Posts tagged ‘There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4'33"’
The first gallery of the exhibition There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4’33” contains works by John Cage’s contemporaries and influences, including such well-known names as Marcel Duchamp, Joseph Albers, Jasper Johns, Barnett Newman, and Robert Rauschenberg. Works by two lesser-known West Coast artists, Mark Tobey and Morris Graves, also occupy this space, pointing to Cage’s brief but seminal years living in Seattle.
Many of the works featured in the exhibition There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4’33” were created around 1960, as a generation of artists and students of John Cage reacted to the radical possibilities opened up by his 4’33”. The score had finally been published eight years after its first performance at Woodstock in 1952.
Twice daily, from February 7 to 20, MoMA staff and invited artists performed John Cage’s score 4’33” in an area just outside the exhibition There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4’33”. Over the course of those two weeks, 28 renditions of 4’33” were performed by 20 staff members and eight guest artists.
Through examining four pieces in The Museum of Modern Art’s collection, one can better understand how John Cage’s embrace of indeterminacy can be traced in the period following 4’33” (1952) and in more recent years, and how these later works play with the concepts of chance and the ephemeral in different ways.
If you visit MoMA’s exhibition There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4’33”, you will encounter a suite of enigmatic drawings by Fluxus-affiliated poet Jackson Mac Low, comprising swirling letters and seemingly nonsensical combinations of words. Although they seem like meaningless scribbles, the words are actually legible and meant to be read aloud.
John Cage first visited Black Mountain College, in Asheville, North Carolina, in April 1948, while on his way to the West Coast with choreographer Merce Cunningham. Though he only stayed in Asheville for a few days—premiering his composition Sonatas and Interludes—the visit proved formative.
Though the exhibition There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4′33" primarily draws upon works from MoMA’s collection, with a few key outside loans, the voice of John Cage himself was instrumental in guiding the selection of artists, and, in some cases, the specific works on view.
In an era when no cell phones or other digital devices existed, silence was a more common facet of everyday life. Perhaps attention spans were longer, distractions fewer, and maybe the pace of world was slower. It’s nice to be romantic about a period before communication was measured in 140 characters, when the simple act of writing a letter was a considered an opportunity to put one’s thoughts into words, often by hand, in ink on paper.
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