Object Permanence Pt. 2: Crowd Control

How much control does an artist have then is another question. The painter can fill up the canvas and decide how the work is going to be framed. How much control does an artist have over how the work is displayed? Would there be a problem with hanging a certain painting in proximity to the work of another artist? How much can we expect the audience to cast off as “not the work of the artist”.

There was a sculpture of sorts on display in one room of the new Modern building at the Art Institute of Chicago. The sculpture involved a pile of white rocks piled up on a conical figuration with tiny rocks on the outskirts and larger rocks towards the center and peak. Intersecting the rocks were mirrors in the shape of an asterisk. As I looked at this exhibit I wondered aloud to my brother, “do you think the artist comes to the museum that this work is displayed in to set it up or do you think that it is shipped with very specific instructions as to how it needs to be exactly?” We left it up in the air.

This is to say, how much of a degree of aleatory is there in all the arts? I know that Cage was convinced (and has convinced many others, including myself) that there is a certain degree of aleatory in all music. The variables being performers, performance space, conductor, instruments, tempo, audience…the list is infinite.

While in Chicago we also visited the Museum of Contemporary Art. There was a simple sculpture made of found items that were hung from a wire frame and meant to form a smiling face. Though it was enclosed in a plastic box and therefore unable to be touched, the string from which most of the sculpture was hanging had twisted somehow and it made the eyes, nose and mouth of the face appear perpendicular to the outer wire frame forming some sort of cubist idea of a face. This, I can say with almost complete certainty, was not the original intention of the artist. Should I, however, take it as I saw it? Or should I correct what I feel is “wrong” and remember the sculpture as being that of a right and true “face”? How far can one take this idea? I don’t think that many artists would appreciate the idea of their audience “perfecting” their art.

With a piece of music, how much is the audience expected to “correct”? There are going to be slight mistakes made, there are going to be choices made by the conductor that make some parts seem more important than others, and there are going to be cues missed and measures accidentally excluded perhaps by a particularly nervous percussionist that hasn’t played for 42 bars and lost count or was not cued. How much of the music, then, actually is what the composer wrote? I realize that this does overlap with thoughts about degrees of aleatory in music, but I would like to examine it one step further from an audience perspective. Is an audience experiencing music and taking it for granted that the performance was perfect? This begs the question about artist control. Exactly how much control does the composer have once the score leaves their hands?

Discuss