We became aware of John Sanborn while searching the Internet. He combines a masterful command of the medium video and its artistic possibilities such as choreography and performance. One of his role models is the Korean Nam-June Paik, whose name is linked to the recognition of video as another art form. The reference to indeterminism in the compositional work of John Cage adds a complex compositional component.

“John Sanborn (born 1954) was a key member of the second wave of American video artists that included Bill Viola, Gary Hill, Dara Birnbaum, and Tony Oursler. Sanborn's body of work spans the early days of experimental video art in the 1970s through the heyday of MTV music/videos and interactive art to digital media art of today.[…]
In the late 1970s, Sanborn was one of the artists-in-residence at ‘TV Lab’ at ‘Thirteen/WNET’, an experimental environment started by the Rockefeller Foundation and Nam June Paik as a playpen for video artists to create works for broadcast television. He also created works for the ‘VISA’ series (originated by Paik) and showed installations at the Whitney Museum, participating in two ‘Biennial Exhibitions’. […]
John Sanborn was granted an honorary ‘Masters of Cinema’ degree from the ‘ESEC’ in Paris, and was named a ‘Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres’ by the ‘Minister of Culture of the Republic of France’. […]”
 – Source: John Sanborn (media artist) (en.wikipedia.org), 2020, layout modified by author

Three examples demonstrate the technical possibilities of the medium:
 
A trailer and an excerpt from “Charlotte's Groove” give an idea of the complex virtuosity of the live performance at the museum in Berkeley, CA, USA, and the live video:
 
More than 60 people – some of them dressed, others nude – made the live performance possible. Some of them performed all over the space, others constantly moved through the museum rooms with cameras attached to their heads, together with the audience, to film the live events. The video streams were processed live in video mixing consoles and compiled into a new work. On top of the level of live performance is another one of live video. There, not only the recorded content is constantly in motion – also the video constantly changes the format of the presentation, so that sometimes a single large image, sometimes several windows with different content can be seen. During 96 minutes both adults and children have an impressive experience:
[01:36:58] PICO (performanCe indeterminAte caGe opEra) Berkeley, CA, USA, 14 September 2012
[01:36:58] PICO (Performance Indeterminate Cage Opera)
Berkeley, CA, USA, 14 September 2012

John Sanborn

  • “[…] a key member of the second wave of American video artists that included Bill Viola, Gary Hill, Dara Birnbaum, and Tony Oursler. Sanborn’s body of work spans the early days of experimental video art in the 1970’s through the heyday of MTV music/videos and interactive art to digital media art of today. […]”
     – Source: John Sanborn (wikipedia.org), 2020, layout modified by author
  • “A director and producer, known for […] ‘The Planets’ (2011) and ‘Performance Indeterminate Cage Opera’ (2013). […]”
     – Source: John Sanborn (IMDb), 2020, layout modified by author
  • Theresa Wong, cello player in PICO

John Sanborn's sources of inspiration

John Sanborn is a professional video effects specialist, who is in demand as an expert for so-called “special effects” in film productions. Wikipedia describes him as a video artist in the context of Bill Viola, Gary Hill, Dara Birnbaum, and Tony Oursler. John Sanborn names Nam-June Paik, who established video as another art form, the painter and object artist Marchel Duchamp, and the composer John Cage as his sources of inspiration. We offer links to further information.

John Sanborn sums up his work “PICO” in this way:

  • “The heart of the work are interpretations of the ways and meanings of change, as instigated by Cage, conceptualist Marcel Duchamp, and video artist (and my personal master) Nam June Paik.”
     – Source: Statement by John Sanborn at the beginning of the video PICO Live, layout modified by author
  • “If you took the musical revolution of John Cage, the radical thinking of Marcel Duchamp, and the media anarchy of Nam June Paik, and put them in a blender; the result would be PICO. […]”
     – Source: Performance Indeterminate Cage Opera (2013) (IMDb), 2020, layout modified by author

Because John Sanborn attaches so much importance to indeterminism in the compositional work of John Cage, we have added an extensive collection of links on this topic.

John Cage

John Cage has been a frequent guest at the regional radio station WDR in Cologne, including one of his birthdays in the 1980s. As a birthday present, the radio station dedicated a 24-hour programme without interruptions to him, featuring sound gifts from other artists, examples of his compositions, and interviews with him.

  • “John Milton Cage (September 5, 1912 - August 12, 1992) was an experimental music composer and writer, possibly best known (some might say notorious) for his piece ‘4′ 33″’, often described (somewhat erroneously) as ‘four and a half minutes of silence.’ He was an early writer of aleatoric music (music where some elements are left to chance), used instruments in non-standard ways and was an electronic music pioneer. […]
     – Source: Biography (biographybase.com), 2020, layout modified by author
  • “John Milton Cage Jr. (September 5, 1912 – August 12, 1992) was an American composer, music theorist, artist, and philosopher. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. Critics have lauded him as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance, mostly through his association with choreographer Merce Cunningham, who was also Cage's romantic partner for most of their lives. […]
    Cage was also a pioneer of the prepared piano (a piano with its sound altered by objects placed between or on its strings or hammers), for which he wrote numerous dance-related works and a few concert pieces. The best known of these is Sonatas and Interludes (1946–48). […]”
    His teachers included Henry Cowell (1933) and Arnold Schoenberg (1933–35), both known for their radical innovations in music, but Cage's major influences lay in various East and South Asian cultures. Through his studies of Indian philosophy and Zen Buddhism in the late 1940s, Cage came to the idea of aleatoric or chance-controlled music, which he started composing in 1951. […]”
     – Source: John Cage (en.wikipedia.org), 2020, layout modified by author
  • Performance Practice in the Indeterminate Works of John Cage, by Judith Irene Lochhead, Claremont Colleges Library, California, USA
  • Indeterminacy, Tater Z the Anti-G and DJ Hunsmire's Musical Studies Index
  • Understanding indeterminate music through performance: Cage’s Solo for piano, by Philip Thomas, University of Huddersfield, UK
  • John Cage (1912 - 1992) – Discography, CAGE EDITION by volume, John Cage performances (moderecords.com)
  • The Complete John Cage Edition
  • “‘John Cage Day’ was the name given to several events held during 2012, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the composer John Cage.
    These events included ‘John Cage Day’ at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, held on August 9, 2012, ‘John Cage Day’ at ‘The Proms’ in the Royal Albert Hall, London, on August 17, 2012,[2] and ‘John Cage Day’ at Elder Hall, University of Adelaide, Australia, coinciding with Cage's birthday on September 5, 2012.[3] The organizer of the latter event, composer and performer Stephen Whittington, has proposed that September 5 annually celebrated globally as ‘John Cage Day’. […]”
     – Source: John Cage Day (en.wikipedia.org), 2020, layout modified by author
  • Music Analysis, Theory & Composition, Tater Z the Anti-G and DJ Hunsmire's Musical Studies Index

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