Merce Cunningham: Mondays with Merce #7: Events

From Dancing in Museums: A Decade of Movement

This episode of the web series “Mondays with Merce,” produced by the writer Nancy Dalva, elucidates the process behind Merce Cunningham’s Events, collages of his excerpted works often tailored to non-theatrical spaces like museum galleries. As the late archivist David Vaughan explains, Cunningham created his first Event in 1964, when his company was invited to perform at the Museum of the Twentieth Century in Vienna. Rather than reconfigure the gallery to accommodate an audience on one side, Cunningham assembled a work that could be viewed from three sides and from a balcony looking down, with the room’s glass wall as a built-in backdrop.

Most of the performance footage in this video comes from a series of Events produced at Dia:Beacon from 2007 to 2009, alongside artworks by Dan Flavin, Sol Lewitt, Richard Serra, and others. As several dancers note, the location, with little separation between audience and performer and an abundance of natural light, requires a different set of performance skills from the theater: more eye contact, less projection. A lack of theatrical equipment, like lights, can pose challenges to dance artists working in museums, but as Cunningham says, at Dia:Beacon, “The light is always beautiful.”

December 11, 2019

Curated by

Siobhan Burke