Rauschenberg’s time at Black Mountain College, an artist community and school, instilled a lasting commitment to collaboration with performers, writers, printmakers, and artists. Throughout his career, he had been actively involved with performance art, including the Judson Dance Theater, New York in the 1960s. Judson Dance was a collective comprised of dancers, visual artists, and choreographers that emphasized ordinary movement, eliminating theatrical elements like plot lines and formal dance technique. It was through Judson Theater that Rauschenberg met Trisha Brown, a dancer and choreographer. In 1970 Brown founded her dance company, and Glacial Decoy was one of the first programs she choreographed. It was first performed by her company at Marymount Manhattan College Theatre, New York in June 1979.
Brown asked Rauschenberg to design the set and costumes for Glacial Decoy. The dancers, dressed in white, delicate gowns with winglike sleeves, make a stark contrast to the static, linear backdrop composed of four floor-to-ceiling screens. A slideshow of 620 different black-and-white photographs taken around Fort Myers, Florida, were projected on each screen and the photo would advance from left to right from each screen to the next. The migration of the photographs mimicked the dancers’ movements to create a montage of mobile forms.
Caroline Chang, ‘18
Glacial Decoy (1979), performed in 1993 from Robert Rauschenberg Foundation on Vimeo.
To read more about Trisha Brown, try From Ballet to Trisha Brown by Joan Acocella for The New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/02/06/from-ballet-to-trisha-brown
To read more about Robert Rauschenberg’s many dance-focused collaborations throughout his career, try Dance among Friends: Robert Rauschenberg’s Collaborations with Paul Taylor, Merce Cunningham, and Trisha Brown by Jennifer Harris from The Museum of Modern Art: https://www.moma.org/d/pdfs/W1siZiIsIjIwMTcvMDkvMDYvODV2cWlzNmZ4cl9EYW5jZUFtb25nRnJpZW5kc192OF9GT1JfV0VCLnBkZiJdXQ/DanceAmongFriends-v8%20FOR%20WEB.pdf?sha=1ba6af1f05f3897a
Image above: Glacial Decoy (1979) Photo © Babette Mangolte 1980. From the Trisha Brown Dance Company website, https://www.trishabrowncompany.org/?page=view&nr=217