The Autonomy of the Art Object

In 1977, Anastasi performed You Are at the Clocktower in New York for three nights (ten years after its initial conception and being rejected by the MoMA). The work plays out as such:

A narrator describes the audience for ninety minutes; a court stenographer takes down the narration; a typist types up a longhand version of this from the shorthand notes; a "page stapler" fastens each page when ready to a wall at eye level.

Anastasi described the work as "hearing vis-à-vis reading" and took delight in the mistakes and misunderstandings that naturally arose, as in "gesticulating" becoming "just tickulating."

“It's not psychological; it's physical.” -John Cage on Anastasi's work

The present owner of the lot ran a stenographic service in Manhattan and was hired to take part in the performance; unable to pay their fee, Anastasi paid the participants in art. You Are ran for three nights, with the final performance featuring John Cage as the narrator; the present owner remembers Cage putting a garbage can on her Selectric typewriter and remarking that her typing errors were beautiful. This performance was also significant in that it was the first time Cage and Anastasi worked together, beginning a lifelong friendship and collaboration (as well as years of daily chess games).

A few nights after the performance, the present owner was invited to Anastasi's home to pick out a piece of art and she chose Brown-Paper & Wire, which is representative of Anastasi's process-driven, anti-aesthetic body of work. Brown-Paper & Wire and its acquisition display the necessity of presence, patience and chance in how artworks are conceived of, incubate, interconnect and are eventually, realized and remembered. 

[Duchamp] contributed to my thinking about the whole question of “beautiful” and “ugly” as simply prejudices. You know, Heraclitus, years before Plato and Spinoza, wrote that the most beautiful thing in the world—or “cosmos” depending on the translation—is a pile of random sweepings. How marvelous!

William Anastasi

William Anastasi

William Anastasi is a pioneer in the Conceptual, Minimalist, and Process art movements of the 1960s. His interdisciplinary approach to art incorporates drawing, sound, photography, sculpture, and site-specific installations and interventions and is meditative and philosophical in its dealings with everyday life, materials, objects and spaces.

Anastasi was born in Philadelphia in 1933 and attended his first art class at the age of twelve; he says that from his earliest memory, he has been drawing every day. His mother, an immigrant to the United States from Italy by way of Algeria, instilled a daunting challenge in Anastasi at a young age, when she stated that "of course the best thing anyone could be in this world is an artist." Since then, an anxiety around this provocation has spurred his limitless curiosity into the validity of the art object, the creative process and the ego of the artist.

Auction Results William Anastasi