“The original productions now exist only through costumes and sets, photographs, music, choreography, published memoirs …The surviving costumes of the Ballets Russes offer some of the most tangible links ….Intimate, intricate, sensuous in material and form, the costumes bear the evidence of hard and continuous use. They are poignant reminders of the visions of their designers, the experienced hands of their makers, and their wearers’ physicality and performances. Diaghilev showed that creative collaboration and cultural inclusiveness was the future. From the vantage point of the Ballets Russes’ centenary we can see how its legacy and legend continues to challenge……
Text extract from the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

http://nga.gov.au Exhibition/BalletsRusses

The Choreography of Cutting
Sally Smart’s most recent work in the series The Choreography of Cutting is a project re-framing the historical avant-garde dance company Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes and their experimental choreography, costume and theatre design. Sally Smart’s research informs her recent assemblage embroidery works, created from digitally cutting up images of costumes designed by visual artists of early modernism including Picasso, Henri Matisse, Sonia Delaunay, Natalia Goncharova and Mikael Larionov for the Ballets Russes. These digital collages have been created into embroidery by artisans at DGTMB Art Embroidery in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Sally Smart known for her large-scale cut-out collage installations applied directly to the gallery wall, works with a range of media, including painted canvas and felt cut-outs; photographic elements; printed fabric; and recently embroidered elements. The pins and joins that connect her work remain exposed to the viewer, emphasising the performative process Smart undergoes in the cutting, drawing assembly and installation of her work.  The assemblage embroidery elements function as individual works and are also collectively combined into large scale cut-out wall installations, conceptually extending her methodologies of construction to include sewn works – referencing the theatre set and backdrop clothes. The assemblage embroidery works practically recognise the costume as a piece of performance history - are re-imagined and restaged – performed in new dance choreography as costumes. Sally Smart’s commissioning of choreography and performance are cross cultural with Javanese dance movement and re- interpretations of traditional Wayang Kulit, developing with Indonesian performers and artisans, from her studio in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.


Sally Smarts new works based on historical images of Ballets Russes dance and theatre backdrops, reconfigured into new assemblage constructions are painted, sewn, embroidered and filmed to create works some electrifying in colour others rendered in monotone, shadow like, conceptually re-framing this early modernist work with cross cultural connections and ideas of collaboration, gender and performance.


In The Choreography of Cutting, Smart’s images show figures wearing costumes torn out of dance history……


Extracts from The Choreography of Cutting  Rachel Fensham, Melbourne Australia  2015


Sally Smart’s work in The Choreography of Cutting differs from other manifestations of collage in twenty and twenty-first century art precisely because of movement. Her installations show a choreographic interest in dynamic space and group composition that emerges from her study of Rudolf Laban’s geometries and Martha Graham’s methods of dramatic assemblage, as well as her response to the disturbing qualities of a Pina Bausch scene. It is however through rhythm and the intensification of the corporeal in trace-forms, that Smart’s cutting becomes a gestural performance derived from action. The convergence between movement, gesture and modernity has a significant historical lineage in both art and social life that is pertinent to a better understanding of Smart’s collages.


 In The Choreography of Cutting, Smart’s images show figures wearing costumes torn out of dance history……What are we to make of these histories of modern dance as trace forms that find another expression in the collage artworks of Sally Smart? Or, perhaps before that, how does the history of collage relate to this aesthetics of combination and gesture? Avant-garde histories of collage, and montage, in the visual arts have been linked to the media of modern life: a cutting-out and re-assembling of newspaper headlines, graphic texts, fabric or other surface textures, and photos from magazines. …….Smart’s choreographic collages weave in and out of different temporalities. They also ask the viewer to navigate the materiality of actions and materials that undo the fixity of one point of view. Historically they have often served as formal devices paying homage to the practices of earlier modernist experimental artists such as Hannah Hoch, Hans Bellmer, Sonia Delaunay..… Today, there is renewed interest in the modernist impulses of these artists whose experiments were brutally disrupted by war, totalitarianism and displacement.

Following this lineage, Smart seeks to realise points of reference to those same modernist mediations; a kind of manoeuvring of bodies and geographies that have been shaped by threats and potential freedoms. Hence the cut of the cloth or the photograph remains the fragmentary trace of a movement that has been disrupted, or a rotated lens upon which some of these dis- or re-membered bodies and their expressive ideas might find new alignments.





In a choreography, this detailed deconstruction of movement, disassembling, and reassembling of parts, patterns and rhythms is visible as movement layers composed of forces or kinaesthetic actions. The postmodern choreographer Kenneth King underlines this complexity when he writes that “Collage provides a key for reseeding and re-conceiving historical works and periods in a new way: it contains a perceptual fulcrum for processing multiplicities – of signs, styles, pictogenic schemata, isomorphic constellations etc.” In this perceptual fulcrum, the experience of processing the signs of an historical work or period are felt in their movement, and through its re-assembling and disappearance the lived force of movement is understood kinaesthetically. The choreographic gesture – whether a turn of the head, or a slippage from one word-hand-leg-memory – becomes a series of point instants, and energetic efforts that give shape to a new form of bodily history.


Extracts from The Choreography of Cutting  Rachel Fensham, Melbourne Australia  2015

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