Leitura: 3 min

The look as a form of action

The look as a form of action

When I entered the room where Babette Mangolte’s work is being displayed at Galeria Mata, the image of a male face in a TV set caught my attention. Richard Serra, shot over a blue background – one of the few color elements in the room – seems to be staring at the viewer. His features are serious, still, he observes that which looks at him, the lens. The nearby black & white TV set displays the image of Yvone Rainer, who is more carefree, with a headband and playing around with some tape in her lips. But her portrait also stares at the camera. Both pieces of equipment, placed in the center of the room, converge towards me in a beautiful metonymy about the artist’s work and research processes, which is shown in a monographic way in that space. When she looks at others, Babette Mangolte shows us her own subjective matter.

Babette is French and lives in the US. She experienced and registered in film, video and photography the important dance, theater and art scene that flourished especially in New York City in the 70s. The reflection of the experimentations made at that time ultimately impacted the paths taken by art. The generous and diversified archive created by the artist does more than simply document a historical period, it rather proposes an inflection and criticism that makes up the memory of that time. 

Babette Mangolte - Touching III with collage III, 2013Babette registered in film, video and photography the dance, theater and art scene, especially in New York City in the 70s Photo: Rossana Magri

During a conversation that took place when the exhibit was being assembled, the artist talked about the first showings of the film Water Motor (1978), in which choreographer Trisha Brown appears dancing for seven minutes. No costumes, no scenario, no music, just the body in motion, representing the decelerated pace of slow motion. In Babette’s own words, that image was so abstract and removed from any narrative support that it seemed to be impossible for it to be appreciated in the 70s. Genres like the video clip had to become more popular in the following decades before these manifestations were more deeply comprehended. The look was so daring that it was equivalent to the extremeness of the dance itself.

* Júlia Rebouças has been a curator at Inhotim since 2007.

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