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Arnolfini - est 1961


Sat 5 Nov 2005 – Sun 15 Jan 2006

Galleries 1 & 5

John Cage is probably the most important revolutionary of experimental sound work and listening. To discuss 20th and 21st century music without acknowledging Cage’s pivotal influence is impossible, yet despite this, he remains a difficult and controversial figure. Audible mushrooms, sonic furniture and a new take on Cage’s fascination with Kyoto’s most famous Zen garden. This exhibition explores the legacy of John Cage’s ideas on contemporary music, art and sound.

Featuring new commissions and installations by Alvin Curran, Ryoji Ikeda, Rolf Julius, Tagaki Masakatsu, Kaffe Matthews, Carsten Nicolai, Akio Suzuki and Michael Prime. It also presents works by Gavin Bryars, Michael Parsons, Mieko Shiomi and Christian Wolff as well as by Cage himself.

An Arnolfini project curated by David Toop and co-produced with plusequals.


In populist music theory Cage has become a symbol of ‘what went wrong’. Playing John Cage seeks to challenge this by emphasising the link between Cage’s ideas and contemporary sonic arts practice. Many artists working in the new ‘interzone’ of electronica, sound installations, audio montage and environmental soundscapes feel that Cage’s legacy is the touchstone of their relationship to sound. Chance, accident, quotation, ambient sound and the establishment of silence and noise as legitimate areas for sonic exploration have proved to be liberating for those who hear sound as a primary material, rather than as a starting point for music.

Seeds of avant-garde performance and music were deeply sown at Black Mountain College. Fluxus, experimental music, sonic art, performance art, text scores and graphic scores can all be traced back to this point.