“Lia Chavez’s Stunning Light Performance.” — Artnet News
Light Body, 2016
A commission by Isabella Rossellini
Presented at Mama Farm in Brookhaven Hamlet, New York
Costuming by Mary Katrantzou
Artistic Director and Performer: Lia Chavez
Performers: Troy Ogilvie and Djassi daCosta Johnson
Producers: Beverly Allan and Nur El Shami
Costume Designer: Mary Katrantzou
Stylist: Richard Ives
Beauty: Virginia Linzee
Curatorial Consultant: Tali Wertheimer
Essayist: Andrea Codrington Lippke
Documentation: Ira Lippke
Presenter: Isabella Rossellini
Lia Chavez: Light Body is a commission by Isabella Rossellini and the inaugural performance in an ongoing series showcasing some of today’s most celebrated contemporary artists at her farm.
For Light Body — Chavez’s live dance performance — the artist leads a balletic procession of effulgent bodies at sunset. The choreographic framework for the piece is drawn from contemplative walking, a practice which the artist has encountered during her many pilgrimages to meditate in the cave monasteries of the Himalayas.
The optical methodology of the performance derives inspiration from the ephemeral glyphs of light which Chavez perceives in her mind while meditating. Chavez has created the visual structure for this performance around the perceptual phenomenon of the retinal afterimage, a type of optical illusion in which an image continues to appear briefly even after exposure. As the dancers travel through space, their illuminated gestures accumulate in the viewer’s retina and are bonded to one another to reveal ephemeral volumes of light hovering in space. Light Body exhibits the artist’s ongoing fascination with attracting the viewer’s perception closer to reality’s unbroken continuum as she plumbs the formal synergies between movement, optics, and duration.
“For Chavez, we are the universe and the universe is us. We are shot through with order and cosmic light.” – Image Journal
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 phantasmic advancement into another realm through a process of visual choreography which conceives the live figure caught 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 performance marked her emergence from a 40-day vow of silence. Inspired by John Cage’s experiments with sensory deprivation and historical accounts of activating the light body through deep meditation, Chavez also engaged the practice of “feasting on light” — a reference to the Yogic practice of sustaining the physical and energetic body with meditation and the breath alone.
“A performance art spectacle of light and color.” –The New York Times
“Chavez views light as a type both of the divine substance and the lofting, penetrating faculty of the mind.” –Image Journal
Transfiguration is an ongoing theme for Chavez, who developed and documented a substantial body of similarly visceral light performances for the camera, entitled A Thousand Rainbows. This body of photographic work was released in a monograph published by Damiani in 2013. The publication featured a scholarly essay by visual culture critic Andrea Codrington Lippke, who contributes a new essay to the catalog for Light Body.
Costuming for this performance is generously provided by the renowned fashion designer Mary Katrantzou.
Isabella Rosselini’s Mama Farm is part of the Peconic Land Trust, a nonprofit organization established to ensure the protection of Long Island’s agricultural heritage.