Photography by Ventiko
There’s a long-running witticism in the New York art world that a valuable side-benefit of Miami Basel Art Week is actually seeing and networking with all your New York peers who get lost in the vertiginous crush of things that sidetrack you in day-to-day life as a New Yorker. Sales get done. Networking gets done. Projects are incubated. All of this happens in a concentrated fashion and it’s transcendent to get the business of art accomplished so quickly.
Per usual, my 2017 Satellite Art Show experience resulted in many valuable contacts, many of them my provocative art fair neighbors. One particular artist of note, choreographer and performance artist Doug LeCours, exhibited work curated by Lauren Monzon & Dylan Redford through Borscht Corp. (Their presentation was also covered in the Financial Times.)
Doug LeCours presented a revealing performance/video piece in the Borscht Corp room titled, All I Lack Is Everything I Need. The artist has made an excerpt of the piece exclusively available to our readers:
There isn’t necessarily a linear relationship between this work and the other choreography and movement pieces articulated in his portfolio, and so I was curious to understand more about the different motivations and outcomes that governed his work.
Christopher Stout: What was your ideation in making the piece? What were you trying to accomplish? Were you successful? How does it feel to you now?
Doug LeCours: I made the piece specifically for Borscht’s show at Satellite knowing that it would be shown in this abandoned hotel space. I spent Thanksgiving with my family at a retirement community in Florida where my parents bought a condo. My room there has this kind of generic motel room anonymity to it so I knew I wanted to work in that space. I was looking at a lot of older gay porn, particularly a scene in a 1987 movie called Big Guns (IMDB) where two navy guys on vacation make a bet over whether or not one of them can seduce this hot young stud after watching him swimming in the hotel pool. Eventually one of them pretends to be a masseuse and succeeds with his escapade, all the while secretly filming the encounter so his friend can watch via a hidden military transmitter. I found the layers of spectatorship and coercion interesting and wanted to create a scenario in which doppelgangers of myself interact and perform for the webcam. Of course I’m controlling the whole thing and am aware I’m being filmed, which takes it to a more exhibitionistic place.
I was also reading this book My Sweet Audrina by V.C. Andrews, who also penned Flowers in the Attic. The book is ridiculous but in it, this poor girl Audrina is forced by her father to sit in a rocking chair every night. He asks her to enter this trance state where she can empty herself in order to allow the spirit of her dead sister, also named Audrina, to enter her body. This notion of emptying and filling up oneself in the service of an authority figure led me to create this sense of porousness or vacancy in the work. It allows viewers to fill those gaps with their own projections and fantasies.
I was working from intuition but I do feel like I captured a singular sensibility and mood. I often have a retroactively emotional reaction to my own work when I come back to it later and realize where in myself it was coming from or how it might have been related to what was going on in my life when I made it, so in looking back at it now I feel a little bashful about some of the situations I put myself through in the video. But I also think I knew there was something about this collection of vignettes between clones of myself that I wanted to be seen, so I’m glad I made it.
As much as this heightened my understanding of this particular work, it also spurred me to attend a performance of Doug LeCours with Sara Gibbons in their duo, Tall Girls Dancing with Sara Gibbons at Movement Research at Judson Church.
It is important to note that work shown by Movement Research is specifically “in progress” and there is a clear policy on work not being reviewed. Nevertheless, it was interesting to watch what felt like a much more conventionally themed movement piece in juxtaposition to Doug LeCour’s performance work. This certainly brought up more questions about his practice relationships:
Christopher Stout: What is the origin story of these types of work (choreography, performance, video) in your practice? What came first? What came next? Why? What do each of these things bring to you? Why is each one of them necessary? What do they bring to each other?
Doug LeCours: I’ve been dancing since I was 8. I actually started with traditional Irish step dancing, training and competing locally, nationally, and overseas. When I was 10 I started taking classes at a local dance studio and studied jazz, tap, and ballet, and did competitions too. So a lot of my early performances were these two to three minute dance numbers on makeshift stages in high schools and hotel convention centers.
