Merce Cunningham Dance Company in 1970, performing “Canfield” at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. (Photo by James Klosty)
In 2011, Walker Art Center acquired the archives of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. The collection, which includes sets, props and costumes by the likes of Jasper Johns, Bruce Nauman, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella and Andy Warhol forms the basis of "Merce Cunningham: Common Time," a major survey that also will include performances by noted dance troupes and former Cunningham associates.
The survey, announced Wednesday, will premiere Feb. 8-9, 2017 in Minneapolis and Feb. 11-12, 2017 in Chicago at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The latter institution is teaming up with the Walker on the project, organized by Walker artistic director Fionn Meade in collaboration with performing arts curator Philip Bither and others.
Cunningham, who died in 2009, was a path-breaking figure in 20th century dance who changed the field by his cross-disciplinary collaborations -- most notably with composerJohn Cage but also a host of notable artists, including videomaker Charles Atlas (the image of Cunningham at right is drawn from a 1976 Atlas video collaboration). A major influence on generations of artists, he performed regularly at the Walker.
The thematically organized "Common Time" exhibit, which explores Cunningham's expansive influences and reach, will include listening rooms for visitors to hear musical works commissioned by Cunningham from Cage and others, including David Behrman, Morton Feldman, Takehisa Kosugi, Pauline Oliveros and David Tudor. There also will be film and video installations by Atlas, Nam June Paik, Stan VanDerBeek and Tacita Dean, among others.
But perhaps most crucially, Cunningham's continuing influence will be demonstrated in dance. Touring troupes, including France’s Ballet de Lorraine, will showcase his choreography. Former Cunningham dancers -- among them Dylan Crossman, Silas Riener, Jamie Scott and Melissa Toogood -- will reunite to present in-gallery events. And new works are being commissioned from Riener and Rashaun Mitchell in collaboration with Atlas, as well as such contemporary choreographers as Beth Gill and Maria Hassabi.
Here is a preview video about the project: