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date: 08 July 2020

Abstract and Keywords

Yvonne Rainer enjoys a position in the twentieth-century canon of dance pioneers that is built more on discourse than repertoire, ideas rather than choreographic works. This chapter reconsiders the legacy of Rainer by locating the substance of her innovations between several art forms, including dance and film, and taking her “medial” work Lives of Performers (1972) as its case study. Informed by the historic and aesthetic milieu of mid-twentieth-century New York interdisciplinary art, Rainer’s project, spanning live performance and moving image between 1965 and 1972, mapped new parameters for screendance post-Maya Deren. Lives of Performers tests disciplinary categories through its preoccupation with destabilizing dominant structures of narrative, authorship, and spectatorship. Rainer achieves this by mobilizing an aesthetics of difference that owes much to the theories of John Cage and is characterized by openness, decentering, random orders, collage, contingency, multiplicity, nonhierarchical orders, and a complication of the art/life divide.

Keywords: Yvonne Rainer, Lives of Performers, mid-twentieth-century New York, screendance, interdisciplinary art, John Cage, narrative, collage, aesthetics of difference

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