Surface Movements
by Hendrik Folkerts

a text from the book BRENDAN FERNANDES. RE/FORM

The role of sculpture in performance is not reducible to bodies as living sculpture in a certain scenography or sculpture as mere prop in performance, but rather it is a question that needs to be addressed through the inherent materiality and relationality of the two mediums.

Whether by way of the body vis-à-vis sculpture, or vice versa, it requires a discussion about agency and how performative gestures are enacted through sculptural forms.

To that end, I remember Brendan Fernandes sharing a story about his education as an artist. While a student at York University in Toronto, he moved—or, I should say, danced—across the hallway from his dance class to his sculpture course, from the leotard to the mold and back again, uniting his classical training in ballet with a burgeoning interest in sculpture.

The anecdote conjures a powerful image and can easily be regarded as the premise for Fernandes’s practice, reconciling the body and the object through the intertwining paths of dance and sculpture. For Fernandes, the two forms have always existed in relation to each other, albeit more subtle or pronounced at times, and his approach points to the many intricacies of how dance and sculpture co-exist in the expanded field of performance today.

For instance, how does the relationship between the two reverberate in space? Can sculpture mirror the body and reflect from its surface back onto the flesh? What happens if the agency of a living body is transposed onto wood, iron, or steel? To address these queries, I will explore the evolving relationship between performance and sculpture in Fernandes’s practice, introducing a number of terms that speak to how Fernandes configures this relationship, and then extrapolating it through the notions of support structure and the agency of sculptural objects.

Fernandes’s sculptural practice of the last decade includes various approaches that each suggest different relationships between the object and the body, as well as diverging attitudes towards the art object itself as a site of representation, value, and signification, and as a “thing” that is void of its previous functionality—a Heideggerian dérive. In Standing Leg (2014) and Still Move (2014), Fernandes introduces objects as prosthetic devices or extensions of the body.

Evoking Fernandes’s own experience and labor as a dancer and probing the body politics of classical ballet, the solo performance Standing Leg comprises a meticulous choreography with a foot stretcher, a wooden device typically used by ballet dancers to manipulate their feet to attain an “ideal” arched shape. The video Still Move shows an undefined space, in which a rubber massage ball that is typically used to relieve stress and tension in the muscles is rubbed against a body, shot in extreme close-up. Manifesting as both discrete object and as part of the anatomy of the undisclosed body, the rubber ball is simultaneously an extension of and integral to that body, proposing an important counterpoint to Standing Leg in emphasizing release and care over constraint and oppression.


Re/Form is an ambitious new monograph of the Canadian artist Brendan Fernandes. It chronicles his recent exhibitions Contract and Release (Nogchi Museum, Long Island City, NY) and Master and Form (Graham Foundation, Chicago, and 2019 Whitney Biennial, New York).

Brendan Fernandes. Re/Form
€ 39,00  37,05
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