[artinfo] first complete edition of John Cage's Diary

Art-Agenda art-agenda at mailer.e-flux.com
Tue Sep 15 14:24:43 CEST 2015


Composed over the course of 16 years,
John Cage's Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse) 
is one of his most prescient and personal works. A repository of 
observations, anecdotes, proclivities, obsessions, jokes and 
koan-like stories, Diary registers Cage's assessment of the times in 
which he lived as well as his often uncanny portents about the world 
we live in today. This beautiful hardcover edition from Siglio 
collects all eight parts for the first time.

With a great sense of play as well as purpose, Cage traverses vast 
territory, from the domestic minutiae of everyday life to ideas about 
how to feed the world. He contemplates the consequences of both 
unbridled capitalism and an infinite field of information. He 
excoriates the state and augurs ecological disaster while taking 
heart in the great capacity for human ingenuity and compassion. A 
page or two of entries brushes Zen Buddhism with the benefits of 
legumes, fishing rights with banking in Buttonhole, Ohio, anarchy and 
revolution with the receipt of a parking ticket, so that the world he 
is observing is simultaneously intimate and immense.

Diary is populated with his intimates, friends, colleagues-Merce 
Cunningham, Marcel Duchamp, Buckminster Fuller, Marshall McLuhan, 
D.T. Suzuki, Norman O. Brown, David Tudor, James Tenney, Jasper 
Johns. Cage also invokes writers and philosophers like Thoreau, 
Wittgenstein, and Joyce, creating a prism through which ideas are 
refracted to open new ways of seeing, engaging-and changing-the world.

Originally typed on an IBM Selectric, Cage used chance operations to 
determine not only the word count and the application of various 
typefaces, but also the number of letters per line, the patterns of 
indentation, and-in the case of Part Three, published as a Great Bear 
pamphlet by Something Else Press-color. The unusual visual variances 
on the page become almost musical as language takes on a physical and 
aural presence.

While Cage used chance operations to expand the possibilities of 
creating and shaping his work beyond the limitations of individual 
taste and perspective, Diary nonetheless accumulates into a complex 
reflection of Cage's own particular sensibilities as a thinker and 
citizen of the world, illuminating his social and political 
awareness, as well as his idealism and sense of humor. The result is 
an oblique but indelible portrait of one the most influential figures 
of the 20th century American avant-garde.

Began in 1965, the texts were never published together; instead, they 
were included in three different volumes published by Wesleyan 
University Press. Co-editors Richard Kraft and Joe Biel consulted 
those publications along with Cage's original (sometimes 
hand-written) manuscripts, and-with the Great Bear pamphlet as a 
guide-they used chance operations to render the entire text in 
various combinations of the original red and blue as well as apply a 
single set of eighteen fonts to the entire work. In the editors' 
note, Kraft and Biel succinctly elucidate the procedure of chance 
operations and demonstrate its application, giving readers a rare 
opportunity to see how the text is transformed.

<https://twitter.com/sigliopress>@sigliopress is tweeting an excerpt 
of Diary every day until October 27 (#JohnCageDiary).

About Siglio Press
Siglio is an independent press dedicated to publishing uncommon books 
and editions that live at the intersection of art & literature: 
inimitable, hybrid works by renowned as well as little known artists 
and writers that defy categories and thoroughly engage a reader's 
intellect and imagination. Artists and writers we publish include Joe 
Brainard, John Cage, Sophie Calle, Dorothy Iannone, Jess, Ray 
Johnson, Richard Kraft, and Robert Seydel.

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