Founded in 2005 in Vicenza, Italy, by a closely knit group of dancers, choreographers and performance artists, the collective known as Jennifer rosa enlists their own bodies and those of others to create formally rigorous, psychologically searching video, photography and performance works. Soon after forming, the group invited a photographer and videographer into their ranks, solidifying a representational component of their practice. That component was the focus of this exhibition, their first in the U.S. The works on view showed a preference for closely cropped presentations of the body in digital photographs and videos that echo traditional portraiture.
The exhibition introduced Jennifer rosa through meditations on selfhood and the relationship of time, image and motion. Nine portraits from the photographic project “Restrain” (2012-ongoing), led by Jennifer rosa member Andrea Rosset, provide glimpses of individuals in the midst of what looks like troubled sleep, hypnosis or ecstasy, their faces and sometimes bodies just barely illuminated against the dark. The images were created by laying the subjects on the floor of a dark room and, for 10-second camera exposures, directing a flashlight over their faces and bodies. Facing these works was Mothers and Daughters (2011), a 50-minute video composed of 80-second stationary shots of mother and daughter pairs. For this work as well as Twins (2012-13), which follows a similar format and was shown in the next room, the sitters were chosen for their relationship to each other and then asked to assume a 16-minute pose before a camera set to take one photograph per second. In the final videos—the former shown on a monitor, the latter as a projection—a selection of the images are spliced together sequentially and shown for a quarter of a second each. The edited sequences appear as fractured series of isolated moments, evidence from the life of the relationships. We are invited to discern the similarities and particular relationships between the mothers and daughters, and to compare the faces and postures of the twins for access to the connections they must possess.
The centerpiece of the show was MOB | mobile vulgus (2014), a 45-minute single-channel projection of the dancers of Jennifer rosa staging a variation on their 2013 public performance piece L’ora. The participants, in various types of clothing (some dressed for the office, others for dinner) and states of undress, were instructed to gather in a circle, lean in, pressing their bodies into a dense agglomeration, and then turn slowly around its center. With their eyes directed outward, their bodies intertwine, dislodge, push toward the heart of the group and assuredly navigate the mass.
MOB begins with a close shot of the dancers’ faces. After about 15 minutes the camera pulls back to show the bodies in three-quarter-length view. Performing in a parking garage with only a few working lights, Jennifer rosa chose a setting whose contrasting lights and darks produced a Caravaggesque work. As one man’s chin brushes against another’s shoulders or his cheek presses into the hair of the woman beside him, intimacy intensifies the evocation of Baroque emotion. The loud rush of a train passing the performance space amplifies the drama for the viewer, though the dancers remain oblivious. Such moments turn our attention from the subjects so intently represented throughout the exhibition onto our own bodies reacting to the bodies, spaces and sounds around us.