We all know the composer John Cage, but what would his music look like in the form of sculpture? One artist Jade Rude, who showed her most recent work on view at Christie Contemporary in Toronto, imagines what his work might look like in sculptural form.
Her recent exhibition A (silent) Concerto derives its ontology from John Cage’s score fragment Page 18, Solo for Piano, from Concert for Piano and Orchestra. It’s what the artist calls “making solid the void between sounds.” As part of the exhibition, there are movable foam sculptures and a musical staff for gallery goers to create their own composition.
The exhibition also had eight photos on view, which are based on photographing the foam sculptures. Just as each concerto is a composition with three movements, each foam piece was photographed from three perspectives. It ties into her ongoing investigation of artworks that questions artifice, while fusing together design and conceptual art. Rude speaks about music, art and the space in between.
How did this idea come about?
Jade Rude: It all starts here, on page 18 from John Cage’s Solo for Piano, from Concert for Piano and Orchestra, which I saw at the Museum of Modern Art. Cage created 62 pages in total, but you were able to change the composition every time. I’m interested in that aspect in my work, too, with non-static sculpture. They can change around. Here, you become the conductor and create your own composition. John Cage would often trace the pages for the notes.
Do you see him like a conceptual composer?
A silent concerto using acoustic foam on a stage riser here, having an installation so you can play with the pieces. On the wall is a musical staff on the wall made from stage tape. Here we have concerto one to eight, it’s an orchestra. A concerto has three movements, so I call these portraits of these, I photographed the top side bottom and back of these. In the John Cage-ian spirit, it becomes random. I layered all three on top of one another. The final project has become a bit of a dance to it.
When did you first become a fan of Cage?
Since the beginning, he was always there, right? I just like how he created these compositions where you could do what you want. Its never the same. But more recently, with this drawing, I saw it at MoMA roughly five years ago. I didn’t know he made these notes and traced his drawings. This was the more architectural one. The others were more like amoebas.
Did you include sound at all for this artwork?
I did have a performance with two sound artists, Marla Hlady and Christof Migone played with a steel cylinder beams, unorthodox instruments like bird bells, as part of it. They responded to me repositioning the sculptural notes in a John Cage spirit, it was over when it was over. I was a drummer in a band previously, too.
What do you think the most Cage did for art and music?
I just like the fact that he composed something that wasn’t necessarily from a melody. I also like how he leaves it up to the artist or the musician to do what they want. The chance procedure. I like change. I like his silent piece.
When you think of conceptual art, does it seem premeditated?
This is premeditated, but there’s room for chance.
Is it the same with the sculpture as it is for the photos?
I timed myself while taking the photos so I wouldn’t overthink it. It’s all an installation. I like the idea of creating a form out of nothing. It doesn’t technically exist.
How do you feel about abstraction today?
I don’t focus too much on anything, I just make. I’m influenced by a book by Gaston Bachelard called The Poetics of Space, which was written in the 1950s. He wrote 241 pages on the relationship between space, memory, and imagination. When I read it, I could see what he was talking about, just the idea of talking about the in-between space, the unacknowledged space, the shadows, the gaps, the voids, and making them noticeable to people. To create a different dimension through them, which elevates it. asking for participation too, whether physical, active, or ideas.
How did you use the foam sculptures in the musical performance?
For the performance, I restacked them and they played according to the notes, responding to them. They’re also malleable as a form. I didn’t want them to be anything too static.
How does your experience as a former drummer tie into all this?
Syncopation is not the same structure of music, as if you were a pianist or a trombonist. Its more structural the way you have to learn placement of the notes. You don’t have to read music, no. full circle in a way coming back that it isn’t direct.
Jade Rude’s A (silent) Concerto ran at Christie Contemporary in Toronto from November 22 to December 21, 2019.