From October 20 until December 19, the Marian Goodman Gallery hosts an exhibition by Dutch artist Rineke Dijkstra. In the South Gallery, Dijkstra will present her work “The Gymschool, St. Petersburg,” a three channel video installation originally commissioned for “Manifesta,” the European Biennial of Contemporary Art 2014. This will be the first US presentation of “The Gymschool, St. Petersburg.”
Beginning with her photographic portraits in 1991 and video portraits in 1996, Rineke Dijkstra’s work has often captured transitional moments within the stage of identity formation from childhood adolescence. In “The Gymschool” Dijkstra highlights these qualities and reveals how physical gestures and forms allow us to decipher the emotional composition of young gymnasts in training at a school in St. Petersburg. The fundamental concept in “The Gymschool” is rehearsal. In the film, elements resurface that have fascinated Dijkstra throughout her career: control, the line between posing and being yourself, and ways of showing human emotion through abstract forms.
To film “The Gymschool,” Dijkstra went to the Zhemchuzhina Olympic School in St. Petersburg. The school trains girls in rhythmic gymnastics, an Olympic sport that is like a cross between gymnastics and ballet. Practitioners are expected to assume almost inhuman poses while suppressing all forms of emotion. A unique tension is hereby created; the gymnasts must make their bodies as expressive as possible, but they are not supposed to have personal emotions. Yet the viewer of “The Gymschool” will notice small imperfections that betray humanity; a leg that will not lift, a face that turns a shade too red, or a girl’s flash of pride after a superbly executed routine. For Dijkstra, these moments not only reveal potent dilemmas of humanity, beauty, and perfection, but are also examples that show that the greatest art always emerges where the surface begins to burst, where perfection begins to crack, where contradictory emotions converge into a single compelling image.