Michael Clark: Cosmic Dancer
Any exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery takes me at least three visits to appreciate fully. With its consistent yet quirky curation, multi-screen medley with each screen integral to the other, and every room providing new artistic perspectives, Michael Clark, Cosmic Dancer may take more.
On entry we are confronted by an enormous screen showing edited fragments of two films on Clark, then a turn reveals the staggering complexity of Charles Atlas’s installation. The entire lower floor of The Curve is a seamless whole, with sounds and silences, visuals and yellow pauses meshing together to depict a non-linear story of Clark and his work, an ode to vibrant counter-cultural art during the AIDS-cum-underground queer-cum-mass unemployment Thatcher years.
Rambert, Scottish dance, club culture, drugs and booze, a walk around a loch, a Muriel Grey interview, his stint at the Royal Ballet, extracts of his work and even photocalls are melded together. This installation is both separate to and a strong statement of its themes. It’s a beautiful filmographic ode, and while beauty is not necessarily something one would associate with the work of this defining figure of the British cultural landscape*, that’s how I see it, and well integrated too. A reflection of the Michael Clark brand or the artist himself.
While less flamboyant, other rooms provide equally engaging perspectives. They feature a re/view of the company’s visual language, the performative exploration of space*, an archive of moving images, ten specially created paintings, and the ‘mathematics in motion’* of Clark’s choreography in Duncan Campbell’s film It for Others. We are treated to costumes by BodyMap, Stevie Stewart and the extraordinary contributions of Leigh Bowery and of Clark’s leaning choreographies alongside Peter Doig’s painting. Like the installation downstairs, they add layers and reveal aspects of Michael Clark’s creativity, his collaborative approach, quirky views, authentic avant-garde attitude, and contemporaneous cultural comment as seen by his peers.
I lost myself in this exhibition. For a while even the mask I was wearing was forgotten. I’ve already recommended it to family and friends. If you go too, let me know.
Exhibition runs until January 3rd at the Barbican https://www.barbican.org.uk/whats-on/2020/event/michael-clark-cosmic-dancer and at the V&A Dundee from 30th October 2021 to 6th February 2022
* denotes a phrase I’ve ‘borrowed’ from the program
Curator – Florence Ostende