Essay for InterCommunication No 32 Spring 2000
ICC Magazine (Tokyo)

Time Artists: John Cage, Hollis Frampton, Pat O’Neill

Grahame Weinbren

Assembling audio-visual material, shaping its rhythm and flow in time, constructing sequences that speak or, better, sing — these are the activities that have kept me working. Time is my medium. I have never been interested in treating time as a single linear stream, in compressing pictured experience so that it can fit into such a stream. We are multi-linear creatures, simultaneously living in the future and the past and the present. I have been most influenced by artists who challenge a linear vision of being human, and who have succeeded in expressing their outlook with precision, with commitment, with passion, and with a light touch.

John Cage divides the responsibility for music between composer, performer, and listener: his works demand that the three collaborate, while breaking down the demarcations we customarily draw between these roles. There is no passive listener for Cage’s music, and the performing musician cannot adopt the position of a proficient drone—each participant, musician or audience member, is required to exercise his or her imagination. At the same time, the composer relinquishes control to a significant degree. Cage’s principles are highly pertinent to the idea of interactivity — I try to keep them in mind as I work on my own pieces.

Hollis Frampton’s films are revolutionary in their organization of time. The viewer finds himself caught simultaneously in multiple time-zones —anticipation, memory and prediction are as demanding as perception in the experience of a Frampton film. The idea that a film could be constructed from a strictly applied concept was a breakthrough in my thinking about art-making. Now, 25 years later, when I look at a Frampton film, I am as much captivated by its visual qualities — the beauty of a photograph burning on an electric cooking ring — while never losing my admiration for the filmmaker’s rigor.

And Pat O’Neill.

Pat O’Neill follows his own inner vision, creating image worlds that correspond to the internal workings of an absolutely original imagination, parallel universes in which the laws of physics, chemistry, logic, and mathematics are routinely rewritten. Part of O’Neill’s inspiration for me is that he has always used current technology to express and explore private obsessions and personal phantasms. The richness and depth, and the freshness of O’Neill’s images surprises me again and again.