New Max


The Artist’s Institute
Premiere of Madeline Hollander’s New Max February 13, 6-8pm
Performance every Saturday from February 13- March 24, 2018

Season XIV Madeline Hollander, Sean Raspet, Sam Lewitt
February 13 – May 25, 2018


By Jenny Jaskey

It’s not often that an artist’s work takes you to online physics forums, but this is Madeline Hollander we’re talking about—an artist deeply engaged with science and technology, along with everything else—and a few scientific facts furnish useful background to her latest work. Standing still, the average human body gives off 250 British thermal units (BTUs)1 of heat, or roughly the amount of energy needed to light up a 100-watt bulb. When exercising, humans radiate seven times hotter, around 1,800 BTUs, since we then burn calories and metabolize food more quickly. The extra energy has to go somewhere, and mostly comes out as sweaty heat. An air conditioning unit sized to cool a small room subtracts 8,000 BTUs of heat per hour. Its motor and compressor use energy to change refrigerant from liquid to gas, and somewhat miraculously, the entire system gives off about three times the cooling energy as the compressor uses.

Visual artist and choreographer Madeline Hollander’s New Max (2018) involves four air-conditioning units and four dancers. Humans and machines perform together in four- hour intervals every Saturday from 2–6pm for a six-week period. If we typically think of choreography as sequencing the movement of dancers’ bodies, in New Max choreography is more akin to an operating system: how dancers will move in relation to A/C units, overhead lights, temperature, and the coming and going of visitors. Like cybernetic and systems art of the past, Hollander’s work is concerned with the shared circuits between the living and the technological. It also alludes to system crisis in the age of the Anthropocene, in other words, our warming planet.

New Max is installed in the Artist’s Institute’s sunroom, using an adjacent gallery for exhaust. All of the objects in the work are infrastructural: hanging PVC strips, A/C units, temperature sensors, sandbags, as well as the room’s overhead fluorescent lights. As a system, New Max is an artwork organized around a series of temperature goals; various Fahrenheit readings are reached in cycles that become increasingly higher, hotter.

The starting temperature in the sunroom is 65 degrees Fahrenheit, museum standard for storing works of art. From this point forward, Hollander’s choreography dictates that, through a series of scripted movements whose byproduct is body heat, four human dancers must raise the room’s temperature to 85 degrees. This change takes place over a series of sixteen rounds, each with a new min and max temp. The goal of Round 1 is to get to 70 degrees, at which point the A/C units will turn on and cool the room to a new min of 66 degrees. Thus begins Round 2. So the pattern goes, like this, in 5-degree increments, all the way up to 85 degrees.2 Dancers can track their progress by the room’s lights, which are hooked to a temperature sensor and get brighter as the room heats up or dimmer as the room cools down. Once a max temp is reached, it’s lights out, A/C units on, dancers at rest. When a min is reached, it’s lights on, A/C units off, dancers in motion.

As in all of Hollander’s other work to date, the dancers’ choreography references or “cites” everyday physical activities. The references in New Max are all warming-related: frost-bite prevention techniques, boxing and baseball warmups, tropical storm patterns, boiling points, fusion, core-strength workouts, wind power generation, microwave rays. Hollander translates each reference into a basic expressive form, and then makes an overall sequence that is repeated as many times as needed to complete a round. A pair of boxers duking it out is followed by the whooshing rotation of a windmill is followed by bouncing molecules. The bouncing molecules happen to look a lot like the crossings of Samuel Beckett’s Quad—and in New Max, cultural and biologic signifiers often overlap, with cannily juxtaposed allusions aplenty if your reference bank is large enough.

New Max gives us art as something closer to a system-in-flux than a static object. Here a work works, in the scientific sense of the term, converting caloric energy to heat, compressing freon gas to cool air, and, as its own system, regulating machinic exhaust and bodily motion to regulate temperature. Undoubtedly, there is a lot to see—dancers in motion, humming A/C units, dimming or brightening lights, ventilation ducts, a PVC curtain—but these elements all work in concert to an invisible effect: the average kinetic energy of the random motion of particles within the room, otherwise known as
its temperature.

An essay by A.E. Benenson entitled ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒▒░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░░ accompanies New Max. It is printed on-demand with a direct thermal printer. 

1. A British Thermal Unit (BTU) is the standard measurement of thermal energy. Specifically, it is the amount of energy needed, at sea level, to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water exactly 1 degree Fahrenheit.

