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Merce Cunningham -the Pioneer of the Deconstructive Aesthetics

MalborgKim 1

1이화여자대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This study explains the choreographer Merce Cunningham as the practitioner of deconstruction in performance. As the earliest, still most influential avant garde artist of the 20th century, he destroyed the traditional dance making procedure. His famous ‘chance method’ choreography made him the pioneer of decentralization and deconstruction in dance. The hypothesis of this study is that he is the earliest pioneer of the deconstruction aesthetics. ‘Deconstruction’ is the key idea of poststructuralism. And Cunningham’s ‘new dance’ idea for example ‘happening’ and ‘event’ are the prelude of Roland Barthes’s ‘the death of the author’. Merce Cunningham used chance method in dance making from the 1950s. Cunningham experimented the idea of chance method for the first time in 「Sixteen Dances for Soloist and Company of Three」(1951). He used chance methods to dispel the intrusion of his personality into dances. Thus he allowed the viewer structure or signify his own meaning from the dance. Also he decentralized dancer’s bodies, front and back and distributed throughout the performance space. This blurring of boundaries between back and front, center stage and outer space, results in a flattening out of single-point perspective and abandoning the illusion of depth. In this way he decentralized stage space. Deconstruction in fact has been central to Cunningham’s work from the very beginning. By placing several different actions onstage simultaneously in such a way that they make equal bids for the viewer’s attention. Cunningham decenters the dance composition, democratizing the space so that any place on the set can be important. As the result the audience is free to choose what to look at with the role of determining where to look and when. In the dances Cunningham identified as Events, he dissectes fragments from existing works and then combine them together into new choreography. And these characteristics found in Cunningham’s works are discussed as and in relation with the ‘writerly text’, ‘the birth of the audience’ of Barthes’s. And these polyvocal and open structre of Cunningham’s works are suggested as the prelude and the characteristics of deconstructist aesthetics followed in the late 1960s.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.