ACT appoints artist Kelly Nipper as lecturer

Kelly Nipper, Mouvements du Centre de Gravité, 2013
ACT at MIT

Performance and video artist Kelly Nipper joins MIT arts faculty in the Program in Art, Culture and Technology

Ainsley Sutherland | MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology

The MIT Program in Art, Culture and Technology (ACT) is pleased to announce the appointment of artist Kelly Nipper as lecturer. Nipper’s work engages contemporary and historical forms and theories through photography, video, music, performance, and theater. Her work “tests the sustainability of recorded and repeated information as it changes from one form or medium to another.”  Starting this fall, Nipper will teach Introduction to Video and Related Media as well as the Performance Workshop.

Experimental and transdisciplinary 

Nipper’s background is in photography, film, and video — media that she subjects to specific situations, live performers, and collaborative intervention. Her work shifts between conceptual structure and organic physicality, and negotiates how technology and human experience have been constructed in parallel. “The formal vocabulary of her videos and photographs is very much in dialogue with the experimental nature of Merce Cunningham’s fluidity of movement, Yvonne’s Rainer’s adaptation of pedestrian tasks, Hélio Oiticica’s suggestion of ‘free form space and colour,’ and Allan Kaprow’s prolific instruction pieces of the 1970s, which overtly addressed audience participation as the work itself,” writes art historian Gloria Sutton.

Many of Nipper’s recent projects draw on the historical legacy and contemporary relevance of Laban Movement Analysis, which “provides a vocabulary and conceptual framework for investigating and understanding the materiality of time, space and the body.”  This system, “more alphabet than textual composition,” allows Nipper to pursue specific modernist geometric figures through dynamic somatic and discursive transformations.

Black Forest (2013) is a project that reveals Nipper’s interest in ritual, repetition, and the crystallization of affective states. Weighted sandbags, each printed with a single letter, rest on the floor. Plaster figures are arranged on a platform posed like dancers, and covered by lettered felt overlays “that reflect a grammar of the body’s motion.”  Labanotation, the movement notation system developed by Rudolph Laban, emphasizes a vocabulary of motion in space rather than of bodies. The felt lettering on the figures and sandbags draws a relationship between the active, time-based communication of language or dance, and the challenge of recording this activity in bodies and alphabetic systems.

Recently, Nipper exhibited Circle Circle (2013) at Bard College. This exhibition explored the structure and movement of the hurricane and questioned how flow in general is communicated and contextualized. In her “videodance” of the same name, the dancer “is doubled, and projected larger than life on opposite walls of a darkened room, sandwiching the audience between the clockwise and anti-clockwise rotations of the dancer’s hips.”  The work invites an analogy between the mechanical movement and positioning of the camera and the movements of the human body. The gestures of the dancers are not dictated by the formal systems they respond to, but reveal how concepts and physical, embodied motions such as circling disturb and simultaneously compose abstract systems. Circle Circle is “a prime example of unstructured, incidental, and sometimes ritualistic activity… encountering a highly developed ordering structure.”  The tools of recording, playback, and editing are not technological interruptions; the videodances are part of the architecture of the performance, sites of meditation and exploration that allow motion to gain materiality and history.

Notable exhibitions and performances 

Nipper’s work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York; Kunsthaus Zürich, Switzerland; Tramway, Glasgow, Scotland; and the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston.

Her performances have been commissioned by The Museum of Modern Art, New York; South London Gallery, UK; and Performa, New York, and included in recent significant exhibitions such as Danser Sa Vie at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, France (2011) and 2010: Whitney Biennial, The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2010).

Her work is in the public collections of the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; and the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles among others. Nipper received her MFA from the California Institute of the Arts in 1995. Click here to read Nipper’s full biography.