Assemblage is a recently rediscovered lost film featuring Merce Cunningham and his early dance company: Carolyn Brown, Sandra Neels, Valda Setterfield, Meg Harper, Susana Hayman-Chaffey, Jeff Slayton, Chase Robinson, and Mel Wong. A collaboration with director and former dancer Richard Moore, Assemblage features Cunningham dancing with his company in a public happening in San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square in November 1968. Cunningham’s riveting performance–conceived from the beginning as a dance staged for the camera–is amplified by Moore’s astonishing special effects and a soundtrack by John Cage, David Tudor and Gordon Mumma. Rediscovered after Cunningham’s death, Assemblage was transferred from 16mm and colorized by artist and filmmaker Charles Atlas, himself a longtime collaborator of Cunningham’s.
Cunningham and his company spent three weeks rehearsing and filming on location in fall 1968, creating what Moore described as “movement modules.” From these sequences, Moore and film editor Bill Yahraus crafted a motion picture collage of overlapping movements and moments, which occur sometimes in fragmented film windows, sometimes within ingenious superimposed planes. To create the breathtaking hallucinatory collision of filmed dances, Moore used extensive optical illusion and process photography; dancers were filmed as silhouettes and superimposed on different backgrounds. Assemblage serves as a testament to Cunningham’s groundbreaking investigations of dance and movement within the virtual spaces of film.
Presented with International House Philadelphia
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