Romany Dear: The Art of Movement

Rosamund West | 02 Apr 2012

This year's recipient of The Skinny & CCA Award at RSA New Contemporaries, Romany Dear tells us about her practice, her degree show and the work she is currently presenting on the Mound

The Art of Hanging Around is presented in the RSA as a video piece, a documentation of a performance that took place within the gallery before the New Contemporaries exhibition opened. Similarly dressed girls walk between the works, stopping, standing, arms on backs and hips, staring, moving on. Romany Dear has created a skilled choreography which explores the very process of looking at art, highlighting the theatrical nature of the experience, and introducing us to the weird laws of etiquette that exist in our consumption of an exhibition.

The Art of Hanging Around I suppose is a slightly mocking gesture, but mocking in a nice way. It’s from an idea that I have that maybe there’s a set way we all move in art galleries and at openings. Often it’s got nothing to do with the art at all, we’re not really looking at it.” The work is not what Dear had originally mooted for New Contemporaries – she changed her proposal after visiting the space and observing the visitors move around the galleries. “I spent quite a lot of time in the RSA space and the way people behaved reminded me of an earlier work that I’d done at Market Gallery so I changed my proposal.

“The piece I did that was similar at Market Gallery, the choreography wasn’t complex by any means, but more so than this – it moved through about seven different positions and then for this piece, I think because I was trying to capture it on video, they had about three moves that they did and they repeated. Maybe the outcome is slightly boring, but that’s kind of important, it’s not meant to have this theatrical conclusion, it’s just this thing that is happening. There’s no sound. The movement is the essence of it and without an audio or anything else that’s what you’re purely concentrating on.”

The origins of The Art of Hanging Around extend further than the Market piece to the work that Dear presented for her degree show in Glasgow last summer – she graduated from the Sculpture and Environmental Art course at GSA. Visitors may recall the orange Walkmen that guided them around the Mackintosh Gallery. “The themes of my degree show are similar to those of the piece I made for the RSA. This idea of documenting how we behave in social, institutional space, this physical etiquette that exists – you can’t do this, you can’t touch the work. So it was a kind of suggestive audio that encouraged you to push these or break these. Not in a sabotage way, again quite a subtle intervention. It led you from my studio space into the main Mackintosh gallery because that felt like the space where this kind of movement happens. It led you around and asked you to get closer to things. It was kind of intimate.

"It was from watching that piece that I pulled the movement out to make the RSA piece; you could have up to twelve people doing it at the same time so there would be these accidental moments of chance synchronisation where four people on the tour would be leaning forward or would have their hand on their hip."

Dear has a background in dance, which has fed into her interest in making artwork from movement. “I studied dance when I was young. Rather than an expressive or narrative dance, this is very pared down, common movement that we all do subconsciously, consciously every day; just trying to choreograph that. What I’m trying to say is it already happens, I’m just kind of bringing attention to it or slightly exaggerating it or repeating it which then makes you think about the way that you are moving.”  

You can see The Art of Hanging Around at RSA New Contemporaries on the Mound until 11 April. And there's much more in the works – Dear has a busy few months ahead of her, with a redeveloped audio tour for the Market Gallery's Art Lending Library in GI, work on Glasgow Open Dance School – “we put on different dance and movement workshops in Glasgow once a month for free” – and a trip to Generator in Dundee for inclusion in They Had Four Years. And after that? A well earned rest in July. The results of The Skinny Award will be an exhibition in CCA's Intermedia space next year, to coincide with RSA's New Contemporaries 2013. Watch this space.

RSA New Contemporaries, Edinburgh, 17 Mar-11 Apr Art Lending Library, Mitchell Library, Glasgow, 20 Apr-7 May, part of Glasgow International They Had Four Years, Generator Projects, Dundee, 19 May-10 Jun