'40,000 Years of Modern Art: A re-enactment'

Review by Jonas Tinius

The projector screens flicks between modern and 'primitive art' and Burlov’s sudden sculptural body movements. Once a gaze fixes onto a movement, an uncanny melodic sound averts our attention to the musical scratches or the scribbled words in Christie's notebook. Christie's strides to the window. Most attendees of the show now follow her movements whilst her performance is interrupted by Friebel’s repeated pencil smash onto glass membranes. Then, even Christie runs through the ICA hallways and out to Burlov.  Silence, then murmur, and a wild applause.

Tamara Friebel writing the sound in 40,000 years of modern art: A re-enactment', video still, Institute of Contemporary Art London, 2012

Tamara Friebel (right) and Joanna Christie (left)

What galvanized this Saturday evening's audience at ICA was a series of awkward-cum-melodic encounters. Art history met its past, exhibition met re-performance, and an improvised sound-performance met experimental dance.

Kirill Burlov graduated as a dancer from the Riga Ballet in 1996 and as a choreographer from the Latvian National Academy in 2004. He is now with the Rambert Dance Company.  Burlov’s movements at the outset of the performance were not rehearsed; "I made my movements resemble the sculptures and the music. It was a conversation, which continued after I moved outside.”

 Burlov’s body quivered in silent dialogue with musical improvisation. In conversation, Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll suggested that the reversal provoked by the performance echoed the relation between the audience and the object that breaks down when the danced sculpture gazes back into the ICA vitrine.

Kirril Burlov as Roland Penrose holding his lion puppy in '40,000 years of modern art: A re-enactment', video still, Institute of Contemporary ArtLondon, 2012

The 2012 re-enactment of 1948 provoked a new encounter with non-western and contemporary art, the voyeurism of performance spectators, vitrine and stage, object and subject, music and movement. As visitors commented, the performance provoked new readings: the 1948 re-performance demarcates a framework for interdisciplinary performative engagement with the uncanny albeit melodic encounter between art and anthropology; one which neither the canvas nor the seminar room exhaust. Only in the arrangement and interplay between the seemingly incommensurable-the object in the vitrine and the dancer in the street, the anthropology of the exotic and the musification of the banal-does this performance explore its full potential for interdisciplinary rethinking of exhibition, performance, and art.

[1] the study of humans in their cultural and social context

Jonas L. Tinius is a doctoral researcher in the Division of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge, U.K.

His work explores the dynamics of art traditions, patronage, and aesthetics with view to German theatre.


Khadija von Zinnenburg Carroll (Melbourne, 1980) is an artist and academic based in Cambridge and Berlin. Her revision of Australian Art History Art in the Time of Colony will appear in 2013 with Ashgate Press. Recent exhibitions include The Making-of Skins Cloak at the National Museum of Australia in 2013, and Rise and fall for the 2012 Marrakech Biennale.


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