Spirit Moves, Art Forum

DANCE, YVONNE RAINER FAMOUSLY OBSERVED, is “hard to see.” Rainer was referring to the elusiveness of her medium, its continuous state of movement in the live act of performance. But history has proved her words to be true in another sense: The ephemerality of dance has impeded efforts to make its key figures visible within the field of contemporary art, a context in which they have had significant influence. The reception of the work of Simone Forti is a striking case in point. Though widely acknowledged by her peers as a pioneer of many of the forms and attitudes artists explored from the 1960s through the early 1970s—Rainer summed up this consensus when she called her fellow dance practitioner the “fountainhead”—Forti has been curiously marginalized, particularly with respect to her representation in museums. “Thinking with the Body: A Retrospective in Motion,” a substantial look at Forti’s oeuvre at Austria’s Museum der Moderne Salzburg this past fall, was thus a welcome, if overdue, endeavor, bringing together some two hundred works and tracking Forti’s career over nearly fifty years. Curator Sabine Breitwieser gave crucial early pieces their due, but did not stint on more recent projects such as Tree Improvisation, 2000 (in which Forti moves on, with, and around the fat trunk of a gnarled tree, occasionally pausing, sphinxlike). Along the way, the show provided a sense of Forti both as a singular creator and as an inveterately collaborative artist, who seems to have worked, at one point or another, not only with all of her well-known dance peers—notably Rainer, Trisha Brown, and Steve Paxton—but also with almost every denizen of downtown New York, from La Monte Young to Robert Whitman to Charlemagne Palestine.

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