We acknowledge the Gadigal of the Eora Nation, the traditional custodians of the Country on which the Art Gallery of New South Wales stands.

The Art Gallery of New South Wales presents Shelley Lasica: WHEN I AM NOT THERE

21 March 2023

A group of 6 people dancing in a large white room. All of them are dressed in silver or grey costumes.

Shelley Lasica WHEN I AM NOT THERE 2022, co-commissioned by Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council and the Art Gallery of New South Wales support partner Atelier © Shelley Lasica, photo: Jacqui Shelton

Pioneering choreographer and dancer Shelley Lasica will present a major new work at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, bringing together her exceptional understanding of movement, colour, audience and architecture into what she describes as a performance-exhibition.

Co-commissioned with Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), WHEN I AM NOT THERE will unfold across two weeks in May and comprises an evolving, dynamic performance with costumes, choreography, objects, texts and soundscapes that extend from Lasica’s archive. WHEN I AM NOT THERE was first presented at MUMA from 16 to 27 August 2022.

For over four decades, Melbourne-based Lasica has experimented with the possibilities of choreography, examining the conversations it holds with other disciplines including visual art, architecture, fashion, theatre and literature, as well as the many and varied contexts in which it can occur. She has performed her work in nightclubs, rehearsal rooms, outdoor public spaces, sports halls, theatres and galleries.

Lasica’s choreographic works have been shown nationally and internationally and in 2021 she was the recipient of an Australia Council Dance Fellowship. Throughout her career she has organised and participated in numerous residencies, exchanges and mentorship programs in Australia and overseas. She has influenced generations of dancers, and currently teaches choreography to visual arts students as well as to dance students.

Curated by Art Gallery of NSW curator of contemporary international art Lisa Catt, WHEN I AM NOT THERE consolidates ideas and experiments that Lasica has been developing throughout her career to investigate the tension between what it means ‘to perform’ and ‘to exhibit’.

Art Gallery of NSW director Michael Brand said the Art Gallery is committed to presenting performance-based works as part of its core program.

WHEN I AM NOT THERE will be an exciting new experience for our audience and signals the Art Gallery’s embrace of the full spectrum of contemporary art. The expansion of the Art Gallery, through the Sydney Modern Project, has created an incredible opportunity to extend our programming and establish ourselves as an art institution that celebrates and supports live and ephemeral works, including music, dance and performance.’ 

Featuring eight performers, including Lasica herself, the work will be presented during opening hours over 14 days, offering a new encounter for visitors each day. Lasica developed the work with a team of 10 other artists, including dancers LJ Connolly-HiattLuke FryerTimothy HarveyRebecca JensenMegan PayneLana Šprajcer and Oliver Savariego, as well as writer Lisa Radford, architect Colby Vexler and composer François Tétaz, alongside creative producer Zoe Theodore and commissioning curator Hannah Mathews.

Five dancers in blue costumes moving in two groups in a white room. On the right are several costumes hanging from ceiling to floor.

Shelley Lasica WHEN I AM NOT THERE 2022, co-commissioned by Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Research Council and the Art Gallery of New South Wales support partner Atelier. © Shelley Lasica, photo: Jacqui Shelton

Lisa Catt said, ‘For more than 40 years, Shelley has built an impressive career of disciplinary-pushing choreographic work at the intersection between dance and the visual arts. 

WHEN I AM NOT THERE is a major new work that sees the performers and objects on display in constant negotiation with each other, the space, and visitors – the choreography sets everything in flux. It is a work that looks back, gesturing to past works and past collaborators through Shelley’s archive, and that looks squarely at this present moment, contributing to current discourse around choreography in the gallery space,’ said Catt. 

The performance-exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive publication, published by Monash University Museum of Art, featuring new writing from Hannah MathewsLisa CattErin BranniganJustin ClemensClaudia La RoccoRobyn McKenzie and Zoe Theodore. The monograph, which is the first to be published on an Australian choreographer, positions Lasica’s work firmly within Australian contemporary practice as well as international contexts.

WHEN I AM NOT THERE is part of Precarious Movements: Choreography and the Museum, a research project hosted by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and involving partner organisations: the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne (NGV), Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne (MUMA), Tate UK and Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts (PICA). The performance-exhibition provides this project with critical and situated research focused on the curation and practice of choreography in the museum environment. 

WHEN I AM NOT THERE has been co-commissioned by the Art Gallery of NSW, in Sydney, and Monash University Museum of Art, in Melbourne. It will be presented at the Art Gallery of NSW in the South Building from 22 May to 4 June 2023. Entry is free.

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