The installation, Nature Ecstasy, was created from a desire to integrate dance and the camera at the intersection of painting, music both live and recorded, moving pictures and digital technology. Dance on video, is a hybrid art form, which belongs purely to neither one. Dance videos and films are no longer to be considered a substitute for live action, indeed they are now a primary means of viewing dance and an increasingly significant way for the public to discover the challenges presented by interdisci- plinary work and appreciate this growing art form.
On the screen, the ritualistic form creates an imaginative, often mythological experience which, by containing its own logic within itself, has no reference to any specific time or place, and is for- ever valid for all time and place... Above all, the ritualistic form treats the human being not as the source of the dramatic action, but as an element in a dramatic whole.
- Maya Deren
An Anagram of Ideas on Art, Form and Film
The paintings included in the installation reflect an investigation of landscape as repre- sentation of location or place defined through image and texture and in cinematic formats. This aspect ratio, the dimensions of film in a rectangle, serves as a formal vista, ordering the chaos of nature within the frame. The digital video projection of “ Nature Ecstasy” flows between cinematic ideologies and painterly concerns of color and texture, composition and spirit, using the medium to create an entirely new dance space.
At the intersection of these worlds, video and digital editing have suggested new ways of creating dance imagery. Physical action and immaterial image merge in the illusory dimen- sions of the motion picture. The projected DVD “Nature Ecstasy” combines several shooting locations, painted and enhanced landscapes and the human body to establish scale to present a dance through the medium of digital video. This encourages an interpretation of choreographic and structural ideas of dance through contem- porary materials and technologies.
Lowry’s large panoramic works on rice paper with their meticulous painted surfaces embody an inherent vibrant field. The menacing cage of branches that becomes The Black Kesh, the long span of rippling water formed of brush marks in The View Down; each enjoys the effect of vista and expanse by taking us in and out of their own topography. A further disinte- gration of the familiar image into brush marks plays with this idea of painterly inter-dimen- sions. Ferguson’s paintings of textured energy Shelter and Weir act as portals to inner responses and primal states. Their unique surfaces and energetic breakups remind us of natural surfaces imbued with essential energy. They represent the body as Nature, caught within a transcendence of materials. The penetration of the projected figures emphasizes the idea that we might use our own bodies as a measure of the interconnectedness we feel with certain wild places. Utilized as screen for the secondary video occasional bright gestural marks suggest the impact of light, natural or otherwise on our perception of a place or a work of art. For these artists the painted surface, the digital field and the photographic lens render a texture of particles as well as an image- referring to nature and movement in leaps of dimensional space. With his minimalist wall assemblage Black fort Ferguson interprets one of Nature Ecstasy’s principle locations. Form texture and chroma suggest a retinal burn or afterglow of place.
Locations shot in Ireland form the chief dramatic backdrop for this dialogue between nature and movement. With images of nature and natural settings as a base, dancers David Ferguson and Jung Ah Chung become objects in space where the natural site of the produc- tion determines the interplay of forces that affect the viewer’s response. The use of sculptural miniatures, paintings and photo- graphs with blue screen technology further pushes the reality of place into wider territories. This juxtaposition of romantic nature and the spontaneous movement of dance improvisation generates a tension that allows us to explore the idea of responsive movement as kindred to spontaneous graphic strokes within a painted field. Continuity is established by an emphasis on gesture. The dance proposes metaphors for ordinary behavior, intimating story without narrative, choreography on location, telling a non-story through movement and image alone. Here movement is a ritualized response within a spontaneous action.
The bridge from dance reality to realism is ritual.
Finally, Nature Ecstasy is a silent film made for multiple live musical interpretations and viewings. Music has the power to transform images and provoke an emotional response by providing a visceral ambience. Every approach to sound lends immediate emphasis and atmos- phere – areas of interpretation that projected dance are acutely sensitive to. Ongoing musical collaboration makes Nature Ecstasy a venue for live music providing an opportunity to collect compositions throughout the video’s existence.
I stretch garlands from star to star, and I dance.
Jamie O’Malley, January 2005
Created by Miles Lowry and David Ferguson Dancers: Jung Ah Chung and David Ferguson Choreography: David Ferguson, with Jung-Ah Chung Photography and Miniatures: Miles Lowry Editing: David Ferguson
Special Thanks to Dr. Steve Gibson