Walker Art Center and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Copresent Merce Cunningham: Common Time the Largest Survey of the Artist and his Multidisciplinary Collaborations Ever Mounted
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Walker Art Center and Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago Copresent Merce Cunningham: Common Time the Largest Survey of the Artist and his Multidisciplinary Collaborations Ever Mounted

Premiering February 17, the Exhibition Showcases Depth of the Walker's Merce Cunningham Dance Company Collection along with a New Series of Commissioned Performances

“This concerns a selection of the works that John Cage and I have collaborated on over the past decades, a shared history that reflects to me a change or enlargement of the underlying principle that music and dance and art could be separate entities independent and inter- dependent, sharing a common time. There is a continuing flexibility in the relation of the arts. We are involved in a process of work and activity, not in a series of finished objects.” —Merce Cunningham

MINNEAPOLIS, September 19, 2016—Walker Art Center and Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago copresent 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 continues to influence generations of artists, composers, and choreographers. The Walker-organized exhibition will premiere February 8–9, 2017 at the Walker and February 11–12, 2017 at the MCA Chicago with two performance commissions. Organized by Fionn Meade, Walker Art Center Artistic Director, with Philip Bither, Director and Senior Curator of Performing Arts, in collaboration with Curator Lynne Warren and Chief Curator Michael Darling from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, this exhibition embodies both institutions’ dedication to cross-disciplinary programming and artistic practice.

One of the most influential choreographers and dancers of the 20th century, Cunningham’s innovations and philosophies over a prolific 60-year career changed the course of modern dance and provided the impetus and inspiration for key movements in postwar artistic practice. Merce Cunningham: Common Time marks the Walker’s five decade-long commitment to the Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC), which began with an early company engagement in 1963 followed by the Walker’s first full-scale residency with the company in 1969 (one of the earliest dance residencies of its kind nationally), which was followed by eight subsequent residencies, three commissions, several smaller exhibitions, and 17 separate engagements including the mounting of the monumental OCEAN in a granite quarry in central MN in 2008, just months before Cunningham’s passing. In 2011, the Walker acquired the MCDC Collection, which includes more than 4,500 objects from more than 150 choreographies from the company’s 50-year history.

Merce Cunningham: Common Time is the first survey exhibition to measure the late choreographer and dancer’s indelible impact on generations of artists. 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, exemplified by Cunningham’s lifelong collaborations with composer John Cage, serves as the foundation for a career of exemplifying and fostering this shared philosophy.

The exhibition will feature works that bridge disciplines by visual artists including: William Anastasi, Charles Atlas, Dove Bradshaw, George Brecht, Rudy Burkhardt, Trisha Brown, John Cage, Elliot Caplan, Remy Charlip, Merce Cunningham, Larry Colwell, Philip Corner, Tacita Dean, Morton Feldman, Martha Graham, Morris Graves, Al Hansen, Deborah Hay, Dick Higgins, Toshi Ichiyanagi, Allan Kaprow, Takehisa Kosugi, Jasper Johns, Mark Lancaster, Jackson Mac Low, George Maciunas, Charlotte Moorman, Peter Moore, Richard Moore, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Ernesto Neto, Isamu Noguchi, Pauline Oliveros, Yoko Ono, Nam June Paik, D.A. Pennebaker, Yvonne Rainer, Robert Rauschenberg, M.C. Richards, Sonjia Sekula, Marsha Skinner, Frank Stella, Charlotte Trowbridge, David Tudor, Stan VanDerBeek, Andy Warhol, Christian Wolff, Yukata Yoshii, and La Monte Young.

In addition to featuring upwards of sixty significant works from Cunningham’s collaborators, the exhibition will include key stage décor works from the Walker’s MCDC Collection adapted for gallery display including Frank Stella’s Scramble (1967), Jasper Johns’s (after Marcel Duchamp) Walkaround Time (1968), Robert Morris’s Canfield (1969), and Mark Lancaster’s Fractions I (1978). Highlights of the exhibition also include never-before seen moving image works, including the recently-discovered recording of Music Walk for Dancers (1958) and Assemblage (1968), and foreground the artist’s experimentation with new media technologies, represented by projects with Charles Atlas and Elliot Caplan, with whom he developed medium-specific “dance for camera.” Merce Cunningham: Common Time presents a rare opportunity to delve into innovative and less recognized immersive installations by Ernesto Neto, Stan VanDerBeek, and Andy Warhol, and major film and video instal¬lations by Charles Atlas and Tacita Dean that reflect upon Cunningham’s significant career by incorporating performances by Cunningham and his company. Throughout the exhibition, ambient audio playlists will present some of the many important musical compositions commissioned by Cunningham from Cage, David Behrman, Morton Feldman, Takehisa Kosugi, Pauline Oliveros, and David Tudor among others. By exploring little-known facets of well-known careers within the context of Cunningham’s work, the exhibition promises to shed new light on the truly risk-taking spirit Cunningham embodied in his own practice and cultivated among his collaborators, underscoring Cunningham and his company’s seminal role in post-war artistic practice.

