A likeness is an aid to memory
A few spreads from JC273, and a draft of the introduction. Or, this text may appear at the very end of the book.
On August 22, 2011, I drove to The John Cage Trust at Bard College.
I had a morning appointment with Laura Kuhn, founding trustee and ongoing executive director.
To prepare for the meeting, I asked Laura to think of a single item from the archive.
Something that John Cage knew of in his life.
I asked her not to reveal her selection to me until I arrived.
When I arrived, she retrieved the thing; she had chosen John Cage’s mushroom collecting basket.
I took a single photograph.
JC273 begins with the moment that I captured the 12-megapixel image of the basket.
Each picture element (pixel) in the digital photograph references its source (in this case, significant archival material).
If one ascribes meaning to the photograph, then each of its 12 million pixels carries with it some fraction of that significance.
Every pixel inherits the memory of its origin.
Every pixel, a relic.
At the scale of the close zoom, the relics reveal pure color.
These immersive color fields link to lost memory, but also point (paint) to future landscapes.
They open and vibrate with possibility.
Latent, unconscious, phantom imagery, embedded in the relics.
Every pixel, a photograph.
Using chance operations, I generated 160 random pixel extractions from the photograph of the mushroom basket.
Word extractions also carry traces of something lost.
I selected four texts to accompany the photographic relics, and combined them using chance operations.
The texts: Aristotle’s On Memory and Recollection (350 BC); John Cage’s Lecture on Nothing (1950); M.E. Hard’s The Mushroom, Edible and Otherwise (1908); and fragments of my conversation with Laura Kuhn and her assistant, recorded on August 22, 2011 at The John Cage Trust.
52 poems were generated.
There are 273 pages — one page for each second in John Cage’s 4’33” (1952).
This is the structure I inherited.
Each page is a reliquary.
Using chance operations, I generated a score to design JC273.
The score determined chapter breaks, contents for each page (text, image or blank relic), and layout.
Every reading of JC273 is a performance.
Using chance operations, the performer selects start and end pages for the set.
A fixed duration for the reading of each page is determined, not less than one minute and no more than 4 minutes, 33 seconds.
Whether text, image or blank, each page in the set is performed, in any order.
The performer may speak the text, speak nothing or display images, or any combination of these actions, depending on the contents on the particular page.
The performance may be private or public.