Choreographer Merce Cunningham and composer John Cage go together with the Walker Art Center like avant and garde. The duo, partners and artistic collaborators until Cage's death in 1992, had performed there since 1963. Cunningham's death in 2009 marked the passing of arguably the most innovative modern-dance choreographer of the 20th century. December 16 marks the opening of a remarkable film installation by Tacita Dean of 88-year-old Cunningham performing STILLNESS (in three movements) to Cage's composition 4'33". First performed in 1952, the piece is one of Cage's best-known. Dean made what she termed an "audacious request" in 2007: that Cunningham agree to improvise new choreography to Cage's music (4 minutes and 33 seconds of ambient sound generated within the performance space) in his wheelchair. Tacita said of the sound in Cunningham's Greenwich Village studio, where the filming took place, "The urban hum of New York was like white noise beneath us, and there was a piano accompanying the dancers next door." The gallery presentation consists of six film projections on free-standing screens, where Cunningham holds a different seated posture for each of three timed sections. "Like a bird of prey, Cunningham perceived this without gesture, broke his pose and then resettled for the next movement," Dean writes. Even a wheelchair-bound Cunningham inspires poetic tributes. The opening reception is from 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday, December 16.
Dec. 16-March 20, 2010