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Holy Gordon Matta-Clark Batman! Daniel Arsham collaborates with Merce Cunningham Dance Company for Au Tour de Paris Events.

Mock-up of carvings for Au Tour de Paris Events.

Since legendary dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami’s Executive Director and Chief Curator Bonnie Clearwater and Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin artist Daniel Arsham got together in 2006 to design a set (ODE/EON) for eyeSpace, an event commissioned by the Carnival Center for the Performing Arts in Miami which made its World Premier in February 2007 at the Ziff Ballet Opera House as part of ‘Merce In Miami’, Arsham has not been far from the thoughts of the MCDC (Merce Cunningham Dance Company).

The youngest artist to be invited to collaborate with the company to date, Arsham (Miami/New York), who took the limelight in Miami during the first half of 2007 with his Merce Cunningham: Dancing on the Cutting Edge Part II exhibition at MOCA at the Goldman Warehouse (April 21 – June 24, 2007), subsequently developed a close relationship with Cunningham and the late great Robert Rauchenberg – two artists who were inextricably linked throughout their long and illustrious careers.

Merce Cunningham, Daniel Arsham, Robert Rauschenberg.

Having stayed in close contact with Cunnigham – now nearly 90 years of age – Arsham has had the privilege to participate in a number of the company’s events and recently completed a French mini tour during which he created a number of unique on site installations which acted as a backdrop to the choreographed events unfolding on the stage – this latest series of installations amounts to the second ‘piece’ that the artist has created for the company.

Thanks to Cunningham and Rauschenberg’s long experimental history which began back at the Black Mountain College in the 1940’s, MCDC is today synonymous non traditional theater and operates within the understanding that the very space in which events are staged becomes the décor. For the Festival Val de Marne in Paris, which coincides with Cunningham’s 90th Birthday Celebration, Arsham was asked to create in situ set designs for each of the companies Au Tour de Paris Events. For these events the artist busied himself backstage by cutting holes in the back wall of the theater during the performance thus turning the architecture of the theater itself into the set. Naturally every carving was different, a theme that was echoed by the performance’s choreography, music, décor, costumes, and lighting.

Speaking with ARTLURKER about the events Arsham said “The whole concept of the tour was to recreate the essence of the company’s early performances when Bob [Rauschenberg] was the director. During this time they mostly played in small theaters and would get to a place and make a work using materials found on site. My take on this was not to use anything I found, but instead to create a situation where the architecture itself became the work. When the curtains went up and these pieces opened onto a completely black and empty stage I imagine people who had come expecting something spectacular got quite a shock!”

Performances were are at: Théâtre Jean Vilar, Vitry-Sur-Seine (29/03/09) / l’Espace Michel Simon, Noisy-le-Grand (31/03/09) / Le Théâtre des Bergeries, Noisy-le-Sec (2/04/09) / Théâtre Paul-Eluard, Bezons (4/04/09). All performance images featured were taken on the second night – l’Espace Michel Simon, Noisy-le-Grand (31/03/09).

Merce Cunningham celebrates his 90th Birthday a week from tomorrow (April 16th) with four days of performances (16th, 17th, 18th and 19th) of his evening-length new work Nearly Ninety featuring music composed and performed by John Paul Jones, Takehisa Kosugi and Sonic Youth and with costumes by Romeo Gigli for io ipse idem.


For more information on MCDC please visit:



  • vlcane

    Arsham always manages to amaze me with his ability to continue to innovate and produce art that in my opinion is truly cutting edge. I would of really liked to have seen this in person.

  • swampthing

    ahh, the luster of american marble aka styrofoam. also, check out arsham’s “eroding columns” recently installed permanently at Aventura Mall.

  • Mister Arrow

    Stunning, Amazing, and Poetic!
    The Past, the Present and the Future all rolled into one chewy treat.

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Holy Gordon Matta-Clark Batman! Daniel Arsham collaborates with Merce Cunningham Dance Company for Au Tour de Paris Events.