A filmed performance of John Cage’s 4’33″ (1952), in three movements.
Produced/directed by Paul Soulellis.
Cooper Troxell (melodica)
Katherine Pan (recorder)
Cassandra Marketos (guitar)
Zak Greene (banjo)
Recorded on January 26, 2013 in Union Square station, 4/5/6 uptown platform, NYC.
Created for New World Symphony’s three-day festival honoring John Cage, “Making the Right Choices,” February 8–10, Miami.
Thursday and Friday 9–10 August / Days 11 and 12
240 books distributed in twelve days.
I had the pleasure of hosting Frances Scott for a night at the Dead House. A talented artist and lovely company.
Joe Stevens interviewed me for his blog about working with archives, performance, maintaining a creative practice and cultural production in the US and UK.
And then, on my penultimate day in Weymouth, Jane took me for a West Dorset drive-around that she’d been planning for a week. She’d wanted to do this back in March when I stayed with her, but there wasn’t time, so we squeezed in a few hours for a tour, post-bakery.
On the way to her car she confessed that she had an agenda for me.
Two performances of 4’33″
At my talk, someone asked me which artists were influential in my work. I mentioned John Cage and 4’33″ specifically, and briefly described the premise of Cage’s 1952 work: silence, listening, chance, suspension of judgement, awareness. Jane heard this at the talk, and as a sort of going-away gift, she decided that she was going to take me to two powerful places in West Dorset, sit me down in very specific places and give me two “performances” of four minutes and thirty-three seconds in the landscape. She wore her watch for the occasion.
The first location was Eggardon Hill, a mysterious Iron Age earthwork built by ancient Celts and conquered by Romans in 43 AD. A spectacular landscape protected by the National Trust.
Below: my view out from the first performance of 4’33″, looking straight ahead to the sea. Jane sat behind me, about 30 feet back, and I closed my eyes for the duration of the piece. I heard wind, songbirds, sheep, distant highway sounds and crows, all in front of me but coming from various directions, an enormous open-air theater. A soaring, connected feeling that could have continued for much longer, but near-perfect as experienced here with Jane. To conclude the performance, Jane said ok then.
Approaching the second location, I asked Jane if she thought I was performing 4’33″ for her, or if she was performing it for me. She replied, it’s being performed.
The second location for a performance of 4’33″ was an 11th century motte and bailey castle earthwork. Below, the view straight ahead of me. More intimate this time—less wind, my own breath, and the addition of buzzing insects, cows and a distant tractor. A heavy feeling of sinking into the earth, a brief absorption (collapse?) of time and space.
These are significant gifts, these things I’ve received these last two weeks in Weymouth. Moving, meaningful gestures that I’ll remember forever.
On the last day of Weymouths, I returned the bicycle to Bev, who prepared tea. We noticed that her walls match the color of the Sophie Calle book perfectly.
Books 238, 239 and 240
The last few copies of 1,485 Colors (#12) went to a couple from Bermuda, a seven-year-old boy from Brockenhurst, and a Finnish woman, who said that her book (the very last copy of the project) would go home with her to Finland. Finish.
Friday and Saturday 3–4 August / Days 5 and 6
120 books given away in six days.
Twice I’ve been asked to leave the esplanade by beach control, the result of local bureaucracy and a break-down in communication. After several discussions about where I’m allowed to be, I was finally told that I can be considered a busker and set up only in specially designated areas for street performers—Jubilee Clock, Hope Square, the train station and St. Mary’s Church. The irony is that this project about giving and free exchange can only be accepted into the community by mapping it back onto the familiar structure of performing for money.
I won’t pretend that this trip is easy. The performative aspect is exhausting in many ways (emotionally, physically, socially). Each time I give a book to someone there’s some kind of exchange of energy—an explanation, an acknowledgement, a conversation. In the case of beach control—confrontation.
Some of the encounters are turning into relationships—casual, public bonds, but still.
And I find myself monitoring everyone in the bakery, even if they’re not interacting with the Weymouths box. When someone does engage, they tell me stories, frequently triggered by things they see in the books. Sally said I’m sort of acting like a therapist for the town—listening to stories, associations, ideas. It’s endlessly satisfying, but draining.
