Black Mountain College
So how does one install a book?
This installation is only one instance of 273 Relics for John Cage. The book is present and the book is an object — to be touched and handled. To spend time with the book: so the special tables elevate it (39 inches from the floor), making it easy to view, giving it an honorary position.
30 images were extracted from the process as a slow 30-minute projection, and two audio recordings of the 52 texts (ordered randomly) are on the headphones. And Relic 241 is there, leaning back — kind of like a spectator to the whole thing.
These events form a particular instance of the project, as it was installed in North Carolina on October 7. But the project is alive, and I imagine other permutations are possible — I like to think that a future installation might produce different works, different configurations. What if all 160 photographs could be installed. Scattered on the floor, leaning against different walls. A giant, immersive video projection, in a darkened room. And the beautiful Untitled Pixels, which didn’t even make it into this installation (there wasn’t room).
Within a few hours, one of the books (#1) had been taken. It’s a small edition of 10, so this came as a surprise, but then I loved that its new owner, unknown by me, had chance determined something entirely new for the work. In an almost Cage-ian move, the disappearance is now part of the work. I gave book #2 to Beverly Plummer. Book #3 will be sent to the John Cage Trust, and #4 will be donated to the Black Mountain College Museum and Arts Center.
273 Relics for John Cage, the book, represents each part of the project, but it also is the project. The book is an index — it’s both a catalogue of the work, and the work itself. I hope to produce a second, larger edition soon.
Relics 14, 202, 182, 123, 119, 74, 173. From JC273, Relics for John Cage.
John Cage’s centennial will be observed in 2012 and celebrations begin this year with a three-day conference in early October (co-sponsored by the Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, the University of North Carolina at Asheville and The John Cage Trust). Black Mountain College is a sweet spot in the history of the American avant-garde; Cage spent the summers of 1948, 1952 and 1953 there and the origin of the happening is sometimes traced to Cage’s performance of Theater Piece No. 1 at BMC in 1952 (Rauschenberg, Merce Cunningham, David Olson, M.C. Richards and David Tudor also participated).
So I submitted a proposal (PDF) to participate in the conference and it’s been accepted. Here’s my brief description —
JC273 is a book project investigating chance, memory and representation. The printed work, to be published on the occasion of ReVIEWING Black Mountain College 3, is conceived as a reliquary of pages — a bound container of color fields and image relics selected and designed by chance operations. The book will be at once a translational work, an experimental portrait and a performative tribute, using 273 seconds (4’33″) and individual pixels to slice open expansive views into the John Cage mythology. JC273 will explore the impossibility of the image — dismantling the photograph to render it irrelevant, as it disappears. The viewer is left with faint traces of source material and the freedom to investigate phantom images, imagined narratives and other associations.
JC273 will be presented as a limited edition printed book, an unlimited edition PDF download and an on-site performance.
I’m going to use this space to document the process as I create, publish, present and perform this book during the next two months (the conference is October 7–9 in Asheville). It’s a good way for me to continue the investigation I began in Rome and to keep my book work moving forward, as I begin to think more and more about publishing.
Several questions/investigations seem to come closer together with JC273 —
- Intention vs. chance discovery.
- Chance operations in book design. Removing the designer from the design.
- The impossibility of the image.
- The individual pixel — relic of lost meaning.
- All pixels are photographs.
- Externalized memory as photograph. As book. Forgotten. Then opened.
- To publish a book. Print on-demand.
- To publish a book. Unlimited edition PDF download.
- To publish a book. A performance.