BodyCartography Project: staging collaboration in the Weisman galleries

Over the next few weeks, BodyCartography Project will perform and conduct research at WAM

Courtesy of Brittany Vickers

Courtesy of Brittany Vickers

by Maddy Folstein

When Boris Oicherman moved to Minneapolis a little over a year ago, he was looking for arts events to attend across the Twin Cities. As the Cindy and Jay Ihlenfeld Curator for Creative Collaboration at the Weisman Art Museum, finding inspiration was part of his job description.

Oicherman came across dance company BodyCartography Project’s staging of “felt room” at The White Page gallery. The three-hour long performance takes place mostly in darkness.

“I ended up moving for most of the time [and] I ended up sitting on one of the performers… There was a collaboration between [us], and she and I created our shared experience together,” Oicherman said. 

This month, BodyCartography Project and the Weisman are partnering for a series of performances, artist talks and campus research proceedings. The collaboration will run between July 11 and August 8.

The dance company will work with medical students in the field of embryology, the study of the first eight weeks of pregnancy. The research will combine dance-based knowledge with medical understanding.

“For most of us, [that time] is not something that we hold consciousness around at all,” said Olive Bieringa, co-founder and co-director of BodyCartography Project. “And yet, we have a cellular memory of having passed through these different formations and fluid spaces as we evolved. That memory still lives in our tissue.”

Performances slated throughout the next few weeks will include “felt room,” staged at the Weisman in a much larger room than ever before. 

“In that space, you can really choose to be by yourself,” said Otto Ramstad, co-founder and co-director of BodyCartography Project.

Ramstad will also perform a solo work, “Lineage,” which sews together storytelling, dance and video.

“It’s putting in my history of dance, the teachers that I’ve had and the history of the development of experimental dance with my family heritage… I’ve been thinking about what has changed in the last 100 years — about how we live in our bodies.”

Another act, “action movie,” is a one-on-one dance performance that requires audience members to reserve their individual slot.

“It’s one performer and one audience member, and it’s a score where we invite the audience to open and close their eyes,” Bieringa said. “We really compose something for them, and it’s called ‘action movie’ so it’s like an action movie. It might be a quiet action movie.”

For the dancers, the prospect of working within academia is exciting. The form and result of the work has yet to be discovered. 

“I don’t know what the outcome is, but we have these very interesting initial places to begin in,” Bieringa said. “It’s not very often that you get invited in to have a conversation with people in academia without having to be in the institution.”

BodyCartography Project is an ideal fit for the creative collaboration space at the Weisman, Oicherman said. 

“[Collaboration] is a state of mind — of awareness that you exist in very particular contexts and you need to work with those contexts,” he said. “You and a context are always collaborating, which is the kind of choreography that BodyCartography is doing… It’s always collaboration with the public. It’s collaboration with each other. It’s collaboration with the environment.”