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Kunsthaus Zürich presents a performance in dialogue with drawings by Rudolf von Laban
Kelly Nipper, Black Forest, 2012. Co-commissioned by Tramway for the Glasgow International Festival 2012, Kunsthaus Zürich and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles© Kelly Nipper.
ZURICH.- From 5 April to 16 June 2013, the Kunsthaus Zürich presents the first solo exhibition in a German speaking country by the American artist Kelly Nipper. The starting point for her group of new works is the drawings of Rudolf von Laban, a co-founder of modern expressive dance. The presentation centres on the performance ‘Black Forest.’

In her videos, installations, photographs and performances Kelly Nipper (*1971 in Edina, Minnesota) investigates the relationship between the human body, movement, space and time. She is interested in ritual gestures and processes. Her practice repeatedly refers back to the origins of experimental dance and in particular to the theories of Rudolf von Laban (1879–1958). Together with Emile Jaques-Dalcroze (1865–1950) and Mary Wigman (1886–1973), Laban is regarded as one of the founders of modern expressive dance. Kelly Nipper’s recourse to his movement theories is part of her on going reflection on communication patterns and the development of communication in modern society.

The Kunsthaus Zürich holds an important collection of drawings and watercolours by Rudolf von Laban. They form part of the Perrottet archive, which contains Laban’s works on paper as well as numerous documents and photographs on the origins of modern dance and the period of the artists’ colony on Monte Verità near Ascona in Switzerland. Suzanne Perrottet (1889–1983) lived and worked with Rudolf von Laban as he set up the ‘Laban Garden – School of Movement’ in Hombrechtikon and the ‘Laban School’ in Zurich. Her archive was acquired by the Kunsthaus thanks to Harald Szeemann in 1990; parts of it were shown for the last time 20 years ago.

Today, a young generation of artists is increasingly working in the medium of performance. One of them is Kelly Nipper, whose work refers back directly to Laban and the ‘Labanotation’ – the system for analysing and recording human movement that he developed. Key issues of this system as well as of Kelly Nipper’s work are time and the relation of the body with time, which of course changed drastically with new communication technologies in recent years. Exhibition curator Mirjam Varadinis has brought together two artists whose work is separated by some 100 years but still has a lot in common. The dialogue between them takes place in the Kunsthaus collection galleries that were built shortly after the turn of the 20th century – at the same time as Rudolf van Laban’s experiments in dance.

Kelly Nipper takes this context and Laban’s fragile, small-format drawings (crayon and pencil on paper) as the starting point for a group of new works that were created especially for the Kunsthaus exhibition. At their heart is the performance ‘Black Forest,’ which was produced in association with the Glasgow International Festival and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. The works by Laban are displayed alongside costumes, objects and sculptures.

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