It figures that the late avant-garde composer and artist John Cage—famous for, among many things, scandalizing the classical music world by debuting four minutes and 33 seconds of silence as a musical composition—would require curators who showcased his exhibits to incorporate factors that randomize their display. “The Sight of Silence,” an exhibition of watercolors Cage painted at the Mountain Lake Workshop in Blacksburg, opens Feb. 15, and was put together following Cage’s principle of “chance operations.”
According to a museum press release, “The exhibition is hung according to a system of ‘chance operations’ so that the show is never presented in the same way. Rolling the dice will determine where five paintings will be hung for this major exhibition—first deciding which gallery, then which wall, and finally where on the wall the piece will be hung.”
As part of a national 2012 celebration of John Cage’s centennial year, the Taubman presents John Cage: The Sight of Silence, featuring over 60 watercolors and works on paper created at the Mountain Lake Workshop in Blacksburg, Virginia. Best known as a groundbreaking composer, musician, and avant-garde thinker, Cage (1912-1992) was also a prolific visual artist who wove Eastern philosophy with elements of chance as a way to free up the creative process. With additional handwritten musical scores, illustrated notations, and videos of performances also on view, the exhibition provides insight into one of the twentieth century’s most unconventional and influential artists.
Additionally, in the spirit of Cage, the exhibition was installed using Cage’s “chance operations” approach, allowing the throw of the dice determine where works were to be hung on the walls.