Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller’s artwork Sad Waltz and the Dancer Who Couldn’t Dance (2015) is part of the exhibition Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller: Dream Machines at Museum Tinguely in Basel, Switzerland.
Official description: Sad Waltz and the Dancer Who Couldn’t Dance is an offshoot of the large-format installation The Marionette Maker (2014): a caravan in which numerous puppets cavort around a deceptively realistic effigy of a slumbering Janet Cardiff. Detached from all narrative context, the two puppets in this work perform on top of an old desk. At the push of a button, a pianist at a concert grand begins playing Sad Waltz by the Armenian-Soviet composer Edward Mirsoján, whereupon the second marionette begins dancing. Being wholly at the mercy of a robotic apparatus, however, its movements are stiff and jerky. Viewers soon feel sorry for this hapless, quasi-human figure, which although animated is entirely bereft of life. And with pity comes unease at the omnipresence of machines and the futility of trying to break out of fully automated circuits.
Janet Cardiff & George Bures Miller: Sad Waltz and the Dancer Who Couldn’t Dance, 2015. Basel, Switzerland, July 4, 2023.
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