“Three well-mannered anarchists will try to blow up a wall in Minneapolis tonight,” wrote Dan Sullivan in a 1963 issue of the Minneapolis Tribune. He was referring to choreographer Merce Cunningham, composer John Cage, and painter Robert Rauschenberg, who were about to debut a new work at the Walker. Throughout its history—from the first performing arts presentations in 1940 to the formal establishment of a performing arts department in 1968 to today—the Walker has welcomed artists who have challenged, confronted, and raised eyebrows. In the 1980s and early 1990s, that was especially true, as many artists—including Bill T. Jones, Karen Finley, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, and Ron Athey—added social issues to aesthetic ones in their Walker works.
John Killacky, who oversaw the Walker’s performing arts department as curator from 1988 to 1996, shares his recollections from that era in a chronology of performances and political moments marked by AIDS, funding battles, and the culture wars of the early 1990s. Currently the executive director of the Flynn Center for the Performing Arts in Burlington, Vermont, Killacky offers a “corporeal coda” as part of our ongoing series on the Twin Cities during a turbulent decade, presented in conjunction with the exhibition This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s.