Brendan Fernandes: My Work Is a Form of Protest
“Dance is, for me, political. Dance is a means for protest.”
Artist Brendan Fernandes shares a glimpse into the hybridity of his work which he places in the intersection between dance and visual arts. Read more …
“I’m a Kenyan, I’m an Indian, I’m a Canadian, I’m an American, but I’m also a punk rock ballerina.” Since childhood, Brendan Fernandes has been exploring his artistic side. Fernandes was born in Kenya to Indian-Kenyan parents but moved to Canada as a child. This is also where he started taking dance classes and developing a career in the field. But after an injury that put the career on hold, Fernandes started pursuing the visual arts he grew up loving. Eventually, he began to bring bodies, specifically dancers, into his practice. “The work is hybrid,” he says and continues: “It’s interesting because it kind of creates complications.”
“I’m really curious about how dance doesn’t have a language. Dance – even if it’s scored or choreographed like a classical ballet, it’s never going to be the same.” In the work, which is often shown in public or in museums, the dancers’ bodies become sculptures in their space. “I don’t like this to be static. I like things to be in flux,” Fernandes explains. “For me, stillness in my dances is very important. I believe that within stillness, a body that could be moving is still moving. The labour gesture is still there.” The dancers will interact with devices in the room but will try to keep their poses for as long as possible, sometimes even until they fall out.
“In my work, you’ll see a lot of this idea of falling and standing up again. The idea of ‘to fall’ as a moment of vulnerability and fragility. And then the political action to stand up,” Brendan Fernandes says and questions: “How do we choreograph a fall?” Fernandes explores this in ‘Free Fall 49’ and ‘Free Fall For Camera’. After the massacre at the nightclub Pulse in Orlando in 2016, he created the pieces as a testament to the victims and the queer community. The works take on a club-like feeling, and the viewer sees bodies falling repeatedly. “It’s a piece that is supposed to create space, to create agency,” Fernandes explains. “What I hope for in my work is that my audience comes together. That they find a space of inclusivity. That they find a space they can find their narrative to be part of.”
Brendan Fernandes (b. 1979, Nairobi, Kenya) is an internationally recognised Canadian artist based in Chicago working at the intersection between dance and visual arts. His projects address issues of race, queer culture, migration, protest and other forms of collective movements. Fernandes is a graduate of the Whitney Independent Study Program (2007) and a recipient of a Robert Rauschenberg Fellowship (2014). His projects have been shown at the 2019 Whitney Biennial (New York); the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York); the Museum of Modern Art (New York); The Getty Museum (Los Angeles); the National Gallery of Canada (Ottawa); MAC (Montreal); among a great many others. He is currently Assistant Professor at Northwestern University and is represented by Monique Meloche Gallery in Chicago. Recent projects include performances and solo presentations at the Noguchi Museum, New York, NY; Munch Art Museum, Oslo, Norway; and The Richmond Art Gallery, Richmond, BC.
Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen interviewed Brendan Fernandes at the DR Koncerthuset, Copenhagen, Denmark, in connection to his piece ‘The Calls’ made in collaboration with composer Niels Rosing-Schow, designer Henrik Vibskov and curator Catherine Lefebvre. DR Vokalensemblet performed the piece. The interview was filmed in February 2023.
Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard
Edited and produced by: Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2023
Louisiana Channel is supported by Den A.P. Møllerske Støttefond, Ny Carlsbergfondet, C.L. Davids Fond og Samling and Fritz Hansen.
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