Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Tacita Dean's Craneway Event

Tacita Dean’s ‘Craneway Event’, (2009) is showing at the Frith Street Gallery this month and I recommend a visit. The feature length film documents the last work of choreographer Merce Cunningham (1919-2009) before his death on July 26th of last year.
The viewer observes the rehearsals of Cunningham’s dance company in a beautiful 1930’s Albert Kahn building, previously used as a Ford motor assembly plant. The building is glazed on three sides revealing the busy port of San Francisco Bay, thus contributing to the stunning backdrop. Birds and boats glide past seemingly choreographed in time with the dancers in the foreground. Cunningham often used spaces not typically designed for dance events, and in 2003 used the Tate Modern’sTurbine Hall. Cunningham composed the accompanying music for his events alongside his partner John Cage and the dancers would often hear the accompanying score for the first time during the performance. The soundtrack of the film is therefore made up of sounds of speech, shuffling feet and distant external noise.
Sadly Merce Cunningham died during Dean’s editing of the film leaving the artist questioning her approach to the piece,  looking back on the life of her subject until she realized the potential to not only record his last work but continue his legacy.
“Although I lost the pleasure of imagining him watching the film, I gained a different sort of Muse. 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
The piece is dedicated to Merce Cunningham 1919-2009
‘Craneway Event’ (108 minutes) is showing at Frith Street Gallery until 26th June, with three showings every weekday and two on a Saturday (by appointment only).
Frith Street Gallery, 17-18 Golden Square, London W1F 9JJ
Words and images by Ester Kneen
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