"Would you like to join a society called Capitalists Inc.? (Just so no one would think we were Communists.) Anyone joining automatically becomes president. To join you must show you've destroyed at least one hundred records..."
- John Cage, Lecture on Nothing, 1949.
Phase One: The Performance
I can't remember if it was Cage himself or someone he was quoting who made the Sphinx-like statement that the opposite of every idea is another good idea. For all my infatuation with Cage's music, I still like to take the kill-the-Buddha approach to his ideas and see what happens when they are deliberately opposed or misinterpreted.
I Am The President Of Capitalists Inc. was a performance and art exhibition I made in 2003. Its premise was to misunderstand Cage's intellectual teasing quoted above and interpret it as a literal instruction for some sort of expressionist, confrontational, bourgeoisie-titillating aktion – all of which are opposed to Cage's aesthetics.
To add insult to injury, my performance was conducted with the air of a re-enactment of a once-vital artistic statement which has since been embraced by the regime it once opposed and stripped of all subversive potency.
Record albums were sourced from friends and junk shops. One large crate was bought as-is without inspecting the contents. The records to be sacrificed were selected, placed in a random order and their titles printed up on large sheets, to be meticulously checked off one by one as they bit the dust.
The performance took place at the opening of an exhibition at Bus gallery in Melbourne in 2003. A small sacrifical altar was improvised, to ensure the vinyl discs were sufficiently supported so that they actually broke on impact. The golf club was a last minute idea, as I found it in a cupboard in a back room of the gallery. I now understand why golfers wear gloves.
As it was a gallery opening, with two other exhibitions opening on the same night, there was alcohol. The tone of the performance became somewhat less formal as the evening progressed. Once all the records were smashed, I handed out business cards commemorating my new status to everyone present, before going to check the art in the other two rooms.
Special thanks go to Katherine Allen for assisting me in keeping score, and to Linda Erceg for recording the procedings on video.
Phase Two: The Installation
My initial proposal to Bus gallery was for an installation. I didn't like the idea of preparing anything too fancy as an installed artwork, so I decided that the performance itself should constitute the construction of the installation. The room was left in this state for the rest of the exhibition: broken records, beer bottles and sundry detritus. A television was placed in the back corner playing the video of the performance, with the screen angled away so punters had to walk over the pile of rubbish to see what was going on.
During the exhibition some unexpected events took place in that room, but I'll save that for next time.
Ben.Harper, 2012, 2016.