The Mind is a Muscle


Deciding on a film to include for my critical analysis was a rather difficult task, for each of her films have such dimension and deep rooted compassion for politics, but I have chosen an example of her early choreography, incorporating just everyday behaviors and simple movements. The Mind is a Muscle (1968) is known to be one of her better pieces and only her second attempt to incorporate dance into film. I chose this piece, though short as it is, to critically analyze both from my dance background (I have been since I was 3), and also my film knowledge, which has grown due to this class.

From a visual dance prospective, her choice of costume reveals mundane and predictable environments, to relate to her movements. It is a simple black leotard dress, covering the majority of her body. Instead of the graceful ballet termed steps, she performs a modern dance of rather hard lines and sporadic movements, but emphasizes on her sense of touch and motion. I felt the light taps of her toes on the floor was interesting, almost a timid protection, with the ending of her slowly collapsing to the floor as if the struggle is over and she has fallen.

Though the film is black and white, the lighting is predominantly noticeable as being scattered but also focuses on her. It is shot in a simple frame, with Rainer as the focal point, with clean lines of the studio wall behind her. This affect has a way of really capturing space and time. Throughout my research, I wasn't able to come across whether or not she's trying to convey a story or not but I interpret it as a struggle of the mundane, everyday life and pattern that we all revolve our lives around. Also, I see it as an attempt to remain simple in a world of such modern technology being born each day. Rainer's opinion on film today comes from that point. I also believe that her choice not to include a soundtrack gives a good example of how she doesn't expect any outside influence to help guide her through the motions; she can easily do it on her own.

'Today, how do we assess the avant-garde, when even Rainer says she can't sit through its interminable scenes without wanting to fast-forward? Film has been left behind by the digital revolution. Culture, like the market, behaves globally; national borders are irrelevant. Avant-garde practice-- a dialectical one-- presupposed a stable target to attack, a clear line to transgress. Today, all our targets are circuited and networked. Politics-- the subject of Rainer's deepest concern-- can no longer be engaged by taking up positions. It's now a purely relational operation. Manifestos have been replaced by electronic mailing lists" (Ann Daly)

--Heather Ricar, 2003

Yvonne Rainer