Dasha Lavrennikov is a dancer, choreographer, performer, and teacher. She has lived in Rio de Janiero for the past few years, working on her doctorate and as an artist in residency at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Niteroi, and is now teaching in Barcelona. Recently, she made a pit stop in Silicon Valley at the Djerassi Resident Artists program. She came down to San Jose to visit the San Jose Museum of Art and discuss her art and what inspires her.
I’m very inspired by socially engaged art in general. I think you can feel that in a work very much. You can feel that there is an underlying tone of something that mattered to the person, that is in relation to their ecology, like their social place, and when you can sense some sort of honest or some sort of exposure—like when art exposes something of that person or the world—that’s something that highly attracts me. For sure, it’s great to see something that’s very technically refined, but vulnerability is something that I look for…This is really interesting because it’s very simple. But at the same time, I feel like there are lots of layers of reading you can do in it, like in the material, in the stains of the material, you know what I mean? Experiencing it is really rich.
The body has a really incredible capacity to pull in stories. Through symbology, through myths, through imagery, stories start to kind of emerge. And the stories that are typically hidden, they don’t have space in a lot of the dominant narratives that exist. People don’t want to see them because they show a vulnerability about the human being or they show a certain sense of surrender, the normal human being that we are. This exploration of other ways of being human, or nonhuman, or just being, is already a construction of narrative in some sense, like how do I construct my humanness in the world or in an hour of a performance. what is this thing that is there, like is it a human, you know?
The presence of a photograph allows you to potentially enter into that other world. This is the big debate around documenting work—videos, and photos of performance work—because it’s impossible to capture the experience that someone has in person. There are lots of things that you can watch on video and just not feel the same way. Behind a body there’s a whole presence which is unexplainable in some ways and explainable in others. When you film it, it is still there for sure and there’s a resonance, but you can never experience it in the same way. I’ve seen works where I’ve been just blown away and then I’ll see it on video and I’ll be reminded of that experience just because I’ve already seen it, but it won’t be the same. Movement activates our mirror neurons, it activates the sensation of movement in ourselves, so when you’re seeing somebody there is an empathetic factor and a reciprocity that happens.
In cartography, there’s this notion of “third space.” The first space would be your bird’s-eye view. The second space is the history like this barn was built in whatever year, it’s used for whatever activity. And the third space would be what has happened in that space, what kind of relationships permeate that space. The idea is that a space is always a conjunction—a construction of these three spaces. You can have a map obviously, but that map is also layered with so many other things, like a whole history, an embedded history, and on top of that a whole living breathing environment that is in relation… For example, in this museum you could draw each of the rooms and see it from the top, the bird’s-eye view, you could tell me that it was built in this time, and then you could say, “These two people are having a conversation about art. That woman is thinking about her husband.” All that is also a part of the space. It’s something that’s dynamic, it’s something that’s constantly transforming.
I love photography that plays with time and motion. Look at this distortion of the second. It’s a second, it’s just like this split second, but then there’s also this sensation of its future and past. When a photo extends you into a space that’s not just that second, that’s incredible.