straight up

The performance work of John Cage was a significant catalyst in the continuing breakdown of traditional boundaries between artistic disciplines after World War II. In the late 1940s, during a residency at Black Mountain College in North Carolina, Cage organized a series of events that combined his interest in collaborative performance with his use of indeterminacy and chance operations in musical composition. Together with choreographer Merce Cunningham and artists Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, Cage devised theatrical experiments that furthered the dissolution of borders between the arts. He was particularly attracted to aesthetic methods that opened the door to greater participation of the audience, especially if these methods encouraged a heightened awareness of subjective experience. Cage’s use of indeterminacy and chance-related technique shifted responsibility for the outcome of the work away from the artist, and weakened yet another traditional boundary, the divide between artwork and audience.

Cage’s work proved to be extremely influential on the generation of artists that came of age in the late 1950s. Allan Kaprow, Dick Higgins and Nam June Paik were among the most prominent of the artists who, inspired by Cage, developed non-traditional performance techniques that challenged accepted notions of form, categorization, and composition, leading to the emergence of genres such as the Happenings, electronic theater, performance art, and interactive installations.