Dance & Museums

My work in museums creates a new space for consideration of how the dance artist, as an embodied presence, plays a significant role within the museum. It suggests a wider role for her to play within the human ecology of the museum as the museum moves towards its future as an active social space capable of practicing and inspiring social change. In this way, my dance work in museums makes visible the imagined socio-spatial mapping skills, complex spatial reasoning, empathetic listening, collaborative approaches and spatial imaginations that the dance artist engages in her practice that help to shift our current understandings, experiences and policies of and in the museum.

I am interested in what the experience of the dance artist offers to ideas of sociality, human-to-human experience, and possibilities for social cohesion in the museum and for our contemporary moment. My current interest is in museums that have a transparent and interactive relationship between inside/outside spaces, landscapes and neighborhoods that are geographically connected to the museum site. See examples below.

Trio A (1966) by Yvonne Rainer as set by Sara in the Palazzo Grassi Museum in Venice, Italy during the Venice Biennele

The following works explore movement and museum spaces, including the Hammer Museum, Louvre Lens and Windermere Jetty and their surrounding landscapes.

Moving through Louvre Lens Landscape 2022

Moving Through Louvre Lens Landscape 2022

Lens is a former mining town on the periphery of France and home to Louvre Lens, a peripheral outpost to the central Louvre in Paris. This film was part of the project Mobilizing Peripheries by Rennie Tang and set out to explore the porosity, thicknesses and fluidity of peripheral conditions of the museum, which often appear as lines of division on a map. In collaboration with renowned landscape architect Catherine Mosbach, who designed for the museum park, and filmmaker Christian Kipp, Sara set up an improvisation score in which movement, landscape and camera worked together to reveal the nuances of the site by moving around the periphery and through the center, calling out the relationship between inside/outside space and the relationship the museum has to its surrounding land.

I wrote about my love of working with museums that embrace a connection between inside and outside spaces in the following blog post – Engaging indoor / outdoor spaces of the Louvre Lens

(Re)Make Windermere Jetty 2019

(Re)Make. Windermere Jetty Museum 2019

(Re)Make is a dance film by Sara Wookey in collaboration with Camilla Robinson. Created and filmed in the summer of 2018 during a site-specific residency at the museum this multi-channel film installation captures a moment in time in the buildings and landscapes of Windermere Jetty. Here improvised movements are punctuated by gestures from nostalgic choreography, remaking the iconic fantasy and escapism of a Hollywood musical.

Punt.Point 2014-2017

Punt.Point 2014-2017 in collaboration with architect Rennie Tang and design artist Gabriella Baka

Interview for Architects Podcast – stories about women succeeding and leading in arts and architecture

I’m fascinated by architects who work in interdisciplinary and collaborative ways, and my latest guests bridge architecture and dance in a fascinating way! In this episode, I speak with Rennie Tang and Sara Wookey, the artists and creators behind Punt.Point. Punt.Point was commissioned by the Van Abbe Museum in 2013 and acquired for their permanent collection in 2018. Rennie and Sara are practitioners who come from architecture and dance backgrounds respectively, with training and interest in each others’ disciplines. They met in Los Angeles and started collaborating locally, on projects at venues like the Hammer Museum and Grand Park.

Punt.Point is a performance and dance-based artwork in collaboration with architect Rennie Tang and graphic designer Gabriella Baka. It invites the participant to explore different ways of moving through the architecture of the museum, prompting new modes of behavior and social interaction in an otherwise restricted environment. The project was commissioned by the Van Abbemuseum in 2013 was installed in from 2014-2017 and is now part of the permanent collections (purchased by the museum in 2017).

link to blog piece: Shifting Positions, Changing Perspectives: Human Movement and Design as Change Makers in the Museum

Performing Navigations: ReMapping the Museum 2010

Performing Navigations: (Re)Mapping the Museum. Hammer Museum 2010

The film documents Sara and her collaborator Rennie Tang as they guided participants in creating a conceptual map of the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. Participants explored how people move throughout the spaces of the museum, paying close attention to areas such as the courtyard and lobby where the museum and the outside world converge. Participants collected an archive of actions in the form of remembered movements, pathways, postures, gaze patterns and physical gestures. The conceptual maps participants created explore the role the body plays as a spatial and sensory tool in navigation, much like the spatial mapping of traces in Rachel Whiteread’s drawings on display alongside the project.