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Aperture Foundation announces dynamic first app: Merce Cunningham: 65 Years
Screenshot from from Merce Cunningham: 65 Years (Aperture and Cunningham Dance
Foundation 2012); Designer: Didier García, Developer: Larson Associates.

NEW YORK, NY.- Merce Cunningham: 65 Years is a dynamic multimedia app celebrating the unique legacy of the late choreographer, dancer, and artist. This invaluable primary resource offers a vibrant and comprehensive account of Merce Cunningham’s life and career, and serves as an important complement to the Cunningham Dance Foundation’s Legacy Plan, conceived to ensure the ongoing celebration and preservation of Cunningham’s lifetime of creative achievement. Cunningham’s own interest in engaging with technology was in itself a principal motivation for creating the interactive app, which marks Aperture Foundation’s first major venture into the world of digital publishing.

Launched in conjunction with Aperture Foundation’s sixtieth anniversary and the centennial of John Cage’s birth, Merce Cunningham: 65 Years is available August 10. The monograph was created in collaboration with the Cunningham Dance Foundation (CDF), and made possible with major support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and additional support from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

The original print publication of David Vaughan’s Merce Cunningham: Fifty Years (Aperture, 1997) chronicled the life and work of the choreographer through words, photographs, designs for sets and costumes, musical scores, choreographic notes, and much more. Often referred to as “the Cunningham bible,” the original book is now transformed into a new, expanded digital edition, Merce Cunningham: 65 Years, with new essays, journal entries by the choreographer, video excerpts, photographs, and interviews.

The text of Fifty Years has been updated by Vaughan, the Cunningham Company’s archivist for over fifty years, to cover the last fifteen years of Cunningham’s work, through his death in July 2009, and including the Company’s subsequent two-year Legacy Tour, which ended on December 31, 2011. Along with over 200 photographs, which take us from Cunningham’s childhood through to the end of the Legacy Tour and the closure of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, this multimedia app features some forty excerpts of dance footage (with sound)—selected by Vaughan, CDF Executive Director Trevor Carlson, and others—from dances performed over the span of Cunningham’s career, encompassing remarkable early and rarely seen footage. Merce Cunningham: 65 Years also includes interview footage with Cunningham himself, including an excerpt of Cunningham discussing his early collaborations with Robert Rauschenberg, from Michael Blackwood’s documentary on the artist; highlights from writer/producer Nancy Dalva’s remarkable series of interviews “Mondays with Merce”; and a compelling selection from Vaughan’s discussions with Cunningham, made after the publication of Fifty Years.

Cunningham’s pioneering incorporation of technology into his work is also revealed in the app through excerpts of his working process with LifeForms, the computer software program he used as a tool in his choreography since the 1990s. Excerpts from his collaborations with the OpenEndedGroup are also featured. The app itself evokes the Cage/Cunningham sensibility regarding chance and the coexistence of elements in time and space, as it provides the viewer with various choices to navigate through the collected material.

The app finally comprises a selection of Cunningham’s drawings and journal pages, and all of his known essays. An afterword contributed by CDF Legacy Fellow Bonnie Brooks completes the project with a consideration of the Legacy Tour and the future of Cunningham’s work.

Merce Cunningham: 65 Years represents Aperture’s evolving exploration of digital technology as a means of disseminating work by and about important artists of our time, as well as a natural extension of CDF’s Legacy Plan and its commitment to ensuring the ongoing celebration and preservation of Cunningham’s lifetime of achievement. Knight Foundation President and CEO Alberto Ibargüen adds, “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.” With the collaboration of developer Larry Larson, and designer Didier García, Aperture and CDF have created an accessible, experiential, multimedia project, one that is more of Merce Cunningham and his extraordinary work than simply about him.

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