File spoon-archives/avant-garde.archive/avant-garde_1998/avant-garde.9805, message 22

Date: Thu, 28 May 1998 23:47:00 -0400
Subject: Re: Hello?

John Cage was instrumental in Duchamp's return. This avant garde composer
is perhaps best known for 4'33" which he composed in 1952.  This piece was
performed that same year in Woodstock by David Tudor who lowered the
keyboard's lid and then sat for 4 minutes and 33 seconds without playing a
single note of music.   Cage as early as 1949, to solve the problems
arising out of the theoretical foundations of serial music had begun to
apply Duchamp's practice of presenting "thing's' (readymades) as art and
using  chance as a decision making process to produce "musical"
compositins.  Cage's idea was to use indeterminacy and non-musical sound to
distance the creator from his creation. so questions of subjectivity and
taste would be minimalized    This attitude was mirrored by Cage's friend
Merce Cunningham, who began to use of any bodily motion as dance movements.

 Cage's representation and application of Duchamp's attitude and practices
had great appeal to younger artists who were seeking a way to continue in
the face of the sense of closure induced by Abstract Expressionism.
Artists such as Robert  Rauschenberg who was part of Cage's coterie began
to use common materials in their work to emphasize the expressiveness of
everyday life.  Duchamp's influence was further expanded in 1958, when Cage
taught a composition class at the New School for Social Research in New
York.  The students included Allan Kaprow, Dick Higgins, Al Hansen, George
Brecht, Toshi Ichiyanagi,  all  of whom would come to be identified with
Fluxus. With this the  stage was set for Duchamp's return.  In 1962 the
Pasadena County Museum organized Duchamp's first retrospect.

By the end of the 60's, the notion of producing works that were anti or
non-aesthetica had come to dominate vanguard art outside of those various
formalist circles committed to sustaining abstract paintng and sculpture
tradition. The irony of-course is that Duchamp, already having been a
historical figure, receives the credit for this turn of events though it is
Cage  not Duchamp who is present at Black Mountain College and at The New
School delivering the message of chance and indifference.   It is Cage who
puts forth the corrective to the commonly held view of Duchamp's readymade,
by proposing that everything can be used to make art rather than everything
is art if so contextualized.  It is Cage  who  freely circulates among the
young neo-Dadaist and  proto-POP artist, it is his influence that can be
found in Alan Kaprow's concept of Happenings and Fluxus's performances.
Paradoxically it is also Cage's ideas concerning the systemic and his
desire for an impersonal art premised on "everyday life"  that resonates in
the work of such Minimalist  as Robert Morris and Dan Flavin and the
Conceptualism of Dan Graham and Lawrence Weiner.

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