Alison Knowles discusses Nam June Paik and John Cage

Allison Knowles recently sent me this summary of her presentation for a panel discussion about John Cage and Nam June Paik:

Zone: Chelsea Center for the Arts
Panel Discussion: CAGE NAM JUNE

Notes about Cage and Paik;
Alison Knowles

I cannot imagine more unlike artists to compare which is what makes it so interesting.
Paik the western man and John the Eastern man. They were well positioned to try and understand each other. Each producing so much for the cultural pot of the time and coming from such philosophical opposite places.

Nam June extremely admired John, as a great pioneer whom he wished to know. He made a date and arrived at his hotel in Cologne. John was busy washing his white performance shirt in the kitchen sink " isn't it wonderful" he said surely with his wide grin and raspy laugh " that there is a fabric we can just wash and don't have to iron". Isn't that a wonderful thing.". Paik was utterly shocked that he would meet for the first time composer of this stature and find him washing out his shirt in the kitchen sink. That John would make no effort at a grand impression but rather be found doing whatever was next to be done.

The famous tie cutting incident we all know is appropriate to Paik and expresses the deep regard he had for John by making an action based in scandal. This was his strategy in performance art. People must be shocked into thinking.

Cage acknowledged Nam June as a force of nature that quite fascinated him.

Paik loved the attention of others and responded with humor and good feeling to everyone. Several years ago one could see him sitting on a bench outside a cafe at the corner of Spring street and Broadway just watching the girls go by.

After a thanksgiving dinner Upstate John and I decided to walk around the house. I don't know what prompted me to ask him what he was up to, what are you doing. With a soft sigh and that wispy voice he said " still in pursuit of emptiness".

Cage was the first composer to allow/ promote that what happens in his music is not what he may have had in mind. He made it possible for sounds, actions, images to exist that he had not conceived of, but rather given permission that sound artists, painters and poets were free to use his methods as well as their own to make music.

The first time I met Nam June was in Wiesbaden Germany at the 1962 Fluxus concert

Dick Higgins and I joined the mycological society of New York led by John Cage and Guy Nearing. I met John looking for mushrooms in the Hudson Valley.

~ From notes supplied by Alison Knowles, reprinted with permission. All rights reserved by A. Knowles.

Alison's work can be seen on her web site at

The Fluxus Blog wishes to acknowledge the generosity of Alison Knowles in sharing her memories and experiences with us and our readers.

Please follow and like us: