Yvonne Rainer - Director

Nationality: American. Born: San Francisco, 1934. Career: Modern dancer, then choreographer, New York, from 1957; co-founder of Judson Dance Theater, 1962; presented choreographic work in U.S. and Europe, 1962–75; began to integrate slides and short films into dance performances, 1968; completed first feature-length film, Lives of Performers , 1972; teacher at New School for Social Research, New York, California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, and elsewhere. Awards: Maya Deren Award, American Film Institute, 1988; Guggenheim Fellowship, 1969, 1989; MacArthur Fellowship, 1990–95; Wexner Prize, 1995. Address: 72 Franklin St., New York, NY 10013, U.S.A.



Volleyball ( Foot Film ) (short)


Hand Movie (short); Rhode Island Red (short); Trio Film (short)




Lives of Performers


Film about a Woman Who . . .


Kristina Talking Pictures


Journeys from Berlin/1971


The Man Who Envied Women




MURDER and murder (+ sc, ed, pr)


By RAINER: books—

Work 1961–73 , New York, 1974.

The Films of Yvonne Rainer , by Rainer and others, Bloomington, Indiana, 1989.

A Woman Who Essays, Interviews, Scripts (Art+Performance) , Balti-more, Maryland, 1999.

By RAINER: articles—

"A Quasi Survey of Some 'Minimalist' Tendencies in the Quantita-tively Minimal Dance Activity midst the Plethora, or An Analysis of Trio A ," in Minimal Art , edited by Gregory Battcock, New York, 1968.

Interview in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), May 1977.

"More Kicking and Screaming from the Narrative Front/Backwa-ter," in Wide Angle (Athens, Ohio), vol. 7, no. 1/2, 1985.

Interview with Mitch Rosenbaum, in Persistence of Vision (Maspeth, New York), Summer 1988.

"Script of Privilege," in Screen Writings: Scripts and Texts by Independent Filmmakers , edited by Scott MacDonald.

"Yvonne Rainer: Privilegien und Risiken," an interview with K. Easterwood and S. Fairfax," in Frauen und Film , June 1991.

"(Re)position - or - Permission for My Motives," in Felix , no. 2, 1992.

"Rainer Talking Pictures," an interview with T.N. Goodeve, in Art in America , July 1997.

On RAINER: book—

Green, Shelley, Radical Juxtaposition: The Films of Yvonne Rainer, n.d.

On RAINER: articles—

Koch, Stephen, "Performance: A Conversation," in Artforum (New York), December 1972.

Borden, Lizzie, "Trisha Brown and Yvonne Rainer," in Artforum (New York), June 1973.

Michelson, Annette, "Yvonne Rainer: The Dancer and the Dance," and "Yvonne Rainer: Lives of Performers ," in Artforum (New York), January and February 1974.

"Yvonne Rainer: An Introduction, in Camera Obscura (Berkeley), Fall 1976.

Rosenbaum, Jonathan, "The Ambiguities of Yvonne Rainer," in American Film (Washington, D.C.), March 1980.

Rich, B.R., "Yvonne Rainer," in Frauen und Film (Berlin), Octo-ber 1984.

Vincendeau, Ginette, and B. Reynaud, "Impossible Projections," in Screen (London), Autumn 1987.

Cook, Pam, "Love and Catastrophe—Yvonne Rainer," in Monthly Film Bulletin (London), August 1987.

Martin, Adrian, "Potholes and Potshots: Yvonne Rainer," in Filmnews , July 1990.

Screen (Oxford), Spring 1992.

Onasta, Michael, "Yvonne Rainer: Tanz, Performance, Film," in EPD Film (Frankfurt), June 1994.

Stone, L., "Good Grief," in Village Voice (New York), 24 June 1997.

* * *

Although Yvonne Rainer made her first feature-length film in 1972, she had already been prominent in the New York avant-garde art scene for nearly a decade. She moved to New York from San Francisco in 1957 to study acting, but started taking dance lessons and soon committed herself to dance. By the mid-1960s, she emerged as an influential dancer and choreographer, initially drawing the attention of critics and audiences through her work with the Judson Dance Theater.

Rainer saw a problem inherent in dance as an art form, namely its involvement with "narcissism, virtuosity and display." Her alternative conception was of the performance as a kind of work or task, as opposed to an exhibition, carried out by "neutral 'doers"' rather than performers. Thus the minimalist dance that she pioneered, which depended on ordinary movements, departed radically from the dramatic, emotive forms of both its classical and modern dance precursors.

Rainer was not long content with merely stripping dance of its artifice and conventions. She became interested in psychology and sexuality, in the everyday emotions that people share, and grew dissatisfied with abstract dance, which she found too limited to express her new concerns. To communicate more personal and emotional content, Rainer began experimenting with combining movements with other media, such as recorded and spoken texts, slides, film stills, and music, creating a performance collage. Language and narrative became increasingly important components of her performance.

Rainer's first films, shorts made to be part of these performances in the late 1960s, were "filmed choreographic exercises," as she wrote in 1971, "that were meant to be viewed with one's peripheral vision . . . not to be taken seriously." Her interest in the narrative potential of film and the director's dominance of the medium drew Rainer further into filmmaking.

Her first two feature films, Lives of Performers and Film about a Woman Who . . . , both with cinematographer Babette Mangolte, originated as performance pieces. In these and her two other films, Kristina Talking Pictures and Journeys from Berlin/1971 , Rainer interweaves the real and the fictional, the personal and the political, the concrete and the abstract. She preserves the collagist methods of her performances, juxtaposing personal recollections, previous works, historical documents, and original dialogue and narration, her soundtracks often having the same richness, and the same disjunction, as the visual portions of her films.

Like Brecht, Rainer believes that an audience should contemplate what they see; they should participate in the creative process of the film rather than simply receive it passively. Thus, instead of systematically telling a story, she apposes and layers narrative elements to create meaning. The discontinuity, ambiguity, and even contradiction that often result keep Rainer's audience at a distance, so they can examine the feminist, psychological, political, or purely emotional issues she addresses. Consistent with her dance and performance, Rainer's films are theoretical, even intellectual, not dramatic, sentimental, or emotional, despite her subject matter, which is often controversial and emotion-laden.

—Jessica Wolff

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