Jennifer Bornstein

Born 1970 in Seattle, WA
Lives and Works in New York, NY, and Berlin, Germany

The movements and postures of the women performing in Jennifer Bornstein’s video draw from Trance and Dance in Bali (1937–39), a film by pioneering anthropologists Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson. Funded by the Committee for Dementia Praecox (better known today as schizophrenia), Trance and Dance in Bali depicts a ceremonial dance in the Balinese city of Pagotean. In the original film, Mead narrates the metaphorical struggle between a witch (death), a dragon (life), and their disciples; at the film’s climax, the dancers exhibit seizure-like trance movements. According to the artist, because of the film’s status as an ethnographic document, “it was generally assumed to be a documentary, but in fact the footage consisted of a pastiche of several staged events, one of which was commissioned for the camera on the occasion of Mead’s birthday.” For her video, Bornstein loosely refers to key scenes from the original film, using an all-female cast. Treating her source material as a staged performance rather than a document of a cultural practice, Bornstein has her dancers perform without costumes, props, or backdrop, depriving the poses of their original narrative function and focusing instead on the figures and their movements. 

On View
Fourth Floor 

Jennifer Bornstein’s work is on view in the Museum’s fourth floor galleries.