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  • Thinking/Drawing/Dancing
  • Bonnie Marranca

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Trisha Brown, Detail from: Eleven Incidents, 2008. Charcoal on paper. 11 parts: 6 × 10.125 inches (15.2 × 25.7 cm), each.

© Estate of Trisha Brown, courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York.

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What is a drawing but a line of thought? Drawing is like writing. It is a form committed to writing and the hand in an era when handwriting is disappearing. Inchoate, intuitive, vulnerable, bodily gesture. Drawing is mysterious, inward. It is both noun and verb, idea and image. Work on paper that now competes with a screen. Lines on a page generate conditions of being, as if everything we know is reflected in another form of light and time and movement in space. Where does the line, the thought, go after running past the edge of the paper?

In the last ten years, I've been especially interested in the relationship of performance and drawing as I realized how many artists who work in various forms of live performance include drawings in their working process. In 2008, PAJ published the first of its performance drawings portfolios. Some years later, in PAJ 107 (2014), most of the issue featured drawings of more than a dozen artists, representing performance and visual arts. Several artists contributed drawings to our 100th issue, in 2012. Interspersed through the years in the journal are numerous individual portfolios. As early as 2002, PAJ featured a large selection of video and drawing. The attention in this issue turns now to dance, focusing on ten artists in the generations after Trisha Brown, whose marvelous legacy serves as a touchstone for drawing and the dance.

Dancers have a special relationship to drawing since the concepts and ideas that are visualized on paper (or perhaps on a tablet) transform themselves from thinking to making. In this way, drawing serves as the basis for an actual event, however long it takes to complete, or it can simply create the event in real time. A drawing envisions actions that are necessarily embodied in a performance. It is made on the body of the dancer, whereas theatre is made of the actor's body, which is to say the difference between existence and representation. A drawing is a study for the dance or even a critique of dance forms or an idea or a visualization of the architecture of a place, in relation to bodies and objects. The flow of a hand drawing is naturally related to dance. By its very nature, the drawing [End Page 26] is experimental—a dream, a concept, a vision, a blueprint, a poem. Movement is its essence. The dance creates a world in a space.

In the texts that the dancers provide here, their drawings are described variously as:


The drawings represent the secrets of artists. More often than not, they are private, and not meant to be seen, like writers' notebooks. Perhaps at times the dancers see them and use them as an aid for the eventual performance. They take the shape of random pieces of paper, pages torn from notebooks, diaries, sketchbooks. Sometimes the drawing is an activity in a live performance, drawing over the body or drawing with it, drawing on the floor, drawing on surfaces. At other times, it is made after a performance. More often, drawings are part of a continual process from the start of an idea for the dance, through all the stages of thinking about it, rehearsing, and performing.

Drawings are usually made with ink, crayon, chalk, pencil, magic-marker, water color, or with the performing body. How they are drawn shows deep affinities to visual art, to calligraphy, to architectural drawing. Notes and texts by themselves or texts and images may become part of the drawings. It is impossible to predict how a drawing will evolve to a finished work. Everything that unfolds is part of an ongoing process of thought and action. Work in progress.

Which is why I like to think of drawing for the dance as essayistic. Looking at a drawing one can see its maker in the process...


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pp. 25-27
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