Event for a Stage (2015) presented a live theatrical happening performed over four nights, with two 16mm cameras rolling on each occasion. The actor, Stephen Dillane, changed elements of his appearance each night, snatching pages from Dean who was sitting in the front row, recited Shakespeare, popular texts and personal stories, whilst announcing adjustments in camera set-ups and the changing of reels. Dean returned to this tense scenario and cut into the material according to the systemic logic that emerged over the course of the serialized performance, inscribing changes in time and space, illustrating or actualizing a form of deep choreography.
In November 2008, Tacita Dean filmed the choreographer Merce Cunningham and his dance company rehearsing in a former Ford assembly plant in Richmond, California. These rehearsals allowed her to watch Cunningham more closely, but also observe the construction of the dance without music. The resulting feature-length film, Craneway Event, is as much about this work with his dancers over three days and across three stages in the stunning 1930s Albert Kahn building that looks out across San Francisco Bay, as it is about the continually shifting light, the passing pelicans, and the ship traffic. They contribute to the choreography and the film the sort of random intervention much welcomed by both Cunningham and Dean. Cunningham’s death in July 2009, when Dean was editin Craneway Event, left her with an absence:
When I returned to the film, I realized that I was in the unique position of still being able to work with him and to create something new, not only about him, but also with him. Although I lost the pleasure of imagining him watching the film, I gained a different sort of Muse. Merce’s joy in the process was steadfastly there and his enthusiasm seemed to have a directional force. I began to feel that Merce had set up the components that make up the film—the building, the dancers, the light, the ships and the birds, because he knew they would not fail him in absentia.
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