MERCE CUNNINGHAM: ASSEMBLAGE
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.__________________________________
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.__________________________________
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.
Image courtesy of the Merce Cunningham Trust Photo © James Klosty