BEFORE AND AFTER

9.11.2011


PHOTO BY CHRISTIAN WITKIN FROM THE 2WICE "MERCE CUNNINGHAM EVENT" APP
 click here to see the app on the 2wice Arts Foundation website

On July 24, 2001, 2wice Magazine and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company went out on the patio adjacent to the Cunningham Dance Studio on the 11th floor of Westbeth, the hulking square block edifice that  back in Nicola Tesla's day housed the Bell Labs. Out in the blazing sun, under Merce's constant direction, the dancers danced; paused; danced; in a series of tableaux Merce devised from elements of his repertory just for Christian Witkin's camera. Then we all went about our business, whatever that might have been in high summer.

In mid-September, 2wice's publisher and editor Patsy Tarr asked me up to her own beautiful apartment, light filled and serene, so we could look at the pictures. She opened the envelope, and spilled the contact sheets out onto the polished surface of her dining room table, and there they were--unnoted in the background at the time of the shoot, and now not there at all: The Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

The Event in the pictures was part of a 2wice edition called "Picnic," and I'd already written something about la vie bohème up on the roof. We couldn't go with that now. I couldn't.  What to do?

 In mid-October,  I went to see Merce, who was back at Westbeth.  "One would think that people would move on, and buildings would stay," I said to him. "But they didn't, did they?" he answered.

"Everything is changed now," said Merce. For more than fifty years dancers had quoted his trenchant remark to his dancer Mary Ann Prager:  Mary Ann, the only way to do it is to do it. 

That afternoon, he was heard to say this:  We can only do what we can do.

 

ON JOHN CAGE'S BIRTHDAY, A PHOTO FROM JAMES KLOSTY

9.05.2011

                                                         AT WESTBETH , SPRING 1972

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