Thursday, March 12, 2009

Aimless Reading: The C's, Part 2 (John Cage)

For The Birds
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Cage, John
For The Birds

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo used to have an amazingly comprehensive bookstore, covering everything from visual art to dance to music to literature. Of course, comprehensive bookstores have a hard time making money, so they eventually pared it down to about half the size, replacing the books with games and trinkets and souvenirs. It's still pretty good for art books, though. Anyhow, I bought this book of interviews with John Cage there. I am pretty sure I read it at some point, but I'll be damned if I can recall anything very specific from it.

A random snippet from Cage, talking about conceptual art:

Even when I tell myself that I could have had this and that experience, if I didn't experience it, it is lost to me! But I don't think you have to then deprive yourself of experiences. When I gave the first performance of the 840 repetitions of Satie's Vexations in New York with several other pianists, there was the usual amount of publicity before the concert, and many people were aware of what was going to happen. Most of them didn't want to come, because they thought they knew what would happen. And even those of us who were playing thought we were headed for something repetitive. We others, the pianists, indeed had to know what was going on. But this is what happened. In the middle of those eighteen hours of performance, our lives changed. We were dumbfounded, because something was happening which we had not considered and which we were a thousand miles away from being able to foresee. So, if I apply this observation to conceptual art, it seems to me that the difficulty with this type of art, if I understand it correctly, is that it obliges us to imagine that we know something before that something has happened. That is difficult, since the experience itself is always different from what you thought about it. And it seems to me that the experiences each person can have, that everyone is capable of appreciating, are precisely those experiences that contribute to changing us and, particularly, to changing our preconceptions.

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