Yale School of Art installation unites art, dance, and technology

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Photo courtesy Blanton Museum of Art.

Perception Unfolds: Looking at Deborah Hay’s Dance” at the Yale School of Art presents an innovative union of art, dance, and technology. On view through Dec. 5 at the 32 Edgewood Avenue Gallery, the exhibition features the choreography of dance pioneer Deborah Hay in a compelling, site-specific video installation informed by new software technologies created to study dance and movement.

The exhibition, which made its debut at the Blanton Museum of Art at The University of Texas at Austin in February, is organized by Annette DiMeo Carlozzi, the Blanton’s curator at large. The installation at the Yale School of Art is free and open to the public Tuesday–Sunday from noon to 6 pm.

Esteemed dancer, choreographer, and teacher Deborah Hay has likened the experience of looking at contemporary dance to that of regarding contemporary art: both can be challenging to new audiences and, since the 1960s, each has benefitted from collaboration with and cross-fertilization by the other. With this in mind, Hay created a focused project that provides visitors with a dynamic point of entry for engaging with both disciplines.

The resulting artwork is an immersive environment showcasing multiple filmed versions of a single dance displayed on four suspended translucent screens with accompanying scores. A space that invites participation, “Perception Unfolds” offers visitors an opportunity to observe how their viewing choices inform their perspectives.

“Hay’s choreography is radical for the ways in which it makes visible the perceptual process,” says Carlozzi. “In this project, the audience is invited to gain a much more direct understanding of the dance as they choose how to approach it, both literally and figuratively.”

An adjacent small resource room with texts about perception, the written score of the filmed dance, and videos on Deborah Hay provides information about the choreographer’s and performers’ working process and solicits viewer response

Hay’s experimental new work — her first designed for an art museum or gallery space — grew out of a three-year collaboration between the choreographer and Motion Bank, a speculative technology research project run by The Forsythe Company, based in Germany. Developing her ideas over the course of several years, Hay brought together an international creative team from across many disciplines, including dancers, software developers, a composer, an architect/videographer, a filmmaker, and multi-media experts.

Robert Storr, dean of the Yale School of Art, welcomes Deborah Hay’s project.

“The gallery at the School of Art is devoted to the exhibition of works that are pertinent to the evolving interests of students and faculty,” he said. “In this case we have opened its doors to dance in recognition of the School’s deepening engagement with movement and performance and its ongoing collaboration with Emily Coates, who directs Yale’s dance studies program. As former member of Merce Cunningham’s company and a founder of the Judson Dance Theater, Deborah Hay has been a beacon of innovation since the 1960s and we are delighted to have her among us and to have her work on view in a format that students can absorb through repeated intensely physical exposure.”

“Perception Unfolds” has been organized by the Blanton Museum of Art. Funding for the exhibition is provided by Jeanne and Michael Klein and Judy and Charles Tate. The presentation at Yale has been made possible by additional funding from an anonymous donor.

On Monday, Nov. 3 at 5 pm, the School of Art will present the seminar, “Reorganizing Ourselves,” at 36 Edgewood Ave. in room 204. The program includes two 60-minute performative lectures: “A Continuity of Discontinuity” by Hay, and “See me if you can!” by philosopher Alva Noë from the University of California-Berkeley. The two will discuss connections between cognitive science, philosophy, aesthetics, and dance. The program concludes with a salon-style discussion with Hay, Noë and audience members, facilitated by dance curator Michèle Steinwald.

“Reorganizing Ourselves” is made possible in part by the Doris Duke Performing Artist Awards program and the Franke Program in Science and the Humanities. It is free and open to the public.

About Deborah Hay

Deborah Hay was born in Brooklyn in 1941. In the early 1960s, she moved to Manhattan where she trained as a dancer with Merce Cunningham and Mia Slavenska, and was a founding member of the radical Judson Dance Theater. Over the past dozen years, Hay’s teaching and choreography have been celebrated worldwide. She has toured extensively in Europe and Australia, choreographed for The Forsythe Company and the White Oak Dance Project, and performed her works at the Museum of Modern Art, The Menil Collection, and Walker Art Center. She is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships, including a 2004 Bessie and the 2007 BAXten Award. In 2012 she became one of 21 American performing artists to receive the inaugural Doris Duke Artist Award. The author of three books on dance, Hay is presently working on a forthcoming dance volume titled “Using the Sky.”

Media Contact

Amy Athey McDonald: amy.mcdonald@yale.edu,