Woman Crush Wednesday: Lauren Berthelot
New York-based, Houston-bred artist Lauren Berthelot is changing the way we think about dance through photography and video. She was an active dancer and performer for 20 years, and is now showing the world, piece-by-piece, that there is so much more to the art than any outsider realizes, and she invites us in to see what it's all about. See more of her work here.
Interview by Hallie Neely
So your work focuses on dance and movement. Can you talk about your interest and curiosity in these things? Do you think you're trying to investigate something or illustrate something?
I would say it's less an interest/curiosity and more a necessity--it's all I've ever known, and the best way I've known to express myself since I was literally two years old. How crazy is that? I think I'm investigating what it is about dance that is so all-consuming to us dancers and I am definitely trying to illustrate to the world (or to anyone who will look) how dance can be so very different than what the mainstream view of it is...think of ballet, and all the video/imagery that the general world sees of dance, and how to me and the people I've learned from and danced with, dance is actually SO different from that.
There's a sort of specific type of choreography in your work that seems to play on the idea of the stereotypically strict choreography associated with dance, particularly looking at Play Dead. Am I on the right track with your concept?
Exactly! In this video I'm asking the dancers to play a specific game that I always liked to play with my friends--you "play dead" AKA go totally limp and they try to revive you, or get you back to standing. Improvisation is a big part of how I work with the dancers, as well as using more pedestrian-like movement, games, and the idea of performing tasks. It's about kind of replacing strict choreography and "moves" with whatever is happening in the moment, or with a response to a specific prompt in that moment.
Who are your subjects, and how do you choose them?
My subjects are most often my best friends or my sister (who is also my best friend). I like to work with them because I know them well as dancers and people and they know me and what I am about, so it's really comfortable to be in the studio with them. I have also chosen a couple of dancers to work with this year that I wasn't as close with, but that I have loved to watch over the past couple of years. I appreciate the way they move and their look or their bodies...and I wanted to get closer to them by working with them.
Can you talk about your decision to remove sound from your videos?
Yeah, the decision to remove sound is based on the sort of minimalist approach I've inherently been taking and the need to remove anything that feels potentially extraneous.
I noticed some of your still images are stills from your video work. Do you see your stills and your videos as two separate bodies of work, or are they in dialogue with each other?
They are totally in dialogue--if I could always just show the videos, I would, but sometimes all people will look at is a photograph because they don't have the time (or attention span) to sit down and watch a video. The stills basically came out of the need for a representation of the videos, but I enjoy finding stills in the videos as well, finding an image that I wouldn't have made if it weren't for the video.
Could you name some artists - video & otherwise - who's work you follow, and who may have had an influence on you in making these pieces?
Dance-wise, my number one influence/mentor is Peter Chu...anyone who's interested should look him up--he's the basis of how I think about dance and improvisation. Yvonne Rainer changed the game for me, totally inspired the way I think about using dance in video. Bruce Nauman and Joan Jonas are also both really important to me in making video/performance work.
Describe your creative process in one word.
If you could teach one, one-hour class on anything what would it be?
A classic old-school jazz class!
What is the last book you read or film you saw that inspired you?
A Lover's Discourse by Roland Barthes
What is the most played song in your music library?
Boy Problems - Carly Rae Jepson ... soooooo good.
How do you take your coffee?
Sad to say that I've stopped drinking coffee, but matcha is the thing now, soy milk, always