No Medium (MIT Press)

No Medium (MIT Press)

Language: English

Pages: 232

ISBN: 0262527553

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

In No Medium, Craig Dworkin looks at works that are blank, erased, clear, or silent, writing critically and substantively about works for which there would seem to be not only nothing to see but nothing to say. Examined closely, these ostensibly contentless works of art, literature, and music point to a new understanding of media and the limits of the artistic object. Dworkin considers works predicated on blank sheets of paper, from a fictional collection of poems in Jean Cocteau's Orphée to the actual publication of a ream of typing paper as a book of poetry; he compares Robert Rauschenberg's Erased De Kooning Drawing to the artist Nick Thurston's erased copy of Maurice Blanchot's The Space of Literature (in which only Thurston's marginalia were visible); and he scrutinizes the sexual politics of photographic representation and the implications of obscured or obliterated subjects of photographs. Reexamining the famous case of John Cage's 4'33", Dworkin links Cage's composition to Rauschenberg's White Paintings, Ken Friedman's Zen for Record (and Nam June Paik's Zen for Film), and other works, offering also a "guide to further listening" that surveys more than 100 scores and recordings of "silent" music. Dworkin argues that we should understand media not as blank, base things but as social events, and that there is no medium, understood in isolation, but only and always a plurality of media: interpretive activities taking place in socially inscribed space.

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Cage thus translated from the genre of drawing to the genre of music.15 Following Cage’s cue, 4'33" has long been taken as the obvious intertext for the White Paintings, but I want to suggest that Music for Piano, dating from the same year, is just as closely related. Where 4'33" restages the White Paintings as a musical performance—translating its neutral lack of intentional marking as a neutral absence of intentional sounds—Music for Piano takes as its starting point the lesson learned from the

Gnedov composed his text. Following the recitation of Gnedov’s alternate title, “Поэма конца” (Poem of the end), the disc hisses and pops with the vacuum squall of a brittle wax wind for ninety-three minutes and fifty-five seconds. As Molina’s CD-R evinces, Sontag’s vanishing point is always a point of departure as well; Gnedov designated his work as an epic poem (поэма), rather than a lyric (стихотвореные), and his histrionic declamations of the work were immensely popular with audiences who

floating over the page, in the diagrammatic format of Adobe’s stylized geometric graphics: tight circles and narrow ovals; angled lines; horizontal brackets closing gaps and the hash of space; curlicues of deletion; cryptic phrases. Displaying only the errors, Gute’s pages preserve the features of texts on the verge of disappearance—remainders from the subtraction of the galleys from the proofs. 7. Susan Howe, “Melville’s Marginalia,” in Howe, The Nonconformist’s Memorial (New York: New

Congenial Soil’: Footnoting the Self in the Poetry of Charlotte Smith,” in Joe Bray, Miriam Handley, and Anne C. Henry, eds., Ma(r)king the Text: The Presentation of Meaning on the Literary Page (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000). 11. Georges Perec, “Notes concernant les objets qui sont sur ma table de travail,” Nouvelles Littéraries (February 1976); trans. John Sturrock as “Notes Concerning the Objects That Are on My Work-Table,” in Species of Spaces and Other Pieces (London, 1997), 140–143. 12.

wide as a standard North American magazine opening. Or, in other words, the dimensions of a centerfold. The work, as Friedman explains, is an erased Playboy centerfold.35 The page’s orientation and display, extended and tacked vertically to the wall, thus points to both the materiality of the paper and its absent content, to the title and its backstory. Because of its physical properties, if held by a single point the scored sheet must be suspended vertically to keep from folding over on itself

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