Shahryar Nashat

Shahryar Nashat, 'Parade', 2014
Shahryar Nashat, Parade, 2014 (video still), HD video, 38 mins. Courtesy the artist; Rodeo Gallery, London; and Silberkuppe, Berlin

Born 1975 in Geneva, Switzerland
Lives and works in Berlin, Germany and Los Angeles, USA

Shahryar Nashat’s works interrogate dramatic structures and are characterised by an emphasis on display, staging and rehearsal. Often addressing representations of the body in art history, Nashat is interested in the conventions of presentation and mediation, drawing the viewer into an otherwise unknown world of artful gestures in the process.

Parade, 2014, is a cinematic adaptation of dancer and choreographer Adam Linder’s earlier reinterpretation of the 1917 Ballets Russes production of the same name: an encounter between dance and Cubism conceived by Jean Cocteau and realised with choreographer Léonide Massine, Pablo Picasso and composer Erik Satie. Nashat’s act of translation (twice removed) results in an altogether new text that riffs on both sources, where dance is recast as moving image and where
figures and gestures are transposed.

Using a distinctive formal language that swings between minimal dance and mannerism, Linder’s rewriting sought to reposition the ballet as a ‘stage version of a press release’, exploring how reception and marketing might impact on the character of artistic work. [1] When re-viewed through Nashat’s lens, the work draws attention to the distancing effect of documentation, which simultaneously mediates, catalogues and extends the life of the choreography. Parade asks us to reconsider the role the camera might play in relation to the performance document; here it is repositioned as an active interlocutor – and as something always other than simply a passive witness.

Nashat’s filmic reworking of Linder’s choreography adds other layers to the original, while the images bear the trace of cinema’s imprint within the bodies of the performers. The sets of Parade resemble a stand you might see at a trade fair, and, in place of a Parisian street scene, we see faux-marble walls, emblazoned with a step-and-repeat pattern of the word ‘Par-ad-e’, like some kind of logo. This connects with Linder’s interest in how historic dance works are increasingly considered ‘cultural capital’, where certain names become ‘like brands in institutional jargon’. In his reinterpretation, Linder aimed to shift the focus from content to the ‘communicative apparatus: the press release, the teaser, the social network’. [2]

The characters in Parade are largely the same as in the 1917 ballet, yet now they stand in for ‘types’ familiar from contemporary dance. Wicker corsetry gives the dancers greater freedom than Picasso’s stacked box dresses, though Nashat takes the object-like nature of the costumes to extreme – amping up the material quality of the figures by fitting two of them with green polyhedra. These ‘auratic magnets’ serve as spruikers, like the original ‘barkers’ whose job was to pull in a crowd for the circus. [3] In the film, Nashat reawakens them, and the camera enacts a dialogue with elements of the performance, at the same tracing a subtle critique of contemporary constructions of virtuosity.

Parade is both a contemporary version of the earlier experimental ballet, and choreography experienced at a remove: an act of revision across time and media, ultimately marked by its displacement of the stage.

Shahryar Nashat has exhibited widely, with recent solo exhibitions including ‘Shahryar Nashat’, Portikus, Frankfurt (2016); ‘Prosthetic Everyday’, 356 Mission Road, Los Angeles (2016); and ‘Shahryar Nashat: Laureat du Prix Lafayette 2013’, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2014). Selected group exhibitions include ‘Question the Wall Itself’, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2016–17); 8th Berlin Biennale (2014); and ‘ILLUMInations’, 54th Venice Biennale (2011).

Divider (small)

[1] Adam Linder, cited in Astrid Kaminski, ‘Brand new’, Frieze, issue 15, June–August 2014.
[2] ibid.
[3] ibid.

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