Spotlight: Staging the “Objecthood”: Dean Moss at The Kitchen

Dean Moss’s presence as both performer and dance curator (1999-2004) at The Kitchen has made him a sustained collaborator within the organization’s community. This duality between artist and curator prompted Moss to push the limits of dance and choreography in an experimental and interdisciplinary vision and space. This Archival Spotlight by 2023-24 Archival and Curatorial Intern Emiko Inoue brings together three programs co-directed and performed by Moss at The Kitchen, varying in contents and themes, that each interrogate and demonstrate the elements of “objecthood.” *figures on a field* (2005) is a program co-directed by Moss and visual artist Laylah Ali that questions how racial stereotypes on behaviors can be critiqued by restaging gestures and moves in a deviated setting far from social norms. Here, Moss introduces a museum docent figure who subjectively interprets the performers gestures and moves, and in doing so, forces the viewers to be conscious of their experience as the audience of an audience. Such repetition delegates and degrades the assumed authority of witnessing the performance. *Nameless Forest* (2011) is another collaborative work by Moss with Korean sculptor Sungmyung Chun that interrogates the figuration of a community through the individual and the collective’s participation in ritual rites. This program furtherly foregrounds the identity of an audience: the audience’s participation is taken inside the stage, either to be part of the performance or to be asked to answer questions by performers. By using the historical persona of the 19th century white abolitionist John Brown, *johnbrown* (2014) is one of Moss’s crucial performances which experimentally actualizes the racial issues into the present era. johnbrown is a work that creatively reimagines the narrative history of race––for instance, by projecting a video of an imaginative dialogue between John Brown and Fredrick Douglass. At one point, these visionary creations are disrupted by a distinct character, who mimics a contemporary singer that talks to the audience. All of these programs construct “objecthood” in a unique way, which coincides with the ripening moment in the early to mid 2000s when dance performances became frequently presented at museums and collecting institutions. In contrast to these tendencies, Moss’s programs at The Kitchen are concerned with how the authority to objectively view a performance can be critiqued, and how a non-museum, alternative space allows room to redefine “objecthood” in the context of performance.

May 5 - May 14, 2005

figures on a field:

Dean Moss

May 19 - May 28, 2011

Nameless Forest:

Dean Moss and Sungmyung Chun

Oct 16 - Oct 25, 2014


Dean Moss with Laylah Ali

Spotlight: Mythology at The Kitchen

Mythology is a deep well from which artists have drawn since antiquity. Communications & Archive Intern, Viktor Shinkle (Jan–March 2024) highlights three experimental reimaginings of mythological stories performed at The Kitchen: Lines in the Sand: Helen in Egypt by Joan Jonas, The Show (Achilles Heels) by Richard Move and Empire by Richard Ashley. *Lines in the Sand: Helen in Egypt* by Joan Jonas was a 2004 multimedia production retelling the story of Helen of Troy from a feminist perspective. The production was inspired by H.E. Doolittle’s epic poem “Helen in Egypt,” wherein she posits that trade, and not a single woman, was the cause of the war in Troy. Throughout the 45 minute performance, the feed switched between live footage including photographs of Egypt taken by Joan Jonas’ mother in 1910 and videos of “Egyptian” depictions in Las Vegas. This juxtaposition of “real” and “fake” underlines Jonas’s key takeaway: misrepresentation renders phantoms. Richard Move’s *The Show (Achilles Heels*)(2006) is a glamorous reimagining of the story of Achilles. This larger than life “dance-play” featuring Rasta Thomas and Debbie Harry gave new life to Achilles, bringing to the stage “a radical convergence of dance, text, glamour, and reality television show antics.” In The Show, Achilles is queered, dancing the tango in heels and a gold bustier with his lover, Patroclus. *Empire* (1995) by Robert Ashley is a small selection from *Atalanta (Acts of God)* that sets the ancient story of Atalanta in the United States during the Great Depression. This performance delves into the creation of tomato soup, populated by hobos, tramps, and railmen who symbolize the operatic elements of the visual, the narrative, and the musical. Each of these performances serves as a fascinating exploration, unearthing archetypal themes that transcend both time and space and through mythology, provide contemporary cultural critiques that resonate with audiences in profound and thought-provoking ways.

Feb 19 - Feb 28, 2004

Lines in the Sand: Helen in Egypt:

Joan Jonas

Apr 27 - May 6, 2006

The Show (Achilles Heels):

Arto Lindsay, Debbie Harry, Les Dickert, Pilar Limosner, Rasta Thomas, Richard Move

Nov 19 - Nov 19, 1995


Robert Ashley, Tom Buckner