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Courtesy of Rashaun Mitchell, Representative of the Merce Cunningham Trust
Lead artist for Bay Area Artists In Conversation with Merce at 100

"I have the idea that dancing doesn’t need something else to support itself, that it is what it is by itself.  It doesn’t have to have a description to inform you ahead of time what it is, but rather that you can come to this experience for what it is as you might come to something that you have never seen before in the street.”
-Merce Cunningham

"My work allows for an ambiguity in terms of meaning.  I think I prefer that. Dancing is never so uninteresting to me as when every inch is snared along the way.  And given the separateness of the dance and the music…, and where possible…the visual element, this allows for further ambiguity.  One of the things this openness does allow is for the spectator to creep in, or out, and make up his own mind."
-Merce Cunningham

Chance Conversations:  An Interview with Merce Cunningham and John Cage.
“A VERY interesting 30-minute video interview form 1981, with Cunningham & Cage talking about their work together.  It covers a lot of the same territory as the “Four Events That Have Led to Large Discoveries” essay — especially separation of music and dance, and use of chance operations.  Great stuff, in their own words.”- RM

The Six Sides of Merce Cunningham
“This is a 6.5 minute video introduction to MC, produced by the Walker Art Center.  This is very basic, but may be useful to people who are less familiar with Merce’s work.” -RM

Merce Cunningham’s one-page biography

The Impermanent Art (1952)
A four-page essay written by Cunningham in 1952, the year before he formed his company.

Four Events That Have Led to Large Discoveries (1994)
“A one-and-a-half-page essay written by Cunningham in 1994 about landmark discoveries in his work.  Written when he was 75 years old.” -RM

A Movement, a Sound, a Change of Light
“A one-page essay by John Cage from 1964.”-RM

Merce Cunningham’s Working Process
A short (4 minute) documentary showing Merce in rehearsal in 1981, in Minnesota.  It’s from the same residency as the interview just above. Short, but intriguing.

I Have Nothing to Say and I’m Saying It
A one hour documentary about John Cage.

Mondays with Merce. (short topical videos)
#15: John Cage
#5: Company Class
#6: Performing
#13: Roaratorio
#8: Remembering


Merce Cunningham:  A Lifetime of Dance (2000)

Cage/Cunningham (2015)


498, 3rd Ave. (documentary on the Scramble dance capsule)

David Vaughan, Merce Cunningham: 50 Years (Available as a free online app:

The Dancer and the Dance (interview with Jacqueline Lesschaeve)

RASHAUN MITCHELL AND SILAS RIENER (Lead teaching artists for HMD’s Bay Area Merce project)

Links coming soon that illuminate the practice of each commissioned artist.

Limited Edition
The theme of Limited Edition, “Forward-Looking Lineages,” was inspired in part by the SFMOMA show Robert Rauschenberg: Erasing the Rules. An Open Space partnership with CounterPulse, The Lab, ODC Theater, Performance at SFMOMA, and Z Space, Limited Edition explored questions of legacy and lineage through performances, discussions, and gatherings at various locations throughout the city from January to March 2018, with commissioned texts (by Gerald Casel, Xandra Ibarra, James Fleming, Ryan Tacata, Meiyin Wang, et al).

Hope Mohr, Choreographic Transmission in an Expanded Field: Reflections on Ten Artists Respond to Trisha Brown's Locus, TDR/The Drama Review (2018)

Diana Taylor, Acts of Transfer (in The Archive and the Repertoire)

The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, A Steady Pulse, Restaging Lucinda Childs

Lisa Kraus, Nuts and Bolts: How We Teach Trisha Brown, Thinking Dance

Miguel Gutierrez, Does abstraction belong to white people?, BOMB Magazine, Nov. 7, 2018

Jared Sexton and Elizabeth Lee, Hold everything black, Open Space, SFMOMA, September 6, 2017

Hilton Als, The Soullessness of “Straight White Men”, The New Yorker, August 6 & 13, 2018.

Casel, Gerald. Responding to Trisha Brown's Locus, the body is the brain, November 1, 2016

Charlton, Lauretta. Claudia Rankine’s Home for the Racial Imaginary, The New Yorker, January 19, 2017.

hooks, bell. "Postmodern Blackness,” Postmodern Culture, vol. 1, no. 1 (Sep. 1990).

Kao, Peiling. "On Per[mute]ing," the body is the brain, October 27, 2016

Lalami, Laila. “Group Think: The Identity Politics of Whiteness,” New York Times Magazine, November 27, 2016.

Menand, Louis. "What Identity Demands,” The New Yorker, September 3, 2018.

Mohr, Hope. "Choreographic Transmission in an Expanded Field: Ten Artists Respond to Locus,” TDR: The Drama Review 62:2 (T238) Summer 2018.

Pedrosa, Adriano. "What is the Process," in Ten Fundamental Questions of Curating. Ed. by Jens Hoffman, Mousse Publishing, 2013. 

Profeta, Katherine. Dramaturgy in Motion: At Work on Dance and Movement Performance, University of Wisconsin Press, 2015.

Racial Imaginary Institute

Rankine, Claudia “Teju Cole’s Essays Build Connections between African and Western Art.” New York Times Book Review, 9 August:12, 2016.

Rich, Adrienne. Essential Essays: Culture, Politics and the Art of Poetry.  W.W. Norton & Co. 2018.  

RIFF TALKing on Identity and Performance, with Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, Joy Mariama Smith, Sara Smith and Tara Aisha Willis; moderated by Cassie Peterson. Originally printed in Contact Quarterly, Vol. 42 No. 2, Summer/Fall 2017.

Sharpe, Christina. In the Wake: On Blackness and Being. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. 2016.

Sheets, Hilarie M. The Changing Complex Profile of Black Abstract Painters, ArtNews, June 4, 2014. 

Smith, Zadie. “A Bird of Few Words: Narrative Mysteries in the paintings of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.” The New Yorker, June 19, 2017.