How many billboards?
Photo by Gerard Smulevich

Yvonne Rainer

Yvonne Rainer's prodigious output over the past forty years crosses several spheres of art making. Her important work as both a choreographer and filmmaker radically infuse political and conceptual consciousness into the fields of dance and independent filmmaking. While these two trajectories of Rainer's art practice follow their own distinct paths, both her dance compositions and films employ distancing strategies and disjunctive acts (such as fragmentation), and set up complex juxtapositions that interrupt the linear flow of narrative and time. Most notably, her dances and films eschew the grand gestures and excessive drama of modern dance and Abstract Expressionism, which dominated New York's art establishment when Rainer began her intermedia performances with Judson Church during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Instead, Rainer's work reflects the ordinary movements of everyday life, and her dance compositions dispel the distance between performer and audience by removing the proscenium stage. Rainer's We Shall Run (1963), for example, has non-professional dancers dressed in casual street clothes jogging for seven minutes. Her use of voice-over and intertitles in many of her films, along with appropriating whole texts (literary, cinematic, and philosophical) by other authors into her screenplays further distances her work from the illusionistic imperatives of traditional narrative filmmaking. In The Man Who Envied Women (1985) one of her most popular films, Rainer uses this technique of textual appropriation and delivers a comical and incisive account of artistic and intellectual pretension. Addressing themes of aging, menopause, and women's identity, Privilege (1990) is one of Rainer's more explicitly feminist films representing the process by which women's bodies are coveted in youth but marginalized in older age.

For How Many Billboards?, Rainer plainly presents an enigmatic quote from a grand dame of Hollywood filmmaking, Marlene Dietrich. In an industry constantly churning out new talent, Dietrich's professional longevity was exceptional and is often attributed to her ability to constantly reinvent herself for both the camera and her public. Even in her self-imposed seclusion during the last decade of her life, Dietrich continued to captivate the public imagination. Despite her death in 1992, Dietrich's image remains ever present as a standard for glamour, which seems to corroborate the refrain "I look good" in Rainer's billboard text. By alluding to and defamiliarizing mass-media imagery, especially Hollywood movies, Rainer casts a critical light on various scenarios that contribute to women's oppression-social, political and physical.
By Gloria Sutton

LOCATION: Pico Blvd, west of Fairfax Ave, on the south side of the street, facing west.
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Yvonne Rainer (b. 1934)
Yvonne Rainer made a transition to filmmaking following a 15-year career as a choreographer/dancer (19601975). After making seven experimental feature films - Lives of Performers (1972), Privilege (1990), MURDER and murder (1996), among others - she returned to dance in 2000 via a commission from the Baryshnikov Dance Foundation for the White Oak Dance Project. Her most recent dances are "AG Indexical, with a little help from H.M.," a re-vision of Balanchine's "Agon"; "RoS Indexical," a re-vision of Nijinsky's "The Rite of Spring" and a Performa07 commission; and "Spiraling Down," a meditation on soccer, aging, and war. Her dances have been performed in New York, Vienna, Helsinki, Kassel, Berlin, Sao Paolo, and, in June 2009, at REDCAT, Los Angeles. A memoir, Feelings Are Facts: A Life, was published by MIT Press in 2006. Rainer is currently a Distinguished Professor of Studio Art at the University of California, Irvine.
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