Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968), who has had an immense impact on twentieth-century and twenty first-century art through a truly seminal influence on the development of conceptual art in general, challenged conventional thought about artistic processes and rejected the emerging art market, through subversive anti-art. John Cage (1912–1992) a friend and admirer of the elder artist is an American experimental composer and author of the remarkable work 4’ 33’’ (four minutes, thirty-three seconds), a three-movement composition created in 1952, as the epitome of an idea that any sounds may constitute music. This is why the program for my upcoming performance contains two thoughts, but also messages given to all of us as a guideline how to preserve vitality of either being an Artist or an Art Observer.
»Art work is not completed by the Artist. The work of Art is completed by the Observer.«
– Marcel Duchamp
»I do not agree that life is a game. What we want is an anarchy that works.«
– John Cage
The events during student protests in Paris in May of 1968 became my latest work’s conceptual framework, as I do believe that the creative power behind French student maxim’s such as »All Power to the Imagination« and »It is Forbidden to Forbid« were in a socio-cultural context communicating a very important need for the realization of the full potential of constructive human ideas. What would come out of it would be the creative freedom and individualism becoming the main qualities of our existence, as also suggested by the new artistic practices proclaimed by Marcel Duchamp and John Cage. On many levels 1968 was – on a global level, in France, Germany, Spain, Great Britain, Italy, Poland, Yugoslavia, Brazil, Mexico, Japan – a turning point of our societies and cultures wanting to step away from massively destructive consequences of the technological progress of capitalism that brought us into twentieth century alongside two World Wars, multiply processes of colonization and capitalistic dictum of a characterless mass being validated as more important than the thinking quality of an individual with integrity.
The fifth and final section of my performance also introduces an eight-minute audio file in which Carl Sagan, the American astronomer and science popularizer, gives a detailed description of his own original concept behind the Voyager Golden Records, two phonograph records that were included aboard both Voyager spacecrafts, launched in 1977. The intention was for any intelligent extraterrestrial life form, or for future humans who may find them, to become more familiar with the diversity of life and culture on Earth. A rather constructed display of »human qualities,« we might argue. No information can be found here on protests, wars, aggression, or even self-reflective criticism of humanity of any kind and at any point in time. Therefore I found it very interesting, through applying John Cage’s chance method, to create the juxtaposition of eight minutes of video footage of student protests in Paris in 1968 with eight minutes of audio description of the NASA-produced concept behind the Voyager Golden Records. On one hand we see the immediacy of a plurality of people on the streets of Paris emphasizing the importance of improvement of »here and now« for the sake of a better future. On the other hand we hear, while watching that video, a male voice of a scientist telling us how the Golden Records are taking »the best of us« into an unknown future. This discrepancy between the reality of facts and the fabrication of facts gave me a much better understanding of the essence of practically every type of social revolution.
Vinicius Jatobá: While reading the description of what you intend to incorporate into the performance 40’ 33’’: All Power to the Imagination, I wondered about the difficulties you would face to make experienceable the massive number of concepts you have selected to dramatize through your performance. One aspect that interests me is the possibility of seeing May 1968 as a large performance staged on the open field of Paris’s streets into which a large number of bodies, a collective and anonymous body, dramatized and exposed a massive number of concepts and ideas with random energy and reacting to what the city was proposing as resistance to their pleas. Changing, negotiating, improvising. Considering this, how are you preparing your own individual body to channel and stage such a collective experience, which has images of a collective body moving and manifesting itself as its main strength?
MS: This is at the same time a very interesting observation as much as it is a question. First of all, all the selected concepts serving as a building blocks of my performance are of course interconnected. The year 1968 served as a beginning of final crumbling of the very conservative society of postwar France, where if we just focus on to the educational system of French universities – it was very formal, rigid, or old-fashioned. It is an interesting fact to look into some figures. France in 1938 had around 60,000 registered students, which became 240,000 in 1961 and in 605,000 in 1968. A 1000-percent increase in a span of only 30 years (1938–1968) is not a fact to be ignored. On the one hand, the country was making studies more accessible, but its format was not being improved.
I am exactly intrigued by the resemblance of May 1968 student protests in Paris to a large happening, a theatrical event challenging the traditional concept of a stage action; relationship between the protagonist and the viewer; introducing nonlinear narrative without a definite duration, unfolding events left to chance and occurring in the present moment, therefore making an attempt to »arrest« the concept of passing time. Happenings were first utilized by John Cage and his students in late 1950s and later its name was coined by Cage’s student Allan Kaprow. The events of May 1968 were indeed demonstrating the randomness of (inter)reactions and negotiations between the protesters and police forces.