What is the minimum quantity of substance necessary to qualify as a piece of art?
Luckily for us, John Cage has provided a candidate for the most compelling answer.
John Cage composed a piece titled “4:33” (1952) which is a three part piece consisting of four and a half minutes of silence. It has been performed at the BBC proms in 2012 by the London Sinfonietta, and is considered a very serious work of art.
This kind of balls cannot be grown out of bravado. It is bourn from a thesis that explores the very extremes of what constitutes art.
The experience of 4:33 is absurd and unique. As the conductor commences the piece, both audience and orchestral members recognise a tension in the moment.
The auditory experience becomes the quiet, uneasy murmur from the crowd, faint hum from the stage fixtures and collective dissonance felt in the highly unusual circumstance.
And as the performance continues, the audience members realise they are no longer the audience, but the main performers in that moment. In other words, crafted silence for 4:33 suddenly puts the spotlight back on them as the main performer.
I don’t actually dig this piece unless there is a specific enrolment to 4:33 because being an involuntary participant to this piece generates an over arching emotion of awkwardness (although it is potent).
But the idea of placing the focus back on the audience is a powerful bad ass mother fucking idea worth stealing for any artist from any field.