SPA Week 6 Duchamp, Cage, and Ono


Read Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp

Watch American Masters John Cage

Select two instructions from Grapefruit by Yoko Ono


I much prefer Duchamp to Cage if only because I do not have to work so hard to conquer my dislike of his work. (Referenced in the video). The work by Cage is the sort of thing you have to be in the right frame of mind for. You have to almost know what you are getting into before hand. Maybe that is the point… to make yourself aware of your preconceived notions and to challenge them.

Both the work of Duchamp and Cage are dependent on the audience, albeit in slightly different ways. Duchamp considered the viewers interpretation to ‘supplement’ the work. (Cabanns & Duchamp). That final piece completes the work. Cage includes the ambient sounds of the audience into many of his pieces, but their interpretation of the work does not matter. The sounds are presented and the audience is challenged to accept them as they are. The work of both men challenges the standard notions of art and who is an artist, but the final interpretation of Cage’s work has no affect on the meaning of the piece.

Another similarity is that both artists utilize chance in their work. Duchamp uses chance fairly organically by letting the chips fall where they may so to speak, or by using items he has stumbled across. Cage’s method of chance operations is much more complex and rigid. I found this website discussing his use of chance operations. It references another book, “Conversing With Cage” that includes a few pages of instructions Cage wrote on how to make a text. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a ..reliable looking source to access Conversing With Cage. If anyone comes across it, it should be pages 137-139.

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