You don’t often find a visual artist who plays as well – or on such equal terms – with dancers as Daniel Arsham. The sculptor/conceptualist and former Miami resident got turned onto the delights of moving bodies through time and space when he was picked to create a set for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company on its first Miami visit in 2007. Arsham became a regular collaborator with Merce’s troupe in its last years, the last time in the space cloud set he created for the company’s final performances in NY’s Park Avenue Armory at the end of 2011.
More recently, he’s been working with former Cunningham dancer/now choreographer and "contemporary dance's renaissance man" Jonah Bokaer, and they seem to set each other’s minds going in interesting ways. For Replica, which they presented here in late 2010 at the Arsht and MOCA, they had the idea of magically expanding space, an Arsham designed cube structure that Bokaer and fellow dancer CC Chang broke through and went in and out of – it seemed like a world inside a world, a small outside with an impossibly large inside. A lot of people walked out of that performance. I was fascinated – which doesn’t always happen with such conceptually dense work.
Now the dynamic avant duo is back at the Arsht this Friday and Saturday with another experiment in space, physicality, and messing with our minds. For RECESS (does that mean a classroom break or a hidden niche?) Bokaer transforms (I’m not sure how) a sheet of photographic set paper 30 times. RECESS is site specific, so it will be different, and interact with the space differently, each time.
In Why Patterns, in which 10,000 ping pong balls rain from above (oh bouncy bouncy boy), the design is actually by Arsham and Alex Mustonen’s conceptually oriented architecture/design firm Snarkitecture (love that name). Four dancers play games, the balls drop, there’s original electronic music, and the whole thing was commissioned by the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, one of the smartest and best showcases for dance in the country.
So – stretch your minds beyond a wine-fueled Wynwood gallery walk. The Arsham/Bokaer mind games/dance performance is at 8pm Friday and Saturday at the Arsht Center’s Carnival Studio Theater (the little one). Tix $25, 305-949-6722 or www.arshtcenter.org.
Don't ask... dancers in Bokaer and Arsham's Why Patterns