genuine fakes

A master of 3D: Billy Cowie in Berlin
From Arnd Wesemann (tanz, October 2017)

One has now seen in the movies a lot of dance in 3D, in Wim Wenders' "Pina" and as well, most recently, in "Valerian" by Luc Besson with the pop icon Rihanna as a geisha, courtesan and nurse whose great dance, with physically concrete transformations into ever other figures, does not last longer than it takes to read this sentence. The British pioneer of the 3D dance film, Billy Cowie, holds much more back however. It has taken him many times around the world, from Kyoto via Cuba and back to Japanese Kochi and then to India, to convert the dancers and their art into 3D.

His trick: while in the cinema the film is projected onto a special silver screen, so as to satisfy the viewer's usual 3D polarised glasses, the artist gives us in the Berlin Kronenboden gallery chic LCD shutter glasses. Their effect is astonishing: in the middle of the simple gallery without prepared projection surfaces one almost believes oneself to be in a London club, where the invited ladies and gentlemen gather around a dancer. She is enthroned on a virtual pedestal, slightly off the centre of the room, life - size, very close, but completely unapproachable, bundled from pure light.

A hologram? Cowie's art does not go so far. There are also no entrances and exits. Instead we have the sudden appearance of a Japanese, Cuban or Indian dancer who knows nothing about the visitor, who is sitting in front of her in Berlin, thousands of miles away, and who here and now can carefully study every muscle, every pre-stretched leg. One is never so close to the dance in the theatre. What immediately strikes one is that the otherwise usual optical distortion in 3D, the unnaturally long arms and legs are all missing completely. Cowie has worked for a long time on this and we raise a glass to him.

As on an island in the room, Mei Suzuki dances, while a projected curtain seems to surround her, painted by the German artist Silke Mansholt, who lived for a long time in Brighton, where Billy Cowie as well as his long-standing artistic partner Liz Aggiss taught at the university. The pictures, of archaic strength and simplicity, over paint the Japanese dancer - not to the point of being unrecognizable, rather to providing an effective background, as in Cowie's performance «Dark Rain» (2013), where six Japanese dancers were performing their choreography in a line on six podiums in front of Mansholt's dancing symbols. Who is the real person, who is a pure 3D projection could be recognized only after the applause. All six bowed but only two were able to collect their flowers on the edge of the stage.

Not without deeper meaning is Billy Cowie's current assemblage at the
digital hearth: «Genuine Fakes». It is so real and successful including the excellent poems he himself wrote and that he adds to his choreographies. Just like the music which also comes from the pen of the master.