Influential choreographer Merce Cunningham's film and video works are being screened at the Walk-in Cinema at SALT Beyoğlu from July 11 to Aug. 3, in collaboration with the Merce Cunningham Trust and Electronic Arts Intermix.
Cunningham was a dancer, choreographer and teacher who pushed the boundaries of contemporary art, the visual arts, performing arts and music during his seven-decade career. He was a versatile artist who collaborated with many directors including Arne Arnbom, Charles Atlas, Elliot Caplan and Richard Moore to capture and reflect the essence of dance and movement through moving images. SALT is celebrating Merce Cunningham's centennial birthday with a screening program that elaborates the work of one of the leading figures of the American avant-garde and the most influential choreographers of the 20th century.
Cunningham had said, "You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive."
Directed by Arne Arnbom and accompanied by John Cage's music, the 1964 film "Antic Meet" consists of a series of vaudeville scenes that overlap. Opening with a quote from Dostoyevsky's "The Brothers Karamazov" on the necessity of absurdities, the film shows Cunningham moving among a group of other dancers as a clown-like figure who tries to adapt to a society whose rules are unknown to him.
Produced two years later, again in collaboration with Arnbom and Cage, "Variations V" is a true testament to experiments with "intermedia" in the 1960s, which profoundly informed Cunningham's choreographic practice. The video is materially integrated into the performance, with projections by Stan VanDerBeek and overlaid TV distortions by Nam June Paik, while the sound is triggered by the dancers' movements and then altered or delayed by the musicians.
"Assemblage" (1968) features Cunningham dancing with his dance company in San Francisco's Ghirardelli Square, a new wave of gentrified urban environments where dilapidated markets or industrial sites were rehabilitated as mall-like retail districts in November 1968. Directed by former dancer Richard Moore, and transferred from 16 mm film and colorized by Charles Atlas after Cunningham's death, the film's musical accompaniment is provided by Cage, David Tudor and Gordon Mumma.
A coproduction with the BBC, and co-directed by Cunningham and Elliot Caplan, "Points in Space" (1986) splits into two parts; namely the complexities and exhilaration of developing a new dance and making a documentary about it. Taking its title from Einstein's famous statement, the video work includes interviews with Cunningham and Cage as well as the members of the dance company along with scenes from rehearsals in New York and London.
Caplan's film adaptation of "Beach Birds," a dance work originally choreographed for the stage, "Beach Birds for Camera" begins with Cunningham outlining his approach to dance for the camera, and his vision for how movement behaves and how we see it. In the 1993 film, again accompanied by John Cage's music, the center of the proscenium stage is no longer the most important point within the frame, and the viewer is invited to simultaneously explore the activity that takes place in each of its component parts. The camera permits different levels of detail to manifest themselves.
The screenings will take place in the Walk-in Cinema at SALT Beyoğlu every Thursday, Friday and Saturday between July 11 and Aug. 3 and are free and open to all.