Yvonne Rainer: The Mind is a Muscle

Catherine Wood

One Work Series

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In 1968, toward the end of a decade that witnessed civil rights protests, the escalation of the war in Vietnam and an expanded notion of artistic practice, Yvonne Rainer presented her evening-length work, The Mind is a Muscle, a multipart performance for seven dancers interspersed with film and text. Catherine Wood examines the political and media context in which Rainer chose to use the dance-theatre situation and analyses her radical approach to image-making in live form. For Wood, The Mind is a Muscle proposed a new model of artwork that presents a dynamic tension between materiality and idea. It made manifest an agitated and contradictory relationship to the idea of 'work' in the context of affluent America, and stripped away the gestural conventions of dance or theatre narrative in an attempt to formulate new kinds of 'social scripts' while manipulating the seductiveness of the image, increasingly harnessed by capitalism.

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