Cecilia Bengolea, Tryptique – Oneness, 2019-2020

Videostills: Courtey of the artist, 2019

Three-channel video installation, color, sound
Six hours mixed randomly with software of algorithms
Dimensions variable
Commissioned by the La Ville de Geneva, The Story X Vinyl Factory and Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary

A slim young shirtless man, wearing loose knee length shorts, stands under heavy rain in the street laughing as cars rush past behind him on the dark night-time street, illuminated only by the vehicles lights. His friends, off screen, laugh and cajole. The boy frowns, hands on his hips as if to protest their chants as rainwater glistens on his lithe torso. A moment later, when music starts, the boy begins to dance, grinning as the rain rolls off his body. This scene is one of many shot on the streets of Kingston, Jamaica, to create Dancehall Weather, a film by artist and choreographer Cecilia Bengolea, edited using a software that creates an arbitrary selection of five years of footage. Another scene depicts Bengolea’s long-term collaborator Erika Miyauchi, a classically trained ballerina from Japan dancing in the dark on a suburban street lined with identical board houses lit by street lights—Miyauchi interweaves classical ballet steps with dancehall phrases. Other scenes depict groups of male dancers moving in unison on dusty streets or abandoned buildings to create moments of cinema that’s seemingly improvised choreography is made unreal by the epic cinematic settings. 

To Bengolea Dancehall culture—the subject of Dancehall Weather—is a spiritual experience that narrates the lives of the people who contribute to its physical and social formations. Dancehall music evolved in the 70s and 80s in Jamaica, beginning as a bolder elaboration on reggae beats and lyrics. In the late 90s and early 00s Dancehall went globally mainstream via artists such as Sean Paul and Beenie Man, who created a moorish version that incorporated the addictive motifs of pop music, with its laconic lyrics and rolling rhythms.

Cecilia Bengolea first travelled to Jamaica in 2014 to research a project she was making with a dub composer and quickly immersed herself in Dancehall culture, attending street parties, taking classes, and befriending the dancers she met, and has since returned annually for several months a year.  She often invites dancers from Jamaica to Europe and Argentina to collaborate in live performances.

Bengolea, studied anthropological dance in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where she explored the ideas of Eugenio Barba with teacher Guillermo Angelelli from the Odin Theatre, initiating her ongoing interest in working with different communities and their dancers. Bengolea has stated: “I feel a culture by making and inhabiting their gestures, rhythms, and the breath they use… to share the spirit...” 

Bengolea describes the languages of dance as viral, something that has always disseminated across the world through music, dances—Soul only became Northern when it arrived in the clubs of Wigan and Manchester in the 70s—and now happens more instantaneously via the Internet, as people have never been to the Caribbean to assimilate the style, trends and movements remotely. Bengolea addresses the acute complexity of the social togetherness within Dancehall to create work that is as unsettling as it is beautiful, by intensely collaborating and inhabiting its world. She adds; “It’s a language that Jamaican dancers share with us… All the steps have names and meaning. Their creators allow dancers from all over the world to signifying their steps in different choreographies, to different songs. We can communicate with movement through this empathic repertory of steps. From different parts of the world, we have the sensation of composing One body, One love….” 
– Kathy Noble
Cecilia Bengolea studies the history of anthropological and urban dance forms and their relation to nature, the elements, and figuration. She perceives dance and performance as animated sculpture and welcomes the fact that these forms allow her to become both object and subject simultaneously. 

Bengolea’s video installations and performances have been exhibited at the Gwangju Biennial (2014), Biennale de Lyon (2015), The Tanks and Tade Modern (2015), Faena Arts Center, Buenos Aires (2015 and 2017) Fig-2 25/50 at ICA, London (2015), Block Universe London (2015),  Dia Art Foundation (May 2017), Tokyo Spiral Hall, Biennale de Sao Paulo (2016), The Infinite Mix, Hayward Gallery London (2016), Elevation 1049, Gstaad (2017), Palais de Tokyo (2015 and 2018), Art Night, ICA London (2015), Fiorucci Art Trust, Stromboli and Dhaka Art Summit (2018), TBA21 San Lorenzo Venice (2018), Art Basel Miami Faena (2018), E.A.T Engadin Art Talks (2019), Centre Pompidou (2010, 2016, 2019), ArteBA Buenos Aires (2019), Desertx (2019,) Bienale de Venezia (2019), Der Tank Art Basel (2019), Jean Nouvel train station Geneve Champel (2019) .