Opera as Method in the Work of Grace Schwindt

Crone, Bridget. 2016. Opera as Method in the Work of Grace Schwindt. In: Agar Ledo, ed. Grace Schwindt: Run a Home, Build a Town, Lead a Revolution. An Exhibition in Three Acts. Vigo, Spain: Foundation MARCO / Goethe Institute, Madrid, pp. 148-161. ISBN 978-84-943529-1-2 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

Grace Schwindt’s performance and moving image-based practice commonly sets the body to work within a tightly scripted or choreographed score such that a tension emerges between the material capacity of the body and the structuring potential of the system that delimits but also generates its movement. At points, this dialectic between body and text in Schwindt’s work (where the text is the infrastructural system that conditions the capacities of the body) is either further complicated or unravelled. As a result, the work produces a tripartite weave between the body as a material and as a kind of image, forms of infrastructure such as the theatre or more recently opera, and questions of freedom and agency arising from these combinations. As Schwindt has said in regards to her to work: ‘I place bodies in (these) spaces… and use a tight scripted choreography in which every move relates to institutionalised systems that reply on exclusion and destruction.’ (Ledo, and Park 2016: 3) In his writing on theatre, the French philosopher Alain Badiou has similarly written of theatre as a ‘complex ordering system’ and a ‘material ordering’ based upon the combining of body and text in the space of a stage. (Badiou 2012: 19) In Schwindt’s work this ‘material ordering’ can be understood in a variety of ways, from the sensual and bodily (signalled by regular use of different textures and textiles such as in the work, Curtain (2016), a wall of silk ribbons which the viewer walks through), to the script, choreography, score or ‘institutionalised system’ that orders. Schwindt’s use of scripting or scoring structures, such as operatic or balletic forms, further complicates the presence of the body (on the stage of the performance or in the frame of the film) by subtly questioning the differing temporal presences of the body and the image. In so heavily mediating the presence of the body in performance or on screen, Schwindt’s work often acts to question when and where the body is ‘live’. In the essay that follows, I will explore these questions in relation to two recent works by Schwindt: the performance, Madness and Other Tales (2016) and the long-form film, Only A Free Individual Can Create A Free Society (2014).

Item Type:

Book Section

Additional Information:

Includes Spanish and Galician translations

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures



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Date Deposited:

02 Jul 2018 14:58

Last Modified:

06 Aug 2018 18:00



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