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Twelve Artist Statements # 13 | Ken Vandermark - musician & composer

Twelve Artist Statements # 13

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1) “Nonconformity is the basic pre-condition of art, as it is the pre-condition of good thinking and therefore of growth and greatness in a people. The degree of nonconformity present- and tolerated- in a society might be looked upon as a symptom of its state of health.”

-from “The Shape Of Content,” (Harvard University Press: 1957), by Ben Shahn, pg. 87.

2) “You know, when I was in England, I gave a lecture someplace, and a young man got up during the question period and he said, “In reference to Mr. Cage’s remark, is everything music, Mr. Feldman?” And I thought for a moment and I said, “Well, I can’t speak for Mr. Cage, but maybe I might take the responsibility, and add to the remark of his and say: Yes, everything is music, but not everyone is an artist.”

-Morton Feldman, from “John Cage-Morton Feldman: Radio Happenings,” recorded at WBAI, New York City, July 1966-January 1967, transcribed by Laura Kuhn (Edition MusikTexte: 1993), pg. 141.

3) “I saw that everything had been done. One had to break to make one’s revolution and start at zero. I made myself go towards the new movement. The problem is now to pass, to go around the object, and give a plastic expression to the result.” He looked around him and said: “All of this is my struggle to break with the two-dimensional aspect.”

-Pablo Picasso regarding Cubism, from “Picasso On Art: A Selection of Views,” (Da Capo Press: 1972), edited by Dore Ashton, pg. 61.

4) “It’s the extreme that’s important. Only at the extreme can you get to grips with the real problem.”

-Samuel Beckett in conversation with Patrick Bowles, from “Beckett Remembering Remembering Beckett: A Centenary Celebration,” (Arcade Publishing: 2006), edited by James and Elizabeth Knowlson, pg. 110.

5) “An artist paints so that he will have something to look at: at times he must write so that he will also have something to read.”

-Barnett Newman, from “The New York School: A Cultural Reckoning,” (University Of California Press: 1972), by Dore Ashton, pg. 185.

6) “Your ideal would be an instantaneous tradition. The new is immediately attached to a school. Its life is over at the time. You classify and name it, and since you don’t allow an artist to experiment, you demand that he repeat himself and you replace him when he tires you. In that way you kill the flies.”

-Jean Cocteau commenting on American cultural attitudes, circa the 1950’s, from “The New York School: A Cultural Reckoning,” (University Of California Press: 1972), by Dore Ashton, pg. 214.

7) “The jazz I like is a mixture of prepared and unprepared. The unprepared is also prepared, and the prepared is also unprepared. There are four edges. Improvisation is a tool, not an end in itself. It’s a way of finding music that can’t be found by composing. And composing is a way of finding music that you can’t improvise…. This is what Monk is about: a prepared structure that can be played in an improvised manner and can be elaborated upon improvisationally. It promulgates improvisation; the tune is not complete without improvisation…. Monk told me: the inside of a tune is what makes the outside sound good. That’s a very succinct definition of form, but it’s true!”

-Steve Lacy, from “Steve Lacy: conversations,” (Duke University Press: 2006), edited by Jason Weiss, pg. 189-190.

8) “[Art] is concerned with something that cannot be explained by words or literal description… art is revelation instead of information, expression instead of description, creation instead of imitation or repetition…. Art is concerned with the HOW, not the WHAT; not with literal content, but with the performance of the factual content. The performance- how it is done- that is the content of art.”

-Josef Albers, from “black mountain: An Exploration In Community,” (Northwestern University Press: 2009), by Martin Duberman, pg. 47.

9) What does making sculpture mean to you right now?

“I guess it means a lifetime involvement, that’s what it means. It means to follow up the direction of the work I opened up early on for myself and try to make the most abstract moves within that…. To work out of my own work, and to build whatever’s necessary so that the work remains open and vital and challenging to myself, and hopefully to others who’re interested in the direction that I’m working in. To make sculpture right now is to distinguish what I do from other activities.”

-Richard Serra, from “Richard Serra: Writings Interviews,” (The University Of Chicago Press: 1994), edited by Richard Serra, pg. 35.

10) “I started with the idea that first of all any kind of movement could be dancing. I didn’t express it that way at the time [mid 1940’s], but I thought that any kind of movement could be used as dance movement, that there was no limit in that sense. Then I went on to the idea that each dance should be different. That is, what you find for each dance as movement should be different from what you had used in previous dances. What I am trying to say by that is that in looking for movement, I would look for something I didn’t know about rather than something I did know about. Now when you find something you don’t know about or don’t know how to do, you have to find a way to do it, like a child stumbling and trying to walk, or a little colt getting up. You find that you have this awkward thing which is often interesting, and I would think, ‘Oh, I must practice that. There’s something there I don’t know about, some kind of life.’ Then maybe something would come which I would think lively. And I would see how it worked within the structure but, as I say the structure is not something that pinned us down. It was something underneath, that you had to play with.”

-Merce Cunningham, from “The Dancer And The Dance: Merce Cunningham in conversation with Jacqueline Lesschaeve,” (Marion Boyars: 1985), edited by Henry Nathan, pg. 39-40.

11) “Only by going too far will you get anywhere at all.”

-Francis Bacon, from “Francis Bacon: Anatomy Of An Enigma,” (Constable: 2008), by Michael Peppiatt, pg. 134.

12) “All opinion is transient and all work is permanent.”

-Man Ray, from “Man Ray: American Artist,” (Da Capo Press: 1988), by Neil Baldwin, pg. 263.