28 Nov 2014– 27 Feb 2015
Indeterminacy, the quality of being uncertain or vague, is also a favoured compositional approach by John Cage, in which some aspects of a musical work are left open to chance or to the interpreter’s free choice. In turn, this exhibition is conceived in the spirit of Cage rather than to the letter of his thinking. Ian Hunt writes:

The works here, by artists as diverse as Horst Ademeit, Dieter Roth and Cornelia Parker, are not based on the I Ching or chance operations, but the context that Cage’s name and example provides is a generous one.

It activates an awareness of the coexistence of structure and process and generates a special atmosphere of openness. And yet there are puzzles in indeterminacy, the term strongly associated with Cage’s thinking, that are worth exploring further.

As soon as it is encountered, the word indeterminacy seems to require qualification, adjustment, or perhaps active dissent. We could begin, in a positive spirit, by distinguishing it from a state of simple lack of differentiation. For modern artists, indeterminate operations and conditions have been useful principally for the way they give life to new forms of interpretation, sense making and order. Even so, indeterminacy, the abstract noun, is still not enough; it won't do as a credo or aspiration, however it works to revise, loosen and reconfigure aesthetic thinking. John Cage, in conversation with Joan Retallack, voices some of these qualifications himself:

JC: And the weather can also be divided, but less efficiently. (laughs) At the same time it remains the weather no matter what is going on, whether there is a storm or not, so that the structural elements in weather don't change the way we see weather. I'm referring now to this statement from Lecture on Nothing: 'Structure without life is dead, but life without structure is unseen.' Process, in other words, can be seen as though it were not a structure at all, or it can be seen to include structure.
JR: Process is the richer, less limiting…
JC: If we let it have structure in it, as in fact it does have…
So I'm not certain, about either structure or process.

Indeterminacy here can be seen as a mode of hesitating to make a choice, in Cage’s words, between structure and process.

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