Sally mentioned the phrase “live art” today. This resonates with me, as does the idea that the work is site-specific and depends on my presence and direct engagement with an audience—in this case, an entire town. Of course I think of The Artist Is Present, and while I don’t dare compare Weymouths to Marina Abramovic’s super-human feats at MoMA, both works are durational and I find myself thinking about her a lot here. What she had to give to pull that off. What she endured, how she survived (and what I’m doing here, without any training). At least once a day I think: I’m crazy. No one cares about this. Why am I bothering? Those feelings are drowned out by others (and by lots of positive feedback) so I keep going, but doubt lingers everywhere in the acting out of this work.
I’ve never done anything like this before.
Dynamical instability is as fundamental a physical process as simple harmonic motion.
I’ve had a few encounters with Geoffrey Bath, the town astrophysicist, whose reaction to the work has been immense. Something happened yesterday. I found him sitting with his morning pint and a cigarette in Hope Square, and gave him two copies of volume five. After thanking me profusely and telling me how he would give the second one as a gift to someone at dinner tonight, we somehow got into a conversation about Geoffrey’s theory of dynamical instability (published by the Royal Astronomical Society in 2004).
He started to explain it, and then I asked him to draw it. He sketched a simple experiment involving a glass of water, an elastic band and a tube. All that’s needed is a light touch to set the glass of water in motion. Geoffrey says that this particular dynamic doesn’t happen naturally anywhere on earth. But then he pointed up and smiled, and laughed. It happens all the time up there, he says—cataclysmic cosmic events. His theory explains the explosions of white dwarfs.
I love Geoffrey’s theory of dynamical instability, even though I don’t understand it. I love that these fifteen minutes he shared with me feel like they’re at the heart of the work. I’ve thought about why for a full day now. It has something to do with the banality of the everyday (the morning pint, the cigarette, the tourists in Hope Square) juxtaposed with larger things. An older man’s need to be heard. Deeper structures that are revealed at a picnic table, on cobble stones, at a pub. Someone opens a hole in the skin of a small town to reveal matter, time and light. Something about what we’re all made of, and the smallness I feel while contemplating an exploding star.
Exchange of energy.
It’s something I tried to do in Weymouths. It’s why there’s a narrative in the work, from banality to poetry, from present to past to time itself.
Daphne thanked me for creating a social networking project.
Weymouths Volume Six: Burial / Extinguished by purchase.
Too windy for the book blanket.
Pete found two women from Weymouth, MA!
A visit from Stephen Banks of Bridport.
Artist’s talk / 8 August 2012
Later today I fly east, landing at Heathrow and making my way to south west England. By tomorrow afternoon I’ll be in Weymouth, Dorset—site of the London2012 Olympic sailing games, just in time for the live broadcast of the opening ceremony on the beach.
And on Monday I start the performance (installation, publishing?) of Weymouths, my b-side Arts Festival commission. I’ve been exploring and producing Weymouths for more than eight months, so needless to say I’m excited to see what happens with these public book encounters. This is a kind of culmination for the project, but it also starts something new and unknown for me.
I’ll be giving away Weymouths in 12 installments, beginning Monday 30 July, with “Volume 1: River / The Interviews.” The last day will be Friday 10 August, with “Volume 12: Light / 1,485 colors.” If you happen to be in Weymouth look for me on the esplanade each morning, and at Phoenix Bakery in the afternoons, where I’m setting up a reading room installation upstairs.
I’ll try to post daily updates here, so follow along. If I can find wifi I’ll tweet my location each morning.
Daily book set-up. Sketch for bicycle blanket on Weymouth esplanade; exact location varies.
“There is something about performance that tends to make it seem ‘special’ rather than ‘everyday-like’ so that people get what they call ‘butterflies’ before a performance — nervousness and so forth. I think one should move away from those ‘butterflies’ and to a way of life where not-performing is equal to performing, or is emotionally the same; or where the special moments are the same as non-special moments.”
We give equal attention and dedication to each, then?
“In other words, not reserving our attention for what we think are important things, but maintaining our interest and attention to life. It is hard to talk about because the subject is so limitless.” (1991)
Today I moved operations to Long Island City, a few blocks from PS1. A place to work, to experiment, to perform. Kind of feels like Rome again.
Two colors selected by chance operations on August 18, 2011.