Vienna Secession and Wiener Festwochen are pleased to present a newly commissioned work by artist and choreographer Maria Hassabi. HERE, her expansive exhibition, will premiere in Vienna before travelling to Athens and Turin in the 2021/22 season.
Taking place during opening hours, the live installation invites visitors to share time and presence with six dancers in the Secession’s iconic exhibition hall. Over several weeks they will navigate a choreography that unfolds at a decelerated pace within a sculptural environment. Embedded in a sound composition, a female voice counting the seconds from 1 to 14,399 fades in and out, underlining the eternal succession of time. Immersed in this continuum, the dancers’ movements create a situation of everchanging presence, one that demonstrates the slippery nature of “here-ness.”
The dancers’ extended stillness forces them to slip in and out of affirming their presence and here-ness as it becomes ever more difficult to distinguish whether they are unconscious or resting, self-sufficient or in a state of crisis. Yet their apparent passivity is the result of physical attention and virtuosity. Muscles tremble, eyes squint, sweat drips, breath becomes visible. These micro-movements—the physical side-effects of time and labour—can anchor both the dancers’ and the viewers’ awareness to the present moment.
Since the early 2000s, Maria Hassabi has carved a unique choreographic practice that concentrates on stillness and the in-betweenness of bodies in motion. Considering conventions, hierarchies and codes common in theatres, museums, and public spaces, her acclaimed works always reflect the given context of their presentation and are developed in dialogue with a site’s unique architecture. Her live installations reformat the principles of a theatrical performance into an exhibition that spans days, weeks, or months, adapting their duration to the opening hours of the venue. At the centre of these works, stillness and deceleration are utilized as both technique and subject, as the performing body oscillates between dance and sculpture, subject and object, live body and still image. The setup of the work allows visitors to keep to their usual behaviour within institutions while giving them time to consider the live bodies both as physical entities and still image embedded with multiple references.