In terms of choreography, I started making dances early, rearranging traditional Irish dance steps or patterns from jazz class into new sequences. Later on in college I became exposed to more contemporary ways of working with movement, with a focus on improvisation and developing my own choreographic work.
Around the time I started dancing, my parents bought a cheap camcorder. I have early memories of filming myself dancing and creating movies by myself or with friends I would cajole into helping me. I begged my parents to buy me video editing software, and I would make these soap operas, cooking shows, music videos, and funny little dances for the camera and edit them myself. Towards the end of my time in school, I started playing with performances for video made on my webcam and iPhone. I often find in making dance or performance that the initial improvisational impulse contains the most richness, and the ability to capture that moment immediately allowed for a different creative process.
AP: What is your personal definition of the words choreography, video, and performance? Why do you shy away from the word “dance”? What happens when you give yourself different titles and how does that liberate or segment the expression that you bring to the project?
DLC: For me choreography is one form of performance. Some artists I know define themselves as “performance-makers,” perhaps as a way to allow space within the work for different modes of expression. I suppose I do as well but I feel like some of my work is dance and some of it is performance. In many cases it’s also about the venue presenting the work and what they’re known for in the community. Context, of course, affects the way a work is seen, as does an audience’s perception. My work often involves other modes of expression alongside choreography, but I always have to ask myself: Is movement the primary mode of expression here, or is it some other element? I like the messiness of working in multiple disciplines and the ability it provides to place differing textures against one another, particularly the collision of the verbal with the nonverbal. One audience member might feel the resonance of the movement material while another could be more immediately drawn to the text. It can be helpful to offer many entry points for an audience.
Performance art has its own lineage and expectations surrounding the term, and though I have made durational work and performance installations, I struggle with inserting myself into that history. Performance as an event that you witness from start to finish feels sacred to me; making a work that someone can walk into and leave in a gallery setting is a different practice and one I’m only recently playing with.
In terms of video I think I’m still figuring out what it means to me. Right now it feels like it exists as a conduit for the performance, almost like an alternative performance space. I’m a child of the Internet and basically don’t remember a time before I was using it to communicate, so it feels necessary to me to situate certain projects in a digitally mediated space.
AP: I’m thinking about the comparison between the solitude experienced by artists who are working as individuals in creating work compared to the journey of work created through collaboration. What do you gain from working with others and what you gain from working alone?
DLC: Yes. I’ve been having a lot of conversations lately about feeling jealous of visual artists who get to be loners, working in their studios and emerging only for the openings of their shows. It’s also connected to a fantasy of being able to live in a cheaper city and come to New York just to show your work. Some choreographers based elsewhere pull that off, but many still have to come here to work with dancers or fly them out because the critical mass of dance artists still lives here. There’s a sociality built into the culture of dance that you kind of have to engage with unless you never take technique classes and only make solos. The solitary video artist and writer in me feels a bit at odds with the dance artist in me, but I also love the closeness and support within the dance community. I moved here and found my little clan right away.
In terms of collaboration, it takes a few different forms. I consider dancers that are working with me to be collaborators because the process often involves them improvising or generating movement and me shaping it. I have an ongoing duet collaboration called TALL GIRLS DANCING with my close friend Sara Gibbons that operates as its own organism separate from, though of course influenced by, my own work. I also dance in the work of other artists. My work as a performer feeds me in ways that making on my own can’t, and vice versa. Being in a process in which I’m not the primary director allows me to explore different sides of myself as a performer. It’s all rich information.
Christopher Stout is a reductive abstract artist who will present a painting and movement work solo in May titled, SONIC OPERA at Lichtundfire Gallery in the Lower East Side. Christopher’s work is also currently showing at Lichtundfire through April 06th in a group exhibition titled, ENCORE.
Ventiko is a conceptual artist practicing in photography, performance and social practice. Currently she is preparing for Sylva Dean and Me’s new Avant Garde Opera to be presented the second week of October at Chinatown Soup in Manhattan.