Tuesday, September 23, 2008

John Cage playing chess

with Joan La Barbara

Joan La Barbara and John Cage in pre-rehearsal chess game, 1976 Photo by Michael McKenzie

hat tip: MIXTUUR

with Marcel Duchamp

Duchamp, Teeny, and Cage playing chess and making music in a performance, Sightssoundsystems, a festival of art and technology in Toronto, 1968

Cage and Duchamp in Toronto


Actually, Cage hadn't lost every single match with Duchamp. There was one that he definitely won, after a fashion. It happened in Toronto, in 1968. Cage had invited Duchamp and Teeny to be with him on the stage. All they had to do was play chess as usual, but the chessboard was wired and each move activated or cut off the sound coming live from several musicians (David Tudor was one of them). They played until the room emptied. Without a word said, Cage had managed to turn the chess game (Duchamp's ostensive refusal to work) into a working performance. And the performance was a musical piece. In pataphysical terms, Cage had provided an imaginary solution to a nonexistent problem: whether life was superior to art. Playing chess that night extended life into art – or vice versa. All it took was plugging in their brains to a set of instruments, converting nerve signals into sounds. Eyes became ears, moves music. Reunion was the name of the piece. It happened to be their endgame.

images found on john e > THE CAGE COLLECTION


airport_whiskey said...

Playing against John Cage has to be profoundly frustrating, what with him turning the TV on and off, yelling, and banging pots and pans together while you are trying to make a move.

John M. said...

Yo, A.W.

I'd have to insist that he only play 4:33 while we were playing!