Melbourne-based artist Agatha Gothe-Snape is fascinated by the intersection of dance and visual art – specifically, by the notion that something as intangible and ephemeral as a movement or a moment can be captured, and live on.
Her newest work, Inexhaustible present, is an exploration of this notion. A collaboration with her long-time friend and sounding board Brooke Stamp, the work will spend six weeks in the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ Contemporary Project Space, as one of two new works in an exhibition called Taking form. Inexhaustible present is built around a haunting projection of Gothe-Snape’s dancing shadow.
“Brooke Stamp and I met about ten years ago, working in what you’d call experimental theatre in Melbourne,” Gothe-Snape explains. “I’d come out of acting school at VCA, and she’d come out of dance school there. We were involved in similar projects, and we really hit it off.” Over the last few years, working on various projects, the pair have explored the crossover of dance and visual art. “My work is really embedded in notions of performativity and movement and how we occupy spaces, as audiences and artists, and it seemed really appropriate for me to work with Brooke, whose interests lie in choreography and dance, understanding the human body in relation to interior and exterior spaces. Our conversations grew and grew.”
Gothe-Snape has spent the past several months working on the dance at the centre of Inexhaustible present. “The work consists of three things,” she explains. “It’s the dance, but it’s also the record of that dance, and it’s the installation that temporarily holds that dance while it’s in the gallery. For the last few months, I’ve been thinking over this question of how to take something like dance – something that, by its very nature is ethereal and temporal like a dance, something that exists within the body – and put it within a gallery, whose inherent nature is to memorialise something? This work operates around that problem. How do you freeze the present, and let it live on in a gallery?”
Gothe-Snape turned to the Art Gallery of New South Wales’ collection for inspiration, and found it in an unlikely place – an early 20th century bust of the New Zealand filmmaker Len Lye, created by Sydney sculptor Rayner Hoff. “I like the idea of a sculpture, because it’s there to capture a moment in time, something immaterial that, by its nature, you can’t really capture at all,” she says. “As a filmmaker, Len Lye was known for his ability to capture immaterial things like colour and movement. This beautiful, art deco bust of Lye, by Rayner Hoff, is an incredible paradox. The life and energy of both artists comes together in it, in the same way I hope all of my and Brooke’s energy comes together in our dance.”
For the six weeks of the show, Gothe-Snape’s dancing shadow will be projected onto a pair of hanging curtains, until the very last day, when she will dance the work herself. “I wanted to document the dance and also its absence,” she says, “and I realised that the shadow was the perfect way to do that was to make my absence into the presence. At the very conclusion of the show, I’ll be doing the dance. I’ll remove the shadow, this temporary monument to the dance, and return it to my body, where the dance ultimately resides, and then when I’m done, I’ll leave the gallery with it.”
BY ALASDAIR DUNCAN