Photo by Merce Cunningham and Elliot Caplan, Beach Birds for Camera, 1992. Courtesy of the Merce Cunningham Trust

Merce Cunningham

For Camera

January 3 – March 6, 2019

On the High Line at 14th St.

Daily, beginning at dusk

Merce Cunningham (1919 – 2009) was one of the most widely celebrated choreographers of his time. Throughout his 70-year career, Cunningham continued to innovate, driving the evolution of the American avant-garde and expanding the frontiers of contemporary visual and performing arts. His approach to performance was groundbreaking in its complex ideology and subtle, yet rigorous technique. His collaborations with artists from every creative discipline yielded an unparalleled body of North American dance, music, text, and visual art.

Cunningham often used film to both document his performances and as a medium in its own right, and collaborated with filmmakers to stage dances specifically made for the camera. For the Merce Cunningham Centennial—a celebration of Cunningham’s legacy at arts and educational institutions around the world—High Line Art screens three such works. For Camera includes Beach Birds for Camera (1992), made in collaboration with director and filmmaker Elliot Caplan; and Locale (1980) and Channels/Inserts (1982), made with the artist Charles Atlas. Atlas is a filmmaker and video artist who has worked across film, dance, and performance for decades, and was a lighting designer at the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Caplan was the filmmaker-in-residence at the Cunningham Dance Foundation from 1983 – 1998 and worked closely with both Cunningham and his partner, the composer John Cage, in the realization of many works. These films showcase Cunningham’s devotion to joint effort through a medium that allows his choreographies to live on past their original performances.

Organized by Melanie Kress, High Line Art Associate Curator.


Lead support for High Line Art comes from Amanda and Don Mullen. Major support for High Line Art is provided by The Brown Foundation, Inc. of Houston, and Charina Endowment Fund. High Line Art is supported, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the New York City Council, under the leadership of Speaker Corey Johnson.

The Cunningham Centennial and its programs are generously supported by major funding from the Merce Cunningham Trust, the Paul L. Wattis Foundation, American Express, The Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation, and Judith Pisar.