Robyn Brentano & Andrew Horn
Cloud Dance, 1980
16mm., color, sound, 13 min
In the short film piece Cloud Dance, the dancer appears in red, spontaneously gliding through a room of hazy soft white. The room is filled with an installation made from 13,000 pieces of string suspended from the ceiling titled “Four Armed Cloud”. Meanwhile, the dancer sweeps his own arms and legs through the height, width, length, and depth of the haze. The repetitious sound of stringed instruments oscillating high-pitched warbling accompanies music in the background (or, is it the foreground?). The dancer moves gently across the screen as the camera cross-fades into an opening appearing to have been made by the dancer’s own hand. The words emerge: “Get dan-sink, get dan-sink…” “Oh thank you very much, I love you.” “Would it like to die in this choice?” “I should sit on the sun and get some apples.” The dancer continues on, his movements repeat and become more energetic. He leaps in the air. “Hey, you got much power inside to prosper into a leak.” “Hey you got much butterflies in your car…”.
No sense appears to be made in Cloud Dance, except the film itself is an exercise in stimulating the senses of external and internal perception. Standard logic has disappeared. We feel ourselves in the space of the room made more palpable by the hanging threads. We feel the artist’s movements as if they are our own, actually moving through that space. We hear words that repeat and trip over themselves, often sounding like they are being read only for their auditory quality. “Kkkk…” “Kkkk…” “Kkkk…” goes the voice after speaking “dan-sink” over and over. We get a giggle as he talks about butterflies in our car and our power prospering into a leak. We imagine the impossible, it makes us flutter. The dancer is free from gravity, the words are free from conventional boundaries, and space is free from conventional meaning. The synching of movement, space, and word brings us to the border of sensory overload. The aesthetic gestures create weightlessness and a sense of euphoria. It’s a figurative language outside the realm of what is expected.
Cloud Dance reminds us that going with what we know: formulas, expectations, and the plans as given to us are sometimes better thrown out the window. Often it’s the unlikely combination of several independent things coming together that moves us. It’s also often ways of doing things and their quality that speak more pristinely to us than what is said by design or conceit. Cloud Dance takes us back to a place that has been preserved outside of time, where our perception of movement, space, and their aesthetic atmosphere can be grasped internally.
Cloud Dance is currently on view in the group exhibition “Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019” at The Whitney Museum of American Art from Nov 22, 2019–Feb 2022 the
Above: film stills from Cloud Dance, 1980
Directed by Robyn Brentano & Andrew Horn
16mm., color, sound, 13 min
Choreography and performance by Andy de Groat.
Installation, Four-Armed Cloud by Lenore Tawney, a translucent maze of over 13,000 linen threads at the New Jersey State Museum.
Music by Michael Gelasso
Poetry by Christopher Knowles, read by Arby Ovanessia
Artwork courtesy and © the artists