Born: Copenhagen, Denmark (1982)
Lives and works: Copenhagen, Denmark
Whether We Are (2017)
HD Video Installation
10 minutes 10 seconds (loop)
Memoria and other Aftermaths (2016)
2 minutes 46 seconds (loop)
Helene Nymann’s multi-disciplinary artistic practice addresses the idea of embodied knowledge: contextual and experiential forms of receiving and transmitting ideas. Nymann’s work incorporates forms of dance and other movement to probe the ways in which memory can be stimulated through associative material and movement. She implicates viewers as they enter into her immersive environments made up of moving image, sound, and sculpture; in turn, their bodies influence how sound reverberates and how light refracts.
For I Am Our Common Pronoun, Nymann presents Whether We Are (2017), a video installation featuring a classically trained male ballet dancer. Instead of dictating choreography to the dancer, Nymann employs a method derived from Butoh, a form of dance developed to disrupt the perceived visual harmony associated with Japanese culture following the country’s devastation in WWII. Butoh is short for Ankoku Butoh, or ‘dance of darkness.’ Tatsumi Hijikata, who founded the movement, used this term to refer to a realm at the limits of perception, which the dancer enters into with their entire body. It is traditionally performed in a slow, expressive manner which channels past events into bodily and cognitive responses. Nymann encouraged the dancer in this work to investigate emotions and trauma as a form of embodied knowledge.
Dance, when thought of as a medium, such as painting, has an extensive history and prehistory, which it carries with it into the present through each new work and development. Unlike painting, which traditionally separates the artist from the plane of representation, dance is an embodied practice; it requires the performer to take in and transmit to an audience the movements and by extension the traditions, emotions, and memories of previous generations alongside their own. The dancer in Whether We Are, utilises the tradition of one culture to explore his own consciousness and condition born out of another. Cross-cultural communication at this level is a way to expand one’s idea of the self and engage with a person of another time, space, and culture.