'HOME' (2019) by Ronan McKenzie, Photography by James Bantone

‘MOVE’ by Ronan Mckenzie challenges stereotypes around the black female body through dance

We write our stories with the medium of the body, unearth a beginning, middle and end through movement and infuse them with raw emotions and explosive live percussion

– Lua Shayenne

The beauty and strength of black women expressed through dance is explored in Ronan Mckenzie’s solo exhibition MOVE. The exhibition is a development of a moving image series created in 2018 for the exhibition I’m Home. Works on display are made up of contributions by women of colour who dance alone, in groups, while cooking and some in the privacy of their bedrooms. Multiplicity exists in the way that movement is embodied yet these women remain unified in the freedom it allows. Each contribution shows a unique perspective dismantling stereotypes around the black body.

“For the series, black women filmed themselves dancing, and although given the same brief, each video is distinct in how the women use dance to communicate. Within MOVE, dance exists as a form of personal expression. Though shown in a space where viewers interact with the works, the focus is still placed upon this act of dancing as predominantly for the dancers. They are not dancing with the viewer in mind; rather the viewer is asked to confront their own personal relationship with dance and their perception of the black female form, when encountering the videos” expresses curator of the show Jamila Prowse.

With MOVE, Mckenzie shows the multi-layered experience of black women by narrowing in on inherent intricacies of individual movement and the specific way in which each body moves. For the Basel iteration of MOVE held at 1.1 the exhibition takes the form of a domestic installation mimicking the spaces in which the videos of contributors were filmed.

The sterile gallery is transformed into an intimate home. Elements are placed to convey a sense of ease and comfort. A bed, books, plants and shelves. The bed setting is completed with a pair of headphones placed on a pillow inviting you to lay down, have a listen and stare up at the projected work on the ceiling.

“Gallery spaces are often presented as these sterile, white walled spaces; this presentation often translates into only certain people walking through their doors. The way that we view and experience art, however, is not limited to the blank canvases of galleries and museums. For many of us, our first experiences of art is at homes. This is an idea writer Abondance Matanda explores in her essay The First Galleries I Knew Were Black Homes, which has been influential in Ronan’s practice. Curating is a way to ground the viewer within an experience of familiarity and comfort. Recreating the home within the gallery encourages those who step through the door to have similar exchanges and conversations to the ones they’d have in the intimate spaces within their own lives.” – Jamila Prowse.

For me, as a black woman, I feel that being able to dance is something expected of me. Dance and music is a huge part of my life, often my day starts with moving my body solely for the pleasure of myself. I want to show the diversity of the black body, and the black experience, utilising the instrument that is unique to each of us.

Ronan Mckenzie

A conversation with Jamila Prowse will take place on 6th April 2019, 6pm.

‘MOVE’ (2019) film still, courtesy of the artist

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