Brendan Fernandes

Didier Morelli
  • The Master and Form, 2018. Photo: Brendan Meara, courtesy of the artist & Graham Foundation, Chicago
  • The Master and Form, 2018. Photo: Brendan Meara, courtesy of the artist & Graham Foundation, Chicago
  • Clean Labour, performance, Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn, 2017. Photo: Chester Toye, courtesy of the artist
  • Clean Labour, performance, Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn, 2017. Photo: Chester Toye, courtesy of the artist
  • Clean Labour, performance, Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn, 2017. Photo: Chester Toye, courtesy of the artist
  • Clean Labour, performance, Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn, 2017. Photo: Chester Toye, courtesy of the artist

Watching someone clean and polish a posh hotel room is a curiously uncomfortable act. The detailed repetitive steps that constitute the act of making a bed, wiping a counter, or cleaning a toilet — choreographies in themselves — are filled with intent, rhythm, and texture. Often performed by immigrant/migrant workers, these tasks carry with them particular racial and socio-economic realities. A hotel’s housekeeping staff, and the work they execute daily for often unfair wages and no workers benefits, are made to be invisible or at least as unobtrusive as possible. Nevertheless, this “behind the scenes” labour is the driving force behind the hospitality industry.

It is in this particular “movement economy” that Brendan Fernandes staged Clean Labour (2017) at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn. Inspired by the routines of hospitality workers and cleaning professionals, the performance bridged the physically challenging work of hotel room upkeep with the virtuosic demands of classically trained dancers. The result, a collaboration and dialogue between the artist, hotel workers, and dancers, explored the notion of agency in these professions. The use of contemporary dance highlighted both the skill and effort of maintenance workers, as well as the racial and economic hegemony of the service industry. Loosely -scored yet reliant on improvisational movements inspired by the specificity of each floor plan, the shadowing and trading off of tasks between dancer and housekeeper elucidated how bodies are shaped by the work they pursue.

In many of Fernandes’s recent works, the form and body of a dancer is challenged through a process of exposure and deconstruction — shedding light on the vulnerabilities and insecurities of trained movement. The Master and Form (2018), a live performance and series of sculptural pieces presented at the Graham Foundation, Chicago, similarly explored the themes of mastery and discipline within ballet culture by revealing the strict kinesthetic labour it stresses. In his oeuvre, Fernandes, once a dancer himself before succumbing to injury, foregrounds the imperceptible by queering the lens through which we, his audience, come to a particular subject, whether it be colonial artifacts, our daily activities, institutional art spaces, or dance and movement practices.

Captions

1- The Master and Form, 2018. Credits: design: Norman Kelley, dancers: Satoru Iwasaki, Yuha Kamoto, Andrea de León Rivera, Antonio Mannino & Leah Upchurch. Photo: Brendan Meara, courtesy of the artist & Graham Foundation, Chicago
2- The Master and Form, 2018. Credits: design: Norman Kelley, dancers: Satoru Iwasaki, Yuha Kamoto, Andrea de León Rivera, Antonio Mannino & Leah Upchurch. Photo: Brendan Meara, courtesy of the artist & Graham Foundation, Chicago
3- Clean Labour, performance, Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn, 2017. Performers: Charles Gowin & Khadijia Griffith ; Wythe Hotel housekeepers: Tenzin Thokme & Tenzin Woiden. Photo: Chester Toye, courtesy of the artist, produced in collaboration with More Art
4- Clean Labour, performance, Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn, 2017. Performers: Charles Gowin & Khadijia Griffith ; Wythe Hotel housekeepers: Tenzin Thokme & Tenzin Woiden. Photo: Chester Toye, courtesy of the artist, produced in collaboration with More Art
5- Clean Labour, performance, Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn, 2017. Performers: Charles Gowin & Khadijia Griffith ; Wythe Hotel housekeepers: Tenzin Thokme & Tenzin Woiden. Photo: Chester Toye, courtesy of the artist, produced in collaboration with More Art
6- Clean Labour, performance, Wythe Hotel, Brooklyn, 2017. Performers: Charles Gowin & Khadijia Griffith ; Wythe Hotel housekeepers: Tenzin Thokme & Tenzin Woiden. Photo: Chester Toye, courtesy of the artist, produced in collaboration with More Art

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