Culture Rover

#186 - EyeSpace, YouSpace, We All Space for Merce Cunningham Space

Every observer "sees" something different because of what he or she hears. -Sid Smith, "Success in 'EyeSpace' of the Listener," Chicago Tribune, 15 October 2007

Merce Cunningham's "EyeSpace," which came through Chicago last month, featured a dance set to Ipod Shuffles playing Mikel Rouse's Sufjan-Stevens-like soundtrack.

My friends who attended did not like the performance: the Ipod, they claimed, distanced them from the dancers and the dance. Culture Rover, however, found that closing up the ears with buds paradoxically brought the dance in closer.

The immediacy of the score pressed in on the skull. The dance felt like a surreptitious message, a covert operation, especially when Rouse's songs churned along on repeating choruses such as "We must protect America's secrets."

In a way, the Ipod experience merely replicated the usual way one watches a dance together, with music on the house sound system. After all, audience members each see a dance performance differently -- particularly such a modern, abstract kind of dance -- yet also share in the same performance together. The Ipods merely made this reality more palpable.

But it also did something else, something having to do with aural space and its relationship to the communion of strangers. In place of the wet, spacious, architectural expanse of theatrical aurality, with its echoes and spaciousness, the Ipods created a smaller, cubbyhole kind of space. Cunningham's troupe members became internalized figures, abstract thoughts or colors traced across the interior eye of the mind.

There was an intensification of interiority, but at the same time one felt a strong sense of community. From divergences of perspective, a unity resulted. Solitariness created solidarity.

20 November 2007

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