I just like this video. It is short, well-titled and it makes sense to me. It was made in 2007, by the artist Oliver Herring who was born in Germany and who now works in New York. The performer in this five minute film, I can only assume is someone named ‘Nathan’. Almost an hour of scouring the web and still I struggled to find more information on the video, I do not think it is one of the most well-known works of Oliver Herring. It’s amazing how there is so much information on the internet. So so much. And then sometimes, there is this one little thing that you would like to know more about. And all you can find about this one little thing, is the same sentence that some vague unknown authority has written, over and over. And that’s all you find. Thanks a lot, internet. (IloveyouIhateyou).
Such is the case with this video, I feel. From what several websites and blogs have told me, the subject (the dancer? Nathan?) responded to an advert that Herring put out to make some art. I am not sure of the details, although it sounds like fun. But I digress, as I am not so much interested in the story behind the video as in the video itself. What I really liked about the first twenty seconds of the film, was the fact that it could have been edited and filmed by me. I like that. And then Nathan, the star of the film, started moving exactly like my father.
My dad grew up with three daughters, all of whom did ballet, one of whom stupidly decided to not stop doing ballet. He has been to his fair share of annual dance shows, school performances, ballet recitals, dance competitions. He knows the deal, he was the long-suffering parent sitting through 23 solos of nine year old girls doing the same routine until I appeared, always last, as either the tallest or with a surname that begins with a ‘V’. And often, after a show, with La Pebras gel still sticky in my hair, he would re-perform the show for me. It would always begin with an impressively awkward balance on one leg, well-meaning arms stretched and a leg extended but still knobbly, in an endearing sort of pose. My dad dances just like these opening moves of Nathan. It was shockingly accurate and familiar – had this mysterious Nathan fellow been spying on the silly antics of my home-life and the strange movement vocabulary my father assumes when wanting to engage with this thing called ‘dance’ that his youngest is so interested in? Sometimes, when miraculously all of his daughters are under the same roof again and he is feeling particularly pleased with himself, he will sweep into the room, in a fit of dancerly enthusiasm, arms above outstretched (in what I think is meant to be fifth position) and jumps into place. The absurdity and familiarity of it never ceases to make me laugh and bring me joy, partly because he looks absolutely ridiculous, and partly because aside from the self-mocking nature of the dance, there is a deliberate concentration, some very clear direction and detail, and a general sense of enjoyment.
Which is exactly what I feel in this film too. Mostly in the beginning however, because as the film progresses the atmosphere does become a little heavier or darker, you are reminded of how incredibly small the room is. But the initial sense of fooling around and falling around is so present and attractive, so relatable. It is something I am sure everyone has either done, or wanted to do very badly, when alone in a small room, belonging to no one in particular, gripped by a strange mood and overcome with the desire to mess about, move about. Perhaps not everyone has felt this way, but I know for a fact that you have all spun around in roll-y office chairs, regardless of your age or position in life.
The bed, the small room, the silliness and sometimes giggle-sound Nathan makes, it is appealing in its oddity. The way in which Nathan plays with objects that insist on taking up so much of our space. Later, towards the end, there is a slightly uncomfortable scene in which we see him tangling about in the sheets of the bed, a similar but exaggerated experience of that feeling when your linen turns against you and all of a sudden adopts a will of its own, regardless of your desire for it to stay on your bed. Nathan battles, he is sweaty, he is alone, in a hotel-room, it’s suddenly disturbing in a sad sort of way. And so the film treads a very thin, exciting line which makes you never sure if it is taking itself very seriously or not at all. The engaging and sweeping way in which it has been filmed adds an extra element of movement, the loneliest duet you’ve ever witnessed.
You may as well watch it, it’s only five minutes. And if perhaps you don’t enjoy it, as I did, you will at least come away feeling confused and/or frustrated that you wasted five minutes of your life on, according to the comments on YouTube, an artwork that was both “stoopid” and “Funny!!”
(You can also watch it on UbuWeb here if you fail to be as casually bewildered and amused by YouTube comments as I am)