Extending the trajectory of influence to the present, Common Time comprises three new dance commissions by leading abstract movement innovators of today, including STAGING, a new durational dance and installation work from Maria 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 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 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. France’s Ballet de Lorraine performs Cunningham masterworks Sounddance (1975) and the Walker-commissioned Fabrications (1987). Other live programming includes Music for Merce: A Two-Night Celebration that features ten diverse experimental composer-musicians who worked with the company over decades, curated by John King.

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.

Together with this groundbreaking publication, the exhibition investigates the unique working methods, profound relationships, and choreographic influence of Cunningham’s singular approach to sharing a “common time,” which remains one of the most inspirational models of 20th-century interdisciplinary practice.

Merce Cunningham: Common Time Performance Calendar

Merce Cunningham
Walker Cunningham Events

Wednesday–Thursday, February 8–9, 2017, 5:30 and 8 pm
Free with gallery admission

March 30–April 9, 2017
Thursday, 5:30 and 8 pm
Friday–Sunday, 1:30 and 4 pm
Free with gallery admission

The Perlman Gallery comes alive with movement and sound as Dylan Crossman, Silas Riener, Jamie Scott, and Melissa Toogood—dancers from the final Merce Cunningham Dance Company—perform Cunningham’s unique choreographic form made for non-theater spaces, which he called “Events.” Staged by former Cunningham dancer Andrea Weber, these 30-minute collages of movement drawn from four decades of the artist’s work offer a rare chance to experience his signature explorations of space, time, and movement. Contemporary compositions will be performed live by a different set of accomplished, Minnesota-based vanguard music-makers each day curated by cellist/composer Michelle Kinney. Cunningham’s choreography is performed courtesy of the Merce Cunningham Trust.

Maria Hassabi
World Premiere/Walker Commission

Wednesday–Sunday, February 8–12; Tuesday–Sunday, February
14–19, 2017
Free with gallery admission

Occupying a space between live performance and visual art, choreographer Maria Hassabi‘s work explores stillness and sustained motion. Her sculptural movement installations explore the tension between the human form and the artistic object. These magnetic performances of looped, long-form choreography will be performed by eight highly accomplished dancers trained by the artist. Visitors encounter STAGING in the Walker’s Cargill Lounge and Common Time galleries throughout the day.

CCN–Ballet de Lorraine
Sounddance, Fabrications, Devoted
Midwest Debut
Thursday, February 16, 2017, 7:30 pm $55, $45, $35 ($44, $36, $28)

Northrop, 84 Church St. SE, Minneapolis

The acclaimed CCN–Ballet de Lorraine celebrates Merce Cunningham’s legacy with a rare chance to see two of his groundbreaking works: the dramatic, Walker-commissioned Fabrications (presented 30 years after its premiere at Northrop with live music by the original composer, Brazil’s Emanuel Dimas de Melo Pimenta) and the “organized chaos” of Sounddance, performed at a high velocity from start to finish to a thundering electronic score by David Tudor. The program also includes Devoted, a new ballet by irreverent choreographic duo Cecilia Bengolea and François Chaignaud, with a score by Philip Glass. Copresented with Northrop.

Music for Merce: A Two-Night Celebration
Program A: Thursday, February 23, 2017, 8 pm
Program B: Friday, February 24, 8 pm
$28 ($22.40)
$50 for both nights

Cunningham and longtime partner/composer John Cage were renowned for their legendary collaborations with the most significant experimental
musicians of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Join us to celebrate this remarkable legacy over two historic evenings with a festival of music and sound performances curated by composer/guitarist John King. Featured with King are electronic music pioneers and fellow longtime Merce Cunningham Dance Company associates David Behrman and Gordon Mumma, contemporary classical composer Christian Wolff, and composer/performers Joan La Barbara, Ikue Mori, George Lewis, Zeena Parkins, and Radiohead’s Philip Selway with London multi-instrumentalist Quinta. Each evening consists of a separate set of solo, duo, ensemble, and landmark works, concluding with a collectively made real-time composition.

