Most people know the Venice Biennale for its illustrious art shows – but in 1999, dance was added to the programme – and has proved a fruitful addition ever since. This year, Wayne McGregor CBE was announced as director of the Venice Biennale Danza for the next four years (until 2024). McGregor is an award winning British choreographer and director renowned for trailblazing innovations in performance that have radically redefined dance in the modern era. Having worked with Nick Knight and SHOWstudio on a number of projects – hallucinatory fashion films featuring Fredrik Tjærandsen's wearable bubbles, or Gareth Pugh's sculptural garments – McGregor has choreographed things as diverse as music videos for Radiohead and The Chemical Brothers, alongside films including Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and the Fantastic Beasts series. To put it simply, his choreography knows no bounds.
For his debut as director of the Venice Biennale Danza, Company Wayne McGregor and Random International will present Future Self, a performative light installation. Created with the aim of studying human movement and investigating identity and the relationship we have with our own image and with others, music, artwork and the human form will meld into a singular emotional experience during the performance. Two dancers will explore the installation in a piece choreographed by McGregor, responding both to each other's physical presence and to their reflections, as light and body become one. As an added bonus, the work will be accompanied with a score from the much-loved German-British composer Max Richter.
'As we are propelled into 2021, after a year of the pandemic, social distancing and enforced physical restrictions, we are powerfully reminded of the criticality of touch in our lives,' wrote McGregor in his introductory statement to the Biennale. 'We have been unable to hold our loved ones nor reach out to feel our friends embrace, we have missed the powerful interpersonal relationships that are engendered by skin-to-skin contact and have registered most deeply the profound loss to our physical, mental and emotional well-being such touch-deprivation opens in us. Today, we are desperate to re-connect to the world through and with our bodies and we are, now more than ever, ready to be exhilarated by a return to our fullest embodied existence.'
Throughout the programme, McGregor will reflect diversity through gender, race and age, and spotlight the work of artists working on the peripheries alongside those who are more well known. There will be ten days of events with over 100 artists.
The message, it would seem, is that touch should prevail at all costs (pandemic or no pandemic). In McGregor's introductory statement, he included a quote by the hallowed queen of criticism - Susan Sontag. 'The longing to touch/be touched. I feel gratitude when I touch someone - as well as affection etc. The person has allowed me proof that I have a body - and that there are bodies in the world.'
Future Self - Random International/Company Wayne McGregor will run from 23 July - 1 August 2021.