Dance and the Museum: Martin Nachbar Responds

Porträt MN 2

1) What are the most potent questions prompted by the recent coming together of dance and the visual arts?

Why don’t visual artists seem to trust the performative power of the objects they traditionally make and feel the need to extend their practices towards this performative moment? Why do dancers and choreographers seem to feel the need to consider their practices as performative objects that can be placed in museums where we traditionally place objects that don’t consist of live human bodies? What are objects? What are things? What are bodies? What is performance? What is practice? What is trust? How does movement, gesture, shape, color, energy and information relate to each other? Can we trust our perceptions, observations and questions? How can we share the things we find important to share?

2) What are the responsibilities and/ or challenges that accompany this interaction? For artists? Curators? Critics or scholars? Institutions?

To be aware of and open to the different ways of perceiving, assessing, judging work. To keep negotiating between the different kinds of discourses. To stay aware of the different practices and the underlying assumptions, as they are closely linked to different histories and to different aims. Not to mix together, but to look for relations and explore them. To stay aware of one’s own assumptions and conditions when assessing or entering into another field. To keep trying. To keep talking.

3) As artists, audiences, and institutions with varied artistic backgrounds come together, on what grounds is it or is it not important to consider disciplinary/ generic boundaries?

It is always important to consider boundaries. They are never generic but historic, indeed disciplinary, as they are connected to repeated practices. And, they are personal. It is important especially to consider these personal boundaries as they are connected to habits (partially coming from repeated practices) and to tastes (partially connected to repeated judgements). I wouldn’t call this background, but grounds we stand on or milieus we work in. I believe that curiosity starts from these personal grounds, where a lack is felt or a promise or solution is suspected beyond my boundaries. Meeting and exchanging with others starts either when we leave our grounds or when the milieus get blended. Both are complex and delicate and need consideration.

4) What might the meeting of dance and visual art at this time herald or reflect? Or, why is this happening now? What possibilities might it open for the future?

I am not sure at all. If we consider dance a performing art or performance, we might look at it as an art form that only exists through the act of continuously being practiced. This implies an open-endedness. Visual arts tend to look for artifacts (with some rare exceptions such as Tino Sehgal), meaning that there often is an end to a practice. If we mix the two we get to an understanding of art as an open-ended practice that leave traces here and there (in different forms such as performances, drawings, videos etc). But then again, I said to not mix it but to look at the relations…


Martin Nachbar is a performer and choreographer from Berlin. He regularly writes about his practice. Among his pieces are “Urheben Aufheben”, which includes a reconstruction of Dore Hoyer’s “Affectos Humanos” and “Repeater – Dance Piece with Father“” in which Nachbar invited his non-dancer father to dance with him. He is currently a doctoral candidate at the HCU Hamburg. Martin Nachbar teaches choreography, dramaturgy and improvisation throughout Europe. His pieces tour internationally.

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