November 7, 8:22 pm. A repetitive, beast-like howl is heard coming from within one of the five former Catholic school rooms that is now the Performa Hub, and today, that contain Boris Charmatz’s Musée de la Danse. Approaching the source of the guttural shrieks, the frame of the doorway provides a small sense of physical security from the performance unfolding within. Yet, aurally, this protection is insufficient; the reverberations penetrate walls and bodies throughout the building.
Standing in front of a woman, performer Alex Baczynski-Jenkins has serialized his breath to collapse the distinction between a meditative process of control and a nearly feral hysteria. His disciplined, systematic breathing becomes increasingly heavy to the point of heaving, heaving to the point of screaming. The liminal point between the breath and scream is reached but never transgressed. Once at the apogee, he returns to a known regularity, a cycle that ends with the performer uttering, “Get out of this room. Get out of my mind.”
To circumscribe the parameters of Charmatz’s Musée de la Danse is, perhaps, futile. The “museum” contains no objects. Instead, it relies solely upon the presence of the bodies of the ten performers to reframe the conditions through which an exhibition of the inherently temporal and ontologically indeterminate medium of dance may be understood. Charmatz’s work can be considered a museum installation not when it is performed, but rather as it endures through its inscription into the viewer’s permanent memory. It is in memory, as breaths of time, which recall seductively and ferociously the pendulum swing from meditation to scream, from performer to spectator, from there to here, from then to now.