The Sound of Silence

Though probably best known for his 1952 composition 4’33”, the three movements of which are performed without a single note being played, throughout John Cage’s career he forged strong connections with some  of the 20th century’s most famous artists, such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns.

New River Watercolour Series I, No.3, 1988

Source: The John Cage Trust

New River Watercolour Series I, No.3, 1988

He was also rather chummy with Marcel Duchamp, and has been described as a major influence on the Fluxus artists of the 1960s and ’70s.

Mushroom Book Plate X (with Lois Long and Alexander H. Smith) 1972

Source: The John Cage Trust

Mushroom Book Plate X (with Lois Long and Alexander H. Smith) 1972

The wonderfully titled Every Day is a Good Day is a Southbank touring exhibition kicking off next month, celebrating the visual art of Cage, who passed away in 1992.

HV2, No. 17b, 1992

Source: The John Cage Trust

HV2, No. 17b, 1992

Cage, never one to do things by halves, began creating his own artworks when he reached his mid sixties, going on to create over 600 prints with the Crown Point Press in San Francisco, as well as 260 drawings and watercolours.

Not Wanting to Say Anything About Marcel, 1969

Source: The John Cage Trust

Not Wanting to Say Anything About Marcel, 1969

Cage’s visual art – like his music – was often created around the Chinese oracle I Ching (essentially a random number generator), also known as the Book of Changes. Cage would select material from charts using the I Ching to determine various properties- in music, these could be the rhythm or the method of sound production, for instance.

Where R=Ryoanji: R3, 1983

Source: The John Cage Trust

Where R=Ryoanji: R3, 1983

The curation of the exhibition itself has used these methods, with the work selected and hung according to chance operations, using a computer-generated random number programme similar to the I Ching.

The resulting display will see work arranged and grouped in a highly unusual, almost anti-curatorial way, with pieces hung at different heights and shunning a traditional linear display. The artist himself employed this method for his Rolywholyover, exhibition in Los Angeles in 1992, which he described a ’composition for museum’.

John Cage: Every Day Is A Good Day runs from 12 August – 18 September at the Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Rd, London, SE1

Video:

4′33

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