Mammoth collective

We are just some huge manatees.

Grace Gouker


WHEN:Feb. 24 at 6 p.m.

WHERE:Bell Museum, 10 Church St. S.E., Minneapolis


Human beings havenâÄôt repressed all of their mammalian instincts or physical characteristics. Our moms still breastfeed us as infants, we have hair on our heads and elsewhere and gooey placentas get us the nutrients needed to enter this cruel, cruel world after gestation.

We also crave our space, as much as we like to work together to survive. âÄúThe Butterfly EffectâÄù is not just another bad Ashton Kutcher movie, but also a tangible, noticeable experience we humans have on a day-to-day basis.

Olive Bieringa, artist-in-residence at the Bell Museum âÄî famed for her BodyCartography Project with Otto Ramstad âÄî has closely examined the reactive tendencies of the human body, especially in closed spaces.

âÄúItâÄôs more about the transmission of your feelings or actions and how, in your own body, you experience something like you wanna throw up or youâÄôre falling, and how that is transmitted between that space, and what that other bodyâÄôs response is,âÄù Bieringa said.

BieringaâÄôs work, âÄúMammal,âÄù premiered in Lyon, France, last summer as the first major manifestation of this interest.

The performance begins with the camera following one of the dancers outside of the venue. She bumps into attendees and staggers off into another direction. In turn, the dancer bumps into another attendee and frantically looks around for a way out, shaking and falling into her preemptory audience. She finally bangs through the door to the stage, and the scheduled performance begins.

âÄúSome people are with her, and some people are not with her, and I think that becomes very clear,âÄù Bieringa said. âÄúOur empathy as creatures and as humans, and how we negotiate that within ourselves, is something weâÄôre constantly struggling with.âÄù

At her upcoming performance at the Bell Museum, Bieringa will incorporate the depictions of wild landscapes and animal dioramas into a performance similar to âÄúMammal.âÄù This museum installation and dance combination will utilize light and sound, in addition to volunteer participants from the audience and otherwise, to see the physical resonance of space âÄî or a lack of it.

Like many of the projects undergone by BodyCartography, âÄúProximityâÄù juxtaposes urban landscapes against unfettered, natural ones. Boundaries of personal space and the social codifiers each attendee holds will be brought to the forefront of the installation, questioning the existence and necessities of each.

The performance is the first in a series, with research integrated within it for an installation called âÄúCloserâÄù scheduled to be at the Walker Art Center in April 2012.

As the epitome of the mammalian mother, Bieringa will be dancing for the audience interactively while in her eighth month of pregnancy. Audience members will have the opportunity to grab their free hors dâÄôoeuvres and engage Bieringa in the performance.

âÄúIn the end, we all become the performers together,âÄù Bieringa said. âÄúIt should be an interesting experiment.âÄù

To identify the spatial and social codes comprehensively in a performance such as this one reassesses several human inclinations. The one best kept in mind, especially in the city, is empathy.