In 1948 the choreographer Merce Cunningham found himself at Black Mountain College with the composer John Cage, the sculptor Richard Lippold, the artists Elaine and Willem de Kooning, the filmmaker Arthur Penn and the engineer Buckminster Fuller. Like the others, Fuller was then relatively unknown. The rest of the group admired him for his loquacious- ness and ability to move between architecture, politics and science. Cunningham later recalled an exchange where Fuller said ‘something about space’, echoing his own ideas on dance, while Cage was enthralled by Fuller’s grasp of the ‘world situation’. Elaine de Kooning fell in love when Fuller pulled out a geometrical figure during a lecture (‘and here’s our old friend, the tetrahedron’). The summer culminated with a production of the Eric Satie play Le Piège de Méduse. The effort was collaborative: M С Richards, the writing instructor at the school, did the translation; the de Koonings worked on the set; and Cunningham choreo- graphed a piece called The Monkey Dances and wore a tail designed by Lippold. Cage provided the music and Elaine de Kooning and Fuller starred – Fuller as ‘Baron Medusa, a very rich rentier ‘. The production prefigured the 1952 ‘happening’ that would become mythically connected with Black Mountain, but this earlier production, although less well known, was not without its qualities. There was optimistic talk of transporting it to New York.
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