Monday, 5 July 2010
Merce Cunningham - he knew they would not fail him in absentia...
Screenings of the 'Craneway Event' (2009), the 108-minute feature-length film by Tacita Dean (b. 1965), about the late iconic choreographer Merce Cunningham, have concluded on 23 June 2010 at Frith Street Gallery. But the film is simply too special not to mention.
As Cunningham’s last film collaboration, 'Craneway Event' documents his dance company’s rehearsal over three days and across three stages in a former Ford assembly plant in Richmond, California that overlooks the San Francisco Bay. With minimal dialogue, the film’s visual impact is enriched by an unwavering camera that captures the nuances of the dancers’ movements, the ships drifting to and from the nearby port, and the errant pigeon that wanders into the unconventional studio. The huge windows of the 1930s Albert Kahn building allow for morphing angularities of light and shadow to produce a sort of frame within a frame in the film, hinting at the unexpected that is at the core of Cunningham’s ‘events’, often held in atypical dance spaces (like Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall in 2003), and re-utilize choreography.
At the heart of the work lies the legendary choreographer himself. Dean’s camera captures the evolution of the performance, and her camera’s poignant glances at the quiet, deeply focused Cunningham, who was 89-years old at the time of filming and confined to a wheelchair, put into perspective a lifetime of work that survives the man himself.
"When Merce died on July 26 , I had just begun editing 'Craneway Event'...Although I lost the pleasure of imagining him watching the film...Merce’s joy in the process was steadfastly there and his enthusiasm seemed to have a directional force. I began to feel that Merce had set up the components that make up the film – the building, the dancers, the light, the ships and the birds, because he knew they would not fail him in absentia."
Tacita Dean, Press Release
- YZ, July 2010