Wilson, who has lived in New York since 1961, began to present spoken language as his artistic medium in the late 1960s, liberating art from its material form and opening it up to the unpredictability of verbal exchange. Through his Discussions, he engaged individuals in private and public conversations about verbal communication. Wilson views speech as dematerialized sculpture, believing that words enable one to “have the essential features of the object at your disposal.” This seven–page transcript reveals a conversation between Wilson and the artist Robert Barry in the Bronx in 1970. Reflecting upon the unscripted nature of Wilson’s Discussions, Barry observed, “When you said ‘oral communication is my art’ you didn’t consciously plan what you were going to talk about . . . you just continued the flow of conversation as it was going.” Just as Cage’s 4’33” challenges preconceived notions of a musical performance, Wilson’s Discussions transcend physicality and question the very nature of art as a fixed object.
Gallery label from There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4’33”, October 12, 2013–June 22, 2014.