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A Sedimentation of the Archival Mind, 1

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Howtosmall
Detail of sweater from Merce Cunningham's dance How to Pass, Kick, Fall, and Run (1965). Photo: Abigail Sebaly.

Sen, this is a kindred spirit writing from the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, where I am cataloging and researching the Merce Cunningham Dance Company's complete collection of sets and costumes. In my daily work, I regularly encounter surprises like the bean sprout, although in the case of the Cunningham materials, these "traces of living brilliance" are often residues of their use in performance. To illustrate, I have included an image of a sweater from Cunningham's 1965 dance, How to Pass, Kick, Fall, and Run. When I first took this sweater out of the box, I immediately noticed a hairpin that had been used to replace a broken zipper pull. It may have once been appropriated as a backstage quick-fix (foot tape is another ubiquitous repair tool in this collection), but now it is frozen in time, an inseparable part of the garment whenever it is displayed. I think it's important not to be overly precious about details like this, but to totally dismiss the hairpin, or to remove it from the sweater, would also be a loss to the history of the piece. You mention working "in the void of things that used to be." Surrounded by objects of performance (that are no longer being used in performance), I am acutely sensitive to this void. The archival work ahead, in my case, is to find ways of conveying use where there is no longer active use. The hairpin may seem banal, but in the archival context, it informs us of how much the sweater was actually used in performance. In this context, the casual gesture, the accidental marking, the holes and runs in a piece of fabric, constitute clues to a former life.

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Sen, this is a kindred spirit writing from the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, where I am cataloging and researching the Merce Cunningham Dance Company's complete collection of sets and costumes. In my daily work, I regularly encounter...

Show more »

Discuss (1) Print