From the Death of the Word to the Rise of the Image in the Choreography of Merce Cunningham

Edith Wyschogrod

in Crossover Queries

Published by Fordham University Press

Published in print June 2006 | ISBN: 9780823226061
Published online March 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780823235148 | DOI:

Series: Perspectives in Continental Philosophy

From the Death of the Word to the               Rise of the Image in the Choreography of Merce Cunningham

Show Summary Details


This chapter shows that an art in which the materiality of the body and the localizability of space are critical is now engaged in a struggle between the visceral and the virtual, between site-specific spatiality and cyberspace. To grasp the character of this tension, it is necessary to explore not only visible changes in the art of dance but also the metaphysical presuppositions of a postmodernist culture of images. When one of the key figures in the world of dance, Merce Cunningham, who is generally envisaged as an exemplar of high modernism, appeals to the power of images rather than to a semiology of movements as the basis for his new work, then a shift that must be interrogated has occurred. As Ludwig Wittgenstein demonstrated to philosophers the kinetic force of language in his apothegm “the meaning is in the use”, so Cunningham showed the world of modern dance that the meaning is in the action or movement. Cunningham helped to transform the balletic character of dance in the twentieth century into a nonreferential, gestural idiom.

Keywords: art; body; dance; presuppositions; images; modernism; Merce Cunningham; Ludwig Wittgenstein; action; movement

Chapter.  5267 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy of Religion

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Fordham University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.