curated by Lauren Wolk

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts GALLERY 51, 2009 

This was the first of several performances in collaboration with The Wendy Osserman Dance Company. It was also my first time performing World Without a Head and the initial show that opened my mind to the idea of painting and performing behind a backlit piece of paper or scrim.  

The show, also featured works by Catharine Czacki, Felicia Garcia-Rivera, Liz Laser, Simone Leigh.

Notes by curator, Lauren Wolk:

This performance piece will yield its own work, as the gallery space is transformed into both studio and stage. Many elements at play in the performance will remain as works of art in the exhibition space for the duration of the show, including part of the gallery wall that Olson will transform into a translucent drawing over a large-scale light box.World Without a Head, a project by Sarah Olson and Wendy Osserman, will be performed by the two artists in addition to dancers Cori Kresge and Emily Quant. Over the past three years The Wendy Osserman Dance Company has opened its rehearsal process to Olson. Olson has been photographing and drawing the dancers and incorporating these images in her paintings. In the same vein, Osserman and her dancers have visited Olson's studio, responding in movement to her images. Once again she has captured this on camera for further work. This reiterative process will continue to inform their collaborations, including one planned for Joyce SoHo in May 2009.

Olson and Osserman are pleased that Gallery 51 will present the first performance of their project, World Without a Head. This pilot performance involves both dance and artwork, and reflects the cross-pollination of their different practices. It is an amalgam of ideas by Osserman, Olson and the dancers. Olson elaborates, “the performance speaks to the nature of our being ‘headless,’ mindless, and thoughtless when it comes to our daily interactions with the very world that sustains us.”

The dancers will begin the performance quietly emerging out of the gallery setting. Working with a long umbilical-like rope the dancers will begin in the front windows of the gallery with Olson's drawings as a backdrop. The dancers will share the gallery space with Olson's sculpture, Infested which is a large tree like form that appears to be over taken by human qualities. Olson states, “It has lost its original ‘treeness’ for all of its work and all of the products it has been made to produce. This sculpture challenges the notion that as humans we are self-sufficient or separate from nature.” During the performance Olson invites viewers to help enact the drawing practice. This further act of spontaneous collaboration speaks to the artists’ rejection of the paradigm of the precious art object.

Through, installation, costume, light and shadow, Olson and the dancers portray threatened, entwined plants, sinewy extended body parts, internal organs, insects, birds and sea life. The shapes the dancers form suggest a tension between estrangement and attachment. Olson and Osserman “hope to engage the audience in a series of quandaries about how our ‘individuality’ and personal actions manifest into political and environmental statements, for better or worse. And how our common modes of living threaten the tenuous threads of life that appear distant, remote and removed from our familiar spectrum of associations.” The performance includes music by Denman Maroney's Hyperpiano, Flux Time followed by selections from Kronos Quartet, Pieces of Africa; Kevin Volans: White Man Sleeps. 

Using Format