Knight Blog

The blog of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Multimedia app celebrates the life of famed choreographer Merce Cunningham

Aug. 10, 2012, 9:09 a.m., Posted by Elizabeth R. Miller

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A new interactive app, available now in iTunes, celebrates the life of renowned choreographer, dancer and artist Merce Cunningham (1919-2009).

The app, designed to make Cunningham’s work accessible to more people, was released today by the Aperture Foundation. It is a new iteration of the 1997 book “Merce Cunningham: Fifty Years,” authored by the Cunningham Dance Company’s archivist David Vaughan.

The book chronicled Cunningham’s work through words, photographs, designs for sets and costumes, musical scores and choreographic notes. The app, which makes the text available digitally for the first time, is also updated to include the final years of Cunningham’s life and features new multimedia content like video excerpts and interviews.

Merce Cunningham: 65 Years, supported by Knight Foundation and developed in collaboration with the Cunningham Dance Foundation, also includes a selection of Cunningham’s drawings, journal pages as well as all of his known essays. Its release was covered in the New York Times article “Even in Death a Choreographer is Mixing Art and Technology”:

Throughout his life Merce Cunningham came up with new ways to blend art and technology. He changed the way we think about space and time onstage, he explored dance on film before just about anyone else, and long before James Cameron and Hollywood made motion-capture cool, he was using three-dimensional computer animation to choreograph. Now, three years after his death in 2009, Cunningham is again at the vanguard. On Friday the Aperture Foundation is to introduce its first interactive application for the iPad, “Merce Cunningham: 65 Years.”

Cunningham’s own experience with technology was a driving force behind the app’s development and is chronicled in it. In 1989, As part of his choreographic process, Cunningham began to use a computer program designed specifically for him called LifeForms. His 1991 piece “Trackers” (a title inspired by the “tracking” function on the computer) was his first work made using the technology.

About the apps' release, Knight Foundation President and CEO Alberto Ibargüen said, “Merce Cunningham’s career cannot be captured by words alone, no matter how eloquent. Knight Foundation was delighted to have the opportunity to support a multimedia publication that will allow so many more people to engage with his work.”

Ibargüen, who served on the board of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, helped bring the company to Miami for a residency in 2007. Knight also supported bringing the 2010 Merce Cunningham Dance Company’s Legacy Tour to Miami.

 The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation also provided additional support for the app.

The app complements the Cunningham Dance Foundation’s Legacy Plan, designed to ensure the ongoing celebration and preservation of Cunningham’s achievements.

By Elizabeth R. Miller, communication associate at Knight Foundation.

Related: Inside the new Merce Cunningham appMerce & Me: Alberto Ibargüen and James Klotsky’s inside view on Merce Cunningham: 65 years.