2. See Project Notes


Madeline Hollander is a careful observer of everyday gestures. Not just the way that people move, but the way that everything does, from vibrating molecules to rockets launching into space. Since 2013, Hollander has been adding to Gesture Archive, a long-term research project that, in short video portraits, surveys expressive human movement in all its variety. Subjects wave, scroll (as if on an iPhone), shrug, knuckle-crack, and so on, their gestures documenting the spectrum of embodied consciousness. Hollander’s choreography draws its kinetic vocabulary from many sources, including interaction with touchscreens (Illegal Motion, 2015); sports refereeing (Mile, 2016); building evacuation diagrams (Drill, 2016); and ballet dancers’ sign language and magicians’ sleight-of-hand tricks (Closeup, 2017). She also stages performances in which nonhuman actors, such as beach-combing trucks (Arena, 2017) and cement mixers (365, 2017), move in concert with human dancers. Madeline Hollander comes to the visual arts from classical dance; she danced professionally with the Los Angeles Ballet and with Angel Corella’s Barcelona Ballet. She is currently studying the emergence of silent crickets in Kauai, whose mating dances are changing as a result of climate change.

Dancer Bios

Marielis Garcia was born in NYC. She received her BFA in Dance from Marymount Manhattan. Marielis currently dances with Madeline Hollander and Peter Kyle Dance and is in the Brian Brooks Moving Company. She also creates her own work and teaches dance at Rutgers Mason Gross School of the Arts and in NYC public schools.

Katie Gaydos is a Brooklyn-based dance artist and writer. After graduating from UC Berkeley she danced with Yannis Adoniou’s KUNST- STOFF, Robert Moses’ Kin Dance and most recently with Madeline Hollander. She has presented her own work at KUNST-STOFF Arts and Triskelion Arts. She is also co-editor of the performance publication Emergency INDEX by Ugly Duckling Press and is pursuing her master’s at Hunter College’s Silberman School of Social Work.

Lauren Newman is a dancer based in New York. She received her BFA in Dance from Southern Methodist University and was a member of the Martha Graham Dance Company from 2011–2016. Lauren currently teaches dance at LIU Brooklyn and is also a certified Gyrotonic Instructor.

Jeremy Pheiffer is a dancer for Madeline Hollander. In June he’ll be performing a twice-revived dance, THEM, choreographed by Ishmael Houston-Jones in collaboration with Chris Cochrane and Dennis Cooper.

Asami Tomida was born in Japan and received her BA from Nihon University College of Art in 2009. She graduated from Hunter College in New York as a Dance major in 2013 and has worked with choreographers Stefanie Batten Bland, Donna Uchizono, Julian Barnet, Yuki Hasegawa & Doug Varone, Samuel Pott, and Ray Sullivan.

Costumes by Ab[Screenwear] (shirts) and Suzi Wong (boxing shorts)
Thermostat networking by Phillip Stearns
Benches by Chibbernoonie

Madeline Hollander would like to thank Olya Petrova Jackson, Stephen Froese, A.E. Benenson, Emily Schubert, Jenny Jaskey, Christopher Aque, and Sam Hart for their generous help with the production of New Max.

Project Notes

Project Notes for Performance Installation Madeline Hollander

Performance begins at 65° F and dancers continuously hit a new maximum temperature each round

4 Dancers, 4 AC units, 4 temperature sensors, 4 panels of lights

Set of PVC strip doorways at gallery entrance hallway to help control interior temperature

Start: (65° → max (t) °) Choreography + Light brightness corresponds with average temperature reading from 4 temperature sensors (ie 65° = Dim lit & 70° = Brightest possible)

(max(t)°= min(t)°+5°)

(Average(t)° = max(t)°) Lights shut off + ACs turns on + Choreography paused (dancers rest)

(max(t)° → min(t)° + 1°) Choreography remains paused + ACs cool space

(Average(t)°= min(t)° + 1) Choreography resumes from point it left off + ACs shut off + Lights turn on

(min(t)° + 1 → new max(t)°) Choreography + Lights on

Finish: (Repeat pattern until max(t)° = 85°) Lights off + ACs on + Choreography paused

(max(t)° → 65°) Restart

For example:

Round 1: 65°–70° (bright at 70, dim at 65)
Round 2: 66°–71°
Round 3: 67°–72°
Round 4: 68°–73°
Round 5: 69°–74°
Round 6: 70°–75°
Round 7: 71°–76°
Round 8: 72°–77°
Round 9: 73°–78°
Round 10: 74°–79°
Round 11: 75°–80°
Round 12: 76°–81°
Round 13: 77°–82°
Round 14: 78°–83°
Round 15: 79°–84°
Round 16: 80°–85°