John Cage on what Art does

I recently came upon these quotes from interviews with John Cage in Dancing Around the Bride: Cage, Cunningham, Johns, Rauschenberg and Duchamp. To me these anecdotes could be very useful when someone asks, “What is art for?”

“In the case of Duchamp, I was at this exhibition of Dada, and his work acted in such a way that my attention was drawn to the light switch on the wall, away from–not away, but among–the works of art. So that the light switch seemed to be as attention-deserving as the works of art. In the case of [Mark] Tobey I left the gallery and went to catch a bus on Madison Avenue when it still ran both ways, and I happened to look at the pavement, and–literally–the pavement was as beautiful as the Tobey, hmm? So the experience of looking at Tobey was instructive about looking at the pavement.”

“Art is said to be involved with ideas–relationships–and also with a certain sensuality. It appeals to the sense of looking. When you look, your mind goes into a state of finding relationships. Your heart goes into the field of the emotions. In Germanic thought these are supposed to come together. There’s supposed to be some sort of marriage–of form and content. When you find that… that it’s “satisfying”–another word frequently used in the arts – when it’s satisfying you get stuck! So that the art seems to be an end in itself.”

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