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Merce Cunningham: Common Time

Curated by Fionn Meade with Philip Bither, Joan Rothfuss and Mary Coyne. Lynn Warren, consulting curator at Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.


Walker Art Center February 8-July 30, 2017
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago February 11-April 30, 2017






Renowned as both choreographer and dancer, Cunningham (American, 1919–2009) revolutionized dance through his partnerships with leading artists who created costumes, lighting, films, music, and décor and whose independent creative instincts he held in the highest regard. Common Time offers a journey through a range of experiential installations that unfold at the Walker in seven galleries, the theater, the cinema, and public spaces throughout the museum.

Known for embracing risk and chance, Cunningham believed in the radical notion that movement, sound, and visual art could exist independently of each other, coming together only during the “common time” of a performance. The exhibition presents Cunningham’s work and that of his network of collaborators through rare and never-before-seen moving image presentations and installations of décor and costumes from the MCDC Collection as well as pieces by his lifelong collaborator, composer John Cage, and Trisha Brown, Tacita Dean, Jasper Johns, Morris Graves, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, Isamu Noguchi, Nam June Paik, Yvonne Rainer, Robert Rauschenberg, Frank Stella, David Tudor, Stan VanDerBeek, Andy Warhol, and many others.

Cunningham embraced an expanded possibility of dance, music, and visual art that reads like a how-to guide for pushing the boundaries of art for subsequent generations. In this spirit, the exhibition will also feature new performing arts commissions as well as live dance and music in the theater and galleries. Presentations include a series of in-gallery Events, site-responsive collages of Cunningham repertory performed by dancers from the final company as well as new commissions from leading figures in contemporary choreography and composition, including Charles Atlas/Rashaun Mitchell/Silas Riener, Beth Gill, Maria Hassabi, and John King, among others.

The landmark exhibition investigates the unique working methods, profound relationships, and influence of a choreographer whose singular approach to sharing a “common time” remains one of the most inspirational models of the 20th century for interdisciplinary practice.




Exhibition Catalogue



Edited by Fionn Meade and Joan Rothfuss with texts by Carlos Basualdo, Juliet Bellow, Philip Bither, Roger Copeland, Mary L. Coyne, Douglas Crimp, Hiroko Ikegami, Kelly Kivland, Fionn Meade, Claudia La Rocco, Benjamin Piekut, David Vaughan. Interviews by Victoria Brooks, Danielle Goldman, Aram Moshayedi.

Additional Events Associated with the Exhibition:
Maria Hassabi, STAGING (2017), co-commission with docuementa 14

Occupying a space between live performance and visual art, artist/choreographer Maria Hassabi’s work explores stillness and sustained motion. Her sculptural movement installations examine the tension between the human form and the artistic object.The magnetic performances of looped, long-form choreography will be performed by Simon Courchel, Jessie Gold, Hristoula Harakas, Maria Hassabi, Kennis Hawkins, Niall Jones, Mickey Mahar, Oisín Monaghan, and Nancy Stamatopoulou.

STAGING includes a score by Marina Rosenfeld, outfits by Victoria Bartlett, and lighting supervision and assistant design by Zack Tinkelman.

Walker Cunningham Events

Performance Schedule at Walker Art Center:

February 8–9
Wednesday–Thursday, 5:30 and 8 pm
March 30–April 2
Thursday, 5:30 and 8 pm
Friday–Sunday, 1:30 and 4 pm
April 6–9
Thursday, 5:30 and 8 pm
Friday–Sunday, 1:30 and 4 pm


In conjunction with Merce Cunningham: Common Time, dancers from the final Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC)­­—Dylan Crossman, Silas Riener, Jamie Scott, Melissa Toogood—perform Events, Cunningham’s unique choreographic form made for performances in unconventional spaces. Arranged and staged by former MCDC dancer Andrea Weber, these 30-minute sequences drawn from four decades of Cunningham’s work offer a rare chance to experience firsthand his signature explorations of space, time, and movement. Twin Cities musicians will perform their own compositions to accompany each program, based on John Cage’s improvisational parameters for Cunningham's Events.

Merce Cunningham's choreography performed courtesy of the Merce Cunningham Trust

Copryright Fionn Meade unless otherwise stated