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New exhibit and live performance ‘Social Undistance’ explores the impact of 2020

By The Monarch special To The Standard-Examiner - | Jun 3, 2021

“Social Undistance” is the next art installation by Ogden Contemporary Arts (OCA) opening Saturday, June 12, with special live performances on June 12, 25 and 26.

The interdisciplinary exhibition and contemporary dance experience, in collaboration with Ogden MoveMeant Collective and Cam McLeod, explores how shared isolation and limited physical connection impacts the human experience.

Featuring McLeod, a local photographer, in collaboration with Tawna Halbert and the Ogden MoveMeant Collective, “Social Undistance” layers photography and videography with human movement in ways that speak to our increased reliance on technology as a means of personal connection, as well as the new ways in which we occupy physical space.

The central piece for the show is a video installation that projects a boxed, three-by-three grid onto a large wall in the lower gallery. Within each of the nine boxes is a dancer moving in synchronicity with their confined counterparts, performing the same routine movements to a digitized score. Tension builds as the projection fades, pulses and shifts, creating feelings of chaos and uncertainty as the dancers fight against their confinement. The music then transitions to a balletic piece resembling a traditional waltz, and dancers begin to move freely throughout the grid to perform masked duets.

“There were quite a range of emotions that inspired the movement,” said Halbert, who choreographed both dances for the installation over Zoom last winter. “I wanted to capture the tension and growing unrest that we’d been feeling since last March.”

McLeod, who developed the overarching concept for the installation, says: “Through the choreography and song selection in the first piece, we’re trying to give a visual representation of what it felt like to be thrust into extreme lockdown and isolation from human interaction, and what that restricted movement does to the human psyche. In the second piece, we then create a sense of hope in moving past quarantine as we try to connect again with one another.”

The shape of the boxed grid is a nod to modern technology exacerbated during quarantine (consider your Instagram feed or daily Zoom calls), while the projection intentionally mimics the look of stacked analog televisions with curved lenses and imperfect pictures. The layering of these two visuals speaks to the rapid advancement of technology and how we are constantly adapting to these changes.

Local videographer Dylan Tortaro filmed the dancers while McLeod photographed, leading to the series of prints and looped videos also on display throughout the gallery. The digital pieces are excerpts from the main installation and resemble GIFs or Boomerang videos, while the printed images show various stages of motion through long exposures or layered composites.

Adding another layer to the exhibition is a series of four live performances choreographed by Ogden MoveMeant Collective dancers, including Weber State University’s Jo Blake. Each piece is individually created in response to the same theme, some incorporating live music or the spoken word.

“The defining factor for all these pieces is the manipulation of space,” Halbert said. “Performing in a contemporary art space rather than a theater was very intentional and quite challenging. I’m hoping it’s cathartic for the audience; you can move through the space to experience the performances from different vantage points rather than be in a static seat — I think we’ve all had enough of that.”

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