Exhibition at Mudam Luxembourg: 14 - 29 May, 2022
Performances at Socle C (Esch-Belval): 14 May, 16h00 & 18h00
Performances at Mudam Luxembourg: 15 May, 15h00 & 17h00
The European Capital of Culture Esch2022 and Mudam Luxembourg have commissioned artist and choreographer Cecilia Bengolea to create a new body of work bringing together dance, performance, sculpture and video installation. The project will be premiered on the occasion of the Luxembourg Museum Days, unfolding across two spaces: Socle C, the concrete foundations of the former Blast Furnace C in Esch-Belval, and the Great Hall of Mudam in Luxembourg City.
Deary Steel is a new body of work set on the site of the historic steel industry of Belval. Inactive since the late 1990s, the three blast furnaces of the former Esch-Belval plant mark the landscape of the Minett region in the South of Luxembourg by their monumental functional and symbolic architecture where industrial knowledge and memories converge. The piece explores the genesis of the social and material dimensions of the industrial era, and how they have choreographed the post-industrial era including connections to the early 20th century dance form danse libre (Free Dance). During the interwar years of the 1930s a group of naturist dancers in Monte Verità (Switzerland) created a community who sought to represent a harmony lost between human action and nature. Inspired by this moment and its relevance to today, Bengolea studied the danse libre repertory, instructing dancers from the Jeune Ballet du Conservatoire National Supérieur Musique et Danse de Lyon (CNSMD Lyon).
Through the collaboration with nine dancers from the school, Bengolea choreographed a 30-minute piece, La Danse des Élémentsmixing dance and ritualistic gestures from different cultures around the world. Collapsing established categories, the artist’s work combines ancient ceremonial forms with street dance, drawing attention to their common social function and bringing people together.
The video installation shows the moving bodies of ten ballet dancers superimposing depictions of rituals that involve fire as a symbol of energy, empowerment and healing. Images of the active ArcelorMittal Belval steel plant are juxtaposed with found footage from Manga, images of Chinese medicine and archival footage depicting the struggles of female industrial workers and early twentieth century leisure activities.
The work is inspired by the artist’s fascination with the mineral origins of our planet (represented by the collisions of meteorites) and the production of steel as an alluring choreography of the elements reflecting these origins. Describing the industrial production of steel as an ‘alchemic process’ Bengolea maintains that it is ‘not just into the orchestration and composition of these elements’ that interest her ‘but also how they influence and manipulate our bodies, natural cycles and lifestyle’. Referring to Chinese medicine, the artist cites the ‘key role’ the metallic elements play ‘in regulating our meridians in chi gong, reiki and tai chi’.
Deary Steel thus suggests ‘our intimacy with manufactured heavy objects is non less personal and affective than our intimacy with the metals our body carries.’ Invoking the sci-fi character of the Metal Woman (from Fritz Lang’s 1927 film Metropolis), Bengolea seeks to explore the attraction of ‘hard manufactured objects and their alchemical secrets and memory, composing a 3D avatar as ‘an inventory of functional and bellic steel objects which construct and threaten our history and ecosystem’.
Collaging gestures, images and sounds from the past and present, Bengolea reveals ‘new synthetic narratives’ within a location where the artist says ‘the roughness and strength of metal, the hardship of strikes, the mechanical choreography of industrial work and the beauty of dance come together.’