P.O.L.E. (People, Objects, Language, Exchange) is an ongoing project that manifests in multiple formats: an exhibition, a series of performances, public events and conversations.
The performers of P.O.L.E. include a diverse group of New York-based dancers and innovators of the street form of subway pole dance. P.O.L.E. works through notions of kinship, from blood ties to platonic love to political allegiance. The manifestations of, and threats to, such bonds are evident in the performances and objects in the project, which include a video work made in the aftermath of the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO; the performance score Two Brothers for two dancers and two poles; and Reverberations, a structured encounter between a performer and a single viewer that transmits the events and conversations that have transpired over the life of the project. The development of P.O.L.E. is ongoing—future manifestations of the project may be differently composed, responsive to the display conditions and the social and temporal circumstances of the project’s exhibition.
Curated by Johanna Burton, P.O.L.E. was first shown as a solo exhibition at the New Museum in February 2015. In the museum’s Lobby Gallery, Gerard & Kelly created an installation comprising two sixteen-foot brass poles for dancing which stretched from the floor to displace panels from the gallery’s ceiling. The installation also included Gran Fury’s iconic SILENCE=DEATH, first shown at the New Museum in 1987 by curator William Olander, a member of ACT-UP. The neon sign, instantly recognizable as politically and historically significant, illuminated the exhibition and reconsidered the relationships across the movements of AIDS activism and Black Lives Matter.