Courtesy of Mike Selsky.

Dan Colen Premieres New Video, 'Carry On Cowboy'

The video, which features a new performance piece, is the first time Colen and choreographer Dimitri Chamblas have worked together.

by Haley Mellin
Feb 8 2019, 2:30pm

Courtesy of Mike Selsky.

The premiere of Carry On Cowboy, a new performance piece by Dan Colen in which he worked closely with choreographer Dimitri Chamblas, unfolded at Gagosian in Beverly Hills at the center of Colen’s exhibition, Dan Colen: High Noon. The two hour long performance—which premiered on December 5, 2018—was conceived as a stand-alone work that can happen in other locales, such as outdoors in the desert at high noon. This is the first time Colen and Chamblas, a dancer and French choreographer of contemporary dance, have worked together.

Here, GARAGE premieres a video of the live performance:

In Carry On Cowboy, a cowboy stood in a smattering of dust, staring off into the distance at a universal horizon line. He is in dusty cowboy attire, thick leather holster and cowboy hat, akin to an authentic Western shoot ‘em up. By his stare it is clear that he faces another holstered gunman, who is beyond sight, and is ready for a duel. Unfortunately, time and time again, the cowboy draws too slowly and is shot, sometimes once, and sometimes repeatedly across his dusty physique. There are no audible bangs, but the motion of his body conveys the gunshot. As the bullets riddle his body, he lurches, falling at differing rates, sometimes in a solid full motion thunk, other times, with a slow demise that incorporates dance. Once “dead,” the performer rises to die yet again. He died over 20 times to my count.

The performance was an endurance race of futility. Notable were the silences when he was on the ground, dead or close to it. These intermissions in action linked him with the audience for a few minutes; the non-action being something of a quiet unison where people began looking at the paintings, or one another. Over time the air filled with light dust, so slight that lungs my felt sore well before I could see the accumulating haze. Attended by other dancers, artists, collectors, and the curious on a rainy Los Angeles afternoon, this endurance feat of dying over and over often was exceptionally realistic – both physically and psychically.

The performance was followed by a conversation between Colen and Chamblas, moderated by the curator and author Douglas Fogle. In conversation, Chamblas described how he had ‘‘learned’’ Colen through their initial interactions via choreographing the dance, noting particular details about how Colen articulated the body ("he'll use his elbow more than his hand").

Colen explained how performing the dance was like embodying failure or demise, and sometimes just trying to perform was a failure in itself. As we were seated, listening to these two visionaries discuss the art of falling, or failing, of trying and being, the dust remained aloft in the painting galleries. The solo cowboy performance was an afterimage that remains.

Carry On Cowboy: Artwork © Dan Colen; performer: Seth Bowling; video: Manuela Dalle. Courtesy Gagosian.

Conversation: Artwork © Dan Colen; video: Aaron Farley. Courtesy Gagosian.

Dan Colen