ryan mcnamara interprets the internet through dance at art basel miami
Image courtesy Performa
While the rest of the world was going to see The Nutcracker, the crowd at Art Basel filled the seats of the Miami Grand Theater for performances of Ryan McNamara's much-anticipated ME3M 4 MIAMI: A Story Ballet About the Internet. ME3M 4 MIAMI is an expanded variation of McNamara's Malcolm McLaren Award-winning Performa Commission for the 2013 Performa Biennial, which interprets the infinite flow of information through the internet's many layers using elements of hip hop, jazz, classical ballet, and Martha Graham-inspired contemporary dance. ME3M encompasses several different narratives, or legends, regarding the internet: the internet as utopia; the internet as sinister military infrastructure; and the internet as a nonstop source of "infotainment."
"The internet doesn't lend itself well as a subject to the medium of dance," McNamara says, who spent two years on the project. "That's why I took it on." A diverse mashup of lights, music clips, dance movements, and audience members being carted around spontaneously, the ballet is an hour-long tour de force of fragmented sensory stimulation, evoking the tortuous dissemination of information throughout the interwebs. We caught up with McNamara for a quick round of questions about the ballet of the century.
What draws you to dance as an art form?
The dancers themselves.
How did you create the choreography?
I asked each of the performers to send me links to three movement-related videos. They ranged from Janet Jackson to monkeys playing. We worked with that as source material, but most of the time, the movement took on a life of its own and the original clip dissolved. For instance, the first five minutes of the piece is based on a three second clip of Tina Turner dancing in the 70s.
Tell us about the audience participation aspect—part of the ballet involved crew members carting off audience members in metal carts.
The piece activates the audience's passivity.
The ballet is titled ME3M; is the performance in any way encouraging viewers to meme it?
People are not told that photography is prohibited during the performance, as is done in most performances. What audience members choose to do with that is up to them.
How does the Art Basel performance this year differ from previous performances?
This version of the piece is much larger, with twice as many performers. In this iteration, the space allows me to explore not only how online networks connect but also how they disorient. I'm interested in the seeming contradiction of the internet being both this deft information-dispensing machine while at the same time being a tangle of links, content, commentary and trolling that demands circuity. It's a great place to find and a great place to get lost.
You're performing in ME3M. Do you get nervous onstage?
I don't have training as a performer, I'm a visual artist, so I definitely get nervous.
Do you find that living in New York has helped you make art?
If I didn't live in New York, I couldn't work with all these amazing New York-based performers.
What if ME3M was performed on Broadway instead of Art Basel?
Get me a gig on Broadway, I'm there.
What are you working on for the future?
I have a gallery show at Mary Boone Gallery [in New York] in January.
Text Hannah Ghorashi
Images courtesy Performa