press release

Walker Art Center and Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago co-present Merce Cunningham: Common Time, a major survey organized by the Walker that investigates Merce Cunningham’s groundbreaking practice and multidisciplinary collaborations that revolutionized dance in the 20th century and continue to influence generations of artists, composers, and choreographers. The Walker-organized exhibition will premiere February 8, 2017 at the Walker and February 11, 2017 at the MCA Chicago with a new live installation commission by Maria Hassabi at the Walker and Cunningham Event performances at both institutions. Organized by Walker Art Center former Artistic Director Fionn Meade, and Philip Bither Senior Curator of Performing Arts with Joan Rothfuss and Mary Coyne. Lynne Warren is the organizing curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.

The exhibition presents an unparalleled emphasis on the cross-disciplinary collaborations between the Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC) and leading post-war artists who created original compositions, costumes, lighting, and set designs for the company. The exhibition takes as its starting point the notion of “common time,” described by Cunningham as the “underlying principle that music and dance and art could be separate entities independent and interdependent, sharing a common time.” This co-existent relationship of the arts, evident across Cunningham’s lifelong collaborations with composer John Cage, serves as the foundation for a career that exemplified and fostered this shared philosophy.

The exhibition will feature works that bridge disciplines by artists including: Daniel Arsham, Charles Atlas, George Brecht, Trisha Brown, John Cage, Elliot Caplan, Remy Charlip, Merce Cunningham, Philip Corner, Tacita Dean, Morton Feldman, Morris Graves, Al Hansen, Maria Hassabi, Alex Hay, Deborah Hay, Dick Higgins, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Allan Kaprow, Rei Kawakubo, Takehisa Kosugi, Jasper Johns, Mark Lancaster, Jackson Mac Low, George Maciunas, Peter Moore, Richard Moore, Robert Morris, Gordon Mumma, Bruce Nauman, Ernesto Neto, Isamu Noguchi, PaulineOliveros, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, Steve Paxton, D.A. Pennebaker, Yvonne Rainer, Robert Rauschenberg, Elaine Summers, Frank Stella, Charlotte Trowbridge, David Tudor, Stan VanDerBeek, Andy Warhol, Christian Wolff, and La Monte Young

Extending the trajectory of influence to the present, Common Time includes three new dance commissions by leading abstract movement innovators of today, including STAGING (2017), a new live installation from Hassabi performed by eight dancers; Tesseract, a 3-D video and live collaborative stage work by former Cunningham dancers Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener with five additional dancers, in collaboration with long-time Cunningham media collaborator and video artist Charles Atlas; and the world premiere of Brand Bew Sidewalk, a new ensemble work by New York-based choreographer Beth Gill. There will be multiple opportunities to experience Cunningham choreography live in the Common Time galleries including ten separate Walker Cunningham Events—collaged excerpts from his repertory spanning decades in a site-responsive format Cunningham pioneered in 1964, performed by former company dancers Dylan Crossman, Silas Riener, Jamie Scott, and Melissa Toogood. Also, France’s Ballet de Lorraine performs Cunningham masterwork Sounddance(1975) and the Walker-commissioned Fabrications (1987). Other live programming includes Music for Merce: A Two-Night Celebration that features works by ten diverse experimental composer-musicians who worked with the company over decades, curated by John King, and a series of discursive programs in April 2017.

Merce Cunningham: Common Time will be accompanied by a comprehensive catalogue featuring commissioned essays by leading critics and art historians from a variety of disciplines, including: Juliet Bellow, Carlos Basualdo, Roger Copeland, Douglas Crimp, Hiroko Ikegami, Claudia La Rocco, and Benjamin Piekut. In addition, the catalogue features an extensive chronology and newly discovered archival photography from 60 years of Cunningham’s creative output, making the book a must-have resource for scholars and those interested in dance, performance or post-war artistic practice.