From Cage's James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, Erik Satie: An Alphabet
By Maria Goldverg
posted: 09-21-11
A scene from the latest production of Cage's 1982 radio play commissioned by West German Radio (WDR)
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In a couple of months, we will be attending a production of James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, Erik Satie: An Alphebet by John Cage at the Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College (keep an eye out for a forthcoming review, or join us at the event on Friday November 11!). But in the meantime, while we are eagerly anticipating the opening, we’d like to offer you a snippet from describing a dictionary based on photography.  Cage quotes from Duchamp’s A l’nfinitif (The White Box), 1967:

With films, taken close up, of parts of very large objects, obtain photographic records which no longer look like photographs of something. With these semi-microscopics constitute a dictionary of which each film would be the representation of a group of words in a sentence or separated so that this film would assume a new significance or rather after the concentration on this film of the sentences or words chosen would give a form of meaning to this film and that, once learned, this relation between film and meaning translated into words would be “striking” and would serve as a basis for a kind of writing which no longer has an alphabet or words but signs (films) already freed from the “baby talk” of all ordinary languages. — Find a means of filing all these films in such order that one could refer to them as in a dictionary.”

For more information about the radio play turned performance piece see the Richard B. Fisher Center website here.

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