changing installation 1991

John Cage
The Carnegie International: October 19, 1991 – February 16, 1992
chairs, artworks

With its distinctive space the Mattress Factory was a constituent of the 1991 Carnegie International the 51st in a series of contemporary art exhibitions...


With its distinctive space, the Mattress Factory was a constituent of the 1991 Carnegie International, the 51st in a series of contemporary art exhibitions of The Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

John Cage designed his installation for the fourth floor of the Mattress Factory’s main building at 500 Sampsonia Way. The space was raw, unfinished and unchanged from Cage’s first view of the room. The installation within the room changes daily. It consists of six chairs and forty-eight wall-hung works, twelve each by Dove Bradshaw, John Cage, Mary Jean Kenton, and Marsha Skinner. Each element in the installation has been assigned a number, which determines whether it will be seen and where it will be positioned in the room. The choice and placement of both works and chairs are determined by a computer-generated formula. Each morning for 103 days, fifteen of the works are hung and one or more chairs are positioned according to their number. Every day a camera, positioned according to another script, made a chronicle of the changing gallery.

Artist Statement

in an empty room the chair(s), the walls neither painted nor the paint removed (the walls as they are), the use of chance operations to determine the placement and orientation of the chair(s) and which fifteen of a source of forty-eight works, twelve each by dove bradshaw, john cage, mary jean kenton, marsha skinner are presented each day in which positions

About the Artist

Working during the heyday of Abstract Expressionism, John Cage honed his skills in the midst of the growing American avant garde. Neither a painter or a sculptor, Cage is best known for revolutionizing modern music through his incorporation of unconventional instrumentation and the idea of environmental music dictated by chance. His approach to composition was deeply influenced by Asian philosophies, focusing on the harmony that exists in nature, as well as elements of chance. Cage is famous not only for his radical works, like 4’33” (1952), in which the ambient noise of the recital hall created the music, but also for his innovative collaborations with artists like Merce Cunningham and Robert Rauschenberg. These partnerships helped break down the divisions between the various realms of art production, such as music, performance, painting, and dance, allowing for new interdisciplinary work to be produced. Cage’s influence ushered in groundbreaking stylistic developments key to contemporary art and paved the way for the postmodern artistic inquiries, which began in the late 1960s and further challenged the established definition of fine art.

In 1949 he was honored with a Guggenheim Fellowship and received an award from the National Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1986 he received an honorary Doctorate of Performing Arts from the California Institutes of the Arts.