On June 22-23, 2012, Nicole Livieratos did what many artists would never contemplate. She opened up the first draft of her performance exhibition, Folding: anticipatory, routine, closure, in the lobby of The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia (MOCA GA) and allowed the audience to influence what would become her final rendition.
The folding of her own dance company that she directed for 20 years prompted the idea behind this performance piece, forcing the creator to take a look at what else had been folded in life
“It definitely made me think, well, what other things have I folded up? A lot of the intention around that was to open up that movement word [folding] for dance,” Livieratos said after the performance on Saturday. “This felt like a lovely container to place something different in than I had done before.”
The performance included three female performers (Erin Weller Dalton, Kim Kleiber, and Celeste Miller). Amongst folding tables and chairs, suitcases, and stacks of sentence strips were piles of women’s, men’s, and children’s clothing of all colors, sizes, and patterns. There was no rhyme or reason to the look of the objects; the important aspect was their ability to be folded. It left the audience with the ability to tune out the minute details and meditate on their own abstract ideas of the daily bend and tuck.
For three hours straight, the performers busied their hands and opened their minds along with the audience. The process was slow. The piles of clothes were folded methodically at times and then rushed and toppled back over at others. Onlookers reacted with laughs or huffs of frustration over lost work.
There were breaks in the ritualistic movement. The women would clutch the garments they were about to fold to their chests and look in one another’s eyes, regarding each other. In sequence chairs were grabbed and unfolded, sat in, refolded and placed back against the wall. The same cycle of movement and break from the norm was taken with the lengthening of arms reaching towards the ceiling and then falling limp back to the sides of each woman’s body. They turned around in slow circles as their hands shot towards the sky like a clock, ticking off the time.
“Things are so arrhythmic, so my idea was that those [movements] serve as moments of harmony,” Livieratos said. “I do think it also served as a break for the eyes and to reengage the audience into the rhythm.”
The most interesting aspect of this piece was how–even as the audience came in and out of the gallery, partook in their own lives and conversations, walked through the performance space itself, and even set purses on the tables and placed their sunglasses in their cases–the performers never reacted or acknowledged the break in ambient noise. They kept to their routine. Their tasks continued, as did the lives of the ones watching.
With the scheduled end of the performance approaching, the onlookers grew quiet and tense. There were still large piles of clothes unfolded. Suitcases were left empty. Tables were left standing. There was no finality or completion as Livieratos called time. The patrons and performers were all pulled from the spell that the rhythm had created. And then the artist opened up the grounds for conversation.
Livieratos used the question-and-answer portion as a way to figure out what was needed, what worked, and what left the audience wanting more as she approaches the finalized version of this performance. She welcomed the critique in a public format, with input from fellow artists, editors, and spectators. The input was noted on scale, location, and how to successfully use imagery.
“I have some things that I need to decide about scale. I now know what I would like to do with video and imagery,” Livieratos said. “But I do have a question about the ultimate goal. Do I want it to not have goal? I am resisting that everything is folded up neat and tidy in the end, because it’s not life.”
As of this writing, the schedule for the next version of the performance, Folding: anticipatory, routine, closure, is yet to be determined. Nicole Livieratos says she plans to undertake the final work sometime in the upcoming year.