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At Tate Modern

Eleanor Nairne: Nam June Paik

19 November 2019
... earliest performances – he called it an ‘action work’ – was staged at Jean-Pierre Wilhelm’s Galerie 22 in Düsseldorf in November 1959. In a letter that year, he explained that Hommage à JohnCage: Music for Audiotapes and Piano was composed around three ten-minute movements, each containing a number of cultural references. The first combined Duchamp, Dostoevsky and Kurt Schwitters. ‘It ...

Must poets write?

Stephanie Burt: Poetry Post-Language

10 May 2012
Unoriginal Genius: Poetry by Other Means in the New Century 
by Marjorie Perloff.
Chicago, 232 pp., £11.50, April 2012, 978 0 226 66061 5
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Uncreative Writing: Managing Language in the Digital Age 
by Kenneth Goldsmith.
Columbia, 272 pp., £15.95, September 2011, 978 0 231 14991 4
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Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual Writing 
edited by Craig Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith.
Northwestern, 593 pp., £40.50, December 2010, 978 0 8101 2711 1
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Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004, The Joy of Cooking: [Airport Novel Musical Poem Painting Film Photo Hallucination Landscape] 
by Tan Lin.
Wesleyan, 224 pp., £20.50, May 2010, 978 0 8195 6929 5
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... has trained at least two generations of scholars and written many books on writers and artists – tracing a line from Rimbaud through Futurism to Gertrude Stein, Wittgenstein, Frank O’Hara, JohnCage and beyond – who have advanced what she sees as modernist goals: above all, the up-to-date, sceptical investigation of the materials and ideas from which a work of art gets made. Though much of ...


Hal Foster: Bruce Nauman

20 December 2018
... in lieu of painting or sculpture the body might be ‘a place to start’. In this way Nauman turned a negative condition into a positive possibility. ‘I have nothing to say and I am saying it,’ JohnCage wrote in 1949; two decades later Nauman said, in effect, ‘I have nothing to do and I am doing it.’ Although this formulation isn’t as dire as ‘I can’t go on, I’ll go on,’ Nauman ...

Shadow Detail

John​ Tranter

25 June 1987
... this photograph. The shadow detail builds up, telling us about their hair, the boy’s dark tweed jacket, pointing out details, the texture in the broad masses. And the ancient lift creaks up to its cage at the top of the building, a cage the wind visits and teases ...

If my sister’s arches fall

Laura Jacobs: Agnes de Mille

5 October 2016
Dance to the Piper 
by Agnes de Mille.
NYRB, 368 pp., £11.99, February 2016, 978 1 59017 908 6
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... soon stormed Broadway with On the Town. The same year Martha Graham premiered a rich, visually spare piece called Appalachian Spring in collaboration with Aaron Copland and Isamu Noguchi. In 1945, JohnCage and Merce Cunningham would marry their exploratory sensibilities. All these artists were struggling, in the words of Lincoln Kirstein, who co-founded the New York City Ballet, ‘to impose a ...

Liberation Music

Richard Gott: In Memory of Cornelius Cardew

12 March 2009
Cornelius Cardew: A Life Unfinished 
by John​ Tilbury.
Copula, 1069 pp., £45, October 2008, 978 0 9525492 3 9
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... have liked to construe as the work of the intelligence services. Now we have a thousand-page book to fill in the details of his life, written with affection, humour and perspicacity by the pianist John Tilbury. Tilbury was Cardew’s friend and colleague, and a one-time (and part-time) fellow-traveller on the Maoist road; he has spent a quarter of a century writing this book. Aficionados will love ...

