Merce Cunningham, Common Time, The Walker Art Center and MCA Chicago

The Walker Art Center and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago unveil plans for a major survey, entitled Merce Cunningham: Common Time,  due to open in February 2017. Organised by the Walker Art Center, this upcoming showcase will explore the revolutionary and collaborative practice of a key innovator of the 20th century: the iconic choreographer and dancer Merce Cunningham. Divided into thematic sections that refer directly to compositional principles and frameworks active within Cunningham and composer John Cage’s collaborative approach, this innovative presentation will showcase the depth of the Walker’s Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC) collection.

Curated by Fionn Meade, Walker Art Center Artistic Director, with Philip Bither, Director and Senior Curator of Performing Arts, in collaboration with curators from MCA, this exhibition will focus on a wide selection of sets, sculptural props, and costumes devised by Cunningham with an eclectic range of artists, including Jasper Johns, Rei Kawakubo, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Ernesto Neto, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, and Andy Warhol, to name a few.  The survey will also present some of the many musical compositions commissioned by the artist from notable composers such as David Behrman, Morton Feldman, Takehisa Kosugi, Pauline Oliveros, and David Tudor, alongside major film and video partnerships with the likes of Charles Atlas, Nam June Paik, Stan Van Der Beek, and Tacita Dean.

Common Time will examine the key influences upon Cunningham’s early career, from Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes to Northwest Coast American Indian symbolism; Cunningham’s use of chance procedures in his choreographic process; the evolving role of technology in his work; his exploration of mimesis within nature; as well as the impact of his company’s global travel and truly international cultural exchange, which includes the company’s early 1964 tour to 30 cities in 13 countries, including India, Japan, and Sweden. In addition, the exhibition will consider his dialogue with the pivotal movements of Fluxus, the Judson Dance Theater, and Experiments in Art and Technology.

Throughout the show’s three-month run, a variety of new commissions and performances will be presented by renowned contemporary dancers, choreographers, musicians, and sound artists at both the Walker and MCA. International touring companies, including France’s Ballet de Lorraine, will showcase Cunningham’s choreography, as will one-off events performed by a small ensemble of former Cunningham dancers, to include Dylan Crossman, Silas Riener, Jamie Scott, and Melissa Toogood, among others.

Merce Cunningham: Common Time, 11 February 2017 – 29 May 2017, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

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1. Carolyn Brown, Steve Paxton, Mr. Cunningham and Barbara Lloyd performing Suite for Five in 1963. Photo: Marvin Silver/Cunningham Dance Foundation.