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This talk focuses on a choreography Merce Cunningham created in 1963-64, Winterbranch, which he claimed was about the “simple fact” of falling. Cunningham is famously known for treating “movement as movement,” that is, for treating movement as a kind of material divorced from cultural or affective meaning.  However, my research suggests that he was ultimately staging for his audiences his – and their own – interpretative behaviours in the face of human bodies that could never be “simple facts.” The talk looks at the historical situation of the US in 1963, as well as the charged significance of “falling” in the history of dance.

Carrie Noland is Professor of French and Comparative Literature and Director of the International Center for Writing and Translation at the University of California, Irvine.  She is the author of four books:  Poetry at Stake: Lyric Aesthetics and the Challenge of Technology (Princeton, 1999); Agency and Embodiment (Harvard, 2009); Voices of Negritude in Modernist Print (Columbia, 2015); and Merce Cunningham: After the Arbitrary (Chicago, 2019).  In collaboration with anthropologist Sally Ann Ness, she co-edited Migrations of Gesture (Minnesota, 2008), and with the poet Barrett Watten she co-edited Diasporic Avant-Gardes (Palgrave, 2009).  Noland studies the interplay between technology and artistic creation from a variety of angles, moving from performance poetry to dance, from subjectivation to racialization. Her current project focuses on Edmund Husserl and the question of presence in performance and political contexts.

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