Circus (last part of the show, in one big room, featuring artworks by others)

For some reason, as I wander around, I keep thinking of Cage's wonderful smile.

In almost all the photographs he looks like he's about to break into laughter.


   25. George Brecht, "Chair Event (from 'Water Yam')." Partly painted wood kitchen chair [white], canvas "starter flag," stainless steel kitchen grater, metric dressmaker's tape, and European Scrabble tiles.

The card accompanying the exhibit, but not the exhibit program, mentions also "black and spectral colors."

I thought the checkered flag was a "finish" flag as well as a "starter" one waved during races.

What color is the "caution" flag, waved to slow the race down when there's been an accident?

This event for a chair is very funny, but it's hard to say why. The chair and its collections stand there, grating and shredding all our attempts at interpretation. If a chair could have a pratfall, or cause a pratfall, here is one.

Unnumbered item from a plexiglass tray, a handwritten note by John Cage responding to a typed request from a person connected with Cooper Union asking him what is his favorite "public space" in a city.

The gist of his reply, as I remember it: My favorite public spaces are rooftops. Sounds and sights can come to them from all sides, as with a hilltop. They are places of solitude but not loneliness.

Cage's comment is written on that very letter that Cooper Union sent to him and is carefully revised. Was his reply ever sent?

How about a museum show of lots of different kinds of rooftop antennaes (before they all become extinct)?


   136. Fanny Schoening, Portrait of Merce Cunningham. Thin paper strips from an office shredder machine. Glued to create many bands circling the plexiglass totem, over 6' high.

From office paperwork to totemic play, each incomplete without the other.

Look at all the people here in this room at this moment (about 20 today, not too bad a number for a Tuesday afternoon, with space enough for all so we don't get in each other's way). Our bodies as we move about, suddenly go towards a piece in the show, stand still, shift our weight from one foot to another, tilt our heads in concentration, move some more, are bored, delighted, tired, etc.

Imagine us all part of one of Merce Cunningham's dance pieces. What would it look like to have all the objects vanish and just concentrate on the body languages of people moving about as we have been over the last 10 minutes? Ladies and gentlemen! A new act for you---the rolywholyover stroll!

So where's Cage's music? I could use some prepared piano pieces playing while we wander.

   142. Mark Tobey, Circles and Thrusts (sumi ink on paper). 1957.
Beat bop calligraphy, stratocaster reverb, energy spatterings in cloud chambers:
those zen subatomics have been at it again. Sumi!

I sit cross-legged to view it (it's down low by the floor) and notice a tiny "50 ' " pencilled at the base of the wall beneath it. I glance up and down the room: small foot measurements are secretly pencilled every 10 ' of the gallery, to aid (I guess) the placement of each the pieces each morning.

42. Marcel Duchamp, Three Standard Stoppages, 1913-14.
"Three threads on canvas glued on glass plates, and three wooden rulers, all enclosed in a box." The shapes of the threads were determined by the positions in which they stopped when dropped to the floor---thus "stoppages." These chance-determined line-shapes then were made into the "edges" of a wooden ruler, as if to measure the effects of non-linear rather than linear equations.

While Duchamp was creating these seemingly absurd lines in Manhattan in 1913-14, in Duchamp's France the Maginot Line---a line also designed to be a stoppage---was about to be proved useless. But those are two different kind of "uselessness" in the world.

118. Robert Rauschenberg, Factum I, 1957. A "combine" painting, this one includes, among other things, a newspaper photo of a burning launderette, a double-portrait of Ike, a red T whose font size must be at least 240points, paint of different kinds, and "unprimed" canvas.

Consider the agricultural meaning of "combine" too.

Go to Rolywholyover, Part 5 (conclusion)

Return to Array screen of contents