music score are blown by the wind as couples play footsie, doors open and close, and a woman splashes her bath water like a series of little depth charges. At one point, a close-up of slapped-down amorous advances becomes a frantic little pas de deux all by itself in this merriest of dances between discipline and freedom.

Sorcha Dallas, Glasgow, until Fri 29 Oct

Babette Mangolte

  • 4 stars

New work from the New York-based experimental filmmaker and artist.

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