Art space and performance space combine at Hudson Hall

While working in a museum many years ago, artist Barbara Kilpatrick learned a disturbing statistic: the average time a viewer spends looking at a work of art is just 10 seconds. This number stuck with her and eventually inspired her to start making art outside of the museum or gallery box, especially costumes and sets in which dance and performance could take place.

“The idea that I could make an object that would be integrated into the presentation of a visual event, and that people would spend time looking at it, that I could somehow change the perceptions of the viewers, there was a beauty in there,” the artist said. in a recent interview. “People searched longer, but also weren’t engaged in the materialization of buying an object or worshiping it because it was in a museum.”

For “Nearly Stationary,” at Hudson Hall through June 12, Kilpatrick created an installation of “living art objects,” as she calls them, and invited dancers to enter and respond to them. The multi-story exhibition, which opens this weekend, features fleeting costumes, drawings, photographs and performances, which collectively serve as the basis for a new dance work by Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener. Set to John Cage’s “Four-Part String Quartet,” the play premieres May 14 at Hudson Hall’s 1855 Theater, with a dozen performances scheduled throughout the show.

“Our contribution is specifically designed to exist as part of Barbara’s installation,” the dancers/choreographers wrote in a combined email interview. “The dance weaves its way among the costumes, and the costumes are in some cases moved or manipulated by the dance. The grand setting of the performance hall and the courtly elements of the costumes also influence the spatial and tonal responses of the dance.

The couple’s sign language was influenced by the colors and textures of the objects, as well as the techniques Kilpatrick used to weave, print and dye the garments, draped over dress forms she molded herself. Her materials range from fairy lights to adhesive tape and evoke several eras in the history of art and fashion.

“The costumes are surrogates for me and my artistic creation process, so often they reflect historical or contemporary artistic ideas that I’m working on, which are integrated into the costume,” she explained.

A doublet is made with steel washers like ancient armor; a flowing dress is enclosed in a torsion wire cage. For other costumes, Kilpatrick pieced together photographs as a quilt, turned recycled plastic bags into tutus, and made fabric by printing photographs of her old dolls, discovered in an attic, onto cotton and linen. His creations blur the boundaries between soft and hard, stillness and movement, art and functionality.

“I always saw them as sculptures, but wondered if they were elevated enough to be works of art,” Kilpatrick said of his work. “Having an object whose origin and destination are uncertain and integrating a certain form of ambivalence into it, however disturbing it may be, it is very interesting to live in this uncertainty.”

Early in her career, Kilpatrick teamed up with Vicky Shick, then a dancer with the Trisha Brown Company. Their 20-year creative partnership included Bessie Award-winning ‘Undoing,’ in which inanimate elements – moving screens, low platforms, a large bowl, paper costumes – were also fundamental to mood and pattern. than the dancers themselves.

“I would react to certain ideas developed in our performances and alternately work on ideas that influenced our choreography,” Kilpatrick recalled. “It was a back and forth between my independent life in the solo studio and the performative life.”

She drew inspiration in both process and product from Robert Rauschenberg’s sets and John Cage’s scores for Merce Cunningham’s dances; these collaborations produced what Kilpatrick described as “a new hybrid art form” that altered the relationships between dance, music, costume and scenery. While his work with Mitchell and Riener has taken place almost entirely remotely, due to pandemic restrictions and geography, the result will be co-creation in the same tradition.

“What I love about collaborating is that the ego is released,” Kilpatrick said. “You don’t think about yourself as much as you are the biggest object at hand, and that’s very liberating.”

“Almost stationary”

When: The exhibition runs until June 12; Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Special Gala Show, May 14; Repeats on May 21, 22, 28, 29 and June 4 at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., June 5 at 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Where: Hudson Hall, 327 Warren St., Hudson

Tickets: entrance to the gallery, free; performance, $15

Information: 822-1438 or

Also: Conversation with employees, June 5 at 6 p.m.