Photo Credit: Ryan McNamara
Part of the ICA’s Art in the Age of the Internet exhibition, MEM 4 Boston: A Story Ballet About the Internet is a high-energy, immersive performance inspired by internet-sourced choreography selected by the dancers, featuring moves from Trisha Brown and Janet Jackson alike. With digitally printed costumes and a soundtrack of current hits, Brooklyn-based visual artist Ryan McNamara premiered MEM in 2013, but he evolves the piece each time it’s performed. We connected with McNamara before MEM’s showing at the ICA on May 18-19.
What is the inspiration behind MEM? I was thinking about my interest in the live experience, which is really important to me. There’s something amazing about the arts. It’s a field that believes in people coming together to be in the same space. Also, being alive now and spending nearly half my day on the internet, and thinking about how those two worlds operated together in their similarities and their differences and what it would be to experience live performance in the same way.
How would you describe your choreographic style? I love watching a body do something that I can’t do, but at the same time, I’m working with these dancers who are much more than what they can do. … There’s something about being able to have technique be important, but take a backseat to personality. I want the audience to basically get a crush on all the dancers.
Despite the piece’s 2013 creation, the internet-based subject matter is still relevant. Why do you think that is? What I find so interesting about it is that obviously this was an insane revolution in our culture, but I feel like we never took the time to really dissect what that means. It’s not even questioned, and I think that’s why shows like this are important because it affects so many aspects of our life. … What is the thing that we’re even talking about when we talk about the internet? Because it’s not just the wires connecting the server. There are so many things involved in that cultural shift.
What do you hope the audience will take away from the performance? A shift in perspective. As an audience member, that’s what I want from a performance or any visual art show. It’s showing me a different perspective—and not that I have to keep that shift—but it’s sort of seeing something in a different way than when you entered. I think that’s a pretty magical thing.
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