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