MERCE CUNNINGHAM: ASSEMBLAGE

Screening with introduction by Alastair Macaulay


  Image: Merce Cunningham and Dancers in Assemblage (1968)
Photo James Klosty, courtesy of the Merce Cunningham Trust
 

Wednesday, January 15, 2014
6:30 pm

Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI)
535 West 22nd Street, 5th floor
New York, NY 10011

www.eai.org

Admission $ 7.00 / Students $ 5.00
Free for EAI Members:
www.eai.org/eai/membership.htm

RSVP: rsvp@eai.org


EAI is proud to partner with the Merce Cunningham Trust (MCT) to present a screening of Assemblage (1968, 58:03 min), a recently rediscovered lost film by legendary American dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham. Unseen for decades, Cunningham's lush, kaleidoscopic dance film will be reintroduced to the public at EAI in a special screening introduced by Alastair Macaulay, Chief Dance Critic of the New York Times.

A collaboration with director and former dancer Richard Moore, Assemblage features Cunningham dancing with his company in a public happening in San Francisco's Ghirardelli Square in November 1968. Cunningham's riveting performance—conceived from the beginning as a dance staged for the camera—is amplified by Moore's astonishing special effects and a soundtrack by John Cage, David Tudor and Gordon Mumma. Rediscovered after Cunningham's death, Assemblage was transferred from 16mm and colorized by artist and filmmaker Charles Atlas, himself a longtime collaborator of Cunningham's.

This program is presented in collaboration with the Merce Cunningham Trust as part of an ongoing series of public programs at EAI celebrating Merce Cunningham's moving image works. EAI is honored to be working with the MCT to distribute selected films and videos featuring Cunningham's work, for exhibition and educational use. For more information, please visit www.eai.org.

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Merce Cunningham and Richard Moore's Assemblage presents a dance that unfolds across fractured space and inside shattered time. Produced for broadcast by San Francisco's public television station KQED, Assemblage is a film with two subjects: Merce Cunningham's dance company and Ghirardelli Square, one of the first of a new wave of gentrified urban environments where dilapidated markets or industrial sites were rehabilitated as mall-like retail districts. In an interview with San Francisco critic Robert Commanday, Cunningham explained his idea that "the finished film will deal not so much with dance in the narrow sense, but with various motions—boats moving, people walking, and, of course, groups dancing." On screen, Cunningham's pastel-clad dancers walk, frolic, and scramble through the shopping concourses and promenades of the square.

Cunningham and his company spent three weeks rehearsing and filming on location in fall 1968, creating what Moore described as "movement modules." From these sequences, Moore and film editor Bill Yahraus crafted a motion picture collage of overlapping movements and moments, which occur sometimes in fragmented film windows, sometimes within ingenious superimposed planes. To create the breathtaking hallucinatory collision of filmed dances, Moore used extensive optical illusion and process photography; dancers were filmed as silhouettes and superimposed on different backgrounds. In one extraordinary composited sequence, Cunningham's company becomes a miniaturized troupe of Lilliputian dancers, weaving in and out of the dancing legs of gigantic versions of themselves.

Assemblage is both a testament to Cunningham's groundbreaking investigations of dance and movement within the virtual spaces of film, and a vivid expression of late-1960s psychedelic culture.

New York Times Chief Dance Critic Alastair Macaulay, who followed and wrote about Cunningham's work for many years, will introduce the screening and speak about the film's context and its place in the development of Cunningham's work.

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Merce Cunningham (1919 – 2009) was a leader of the American avant-garde throughout his seventy-year career and is considered one of the most important choreographers of our time. With an artistic career distinguished by constant experimentation and collaboration with groundbreaking artists from every discipline, Cunningham expanded the frontiers of dance and contemporary visual and performing arts. Cunningham's lifelong passion for innovation also made him a pioneer in applying new technologies to the arts.

