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Thursday, May 10, 2012

john cage, installation art, sound layering

We recently went to the engaging installation piece, John Cage 33 1/3 Performed by Audience, at the Tampa Museum of Art. We actually stumbled upon it after seeing the Romare Beardon exhibition and were surprised and then delighted as we played.

The exhibition was originally installed in 1969 at UC-Davis and this restaging is in honor of Cage's birth, 100 years ago. In the middle of a large room, a circle of 12 podiums hold record players. Bins on the side walls contain a few hundred records. Museum goers are invited to play one or many records, at whatever level they chose - mixing and overlaying sounds. 

What a blast! Buoyed by the eclectic collection (opera, world, punk...) my husband and I immediate began loading up record players and adjusting volumes. Our kids were a little shocked. I mean, I do tell them we need to NOT TOUCH in museums and BE QUIET. When they finally realized that we were part of the art, they began participating too. 

What I really love about this piece is that we have been recently playing with sound around hereThis experience just pushed it all to a new level of experimentation and playfulness. Layering sounds and physically manipulating records and volume knobs released the abstract notion of untouchable sound into something we could touch and mold - very similarly to what we do more easily in painting and sculpture. And by questioning the definition of music and even what might be pleasant to listen to, we learn that we can question basic assumption about anything.

We only have two record players at home, so I have been trying to figure out how to replicate at least a little of this exploration at home. I am thinking about gathering all the cd players (although I am not as keen on that) and maybe even playing along on the piano, guitar, organ, drums... or what about incorporating sounds from the vacuum cleaner or coffee grinder? What about all the electronic noise making toys (the ones I hate)? Try playing them all at once or in a sequence. 

How might you play with these ideas?

For all I think, read and write about creative living with children, I strongly believe that exposure to great, complicated, avant grade, weird, conceptual and/or installation art/film/music is paramount. EVERYTIME we engage in art, we are inspired and take something tangible back to our own atelier.


  1. I love interactive art! Being part of the experience brings it all home to kids and adults. What a wonderful experience for your entire family.

  2. There is no wrong or right way to enjoy learning and discovery...keep us posted on what you come up with...I'm intrigued:)

  3. Many thanks for posting your thoughts on John Cage's 33-1/3 - Performed by Audience at the Tampa Museum of Art. As curator of the project, I was super pleased to hear about your experience. The installation will be combined with a John Cage tribute exhibition that I organized concurrently at Tempus Projects art space in Seminole Heights/Tampa, and will travel next to the Bob Rauschenberg Gallery at Edison State College in Ft. Myers from August 24 - October 13. Hope to see you there too!


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