“Lia Chavez: Light Body,” was a commission by Isabella Rossellini and the inaugural performance in an ongoing series showcasing some of today’s most celebrated contemporary artists at Rossellini’s farm.
The performance was presented by Beverly Allan and Nur Elektra El Shami and curated by Tali Wertheimer.
For “Light Body” — Chavez’s first live dance performance — the artist led a balletic procession of effulgent bodies at sunset. She appropriated the practice of contemplative walking, which she encountered during a recent artistic pilgrimage to meditate in the cave monasteries of the Himalayas. The artist performed alongside dancers Troy Ogilvie and Djassi daCosta Johnson. Costuming for this performance was generously provided by the renowned fashion designer Mary Katrantzou. Styling and makeup artistry are courtesy of Richard Ives and Virginia Linzee, respectively.
“Light Body” refers to the practice in which Tibetan Buddhist meditation gurus transform their physical bodies into new, rainbow-colored energy forms after many years of practice. For her performance, Chavez imagines this advancement into another realm through a process of visual choreography which conceives the live figure within the art-historical tension between pictorial form and abstraction. “This performance meditates on the primordial state which has no form but is capable of expressing all form,” says Chavez. “The foundation of originative movement is silence.”
The performance marked the artist’s emergence from a 40-day vow of silence. Inspired by John Cage’s renowned experiments with sensory deprivation and historical accounts of activating the light body through deep meditation, Chavez has drawn upon the mystical concept of “feasting on light” — a reference to the Yogic practice of sustaining the physical and energetic bodies with meditation and the breath. The visual artworks created over this period were the subject of a private exhibition at Isabella Rossellini's home concurrently.
This intimate process of plumbing the formal synergies between optics, meditation, and improvisational dance is an ongoing theme for Chavez, who developed and documented a substantial body of dance performances for the camera, entitled “A Thousand Rainbows,” which was released in book form by Damiani in 2013. The 2013 publication featured a scholarly essay by visual culture critic Andrea Codrington Lippke, who contributed a new essay for the presentation of “Light Body,” included in a limited-edition artist publication released at the performance.
The Farm of Isabella Rossellini produces organic crops and natural honey, and is home to many rare and distinctive breeds of bird. The Farm is part of the Peconic Land Trust, a nonprofit organization established to ensure the protection of Long Island’s agricultural heritage.