media installation / dance choreography

Backgrounds - 1
Artworks - 2
Context - 3
Music - 4
Video - 5
Timeline - 6

Art resources - 7
Widow Dance - 8

Multiple Points of Entry:

Widow Dancc

John Toth

John Toth / intermedia art: animation, video, electronic medi and fabric
Projector 1. Metastasio, Judith, Horofernes.
Projector 2. John Toth / 3D animations
Projector 3. Doug Varone and Dancers / choreography - 11/11/11

Widow Dance
Burchfield-Penney Art Center, Buffalo - March, 2012
The installation of Widow Dance uses three video projectors to layer images of light, shape, color and sound onto sculpted layers of semi-transparent fabric. Video images of fragmented texts and symbols from a Metastasio libretto seem to spray from the projectors onto the fabric as if words could dissolve through the page. On screen, a dancer enters this fabric maze and interacts with a projected virtual dancer. As viewers move closer to each video image a new sound source takes a more prominent role. Visitors walk though the environment and enter into the Widow Dance.


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Pietro Metastasio was the poet and libettist who wrote the La Betulia Liberata in 1734. Metastasios' oratori is based on the biblical story of Judith, a beautiful widow, who is able to enter the tent of Holofernes because of his desire for her. Holofernes was an Assyrian general who was about to destroy the Isrealite Judith's home, the city of Bethulia. Overcome with drink, Holofernes passes out and is decapitated by Judith; his head is taken away in a basket (often depicted with an elderly female servant).  I have chosen elements of Metastasio's oratori to retell my own contemporary version of a widow's dance with power.


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Projector 1




Projector 3 3



Metastasio, Libretto
from Mozart opera Le Betulia liberata.

To show such contempt for our gods
ill accords with your gentle manners.
As you know, I did not speak
like this of your God.

Prince, what you call uncouthness
is zeal. In you I perceived
clear grains of the truth; and I
am struggling to make them germinate.

Is it not enough for you
that I respect your God?

No: everyone
must acknowledge Him one alone in substance
and worship Him alone.

But who asserts that He is one?

The revered accord of every generation;
the reliable authority of our ancestors;
that same God whose wonders and power
you forertold, which He revealed
in His own voice:
for when He described Himself
He said: "I am that I am," and said everything

In vain you quote the authority of your people
against me, your antagonist.

Well, my authority does not prevail
with you, my adversary. But you are a man:
reason will convince you. Answer me
with a tranquil mind: seek the truth,
not victory.

I am listening.

Then tell me,
do you believe,
Achior, that anything can be done
without its reason?


Passing in thought
from one thing to another,
do you not come to acknowledge
some cause on which all else depends?

That shows that there is a God,
not that He is one.
Can our gods not be prime causes?

What gods, dear prince? Tree-trunks
and marble that you have carved?

But if those stones were to the wise
merely symbols of the immortal creative beings,
would you still say
that my gods are not gods?

Yes, because they are many.

I see no obstacle
in numbers.

Here is one.
I cannot imagine a God
who is not perfect.

The idea is a just one.

When I said perfect
I also meant infinite.

One includes the other:
of that there can be no question.

But the beings you worship, if they are several,
are distinct; and if distinct, there are boundaries
between them. You then must say either
that the infinite has boundaries or
that they are not gods.

I must admit, I cannot free myself
from these traps in which your words
have caught me; but I am not convinced
by this. I yield to your art,
not to your reason. And I do not wish
to desert the gods
I worship and can see
for a Cod whom I cannot even imagine.

If we could imagine Him,
He would not be God.
Who can envisage Him? He does not consist
of parts, like the body; He is not distinct
in concept, like our souls;
He is not subject to form, like all creation;
and if you assign parts, concepts, form to Him,
you circumscribe Him,
you mar His perfection.

And when you yourself call Him
both good and great,
do you not then circumscribe Him?

No; I think Him good,
but without quality;
great, but without quantity, infinite;
omnipresent, without place or confine;
and if in this way I cannot explain what He is,
at least I do not form an idea of Him
that offends Him.

So it is useless
to hope to see Him.

One day you will be able
better to decide about Him;
bur meantime you can see Him wherever you wish.

See Him! But how,
if I cannot imagine Him?

As you vainly seek
to fix your eyes on the sun, and yet
the sun always shines, and on everything.