I visited the Musee d’art Contemporain De Montreal last weekend and saw the video installation Merce Cunningham performs STILLNESS (in three movements) to John Cage’s composition 4’33’’ with Trevor Carlson, New York City, 28 April 2007 (six performances; six films), 2008.
by Tacita Dean.
Our entrance to the museum was a bit disjointed and confused. The museum is the midst of the construction of a new downtown area call the Quartier des spectacles (see next post for more on that) so it was a bit hard to find the entrance. Then after buying a ticket, I misplaced it and had to rifle through my purse as the museum staff and the others I was with waited. This agitation dissipated though as we entered the Tacita Dean installation. There was Merce Cunningham in 16mm, life size, sitting patiently and looking at us or looking just past us, in six projections throughout an immense room. It was like that dream in which someone you love who died, comes back, without explanation.
In the projections, Merce Cuningham is performing John Cages 4′ 33″ . Cage’s performance consisted of instructions for a piano player to not play piano, and Merce Cunningham’s rendition is that he simply sits still for that period of time in his dance rehersal space. In some of the angles you see the person behind the camera, you see New York and the light from the windows pours into the room and from the mirrors. They are stunning portraits, simple and rich with conceptuality and with accesable human meaning. (and further enriched because here is a collaboration among Merce Cunningham, John Cage and Tacita Dean, all making thier own piece) To me they all state fundamental (familiar but welcome) remarks about the worthiness of experimentation and of challenging popular modes of media. To me, some of these are;
-long static shots remind me that media can represent stillness and this can be so engaging
-he isn’t acting, this is a documentary of a man sitting still
-be patient when making moving images
-there’s an old person on the screen, under-represented population
-he’s a dancer, and his sitting still in a chair and this is his dance
-the projections represent him life size, there is no bigger than life character
-the camera is shooting from several angles, and the projections are located all over the room, blowing apart the illusion of space that this media is often expected to invoke
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