In 1952 Cage and Cunningham were invited back to Black Mountain College by composer Lou Harrison. In 1953, The Merce Cunningham Dance Company gave its first performance at Black Mountain College. There, Cage and Cunningham met the young artist Robert Rauschenberg, who soon became an important collaborator, serving as artistic advisor for the dance company. Together, these three artists became compelling exponents for the autonomy of theater arts. Each of them developed his part of their collaborations independently, often only revealing the costumes, stage sets and music to dancers at the dress rehearsal or even on the night of the first performance. They also collaborated on other notable projects, such as Rauschenberg’s famous Automobile Tire Print of 1953, for which Cage drove his Model A across an expanse of paper. Both Cage and Cunningham experimented with using chance as a constitutive element in their compositions, embracing I Ching (the Chinese “book of changes” that one is meant to consult after tossing a set of coins) as a means of freeing their work from the constraints of predictability.
Merce Cunningham and John Cage (Christie’s)