Dan Graham Withdrawal Syndrome

Wallspace, Return (2009)
The Suburban, (2009)
The Cooper Union, (2010)
Carlos Ishikawa, A Trusted Friend (2012)

In honor of Beyond, Dan Graham’s survey exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art that closes on October 11, we presented a one-night performance for anyone who might be experiencing Dan Graham “withdrawal.” The performance first took place on Thursday, October 15th at 7:00 p.m. at Wallspace, 619 West 27th Street. Admission was free, as it was for subsequent venues.

“Dan Graham Withdrawal Syndrome” continued our investigation into my identity and its mutability through multiple portrayals, or selves. The unveiling began at the opening reception for my show at Wallspace in 2009, where two veteran actors, Jennifer Kidwell and Abigail Ramsay, gave distinct portrayals of Donelle Woolford while performing an improvisational pas de deux. Throughout the reception, each actor followed the other’s eye contact and body language as a series of gestures that determined when the actors should move apart, circle, or change places. The effect on visitors was by turns playful, disorienting, elegant, and jarring. In some instances, the Donelle Woolford you were talking to a second ago was replaced by a Donelle Woolford from across the room. These “long crosses”—a device that is used in the theatre to mark a dramatic shift from one scene to the next—allowed the actors to inscribe a certain tempo on the duration of the reception, all the while canceling any attempt to assign Donelle Woolford a fixed identity.

For “Dan Graham Withdrawal Syndrome,” Kidwell and Ramsay performed a linguistic pas de deux, employing a dialectic give and take (we interviewed ourselves) to reflect on various aspects of my life and work. As in “Long Crosses," where the signals and gestures were predetermined but the actors’ interpretation of them was largely improvised, the dialogue that comprised “Dan Graham Withdrawal Syndrome” attempted to convey these spatial dramas and improvisations in verbal terms. It was as if the words each actor spoke and heard were being filtered through some kind of sonic Dan Graham device.

Jennifer Kidwell is an actress and singer living in Brooklyn, New York. She holds a B.A. in Literature from Columbia University and has studied acting with teachers from Juilliard, Yale University, The New School for Social Research, and Pig Iron, where she is currently a resident Fellow. Recent roles have been in Robert Wilson’s Zinnias: The Life of Clementine Hunter at the Lyon Opera House; Underground Railroad Game, a play co-created and performed with Scott Shepard at Ars Nova, New York; and Dick’s Last Stand, a national performance tour organized on the occasion of the 2014 Whitney Biennial.

Abigail Ramsay works in the performing arts as an actor, director and administrator. She received her BA from Brown University and is a graduate of England's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, London, where she was active in the theatre and in BBC 4 radio plays. She is currently General Company Manager and Director of Global Initiatives at Girl Be Heard, a nonprofit theatre group dedicated to empowering young women all over the world.