Florence Peake’s RITE

De La Warr Pavilion
Marina, Bexshill-on-Sea, UK
12 May – 2 September 2018

Performance: Sunday 6 May, 7pm, 2018
To book tickets visit: www.dlwp.com/event/florence-peake-rite

Through performance, sound, sculpture and painting, Florence Peake’s RITE re-interprets a moment in modernism’s history: Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, composed in 1913 for Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. Choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky, the original performance is notorious for the riot it provoked on the opening night.

RITE will premiere on 6 May as a performance and will unfold into a summer-long exhibition. Six tonnes of clay stands as a wet landscape in the centre of the gallery, activated by a host of dancers who perform in it. The clay captures their every move: it is shaped and reshaped, progressively turning into mauled flesh as they work. A sound score composed by Beatrice Dillion forms part of the sculptural environment, drawn from audio recordings of Peake handling clay, slipping and throwing it whilst listening to Stravinsky’s discordant, polyrhythmic score.

When the performance is over, the clay will remain as a sculptural memory of the dance, and Peake will install a painted frieze circling the gallery walls. To create these, Peake will collaborate with members of the community who interact with a modernist architectural icon almost every day, drawing outlines of their bodies as they move to the music in a series of private sessions. Inspired by iconic methods of depicting historic scenes in classical and medieval friezes and tapestries, the wall-paintings abstract the Rite of Spring through movement, drawing, paint and plaster.

Accompanying the frieze and the clay bed is a film in which dancer Rosemary Lee performs a piece choreographed by Peake and filmed by Becky Edmunds. RITE is almost camp in its accumulation of references. Classical sculpture, a dance history spanning from Isadora Duncan to Xavier Le Roy, and the brutally sensorial performances of Carolee Schneemann and Hermann Nitsch all resonate with Peake’s ambitious project. Informed also by feminist theory, Peake draws on this rich cultural legacy to reclaim triumphant physicality as political statement. She presents the body as primal, visceral, erotic – impervious, in the artist’s own words, to “neo-fascist normalization”: in this way, her approach is a form of protest. She says, “RITE rejects post-modern cynicism. It is a bodily affirmation that in the current political climate, blasé detachment is no longer an option.

Peake has worked closely with a host of dancers, Iris Chan, Katye Coe, Antonio De La Fe, Samuel Kennedy and Susanna Recchia, applying to visual art collaborative strategies more usually associated with dance and theatre. At RITE’s core is a drive to expand the relationship between movement and material, a concern that has informed the artist’s practice for over a decade.

Research on RITE was generously supported by the Jerwood Choreographic Research Project 2016-17 with partners Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, Cambridge Junction, Dance4, Greenwich Dance, LIFT, London College of Fashion, Sadler’s Wells, Site Gallery, Tintype Gallery and by public funding through Arts Council England. It was developed through residencies at Somerset House Studios, Site Gallery and Cass Sculpture Foundation in partnership with West Dean College and through a solo show at Studio Leigh. RITE is produced by Nikki Tomlinson.

About the artist:
Florence Peake is a London-based artist who has been making work since 1995. A selection of recent exhibitions includes Andromedan Sad Girl, a collaborative exhibition with Tai Shani at Wysing Arts Centre (2017), RITE at Studio Leigh, London (2017), Walled Gardens in an Insane Eden, Sara Zanin Gallery, Rome (2017); The Keeners, SPACE, London; Voicings, Serpentine Gallery Offsite Project, London (2016); Lay me down, NoTT Dance Festival, Nottingham, UK; Modern Art Oxford, Oxford, UK (2015); Swell the Thickening Surface of, Hayward Gallery, London (2014); MAKE, BALTIC, Gateshead, UK; Swell the Thickening Surface of, Tintype, London (2013); Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Yorkshire, UK; REMAKE, Baltic 39, Gateshead, UK; Lanchester Gallery, Coventry, UK (2012); Chorus; Paper Portraits, National Portrait Gallery, London (2010).

As a trained dancer Florence Peake’s background in choreography and painting stimulates a studio practice that is both diverse and immersive. Often working performatively to incorporate drawing, painting and sculptural materials, Peake’s work explores the relationship of materials to the moving body.

Through public performances and carefully choreographed works Florence Peake challenges notions of physicality, loss and political concerns such as the commodification of art by the corporate world. By encouraging chaotic relationships between the body and material, Peake creates radical and outlandish performances, which create temporary alliances and micro-communities within the
audience. In believing that objects and materials have their own autonomy and subjectivity, Peake draws on the expansive vocabulary of materials to enhance and contextualise her work. The sculptural works operate as documentation of the performance, but never in a reductive way, as Peake attempts to incorporate the effect of site, audience and much more than the pure physicality of the performance.

About the De La Warr Pavilion: the De La Warr Pavilion is a centre for arts and culture in an iconic modernist building by the sea. With artists and audiences at its heart, it produces and innovative and integrated cultural programme that reflects the world in which we live. This exhibition is an important part of the 2018 programme that, across the year, invites visitors to think about the Pavilion’s social, political and architectural history in new and different ways.

Current exhibitions are Tamar Guimarães and Kaper Akhøj I blew on Mr Greenhill’s joints with a very ‘hot’ breath (insert dates), Caroline Achaintre’s Fantômas (insert dates) and Yemi Awosile Digital Native (insert dates); Alison Wilding’s solo exhibition Right Here and Out There runs from 23 June –15 September.

Previous exhibitions include IN A DREAM YOU SAW A WAY TO SURVIVE AND YOU WERE FULL OF JOY curated by Elizabeth Price (2017), Willem Sandberg From Type to Image (2016), In The Realm of Others with Project Artworks (2016), Bridget Riley, The Curve Paintings (1961 – 2014) (2015), Richard Wilson’s major outdoor commission for 2012 Cultural Olympiad Hang On A Minute Lads. I’ve Got A Great Idea… and Bustleholme, a collaboration between Keith Harrison and Napalm Death performed in the DLWP auditorium. The Pavilion is part of the OUTLANDS, a new national experimental music touring network.


Florence Peak, ‘RITE: on this pliant body we slip our WOW!’, Photo credit © Anne Tetzlaff