Exhibition text: 'Groundless' by Amelia Groom, 2014
In 1963, the esteemed ballet dancer Erik Bruhn performed the Black Swan Pas de Deux from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake on primetime television in the USA. Two years later, Rudolf Nureyev performed the same dance, with a different female partner, for his appearance on another American variety show. In 2014, artist duo nova Milne erased the female ballerinas from the footage of each televised performance and brought Bruhn and Nureyev together in a pas de deux of their own. Their imprecise, spectral figures move mesmerisingly across two vertically mounted monitors. With two separate bodies from two separate years across two separate screens, Nureyev and Bruhn - who were on-and-off lovers for twenty-five years - appear, posthumously, at once together and apart.
nova Milne often make works by re-choreographing abstracted fragments of archival footage in a way that facilitates implausible new axes of disconnected times. Love and longing feature with prominence and potency in these temporally confused works, which are always multiply dated. 1963/1965/2014 is the title of the work shown here, citing the dates of the two found images, and the later date of their fabricated collision.
The artists have previously identified Felix Gonzalez-Torres's Untitled (Perfect Lovers) (1991) as an artwork with enduring resonance for them. Here, two apparently identical mass-produced clocks are hung side by side on a wall. Set to the correct time, the initially synchronised clock hands gradually drift apart as the separate batteries expire at their own pace. It's often read as a tragic dual portrait of the artist and his lover in the face of the AIDS epidemic that would take both of their lives, separately. But the work isn't confined to biography; it's also a more general picture of the impossibility of real spatial or temporal coexistence.
Untitled (Perfect Lovers) is one of several works by Gonzalez-Torres where doubled forms can be thought of as an expression of homosexual affinity, and the two adjacent screens in the 1963/1965/2014 video installation might invite a similar reading. But, always, with the nearness and sameness there is distance and difference. Like Gonzalez-Torres's doubled clock hands, ticking in unison as they split up, the ghostly danseurs in nova Milne's work are brought into proximity and simultaneity while continually separating. The silent five-minute loop brings forth an alienated intimacy where disconnected companions dance together without ever quite reaching each other. The time is assembled out of different parts and always turns or leaps away from itself, so that even when we share presence we are out of synch.
Digitised footage cast from the late Erik Bruhn and Rudolph Nureyev (televised February 10, 1963; February 4,1965) from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake Pas Deux Deux, animation, 2 channel sync, 2 portrait screens, cords, media player, steel structure, 5:00 min loop.