Another highlight is the work of Ryan McNamara. With a title that is gloriously to the point – Make Ryan a Dancer (2010) – it consists of a grueling 104 days of public dance classes held in and outside P.S.1. At the end of the exhibition McNamara will present his grand finale, a multi-styled romp through each and every room of the museum. In the meantime, visitors to the museum can watch as a dance coach, clad in archetypal oversized scoop-neck T-shirt and open-tongued Nikes, puts McNamara through his paces. Moving from rudimentary hiphop through to pop-diva moves, a clearly uncomfortable McNamara attempts to mirror the fluid moves of his instructor. Though clearly awkward, the resulting spectacle is engaging, brave and makes for compulsive viewing. As each move is layered on top of the next it becomes apparent that the transitions between moves are really where the dance and its choreography take shape; how foot connects with hip connects with shoulders and ultimately the thinking part of the cerebral cortex that defines bodily rhythm. Sometimes it’s mannered and occasionally it finds its grace and fluidity. It could stand as a coda for ‘Greater New York 2010’ as a whole.
- Mark Beasley
Ryan McNamara, working live, creates a poetics of space by taking dance lessons from established professionals in the business of restructuring their bodies.
In one of the show’s most peripatetic pieces, the performance-video artist Ryan McNamara, who has a dancer’s body and musical sense but no training, will use the galleries as a dance studio. Wheeling around a mobile barre and mirror, he will take instruction from dance professionals of all kinds (classical, modern, exotic) or just stretch and practice. In either case visitors can watch or join in. “Make Ryan a Dancer,” as Mr. McNamara’s sweetly courageous work is titled, is one of several here that examine the distinction between amateur and professional.
Ryan McNamara: Media: Performance, video. Lives/Works in: Soho. What You’ll See: A performance in which McNamara—an awkward, energetic dancer—gets coaching from ABT professionals, like David Hallberg, pictured at top right. “It fascinates me,” he says, “because I have an idea of what I want my body to do, and then my body tries to do it and it fails.” Another of his pieces, in which he does what can fairly be called a zombie booty dance, was recently acquired (on video) by MoMA.
The sweet sight of Ryan McNamara being taught to dance in the building’s corridors speaks for artists compelled to strip themselves naked (metaphorically or literally) in public.
Ryan McNamara, who is slated for a final performance on Oct. 15, has periodically taken dance lessons within the museum's galleries from experts in various genres, something most viewers will not have seen. (His two-channel video I Thought It Was You, 2008, in which he executes, to the Herbie Hancock song, nearly identical spastic movements simultaneously in a disco and on a deserted country road, is on view in the show.)
Perhaps the quintennial’s greater advantage over trade shows is time —that luxurious four-month run—and Biesenbach and cocurators Connie Butler and Neville Wakefield exploited it by inviting the artists to make PS1 their second studio for the show’s duration. At Thursday night’s opening, Ryan McNamara, who will be taking dance lessons in the galleries, expressed hope that more people would take the curators up on the invitation: “I’ll need someone to have lunch with.”