Count, Breathe, Begin: A Rolywholyover Re-do
Rolywholyover A Circus, John Cage (1993)
Altered exhibition catalog rehoused in a wooden file box with found objects.
The process of making Count, Breathe, Begin: A Rolywholyover Re-do feels akin to saying a certain kind of goodbye to a lover. I’ve long cherished my copy of Rolywholyover A Circus, the nontraditional exhibition catalog issued in varying sizes of loose sheets and small pamphlets of essays, contained in a metal box, for the major exhibition “composed” by, and based on the life and work of, John Cage (1912-1992). He selected musical and visual works by other artists, in addition to his own, to be displayed in a chance-determined rotation changing daily, originating at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the year after he died.
During the years of preparation for that exhibit, I was working part-time at MOCA as a slide librarian, and glimpsed Cage stepping out of the elevator onto the fifth-floor curatorial department and library, a vivid memory. Years earlier, while attending Pomona College — a decision based on a coin toss at age seventeen in rural Texas — I learned a bit about John Cage, including that he was our most famous dropout. The following decade, I happened to move from Los Angeles to Middletown, CT, home of Wesleyan University (the “other side” of the coin toss), where, beginning in 1961, Wes Press published a great number of Cage’s books, and where, in the library, one-third of Cage’s archive is held. While browsing at the library in 1999, I stumbled upon Cage’s Notations. That instance sparked the beginning of a major shift in my process of making art, one that includes several creative works in tribute to Cage, and adapting his methodologies in teaching artists’ books.
“The purpose of art is to sober and quiet the mind, so that it is in accord with what happens,” Cage famously wrote and said, his adaptation of a definition of music said to him by an Indian tabla player, “the purpose of music is to sober and quiet the mind, thus rendering it susceptible to divine influences.” In making this work, as I was tracing seashells onto a chance-determined number of Rolywholyover items — an echo of Cage’s visual art practice of tracing rocks — I began to feel in kinship with both definitions. That alignment now guides my own creative process, essential for the recent years of adapting to a brain injury.
This work includes altered versions of all 53 items originally issued in the catalog, interspersed with remnants from my own fine press books inspired by Cage, an O/P copy of As You Continue—the text of which is a quotation by Cage—along with five die, a red wooden mouse car, a yellow plastic jumping frog, and a blue monkey from my vintage Barrel of Monkeys. Those items—previously used for chance operations in my studio and in teaching, and used again to help me make this new work—are provided here for reference and to aid potential entries into the contents.
For more backstory, and notes about my approach to this Rolywholyover Re-do, please see the side-stitched Guidebook.
Robin Price measures stuff in points and picas, in degree of cognitive effort required, and when might be the next opportunity for meditation, usually through the doorway of kundalini yoga practice. She has been creating and publishing fine press artists’ books since 1984, a practice paused in recent years due to illness, and now gleefully anticipates the fall 2022 publication of marking temporary. Adoring the concept of this RE-covery II exhibition at Art Around Books, she is grateful for the opportunity to participate, which led to creating another artwork inspired directly by John Cage.