You’ve got three minutes

J. Hoberman: Sitting for Warhol

20 July 2006
Andy Warhol Screen Tests: The Films of Andy Warhol Catalogue Raisonné: Vol. I 
by Callie Angell.
Abrams, 319 pp., £35, April 2006, 0 8109 5539 3
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... 13 Most Beautiful Women. Neither 13 was a ‘finished’ film, but a rubric under which Warhol would from time to time exhibit selected Screen Tests. The idea was already in the air. The neo-dadaist, JohnCage-influenced Fluxus artists were already making similar perversely conceptual films. At least a year before Warhol began documenting faces for The 13 Most Beautiful Boys, the Icelandic political ...
25 June 1987
by Pierre Boulez, edited by Jean-Jacques Nattiez, translated by Martin Cooper.
Faber, 541 pp., £25, July 1986, 9780571138111
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... Weber and Wagner are great German examples, and Schoenberg is the great Austrian example of which Boulez is no doubt keenly aware. Among Boulez’s contemporaries, Stockhausen, Elliott Carter and JohnCage are notably eloquent and prolific commentators on themselves. Boulez’s writing covers a considerable range: he is not just a theorist like Messiaen in Technique of My Musical Language or ...


John​ Lanchester: Online Goodies

25 April 2002
... now more or less free; the act of copying them is more or less free (I have a machine to copy CDs in the very computer on which I’m typing these words, and could knock you up a copy of the Shorter JohnCage, gratis, in a matter of minutes); but recorded CDs are still expensive. The expense is, from the point of view of the record companies, pure profit. So the cartel loves CDs – why wouldn’t ...

Grey Panic

T.J. Clark: Gerhard Richter

17 November 2011
... raw emotion. Painting by contrast really can, for reasons I am unable to fathom, make its uncertainty – its long depressive state – into something beautiful as opposed to correct or clever. JohnCage, for some of us, is an even lesser god than Duchamp, but in the final room at Tate, where a suite of big abstracts done under Cage’s auspices is hung, it does not matter. The imperfect lusciousness ...
22 September 2011
The Music of Painting 
by Peter Vergo.
Phaidon, 367 pp., £39.95, November 2010, 978 0 7148 5762 6
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... wrote. ‘Destruction of melody … is the equivalent of destruction of natural appearance.’ Whatever ‘true boogie woogie’ may be, it isn’t concerned with the destruction of melody; Boulez, Cage, Stockhausen and electronic music would soon be seeing to that. Yet Vergo leaves these assertions untested. In the final pages cracks start to appear in Vergo’s thesis about music, as the world of ...
7 March 1996
Leaving Las Vegas 
directed by Mike Figgis.
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... about a failed screenwriter, Ben Sanderson, who decides to quit Hollywood and drink himself to death in the Nevada gambling city. The screenplay was adapted by Figgis from a novel of the same name by John O’Brien (who himself committed suicide shortly after Figgis had acquired the rights to film his book). Figgis signals his awareness of Hollywood’s current sweep-it-under-the-carpet attitude to ...
1 September 1988
... facture, their uncompromising immediacy, the boldness of their slangy language and the boldness of their Byzantine frontality, is to be characterised by a phrase, I would single out a remark made by JohnCage as he went round the exhibition, that he was struck by ‘the absence of tranquillity in a centred composition’. The late paintings seem to me to be divisible into three phases of unequal ...
5 December 1991
Iron JohnA Book about Men 
by Robert Bly.
Element, 268 pp., £12.95, September 1991, 9781852302337
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The way men think: Intellect, Intimacy and the Erotic Imagination 
by Liam Hudson and Bernadine Jacot.
Yale, 219 pp., £16.95, November 1991, 0 300 04997 8
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Utne Reader. Men, it’s time to pull together: The Politics of Masculinity 
Lens, 144 pp., $4, May 1991Show More
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... on his ageing face. The time is ripe. And now the back door swings open and in he comes, preceded by a gust of testosterone and a few tumbleweeds of pubic hair: the Old Man, the Deep Male – Iron John. Iron John, a short work of psychological, literary and anthropological speculation by the poet Robert Bly, ‘dominated’ the New York Times best-seller list for nearly a year, and has made, as we ...


James Davidson: Face to Face with Merce Cunningham

2 November 2000
... the dancers of his company seemed rather less concerned than they used to be with keeping their collective movements clean when they performed at the Barbican last month.* Whereas in the work of JohnCage, whose music often accompanied Cunningham’s dances, randomness seemed a rediscovery of the sounds found in ‘nature’, most notably in the sounds of the quiet concert hall with which he ...

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