Interview with Kris Elyr Adem

On the occasion of Muntean/Rosenblum’s exhibition „The Always Never-Yet“, we sat down with dancer and choreographer Kris Elyr Adem to discuss his collaboration with the artists and the video performance that emerged from their partnership. This film installation, integral to the exhibition, gives life to scenes from Muntean/Rosenblum’s artworks. Under Adem’s direction, dancers Ornella Prieto, Maria Ribas, and Annalisa Capriotti disrupt tranquil compositions with hand dances (inspired by classical art, religion, and internet culture) before seamlessly transitioning back to a state of stillness. On September 30th, the exhibition’s opening, the dancers performed live, intertwining dance and movement with the still works of the exhibition. Below you will find photos and a video of the performances, as well as one of the videos from the installation.

Can you shed some light on the origins of your passion for dance? At what age did this deep connection emerge?

I was four years old, and my mother was the cleaner at a dance studio in Cyprus. Given my hyperactive nature, the dance school was a sanctuary where I felt I could harness energy and movement to make sense of surrealism. For me, juxtaposing one surreal experience with another seemed to result in realism. The dreams, memories, and societal interactions I have had, when merged with the energy of my physical form, create order out of chaos. This clarity has grounded me, helped me understand myself, and provided insights into society. Much like a painter employs paints and brushes, or a musician uses instruments, my medium is the human body. My goal is to understand and give it a voice.

Could you share with us the dance projects you are currently involved in?

At the moment, I am deeply involved in Cabaret Deconstruit with the Amsterdam-based dance company LeineRoebana. Simultaneously, I’m producing Ether Walk, where I team up with musicians from Cyprus to reimagine the folk songs and melodies of the region. This physical performance will take shape in the Netherlands with other dancers. Additionally, I am in preliminary discussions with Adi Rosenblum and Markus Muntean about a project slated for next year at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt.

How do you navigate the fusion of dance with visual arts? What challenges and insights arise when merging these mediums?

Combining performance art with other art forms demands a sensitive touch of creativity. Reflecting on my past collaborations, like those with sculptor Casper Braat, visual artist Sümer Erek, and now Muntean/Rosenblum, I envision my role like water nourishing an existing idea. Each collaboration is unique and demands different approaches. Sometimes, it requires looking beyond the human form to resonate with the artwork, while other times it is about delving deep into the core that binds us all.

How would you describe your experience of collaborating with Muntean/Rosenblum?

Working alongside Muntean/Rosenblum on a performance installation demanded comprehensive research. Their distinct artistry resonated deeply with me. In the early stages, I immersed myself in their past works, aiming to understand and connect with them through their art. This deep dive helped maintain our communication focused and free of distractions.

For the gestures in the performances, I studied the old and classical master paintings, religious art, kabbalah, street hand language, and Muntean/Rosenblum’s paintings. TikTok was the starting point for Muntean/Rosenblum, but it did not quite end up being an essential part for my creation. Their paintings, along with all the other subjects of my research, already gave me enough resources to create the performances.

Could you elaborate on how you interpreted Muntean/Rosenblum’s artworks in the video performance and during the live act at Galerie Ron Mandos on September 30th?

As I delved deeper into this project, I realized the essence was to experience and simply “be”, rather than to showcase. Facing their creations, I considered the emotions and sounds their figures might perceive. The idea of these figures, immortalized by Adi Rosenblum and Markus Muntean, living in a singular moment, led me to explore the tension of such an existence. During our performance at the gallery, we aimed to absorb the ambient sound and thoughts, translating them into physical tension. The ultimate objective was pure existence, which is a nuanced state to achieve. Muntean/Rosenblum’s artworks subtly guided me towards this realization, revealing a dance of contrasting emotions and states of being.

ABOUT Muntean / Rosenblum

Markus Muntean was born in 1962 in Graz, Austria. Adi Rosenblum was born in 1962 in Haifa, Israel.
Muntean/Rosenblum live and work in Vienna, the city where they met while studying at the end of the 1980s. The artists have collaborated since 1992.

Large-scale painting is one of the core aspects of their practice. However, they often expand their work by creating large installations with sculptural elements where performances are staged or films screened. In addition, they make drawings as well as collages with texts and photographs.

In their work, Muntean/Rosenblum mix references to art history and present-day popular culture. They mostly depict groups of apparently lethargic or melancholic young people in idle situations, which are either ordinary and everyday or mysterious and ambiguous. The often-dreamy scenes take place in rooms, public spaces or landscapes as if part of a film, presenting unresolved situations in the making. The characters seem to adopt postures copied from fashion magazines, or from paintings originating from the renaissance to the nineteenth century. Their work is frequently accompanied by captions or texts not-directly relating to the depicted scene, adding another layer of complexity. The artists themselves described their work as ‘precise ambiguity’. By playing with visual codes from the past and the present, Muntean/Rosenblum scrutinise the power of images and how these constitute an overwhelming collective memory.

Work by Muntean/Rosenblum has been exhibited widely in international museums, institutions and galleries. Recent solo exhibitions were at Espacio Marte, Mexico City (2020); MAC, Coruña (2018); MOCAK, Krakow (2018); Group exhibitions they recently participated in were, among others, at Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2019); Kunsthaus Graz (2018); Nam June Paik Art Centre, Gyeonggi-do (2018); The Parkview Museum, Singapore (2017); and Oude Kerk, Amsterdam (2016). Their work is included in both private and public collections, such as the MoMA, New York NY; the Albertina, Vienna; 21c Museum, Louisville, KY; the KRC Collection, Voorschoten; The Rubell Family Collection, Miami, FL, and Cobra to Contemporary/The Brown Family Collection. In 2022 the artist duo will mount an exhibition at the Albertina Museum, in Vienna, Austria.