No Fixed Points - Drawings by John Cage and Merce Cunningham

1 May - 8 July, 2007

John Cage Merce Cunningham

John Cage and Merce Cunningham, London, 1962; photograhed by Hans Wild. Courtesy of the John Cage Trust at Bard College.

This exhibition comprised two series of watercolour drawings by John Cage, New River Watercolours and River, Rocks and Smoke - both produced at Ray Kass' Mountain Lake Workshop, Virginia, in 1988 and 1990 respectively. After 14 June, Cage's thirteen watercolour drawings were replaced intermittently with 30 vibrant pen and coloured pencil sketchbook drawings produced by Merce Cunningham between 1985 and 1996.

The transformation of this exhibition was determined by chance operations, determining which drawing by Cage was to be removed, and which drawing(s) by Merce Cunningham would take its place. The sequence was determined by Merce Cunnigham who threw dice in response to questions from Inverleith House staff about which work(s) by Cage should be replaced and when. The timing and sequence of replacement was as follows:

1 May to 14 June - Drawings by John Cage.

15 to 24 June  - Drawings by John Cage and Merce Cunningham, with replacement by chance operations.

26 June to 8 July - Drawings by Merce Cunningham.

24 June - 2-5pm. Sundayskool music workshop, with Nick Janaway, Lewis MacColl, Chris Reid, Jules Rawlinson and Mary Ramsden; for families. The Caledonian Hall. See programme for details.

21 to 24 June - Film Programme (the Filmhouse, Edinburgh).

24 June - 2, 3 & 4pm. Afternoon of Cage Music, Inverleith House and the Temperate Palm House. See programme for details.

A film of Merce Cunningham dancing, Blue Studio: Five Segments (1976) directed by Merce Cunningham and Charles Atlas were shown whilst Cage's drawings were in the majority and a film of John Cage working at Ray Kass' Mountain lake Workshop in Virginia, in 1990 - whilst drawings by Merce Cunningham were in the majority.

John Cage

John Cage: "River Rocks and Smoke 4/11/90 No. 1", 1990; watercolour and smoke on paper. 

Merce Cunningham

Merce Cunningham: "Untitled (lizard)", 1997, black ink and coloured pencil on paper. 


1.    Merce Cunningham. Untitled, undated

2.    Merce Cunningham. Untitled Triptych, c.1985-92 

3.    Merce Cunningham. Untitled Diptych,  c.1985-92

4.    Merce Cunningham. Untitled Triptych, c.1985-92.

5.    Merce Cunningham. Untitled, 1988.

6.    Merce Cunningham. Untitled Diptych, c.1985-92.

7.    Merce Cunningham. Untitled Diptych, c.1985-92.

8.    Merce Cunningham. Untitled Diptych, c.1985-92.

9.    Merce Cunningham. Untitled Diptych, c.1985-92.

10.  Merce Cunningham, Untitled Diptych, 1985-92.

11.  Merce Cunningham. Untitled Triptych, c.1988-93.

12.  Merce Cunningham. Untitled Diptych, 1985-92.

13.  Merce Cunningham. Untitled, undated.

14.  Merce Cunningham, Untitled, 1996.

15.  Merce Cunningham, Untitled, 1996.

16.  Merce Cunningham. Untitled, undated.

17.  Merce Cunningham, Untitled, 1996.

18. John Cage at Mountain Lake Workshop, courtesy Ray Kass, Mountain Lake Workshop, 1990.

19. John Cage. River Rocks and Smoke. 4/13/90, No. 4. 1990.
Watercolour on paper, smoke.

20. John Cage. River Rocks and Smoke, 4/9/90, No. 6. 1990.
Watercolour on paper, smoke.

21.  Merce Cunningham. Untitled, undated.

With special thanks to: Laura Kuhn and Victoria Miguel of the John Cage Trust at Bard College; the Margarete Roeder Gallery, New York; Julie Martin, Mark Francis, the Whistlebinkies and Andrew Logan of Logan Arts Management; The Filmhouse and Tullis Russell Papermakers.

John Cage

John Cage at Mountain Lake Workshop. Photo courtesy of Ray Kass, Mountain Lake Workshop, 1990. 


To complement the exhibition, an extensive series of films about John Cage were presented at the Filmhouse cinema in Edinburgh from 21 to 24 June; there was also an afternoon of performances of Cage compositions at the Royal Botanic Garden on 24 June. Victoria Miguel of the John Cage Trust at Bard College curated both the film and performance series.

The film series included Peter Greenaway's Four American Composers: John Cage (1983), and Elliot Caplan's Cage/Cunningham (1991); Cage and Henning Lohner's filmic composition One11 (1992); and the premiere of the second and third films in the Experiments in Art and Technology series of documentary films; Cage's Variations VII, and David Tudor's Bandoneon ! (Bandoneon Factorial) (a combine) directed by Swedish filmmaker Barbro Schultz Lundestam. The first of this series of films, Robert Rauschenberg's Open Score, directed by Barbro Schultz Lundestam, was also shown. See the June (2007) issue of the Filmhouse programme for full details of all the films that were shown.

The afternoon of performances on 24 June comprised Cage's compositions for plants and natural materials; Child of Tree (1975), Branches (1976), and Inlets (1977), in the Temperate Palm House, as well as 0'00' (4'33" No. 2) (1962), and his notorious 4'33" (1952) performed on the lawn outside Inverleith House, and Scottish Circus (1990) in Inverleith House. A recording of Cage reading his Lecture on Nothing (1951) was played throughout the day outside Inverleith House in the 'Secret Garden' at 40-minute intervals. Please see separate programmme for more details.


John Cage (1912 - 1992) is known for his use of non-standard musical instruments and his pioneering exploration of electronic music. He is generally regarded as one of the most important composers of his era, especially in his raising questions about the definition of music. His theories on music were first published in 1961 in his still-celebrated Silence: Lectures and Writings (Wesleyan University Press). Cage was also an avid mycologist and mushroom collector and was a co-founder of the New York Mycological Society. 

Merce Cuningham (b. 1919) received his first formal dance training at the Cornish School (now the Cornish College of the Arts) in Seattle. From 1939 to 1945, he was a soloist in the company of Martha Graham. He presented his first New York solo concert with John Cage in April 1944 and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company was formed at Black Mountain College in the summer of 1953. Since that time Cunningham has choreographed nearly 200 works for his company and received numerous awards and prizes.

Merce Cunningham

Merce Cunningham: "Untitled (tiger)", 1997, black ink and coloured pencil on paper.

All John Cage works courtesy of the John Cage Trust at Bard College.
All Merce Cunningham works courtesy of the artist and Margarete Roeder Gallery, New York.

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