Twisting human machinery

© Suse Byk

Do you also enjoy quietly and unashamedly watching groups of people dancing loudly with abandon? If so, you will love the exhibition ‘Danser brut’.

Let us not try to say too many clever things about this exhibition. It is simply premised on a very good idea, and the two organizers – Bozar and Museum Dr. Guislain in Ghent – are not ashamed to admit who they brazenly stole this idea from: the Lille Métropole Museum (LaM), which not only presents modern and contemporary art, but also art brut in its excellent exhibitions.

At the end of 2018, the LaM organized “Danser brut”, juxtaposing different kinds of representations of the dancing, expressive, or otherwise exuberantly moving human body. The body as we perhaps do not often get to see it in the broad light of day: full of abandon, in strange positions, without paying too much heed to its awkwardness, and by turns emphasizing its relative beauty.

From spasms to the splits

“Danser brut” shows the ecstatic, hysterical, stylized body and all its parts through modern and contemporary art, old film footage, film stills, magazines, art brut, outsider art, and – because Museum Dr. Guislain is involved and “Danser brut” is a Brussels-Ghent diptych – medical archival documents.

You are thus presented with an overview of dance and art history, but also a kaleidoscopic view of the twisting human machinery, caught and frozen in the midst of the action. From snapshots of whirligigs to dance epidemics, from trances to hysteria, from spasms to the splits, from the institution to the stage.

And from painter Michaël Borremans to naïve visual artist Ulrich Bleiker, from filmmaker Charlie Chaplin to outsider Aloïse Corbaz, from observer Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec to performance artist Rebecca Horn, from dancer and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky to dancer and choreographer Mary Wigman, from author and painter Henri Michaux to the indefatigable genius Adolf Wölfli... And always back again, of course. Like a conga, with arms and hands waving in the air.

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