the Collaborative Legacy of Merce Cunningham

The Collaborative Legacy of Merce Cunningham exhibition celebrated seven multi-disciplinary works from the late choreographer Merce Cunningham’s company as well as selected works resulting from collaborations between other choreographers and architects, including Frank Gehry, Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, Dominique Perrault, and Ai Weiwei. The exhibition featured reproductions of music and dance notations, drawings, sketches, and photographs documenting the collaborative process as well as the performed works.

The Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC), created in 1953, was one of the most influential contemporary dance companies in the world, due to the invention Cunningham brought to the medium of dance and due to a seventy year career of cross-disciplinary collaborations with artists such as composer and poet John Cage, visual artists Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns, and Andy Warhol, film makers Charles Atlas and Elliot Caplan and architect Benedetta Tagliabue. These works were informed by such diverse interests as zen philosophy, environmental aesthetics, chance and indeterminacy, and digital technology.

The exhibition synchronized with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s performance at the University of Arizona in February 2011. This event was within the company’s final, “legacy” tour, at the end of which the MCDC permanently disbanded, as was Cunningham’s wish.

Since opening at the University of Arizona’s College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (Feb. 14th – March 22nd, 2011), the exhibition toured to the University of Maryland School of Architecture (Jan-May 2012), the Technishe Universität Dresden (May-July 2012), the École Spéciale d’Architecture (November 2012), and the École National Superieure d’Architecture de Clermont Ferrand (Nov – Dec. 2013).

For more about the Collaborative Legacy of Merce Cunningham exhibition, read the essay published in Places. During the week leading up to the Legacy Tour performance, programming at the University included dance-firm screenings, poetry readings, and dance performances. Additional events—a film screening from Experiments in Art and Technology’s 9 Evenings: Theater and Engineering and a roundtable—were held at MOCA Tucson.