A talk by Susanne Clausen
The Museum of English Rural Life Redlands Road Reading RG1 5EX
Tuesday, 2 November, 4.30pmartist and Reader in Fine Art at the University of Reading
A talk examining Susanne Clausen’s recent filmed performance project Ballet and the resultant video performance and installation on display in the Museum of English Rural Life. The work engages with histories of documentary filmmaking, movement and dance and draws on selected farming-related films from the Museum’s archives, made to provide information and propaganda relating to warnings of contagion and procedures in case of emergencies.
“Current anxieties about food production have resulted in a growing social phenomenon: urban twenty-somethings, with no ties to the land, who are obsessed with threats to the integrity of our food supply (GMOs, pesticides, etc.). For these young urbanites, hypervigilant consumption has become a popular lifestyle choice. It is against this backdrop that the drama of Ballet unfolds. Here, the threat of nuclear war stands in as the symbol for all other contaminations. Through a blended choreography of farm labour and dance movement, the separation of rural and urban is registered on a number of levels: in the young actors’ soft urban bodies, in their awkward imitation of everyday agricultural chores, in the eruption of dance movements culled from music halls and the avant-garde. In the past, the court derived their dances from the peasants; now the sources of new movement are all urban, a reminder that the separation of the two realities is more or less complete. However, as the mushroom cloud at the end of the video reminds us, catastrophes, nuclear or otherwise, threaten to disrupt our neat separation of rural and urban—the ‘ballet’ on which the world food system depends. The genius of Ballet is to make manifest through an apocalyptic ‘dance of the dead’ the underlying threat to a fundamental aspect of our global social organization.”
Timothy Long, Head Curator, Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Canada on Ballet