Brennan Gerard and Ryan Kelly, the two artists behind Timelining, have been in the art scene for over a decade. Focused primarily on the interdisciplinary medium of performance, the duo has always been interested in exploring the perception of relationships, whether they be the relationships between strangers, two intimate partners, a mother and her daughter, or even an audience and a performer. In Timelining, they succeed in doing this on many levels.
Watching the performance itself is profoundly captivating. One pair of people, with some form of shared history, walked in circular motions around the large rotunda of the Guggenheim while simultaneously reciting fragments of their history. With each set of words the two performers shared, the audience came to understand the relationship the two shared. Moreover, the audience was able to watch the pair experience their own lives again.
The intimacy of the performance was its most impressive aspect. While obviously the performers risked allowing the audience into the deepest trenches of their life, the audience as well had to contend with the emotions evoked. Vulnerability is a word that many associate with the performance. The performers were vulnerable, but it was clear that the audience was as well.
The show focuses as much on the audience as it does the performers. While it initially seems wholly dependent on the performers sharing their lives, it also relies on the audience’s interaction with new information. How do you react to a sudden influx of personal details? The performers allow the audience in. They do not interact with audience members directly, but they invite them to watch their very personal exchange. This level of intimacy alone allows you to become hypersensitive to your own participation. In this way, the audience is a key part of the performance.
Contemporary performance art can often be confusing or easy to misinterpret. Neither of which were issues with Gerard and Kelly’s Timelining. The goals of the performance were not concrete. There’s no message one must leave the Guggenheim with after watching Timelining. While it gives the audience a look into the lives of different people from somewhat underrepresented backgrounds, it ultimately does not force the audience to experience something they have not before. The point is not to live the experience of an African American man or a single mother. Rather, it seems the performance is simply an exploration of subjectivity.
At its core, TImelining is a series of memories, both from the distant past and even just moments ago. Performers have been well choreographed and have practiced, but it would be superficial to call it an act or a dance. Timelining is much more than that. A case study in the act of living, Timelining reminds us again of what it is to be human. While at times the performers may repeat themselves and audience members may leave, the many parallels Gerard and Kelly draw to everyday life are innumerable. Timelining will be showing in the rotunda of the Guggenheim Museum every Monday at 5:45PM until September 7th, 2015.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, 1071 5th Ave, New York, NY, USA, +1 212 423 3500
By Akshay Jain