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Steve Paxton: Introduction to the Goldberg Variations 1–15 & 16–30

From Performance Assembles Publics: Contact Improvisation as Landmark

As works of choreography, and even improvisation, enter archives and museum collections to be activated, reanimated, and made public through a mode of professionalized collaboration that was inconceivable only quite recently, this video, shot by musician and artist Walter Verdin, is helpful for considering the relationship between process and product, performance and object.

One gets the sense that Paxton, through improvising alongside two distinct Glenn Gould recordings of Bach, sought to pump blood back into the musicians, the music, and the digital material he accessed. Or perhaps, in imagining Bach humming, and referring to his dancing as something like an extension of the way most listeners might tap their toes, he connected art not only back to “the body” but also to the persons who peopled culture, those who enact it rather than simply inhabit it.

What makes Paxton’s introduction to the Goldberg Variations performance even more compelling today is how it relates to his ongoing collaborations with Jurij Konjar in which Konjar remakes Paxton’s improvisations. In this process, which Paxton has half-jokingly referred as “faking,”1 Konjar transforms Paxton’s live works into a kind of historical object to be repeated, including Bound, an improvisation Paxton created in 1982 in which the social construction of masculinity becomes a kind of landscape of action and interaction. Konjar’s practice seems to offer new potential models for giving improvisation access to posterity.2

1 See .

2 Paxton’s original performance of Bound can be found here; over a dozen registrations of the Goldberg improvisations by Konjar can be found here.

April 20, 2019

Curated by

Jeremiah Day