Note: If you see this text you use a browser which does not support usual Web-standards. Therefore the design of Media Art Net will not display correctly. Contents are nevertheless provided. For greatest possible comfort and full functionality you should use one of the recommended browsers.

Themesicon: navigation pathOverview of Media Articon: navigation pathForerunners
Concetto spaziale (Fontana, Lucio), 1949Imaginary Landscape No. 4 (Cage, John), 19514\'33\'\' (Cage, John), 1952

icon: previous page

remains of this broadcast in the faraway realms of outer space. Fontana's claims are utopian; he is going the whole hog, like the Futurists: television is to be changed into an instrument in the hands of the artists. Fontana had pronounced as early as 1948, in the second «Spazialismo » manifesto: «We will broadcast artistic forms of expression of a quite new kind, by means of radio and television.»[17] He then made this artistic penetration of space visible in 1949 by cutting through completely white images («Concetto spaziale») and later, from 1953, in light installations using neon tubes. Perhaps a totally utopian approach of this kind was possible only in a country like Italy, which was still largely untouched by television, as it completely fails to take account of all aspects of the real competition for future markets in the mass medium, which was already completely underway in the USA at the time.

The receptive-analytical strategy: John Cage and radio

In the USA, John Cage found scope for a new definition of the medium deriving from receivers, rather than broadcasters. In his 1951 composition «Imaginary Landscape No. 4» and some other pieces he used the


radio as a musical instrument. The score instructs twenty-four performers to select volume, tone and station on twelve radios. The piece is four minutes long, and here, a year to come before his famous silent piece «4'33''» Cage makes two random structures overlap: for the composition he uses incidental components from the Chinese oracle «I Ging» combined with incidental sounds from the radios; sounds that are in the air have to be received on the predetermined frequencies according to the time and location of the production. Thus Cage is realizing one of the first fully «open artworks» using technical media—incidentally, even before Umberto Eco coined this term.[18]

In fact, «Imaginary Landscape No. 4» represents a fresh start in Cage's work in three respects: it is the first performance of a piece in which he uses the «I Ging,» and it is the first use of media information that is not entirely predetermined.[19] The two different starting-points adopted by Cage meet: the ancient Chinese oracle and modern American media technology. Thirdly, «Imaginary Landscape No. 4» also uses silence as a compositional element: Cage says that

icon: next page