area 113 | benedetta tagliabue embt

architect: Benedetta Tagliabue embt (Miralles Tagliabue EMBT)

location: New York, USA

year: 2009

Miralles Tagliabue EMBT designs the scenography for Merce Cunningham’s upcoming dance show. The choreography, which is entitled “Nearly Ninety” premiered at the BAM festival in New York on the 90th birthday of its creator. It has a mobile structure which allows four different vantage points that frame the four movements, into which the choreography is divided. Several platforms, on different levels, house the musicians who are playing live: the group Sonic Youth, the Led Zeppelin guitarist, John Paul Jones; and the Japanese musician Takehisa Kosugi; one of these platforms also serves as the stage for one of the ballerinas. The structure, constructed by the metal forger Esteve Miret in steel, is partially covered with a skin made from a semitransparent and iridescent cloth material which reflects light. The scenography also has projections from the videoartist Frank Aleu, who usually collaborates with La Fura dels Baus, they give this structure a solid appearance, its volume resembling a “rock”. And the fact is that the original idea came from a small piece, resembling a glass mountain, which reflected light and divided it into colours. From that object, Benedetta Tagliabue designed a volumetric structure which would also reflect those colours and that light through this semitransparent “skin”.
“The challenge was twice as difficult: on the one hand, because there had only been two previous projects in the field of scenography (a collaboration with La Fura dels Baus for their DQ show, premiering at the Liceu Opera House in 2000, and our own scenography that we designed to inaugurate the studio); and on the other, because Cunningham works in a way which  is completely improvised, free, innovative and not restricted to pre-established methods and, therefore, there was no set idea about how to develop the project”. And if that wasn’t enough, Cunningham’s previous scenographers had been artists and designers of the stature of Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and Andy Warhol…”. After much discussion in the house of Cunningham, in New York, they went about creating the mobile structure that housed the musicians and the ballerina, however all the members of the team had worked separately. Merce Cunningham prepared the choreography; the musicians created their scores; the costume designer, Romeo Gigli, made the costumes for the ballerinas. Only the architect’s office and the videoartist worked together. There isn’t a storyline, because Cunningham’s dance, like himself, is defined as being “not narrative”; nevertheless, there is an underlying idea: the staircase, which enables someone to move up sections, to continue on, moving forward until reaching the highest point, heaven. The idea of the staircases, on the other hand, arose from the thought that one can have different vantage points of the same thing. Merce Cunningham currently moves about in a wheelchair, and Benedetta Tagliabue thought about how it must be for a dancer to suddenly see themselves from another vantage point. For that she thought of the staircases and also of the platforms.