Friday, 2 July 2010


Echoing a lot of the experimentation he had done with music, John Cage’s only feature film project One11 And 103 pares film down to its most basic concepts. The subject here is light itself, the very Urschleim of photography, and its behaviour in the film often runs in counterpoint with an orchestral work that Cage wrote specially for the project. Employing what sound theorist Michel Chion calls ‘synchresis’, the film binds both sonic and visual experiences together through mood and intensity. Though Cage and fellow composer Andrew Culver specifically designed the lighting arrangement so that it would be randomised to some degree, there are several audio-visual harmonies throughout the film. The grain of the film adds an extra urgency to these photographic abstractions.

It would be cliché to call the work ‘brave’ for its simplicity, especially in light of the achievements made earlier by artists like Norman McLaren and Tony Conrad, but there is something excitingly new about One11 And 103, even seeing it 18 years later. Being denied the ability to gauge even space or time in a film is an alienating experience, and this is precisely what Cage and Culver appear to reference in their collaboration. Naturally, it can get quite frustrating to watch, even if one knows what to expect from Cage. The audience is always kept on the surface of the film, but the more open-minded viewer may sink deeper, finding elementary patterns in either the visuals or the composition – this could easily be minimalism’s Fantasia.

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