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“Une danse des bouffons” (A jester’s dance) currently on view at the David Zwirner gallery features the latest works from artist Marcel Dzama. Dzama’s film of the same name is the centerpiece of the exhibit and is shown alongside paintings, sculptures, and dioramas. Preceding the opening preview of “Une danse des bouffons,” Dzama partook in a conversation with the gallery’s Branwen Jones, to explain some of the inspiration behind his work.
As the focus of the exhibit, the 35-minute film appears in two versions: one cast in a red tint and one in blue. The show is also split in two, each room respectively displaying compositions to reflect the red and blue color scheme. Dzama describes the two films as a “Dadaist love story” and are doppelganger versions of each other; both films follow the same story line and choreography but feature different female leads. The story follows a fictitious romantic affair between Marcel Duchamp and one his models, Maria Martins. In the film, Martins enters into a game to save Duchamp who is being forced to mindlessly recite chess moves in captivity. It plays on an endless loop reflecting the cyclical theme of death and rebirth, while the Dadaist style and use of masks skew our perception between reality and fiction.
Une danse des bouffons is full of art historical references and recurrent motifs from Dzama’s past works such as chess. Works by artists such as Francis Picabia, Erwin Blumenfeld, and Francisco Goya inspired characters, props, and costumes. The choreography for the dance sequences were created by Vanessa Walters, while the musical score was created in collaboration with Arcade Fire members, William Butler, Jeremy Gara, and Tim Kingsbury. For the soundtrack, Dzama personally played several instruments including base, banjo, and mandolin.
The paintings shown in conjunction with the film were created after its completion. The subject matter of the watercolors includes characters and sequences borrowed from the film and are completed in Dzama’s signature, whimsical manner. In dialogue with them are dioramas and steel sculptural busts soldered and welded from the tins of Jumex tomatoes, a product found on location in Guadalajara, Mexico where Dzama was shooting another film, A Game of Chess. The dioramas and busts combine the central characters from his most recent films with figures from Dzama’s earlier works highlighting the artist’s expansive cast of subjects.
Installed in the space connecting the red and blue gallery rooms is Dzama’s short video Death Disco Dance, which features characters based on chess pieces and dressed in black and white leotards. He described this video piece as a happy accident: he was able to use the dancers from A Game of Chess to create a synchronized yet improvisational dance that was choreographed on the spot. Dzama used a small drum machine to create the soundtrack.
“Une danse des bouffons” is on view at the David Zwirner gallery through October 25.