The film The Performer, considers constructions of performance and homes in on the curvilinear separating fantasy from reality and drama from camp. The performer in The Performer is an over-the-top artist, a moody bon vivant with a penchant for excess and grand expression who lives large, including in the recesses of his head. The Performer documents this eccentric character, racing through a fragmented narrative with brief glimpses and repetitive imagery, meandering dream-like rather than coalescing into a clearly defined whole.
The film is shot in the house Picasso gave the surrealist artist Dora Maar, his muse and mistress, when ending their relationship. Dora, significantly altered, lived and died in this maison in the Provençal village of Ménerbes, France. The film takes inspiration from her life, tackling the schism between the performance of self one broadcasts to the public, and that which one endures privately.
Thanks to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston’s Brown Foundation, Gwirtzman lived in the house for one month, allowing an access not only to this private space, but to Dora's troubled cloistered mind. A recluse in her latter years, she turned from progressive communist to religious conservative, caught in the fortress of her palatial surroundings and in the fortress of her mind.
Gwirtzman embeds an inside dance reference into the film of his signature solo Character which epitomizes the construction of performance, depicting the complex emotions of an entertainer, the attraction to and separation from an audience, and the boundaries separating performance from non-performance. When is one not performing?
The Performer also plays with the line separating the homemade from the refined, employing a grainy aesthetic and disjointed editing as a counterpoint to the elegant setting. This dusty, gritty veneer metaphorically suggests a counter-reality to one’s wealth: the gulf between the appearance on the surface and the true depth beneath. Living beyond one’s means, exaggerating assets, and keeping up appearances are thematic concerns supporting the predominant thread of queerness which defines the character's spirit.
Filmed at Maison Dora Maar
Direction/Editing: Daniel Gwirtzman
Music: Jeff Story
Camera: Yann Capapé-Masera
Featuring: Rebecca Chase, Daniel Gwirtzman
Production: Daniel Gwirtzman Dance Company
Created thanks to the Brown Foundation and The Museum of Fine Arts Houston
THE PERFORMER ON DEMAND
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