Wednesday, January 19

"Rauschenberg is continually being offered scraps of this and that,
odds and ends his friends run across, since it strikes them: This is
something he could use in a painting. Nine times out of ten it turns
out he has no use for it. Say it's something close to something he
once found useful, and so could be recognized as his. Well, then,
as a matter of course, his poetry has moved without one's knowing
where it's gone to. He changes what goes on, on a canvas, but he
does not change how canvas is used for paintings--that is, stretched
flat to make rectangular surfaces which may be hung on a wall. These
he used singly, joined together, or placed in a symmetry so obvious
as not to attract interest (nothing special). We know two ways to
unfocus attention: symmetry is one of them; the other is the over-all
where each small part is a sample of what you find elsewhere. In
either case, there is at least the possibility of looking anywhere, not
just where someone arranged you should. You are then free to deal
with your freedom just as the artist dealt with his, not in the same way
but, nevertheless, originally. This thing, he says, duplication of
, that is symmetry. All it means is that, looking closely, we see
as it was everything is in chaos still."

--John Cage, "On Robert Rauschenberg, Artist, and His Work"
in Silence [Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press, 1961]

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