In Celebration of John Cage’s 100th Birthday

John Cage would have turned 100 on September 5th and in honor of his work and the significant influence he has had on artists past and present, there is a website inviting participation in this world-wide celebration. John Cage: 2012 Centennial Two other important links you might want to check out are Cage 100: walking along paths the outcome of which I didn’t know  and Laura Kuhn’s blog.

Inspired by Cage’s writing and work, Connecticut book artist, Robin Price, has joined in the celebration. Her recently created bookwork, As You Continue, is a response to Cage’s words of encouragement after the 1989 San Francisco earthquake that heavily damaged the building of the Crown Point Press. In Robin’s book, the John Cage quote “As you continue, which you will do, the way to proceed will become apparent” is written with sumi ink and brush, using her left (non-dominant) hand on 7 random sections of large USGS topographical maps. The map pages are stab-bound with a strip of Fabriano paper, letterpress printed with the title and handling directions.

Robin’s use of the map as a substrate for Cage’s words reflects the view that all journeys in life are paved with uncertainty, but as you proceed with courage, and assess your surroundings, you will find your way. In applying this metaphor to the process of creative thinking and making, the parallel is clear. The journey for artists is complex and often the way ahead is undefined, even as the first tentative steps are taken and then assessed. From this point a glimmer of where to take the next step emerges and eventually a destination is reached, often far from what was first imagined.

For Robin, the act of writing became a meditation, as seen through her own observations of the process from her website:

METHOD: Using my unskilled left hand is as authentic to the content – as I interpret it – as I can be.

STRUCTURE: The writing activity is time-based/sequential in the making and the viewing; the sheets for each writing remain together & are bound sequentially

INTENTION: I think about whom this message might help, besides myself, as I write it again and again: people I know and people I don’t know who might find it useful for repeated viewing.

DISCIPLINE: Practicing each time before I begin a new stint of writing settles me, then I breathe deeply as I write the book pages, quieting my mind as much as possible.

NOTATION: I am notating Cage’s words – as recalled by Kathan Brown – onto sheets of maps, to suggest travel and finding one’s way.

INDETERMINANCY: The assortment of USGS topographical maps for any one book reflects a mostly-random gathering process.

INTERPENETRATION: It was only after I carried these words with me for a year and a half that I found my way to authenticity.

IMITATION: I imitate what I perceive as a state of meditation.

DEVOTION: This practice is the most intimate of a few tributes I have made over the years for John Cage, or, rather, the way in which I perceive his life and work as it affects mine.

CIRCUMSTANCES: For eight months beginning in late 2011, injuries had left me incapable of printing letterpress or doing other strenuous studio activity; a gentler path was called for.

You can see As You Continue and another of Robin’s artist’s books in the library’s Special Collections, 43, According to Robin Price, as well as an exhibition catalog, Counting on Chance: 25 Years of Artist’s Books by Robin Price, Publisher, which features many of her other works. The library has a 1993 catalog of the retrospective exhibition of the work of John Cage, Rolywholyover: A Circus, which was organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and designed in consultation with him.

 Images and text used with permission of Robin Price. Posted by L. Whitehill Chong  

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