Arts

The ICA’s Choreographic Objects Is So Damn Cool

Swinging through its 600 suspended hoops is way harder than it looks.


If you’re heading to the ICA Boston’s new interactive art exhibit, which premieres on Wednesday, be sure to wear sneakers. Because this thing will put you to work.

What greets you at this arty obstacle course, one of many oddities set up inside the Institute of Contemporary Art, is a set of instructions. Your challenge: make it from one side of the room to the other by swinging from ring to ring, without touching the floor. And let us confirm from experience that it is way harder than it looks.

More nimble visitors might have less trouble with it, but for us at least, once we slid our hands and feet into the handles, it took every ounce of focus inside this demented obstacle course to control our wobbly limbs and keep from face-planting on the rubber floor. Stepping into this artwork, called The Fact of Matter, means giving up control of all of your appendages and succumbing to an unnatural (and in our case, strained and awkward) dance.

But that’s the whole point of Choreographic Objects, a collection of work from artist and renowned dancer and choreographer William Forsythe: making you rethink your relationship with movement, and move in ways you’ve never moved before. The link between the desire to get from place to place and the ability to do so is a lot more complicated when Forsythe is at the wheel.

“This particular benign looking, lovely group of 600 rings,” he says of Fact of Matter, “will definitely make you understand how fragile that integration is and how fragile [your] self image is.”

We got a sneak peek at what awaits you at this mind-bending, hilarious, and physically demanding new exhibit. And there’s plenty more where that came from.

In addition to the hanging rings, there are other interactive delights inside the exhibit. In one room, a camera records your movements, then plays them on a giant video screen after muddling them with a wacky, wavy algorithm. In another, the ceiling has been lowered to 30 inches, and you’re invited to crawl and roll around in the claustrophobic space. One room has been filled with swinging pendulums, powered by pneumatic pistons that pop and hiss overhead, and your job is to waltz around the room without bumping into any of them. One piece involves a feather duster, which visitors are asked to hold “absolutely still.” The task is impossible, but only because your vitals—your pulse, your breath—keep getting in the way. “It’s a good thing if it moves,” says curator Eva Respini. “It means you’re alive.”

There are also two short experimental films on display that showcase Forsythe’s prowess as a dancer and choreographer, as well as a room in which the artist choreographs you, via absurd instructions he has written on chalkboards.

You really have to see it all for yourself in person. You’ve got until February 21, 2019 to give it a try.

Note: The closing date of the show has been updated to February 21, 2019, not February 24, 2019.