posted 2012-03-21 23:26:29

Notations: The Cage Effect Today

Hunter’s art exhibit draws inspiration from John Cage

Julian Rivas

Arts and Entertainment Editor

Celebrating the hundredth anniversary of artist and composer John Cage’s birth and the twentieth anniversary of his death, Hunter’s 41st street art gallery has assembled “Notations: The Cage Effect,” an art exhibit featuring a collection of works from all over the world that have been inspired by Cage’s deceptively abstract oeuvre. The collection pushes Cage’s idea of art being everywhere, and delves into the effects of lighting, spacing, and sound from a variety of places. By tapping so closely into people’s senses, the collection works along with the audience to procure their own personal thoughts rather than to preach a narrow way of thinking.

As minimalist as much of the artworks are, they’re also starkly oppositional to how most art is usually constructed. Much of the art on display flatly rejects well- wrung craft and any conventional political commentary. In one room, a projector plays the childlike film work of Felipe Dulzaides in loops. His short, Blowing Things Away is a three minute onslaught of first-person shots of Dulzaides using his mouth to blow at numerous items, from an American Spirit box to soda cans. Another short of his, Welcome to the Other Side, is a split screen view of two playground merry-go-rounds being spun at the same time, creating a long, dramatic screech. The short collection encompasses the non- authoritative spirit of “Notations” that can be traced through much of Cage’s art and philosophy.

Continuing with that theme, Douglas Huebler’s work, Variable Piece #70, cleverly mocks the idea that art can be representative of any large group of people. In between two black and white photographs is a typewritten letter from Huebler, claiming he aims to take a photo of every living human to amass an authentic representation of humanity— an impossible goal to achieve. Huebler sarcastically takes on the role of a pretentious artist who believes its possible to make any grand statements about humanity through his own artwork.

Part of the exhibit’s success relies on audience participation. One of the first rooms features Lynn Harlow’s interactive piece, BEAT, which is a drum set sitting in front of a yellow-painted square in an all-white room. The drums are open for anyone to bang on, and the piece is reliant on how the drums are being played and what one thinks of the playing combined with the yellow square. The scene looks like a music video set, although the vagueness of the yellow square and various drum-playing styles allow for a wide-range of responses to be drawn from it.

In Leon Ferrari’s Colgante Escultura Sonora, a long collection of metal rods hang from the ceiling, free to be flicked around and clink against each other. Lined in a square, the metal rods make for an interesting dissonant sound when walked through. Another installation, Yukio Fujimoto’s Ears With Chairs, has a seat placed between two poles where the viewer is supposed to stand between. The noisy exhibit—with piano keys, drum-playing and film shorts audibly clashing into each other—is drowned out by a haunted, rusty filter of sound. Such art installations create a direct interaction with the viewers themselves while serving as a reminder for the astonishing possibilities of sound.

Other artworks function much like Cage’s famous 4’33” composition, which silences the musician to absorb sounds from the audience and their surroundings. In a single room installation, Christian Marclay’s Indian Point Road is projected on a wall. The film sits on a single-frame shot of a roadside in Maine like a modest, miniature-length take on Andy Warhol’s eight hour film, Empire. What’s taken in is the simple life and rhythms in that minor strip of the world—the sounds of the wind, off-screen animal life, and vehicles driving by. Marclay forgoes most traditional filmic and artistic elements to give emphasis to setting and the activity happening there.

“Notations,” like much of Cage’s work, beholds the oft-forgotten activity of the world’s sensory properties. The exhibit utilizes seemingly useless objects to show the effects they all can have on one’s own personal perception. “Notations” does not try to devalue art; it opts instead to break down snobby boundaries and open up possibilities as to what art can be. There’s a refusal within the works to simply exhibit art and enforce ideas. “Notations” instead prefers to open a dialogue between art and the viewer.