Myriam Lefkowitz, Aias, 2017
For this project, Myriam Lefkowitz undertook what might be called an “affective investigation”: she revisited a history of dance that has down-played the role of Aia Bertrand, a woman whose work in Paris from the 1920s to the 1970s brought together modern dance and a form of Latvian folk dance. In 1911 Raymond Duncan, an American dancer and philosopher— and brother of Isadora Duncan— joined forces with his wife, the Greek dancer Penelope Sikelianou, to found Akademia, a dance school on Rue de Seine in Paris. In 1922 he began the school with his second wife, Aia Bertrand, a dancer of Latvian origin who continued single-handedly running the dance school after her husband’s death in 1966. Embodying the concept of “living a dancing existence”, the school was a focal point for learning, creativity and “innovation” in every sphere of art and craft, and its teaching was based on a blend of Duncan’s holistic philosophy and the respective traditional cultures of Sikelianou and Bertrand. History has retained the name of the “Akademia Raymond Duncan” and predictably forgotten the two women who, in making dance into an art of living and in using their teaching to forge powerful connections between the dancer and the craftsperson, personified something of the original Bauhaus spirit. For her project at La Galerie, Lefkowitz sought to make contact with the ghostly figures of Aia Bertrand and the Akademia through invited guests, “guides” who would become their hosts. Using a kind of hypnosis mingled with a form of detached reverie, she carried out a groping exploration in the dark. Thus the guides’ perceptions, sensations, memories, images, thoughts and acts became the vectors, the media and the archives of an affective, informal, elliptical oral history centred around a spectre invited to haunt the art centre. At the end of the exhibition, Lefkowitz used sentences borrowed from the hypnosis sessions she had organized as scores to be interpreted live by a group of dancers. This experience took the form of a performance on December 16, 2017.