Contemporary art meets historical at ICA

"Each One As She May" at the ICA in Philadelphia - Images: Aaron Igler/Greenhouse Media

In 1965, Steve Reich created his audio composition “It’s Gonna Rain,” by recording a sermon by Pentecostal preacher Brother Walter retelling the story of Noah. By experimenting with tape loops, allowing identical recordings to fall in and out of sync and exploring their harmonic range, Reich helped to establish the process of phase shifting—when two phrases or patterns are played simultaneously but one is delayed. Today, his piece also sets the atmosphere of a thought-provoking exhibition at Philadelphia’s Institute of Contemporary Art that challenges its viewers to reflect on repetition’s impact on perception. 

Featured through July 28, Each One As She May: Ligon, Reich, And De Keersmaeker was the result of a partnership between the ICA and the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of the History of Art. Inspired by the archival studies of the ICA’s 1998 exhibition Glenn Ligon: Unbecoming, students of the yearlong Spiegel Contemporary Art Freshman Seminar, alongside their instructors, curated this three-part multimedia exhibition.

Each piece provides its own significant contribution to the overall theme. In Reich’s composition, the process of repeated sound causes the words of the sermon to steadily slip into a rhythm, gaining new meaning and intention through manipulation. A looped screening of Thierry de Mey’s 2002 film Fase, presents Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker’s choreography. Strategic lighting casts shadows across the wall, forming the illusion of multiple, identical bodies moving in sync. Meanwhile, two dancers match the recurring movement with such intensity that the outcome is mesmerizing.

In a digital age, permeated by such a constant flow of data, the topic of reiteration and how it relates to our consumption of information is present in our everyday lives. However, the exhibition’s utilization of various mediums allows onlookers to re-examine how we understand and relate to our repetitive environment.