Born in Centralia, Washington on April 16, 1919, Cunningham began his professional dance career at 20 with a six-year tenure as a soloist in the Martha Graham Dance Company. In 1944 he presented his first solo show and in 1953 formed the Merce Cunningham Dance Company as a forum to explore his groundbreaking ideas. Together with John Cage, his partner in life and work, Cunningham proposed a number of radical innovations, chief among them that dance and music may occur in the same time and space, but should be created independently of one another. They also made extensive use of chance procedures, abandoning musical forms, narrative, and other conventional elements of dance composition. For Cunningham the subject of his dances was always dance itself.

An active choreographer and mentor to the arts world throughout his life, Cunningham earned some of the highest honors bestowed in the arts, including the National Medal of Arts (1990), the MacArthur Fellowship (1985), Japan's Praemium Imperiale (2005), and the British Laurence Olivier Award (1985). Always forward-thinking, Cunningham established the Merce Cunningham Trust in 2000 and developed the precedent-setting Legacy Plan prior to his death, to ensure the preservation of his artistic legacy.

For more information about the works of Merce Cunningham, please visit: www.mercecunningham.org.

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Alastair Macaulay has been a critic of the performing arts for 35 years. He first watched Merce Cunningham's choreography in 1979, at age 24, and first reviewed it (a London season including the world premiere of "Fielding Sixes") in "The Guardian" and "Dancing Times" in 1980. A month later John Cage and Merce Cunningham, meeting him for the first time, said "You should move to New York." In 1988, when he was guest dance critic to "The New Yorker" for six months, his first essay was on a Cunningham four-week season at the Joyce Theatre. He later reviewed Cunningham seasons for "The Financial Times" (for which he wrote for 18 years, mainly as its chief theatre critic in 1994-2007) and "The Times Literary Supplement" (for which he was chief dance critic in 1996-2006). He moved to New York to become chief dance critic in of The New York Times in 2007.

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Friends of EAI Membership 2014

Become a 2014 Friends of EAI Member at one of four different levels and enjoy a range of wonderful benefits, including complimentary tickets to EAI's on-site public programs and special access to the artists and works in the EAI collection. Membership helps to support our programs and services, including our online resources, educational outreach, and vital preservation activities. By becoming a Friend of EAI, you support the future of media art and artists. Memberships begin at $40 ($25 for students).

For more information, and to become a member, please visit:
https://www.eai.org/eai/members.htm

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About EAI

Founded in 1971, Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI) is one of the world's leading nonprofit resources for video art. A pioneering advocate for media art and artists, EAI fosters the creation, exhibition, distribution, and preservation of video art and digital art. EAI's core program is the distribution and preservation of a major collection of over 3,500 new and historical media works by artists. EAI's activities include viewing access, educational services, extensive online resources, and public programs such as artists' talks, exhibitions and panels. The Online Catalogue is a comprehensive resource on the artists and works in the EAI collection, and also features extensive materials on exhibiting, collecting and preserving media art: www.eai.org
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About MCT

The Merce Cunningham Trust was established in 2000 to hold and administer the rights to the work of Merce Cunningham, which encompasses more than 150 dances and over 800 "Events" created over the course of his sixty-five year career. In 2002, the Trust was recognized by the IRS as a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, with the mission to preserve, enhance and maintain the integrity of the choreographic and other artistic works of Merce Cunningham, and make such works available for the benefit of the public.

Based at New York City Center as of April, 2012, the Trust today offers a wide range of programs conceived to preserve and enhance Cunningham's legacy, including Cunningham Technique™ classes at locations throughout New York City and the Cunningham Fellowship, which supports the restaging of Cunningham dances. The Trust also licenses Cunningham works to leading dance companies and educational institutions worldwide, supports scholarship on Cunningham and his work, and partners with cultural institutions to mount special exhibitions, performances, and projects that celebrate Cunningham's artistic achievements. www.mercecunningham.org.

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This program is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.