About Michael W. Hart
© Photo by R.B. Schlather, 2012
I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1981, raised in Ft. Worth, Texas until 2000, studied Contemporary Dance Performance at the University of the North Carolina School of the Arts until 2003, and lived in New York City until 2009.
I began working in the theater when I was nine and I started making photos when I was fourteen. For the last four years I have been traveling and at this moment I'm in New York City.
Trajal Harrell + Tickle The Sleeping Giant
Touring Production Manager + Choreographer’s Assistant
Ryan Tracy + The Collective Opera Company
Co-Producer + Documentation
Adam H. Weinert + Matchbox Dances
Producer + Documentation
Jonah Bokaer + John Jasperse + The Center For Performance Research (CPR)
Founding Artist + Producer + Documentation
Gerard & Kelly + Moving Theater
Producer + Documentation
Amelia Uzategui-Bonilla + Public Dance Theater's Peru Tour
Michelle Mola + Public Dance Theater
Co-Founding Director + Documentation
Jonah Bokaer + Chez Bushwick
Producer + Documentation
Abdel Kader Ouedraogo + The Mafrika Music Festival
Co-Founder + Producer
The Merce Cunningham Dance Company
© All photos by Michael Hart
My photography has been published, in print, by:
Dimension Magazine: Where Art & Science Meet
Movement Research Performance Journal
New York Press
New York Times Style Magazine
Ocean Drive Magazine
Paper: The New Museum
Park Avenue Armory
Wall Street Journal
Text for "UNREAL", a solo photo exhibition presented by
Thomas Benjamin Snapp Pryor + The American Realness Performance Festival, NYC
STAGING THE UNREAL
Ryan Tracy, January 2012
Michael Hart's photography of artists, many of whom are featured in the American Realness festival, preserves and indexes an era of performance making and the international network of lives brought together by it. His images (even the more than two hundred presented here are just a sliver of his oeuvre) are a compendium not only of the "official" products of performance (aka, the shows and the artists), but also of the social context and life movements of those who attempt to forge careers out of making performance work.
Michael’s photography, however, is not merely journalistic or anthropological. The lens here is never neutral. It is knowingly complicit, biased even, conspiratorial and full of love for his subjects. I do not know of another photographer who is as in love with his subjects as Michael; in love on every level. For Michael, love is not saccharine folly, but instead is a kinetic mode of critical perception. To love is not to be under some foreign influence that clouds judgement. On the contrary, to love is the greatest judgement the self can offer the world, and is the best place from which to create. To love is not simply to desire for oneself, but also to desire for the other. In this way, we can view in Michael's work what he wants us to see in, and wish for them: joy, fierceness, laughter, fucking and sensuality, sassiness, success and support, freedom, health and happiness, family and love, space and time, careers and opportunity, generosity. Stated another way: The work is, in the purest sense, philanthropic.
Additionally, through the broad range of Michael's purview, we literally see the world as stage. We see people as the artists they are in the process of becoming. We see the people close to those artists. We see other people because of them and where their work travels and who travels with them. And we see how the world is what we perform in it. We see...
a street as platform for a high kick
a train platform as runway for a career
a field as auditorium for a monologue
a father's chest as set for a new life
a ballet dancer's apartment as impromptu photography studio
a visual art gallery as seating for a dance crowd
a rooftop as night club
a wedding dress as political mask
an umbrella and flower as costume
a sideways look as a script for resistance
a daughter named for a god etc.
It took roughly four hundred years after William Shakespeare wrote the line "All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players" for Judith Butler to come along and configure gender—and the various social realities built upon it—as "performative." We can further extend this line of inquiry through Michael's work, which captures the imposition of performance and its material effects so well. To celebrate this, we have chosen, additionally, to impose upon this performance of photography a literary performance. The twenty-two stanza centro is taken from Jacques' monologue from As You Like It, which includes Shakespeare's famous opening maxim and proposes seven theoretical stages of performed life, from infancy to expiration. The horizon of performance captured in UNREAL transepts Shakespeare's musing and Butler's figuring while blurring the distinction between performance as life and performance as art, and does so with love at its center. In the end, the body is what we have and what we use to make "the world," and with which we remember it. Real or staged. Lived or performed. Everything ecstatic simulacra. In other words: Unreal.
THIS IS FOR YOU
A text by Ryan Tracy with Michael Hart
After William Shakespeare's As You Like It
The world's a stage: Who made that?
One's eye caught the light off that kick,
airy, brushed by the thought for a
movement; sit there look and jumping.
Sudden and quick in quarrel queens.
We made laughing dancing you're so
hilarious. She saw his feet loom awry
but never lost his spine or her him.
They have their exits and their entrances;
Ready? Go. Somebody called it magic
but I just thought I was looking through
the glass again, mirrors facing mirrors.
In fair round belly bitches wailed.
Penny? I mean...get me off this!
Or call me when your notes sound more
like menstrual flow than antiperspirant.
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms;
feathers and pillows make great wombs.
We never lost sight of the box office (box
office!) At the door your shoes leave you.
And then the lover BOO! YAY! Nobody
cries anymore, they just make art, sez
Jack. Who's she stalking now with that
venom glower and her pink polly knife?
The sixth age shifts, ball changes, and leaps
out the window. The audience gets pepper
sprayed. Rosalee sez politics are fine if the
aesthetics are good. We deserve we.
Unwillingly to school. Memes are the new
nothing movement. I know one night
he said for certain for sure about that.
There's no more change under these cushions.
Sans taste, sans everything—sans your mom.
I've never seen more glitter than
at that arm reach or into those sneakers;
she keeps twisting her twisting her.
And one trans in trans time plays many
parts. Vivian sez Nina sez sex
changing changing changing.
Everyone spoken within a sparkle.
And whistles in his sound, her close;
his teeth, her clothes. What are all these
parts between things? Sometimes they
just slip out, and sometimes punched.
And shining morning face, oh time!
Oh balls! Oh Ann and that baby again!
We made her, that one. Now I suppose
she's one of ours, Oh Lovey...
Ends this strange eventful history
with hand in hand, heart in mouth.
Who knew what this dance would
give birth to just itself again.
Full of modern instances. Nobody's
gay anymore: Blame Judith. Everybody's
making work but nobody's making money:
Blame the mayor,
the whining school-boy, with his satchel.
"Stingy is when someone asks to share
your sandwich and you say 'No!'" When
did we all never or did we ever learn to fight?
Even in the cannon's mouth we dance.
Even in our jobs we werk. We plot our
attraction with little worded snatches and
something we found at the dollar store.
Turning again toward childish. A spanking
means something different than then.
We come to watch our future play out
on the stage of remembrance and invitations.
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad.
Oh, Hart, our serious assholes. They will
come to write about us. Or we’ll just
keep playing the paper of broken record.
Full of strange oaths and pullout quotes.
I never wanted a sticker that would set
me on fire. Times have stranged. Even for
the straights who made it in the second place.
A world too wide and all this performance!
Take what you can fit in the palm of your
budget. Then send us overseas, because
here there's only tumbleweeds and TV.
His big manly; her big vagina. Nobody
wants to see their things on display
I guess. We have every chance to
get this right this time this world.
This is for you.
Bodies bodies everywhere,
and Michael shot them all.
© Photo by Ian Douglas