Merce by Merce by Paik

Nam June Paik. In collaboration with Charles Atlas, Merce Cunningham, and Shigeko Kubota
1978, 28:45 min, color, sound

"Television obscures art in life, and life in art. Can we reverse time?" In Merce by Merce by Paik, a two-part tribute to avant-garde choreographer Merce Cunningham and 20th-century master Marcel Duchamp, Paik and his collaborators question art, life and time through video. Paik's electronic manipulations cause time and space to be layered and transformed.

Blue Studio: Five Segments is a groundbreaking work of videodance by postmodern master Merce Cunningham and artist Charles Atlas, who was then filmmaker-in-residence with the Cunningham Dance Company. In a series of short pieces choreographed and performed specifically for video space, Cunningham is multiplied, overlaid and transported from the studio to a series of unexpected landscapes. Cunningham's gestural dance is manipulated to the accompaniment of a disjunctive audio collage that includes the voices of John Cage and Jasper Johns.

In Merce and Marcel, Paik and Shigeko Kubota create a densely textured, transcultural collage that pays tribute to the eponymous artists by addressing the relationship of art and life. Paik and Kubota link art to the movements and gestures of the everyday: "Is this dance?" reads the text over an aerial view of taxis moving through the streets of New York, and the image of a baby's tottering first steps. A rare interview with Duchamp by Russell Connor is re-edited by Paik in a rapid, stutter-step progression. In a witty temporal layering that Paik terms a "dance of time," an interview with Cunningham, also by Connor, is intercut and superimposed with the earlier interview of Duchamp: "Time reversible — Time irreversible."

Host: Russell Connor. Camera: Bob Harris. Music: David Held, Earl Howard, John Cage. With excerpts of work by Woody and Steina Vasulka, Bill Gwin, Jean Marie Drot, Nancy Graves, Erik Martin, Russell Connor. Produced by the TV Lab at WNET/Thirteen.


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