David Rosetzky’s demeanour belies the often revealing nature of his cinematic, screen-based works. Time spent with the amiable, though quietly spoken artist yields measured, considered responses and diffident hints and clues.
He speaks of his stylised, choreographed works in terms of “palette”, “tone” and “texture”; he ponders the point of flux between “reality” and the “imaginary and fantastical”.
“I would say that How to Feel definitely looks at identity or the self as something that is sort of shifting or fractured in a way,” he offers of his new commission for ACCA, which opened alongside Yael Bartana’s film …and Europe will be stunned last week. “I’m really interested in how people perceive themselves in relation to others and the way that people use language to describe themselves and tell stories about their lives.”
Set for the most part in a white-walled performance studio and drawing on looped, overlapped narrative sketches, the work rotates around six protagonists in the midst of a kind of communicative purging process. As each character spiritedly discusses their personal character traits, passions and fears, they break into abstract, choreographed dance gestures, effectively interpreting and acting out the dialogue. What seems an intimate reality buckles and shifts.
“The dance picks up on the tensions that are within the story, but is a bit less specific,” says Rosetzky, who worked with choreographer Stephanie Lake.
“I like the idea of this kind of exercise class that subtly transitions from the everyday – something that people possibly would do in an exercise class – to something a little more choreographed and abstract.”
In a particularly striking scene, one character’s personal self-analysis becomes that of the group’s. Before she can finish her thought, another character finishes it for her, and so on and so forth until the group is essentially speaking as one. Personal confession and revelation become the arbitrary charade and contrivance and language.
“I guess it was a way of exploring, in detail, people’s sense of self and identity, but sort of playing with it in the sense that the different characters share the same lines and don’t stick to specific character traits,” says Rosetzky. “There’s that sense of fluidity within the work, which can be a bit odd or creepy.”
The notion of the fragmentary contemporary self has been a regular point of enquiry for Rosetzky, whose last major work (heart) Forever – which showed at Sutton Gallery last year – saw several characters seamlessly cut in and out of the same role in a single, continuous narrative thread. In an age defined by social media and reality television, ideas of identity have never been so multipart.
“Rather than creating a specific character that has to last for the duration of the work, what I’ve tried to do is more like a montage or conglomerate of texts and images that switch around,” explains Rosetzky.
“We are used to being able to pin people down, but part of the idea behind my work is that you can’t pin these people down,” he continues. “The idea of identity is contradictory, constructed and shifting.”
How to Feel shows at ACCA until September 25.