Rashaun Mitchell+Silas Riener with Charles Atlas
Walker Commission
Thursday–Saturday, March 16–18, 2017, 8 pm $28 ($22.40)

Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Riener were two of the most stunning performers in the final iteration of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. In a groundbreaking co-commission with Experimental and Performing Arts Center (EMPAC), they are paired with longtime Cunningham collaborator and visual/media artist Charles Atlas. The thrilling result is a live dance/technology hybrid featuring seven dancers and 3-D video that weaves together dance, sci-fi narratives, and live film segments (edited in real time by Atlas). Toggling between the corporeal and the digital, this revolutionary work disorients one’s sense of space and time in playful and unpredictable ways.

Beth Gill
New Work
World Premiere/Walker Commission
Friday–Saturday, May 5–6, 2017, 8 pm $22 ($17.60)

Known for her rigor and precision, Beth Gill makes choreography that represents a uniquely focused exploration of aesthetics and perception, and her new work marks a return to an abstract, intensely constructed exploration of space and time. This evocative piece for five dancers, with original music by Jon Moniac, will illuminate the “structural pleasure” of the Merce Cunningham legacy while refracting it for our times through Gill’s unique lens.

This work is a National Performance Network (NPN) Creation Fund project created in partnership with the Walker Art Center, The Yard, American Dance Festival, and NPN.

Support provided by Producers’ Council members King’s Fountain/Barbara Watson Pillsbury and Henry Pillsbury.

Field Dances
Saturday, June 3
Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

To celebrate Merce Cunningham: Common Time, former MCDC dancers Patricia Lent and Jamie Scott will conduct movement workshops for community dancers culminating in outdoor public showings of Merce Cunningham’s Field Dances (1963). Subtitled “Dances for Everyone,” this indeterminate work utilizes everyday movement designed for people of all ages and with any level of dance training or experience. The outdoor showings will be presented during the re-opening festivities of the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

Merce Cunningham: Common Time MCA Chicago Performances

MCA Cunningham Event
February 11-12, 2017, free with suggested admission
Saturday, February 11: 1:30-2 pm and 4-4:30 pm
Sunday, February 12: 1:30-2 pm and 4-4:30 pm

CCN-Ballet de Lorraine Works by Merce Cunningham and Others
February 18-19, 2017, Tickets $30
Saturday, February 18: 7:30 pm
Sunday, February 19: 3 and 7:30 pm
Presented by MCA with Dance Center of Columbia College

Music for Merce
February 25-26, 2017, Tickets: $30
Saturday, February 25: 7:30 pm
Sunday, February 26: 3 pm

Spektral Quartet, Morton Feldman: String Quartet No. 2
March 11, 2017, Tickets: $12
Saturday, March 11, 6 pm

Rashaun Mitchell + Silas Riener in collaboration with Charles Atlas: Tesseract
March 23-25, 2017, Tickets: $30
Thursday, March 23, 7:30 pm
Friday, March 24, 7:30 pm
Saturday, March 25, 7:30 pm

Matthew Duvall: Whisper(s)
April 23, 2017, Tickets: $12
Sunday, April 23, 3 pm
Copresented with Contempo / U of C Presents


One of the most celebrated art museums and multidisciplinary art centers internationally, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis is known for presenting today’s most compelling artists from around the world, as well as modern masters. In addition to traveling exhibitions and its world-renowned collection, the Walker presents a broad array of contemporary music, dance, design, and theater, and the best in film and moving image arts. The 12-acre Minneapolis Sculpture Garden is one of the country’s largest urban sculpture parks and first of its kind. At its center is the beloved Twin Cities landmark—the playful fountain-sculpture Spoonbridge and Cherry by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. The Garden features more than 40 works of art and the Cowles Conservatory. walkerart.org


The MCA Chicago is one of the nation’s largest multidisciplinary museums devoted to the art of our time. With an international reputation for presenting ground-breaking exhibitions, the MCA documents contemporary visual culture through painting, sculpture, photography, film, and video. The performing arts program, MCA Stage, features leading performers from around the globe in its 300-seat theater. Located near the historic Water Tower in the heart of downtown Chicago, the MCA features special exhibition spaces, a gift store, restaurant, and a terraced sculpture garden with a view of Lake Michigan. mcachicago.org


Walker Art Center

Rachel Joyce



Museum Contemporary Art Chicago

Karla Loring



Blue Medium, Inc.

Mathilde Campergue




Merce Cunningham: Common Time is organized by the Walker Art Center. Lead support for the project is provided by the Barnett and Annalee Newman Foundation and the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Generous support is also provided by Agnes Gund and the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.

Major support for the Walker’s commissions and presentations is provided by the William and Nadine McGuire Commissioning Fund, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Additional support is generously provided by Molly Davies, Pamela and C. Richard Kramlich, Leni and David Moore, Jr./The David and Leni Moore Family Foundation, Barbara Pine, and the Unity Avenue Foundation in memory of Sage and John Cowles.