LAURA COOPER

Silence of the Valkyries

Released 1 March 2017

I.
Four Valkyries sit in heavy, stony silence, consigned to earthly immobility.
They perform their civic duty at ground level, overseen by the City Hall.
They try to exchange glances, but their granite garments lock them in.
They ask, endlessly: What happened to our battledress, our unearthly powers? Were we not dreaded and feared, the choosers of the slain? What is left to us now?

It’s been said that on nights long ago the Valkyries flew over the city, hunting the harbour stews at dawn and dusk, picking off the broken bodies of labourers and working girls.
They sighted the workers’ familiar drunken stumbling, their wasted limbs and worn-out faces.
They thundered above the buildings, making their mighty selves visible to mortal eyes.
They chose and descended. Unleashing their terrible power. Plucking the wrung-out bodies from their unending toil. Taking their victims for dead.

No! The humans pleaded. Spare us. We’ll do anything!
We are worn out but we have skills
said the carpenter, holding up his hands.  

The Valkyries paused to consider their spoils.

Yes! The workers continued. We will make your terrible powers visible. In your honour we will remake you in stone: monuments that will outlast us all here on earth!

The Valkyries were moved by the desperate gesture.
They said: you will live out the rest of your days working on our portraits.

The labourers devoted themselves to appeasement.
Picking up their tools to tame four giant blocks of stone. Stripping away jagged edges. Modelling fleshy masses. But as the craftsmen’s hands hacked, then caressed, the resisting stone, the Valkyries’ power weakened.
They grew passive curves and gentle smiles. No! Now it was the Valkyries who protested, but their voices were trapped; imprisoned in time and matter.
They mourned their fall and grieved their lost skies. Unhearing, the labourers moved their hands over the frozen limbs, and hurried their task along. 
 

II.
Silence of the Valkyries is a four-channel video work by Laura Cooper. In it, the camera and two people choreographically explore the interior and exterior sculptures and murals of Oslo’s Radhus (City Hall). The work results from a collaboration between interdisciplinary artist Laura Cooper and dancer Edwin Cabascango, developed during PRAKSIS’s month-long mucker mate residency in May-June 2016.

Conducting playful interventions in specific sites throughout Oslo, mucker mate’s participants sought to challenge behavioural codes and prescribed movement, and to expand the parameters of their artistic relationship to place and to each other. This performance-to-camera work is the outcome of one such experiment in the city. Cooper invited Cabascango to climb and explore the giant naked female statues of Valkyries that stand outside the Oslo City Hall, and filmed his response.

Cabascango interprets Cooper’s request by testing his body against the mass and surface of the sculpture. He adapts his movements to the contours of the stone body, climbing it, measuring its extent, mimicking its curves and angles, experiencing its weight and density, insinuating himself around it. An unreciprocated intimacy is established. The footage, amplified and accentuated in a four-screen presentation, explores ideas of temporality, monumentality, and the limits and vulnerabilities of the body. It contrasts the profoundly tangible solidity of sculpture with our own mobile, vulnerable and expressive bodies, and reflects on sculpture’s capacity to express ideas or archetypes – in particular, nations’ and movements’ exemplification of the ‘body politic’ through representations of the female body.
 

 

ABOUT LAURA COOPER //

Laura Cooper (b. 1983) is a British artist living and working between the UK and New York City, US. Group exhibitions include Play, Game, Place, State, Collyer Bristow Gallery London UK, Voice and The Lens, IKON Gallery Birmingham [2012] touring to Rich Mix Cinema London [2014]. VideoGud program Stockholm Sweden [2015] Eyes As Sieves, Global Committee Space Brooklyn NY. Solo exhibitions include Nomadic Glow, Centro ADM Mexico City Soft Revolutions, Space In Between Gallery London [2013]. Residencies include Shrewsbury International School Bangkok with the British Arts Council Thailand [2008-9], SAP Seoksu Market International residency in Anyang City, South Korea [2010], IPark in CT, USA [2012]. She was awarded the Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance [2012/13] and an International Artist Development Fund by the Arts Council England for her project at LAN 360 Degrees Biennale, Mongolia [2014]. Cooper currently co-directs Global Committee in Brooklyn NY. She received her MFA in Fine Art Media at The Slade School of Fine Art London [2012] and BFA from Glasgow School of Art [2006].

 

ABOUT EDWIN CABASCANGO //

Edwin Cabascango (ECU) is a professional dancer based in Oslo. He started dancing in Quito, Ecuador at the contemporary dance school Frente De Danza Independiente (FDI) dance school and Metrodanza dance school, Ballet Nacional del Ecuador (BNE), as well as with different ensembles practicing modern and contemporary dance. Later he continued his dance studies at The Norwegian College of Dance (NDH) and also studied performing arts and movement at The University College of Eurythmy in Oslo. After finishing his education, Cabascango performed in Gullhanen with the Sean Curran dance company in the Bergen National Opera. He has attended workshops by Tom Weksler, Linda Kapetanea and Jozef Frucek, Ultima Vez, Sidi Larbi Cherakoi, Cullberg Ballet, Physical Momentum Project, Martin Kilvady, Akram Khan and others. He has worked with artists including Terry Araujo, Eddie Borgues Lopez, Ingrid Midgard Fiksdal, Marianne Kjærsund, Monica Emilie Herstad and Sean Curran among others. In 2014 he choreographed and performed Green Tea in both Oslo and Trondheim. The same year he started developing his Texture and movement system, which he has presented at Contemporary Dance Workshop at The National M.K. Ciurlionis School of Art, Vilnius Contact Improvisation Festival (Lithuania) and Oslo Kontakt Impro.

 

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