John Cage (1912-1992)


John Cage main page on UbuWeb Sound



Art is Either a Complaint or Do Something Else (1989)


1. Part 1 (25:10)
2. Part 2 (23:03)


Total time 48:13
Cassette released by Audio Arts, London, UK, 1990

Recorded at the Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London, in 1989, during a collective exhibition of works by John Cage, Merce Cunningham and Jasper Johns titled Dancers on a Plane, this reading of Art is Either a Complaint or Do Something Else took place 2 years after the “official” version recorded by Hessischer Rundfunk radio in Germany on November 1st, 1987 – now issued on a Mode 2xCD set. The text is based on mesostics derived from Jasper Johns statements found by Cage in Mark Rosenthal’s book Jasper Johns: Work Since 1974, published by Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1988. The book was published during Johns’ exhibition at the Vennice 1988 Biennale. Note strange discrepancy in the date: Cage’s mesostics were apparently written 1 year before the book they’re supposed to be based on.

Naturally, these quotes were submitted to chance operation before being layed out on the page in the form of mesostics. In this exquisite cassette, Cage’s melodious and enveloping reading forms a verbal labyrinth in which the listener is guided by Cage’s frail and slightly hypnotic voice – at this time of his life, Cage suffered from arthritis, sciatica and arteriosclerosis, according to Wikipedia. -- Continuo