“Its as if we had become tourists.”

May 16, 2009

Stumbled across this great interview with John Cage yesterday. There’s an earlier part here, but the really good stuff is below. (Be forewarned that the interview ends at around three minutes, after which there is French.)

What’s striking about this piece is how effortlessly he manages to encapsulate modernism’s internal dynamics without even breaking a sweat… Beginning from the nominalism of the different coke bottles, we are led to the irrelevance of memory, and the immediate consequences of that loss; the irrelevance of the unitary self in Cage’s wish to forget, and the irrelevance of tradition as the locus of self, which in turn terminates in a placeless, homeless self without presuppositions or preferences.

It’s pretty remarkable how deeply enmeshed this kind of thinking has become in the cultural DNA. Absent historical articulation, Cage’s aesthetics sound benevolently zen… He seems only a man committed to living and experiencing as fully as he can. And yet, to anyone who values the everyday, the latent conclusion to his thinking is terrifying: In Cage’s aesthetics, there is no home, no away. Just the tour-worthy unfamiliar.


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