Wednesday, December 24, 2014

John Cage Christmas Card

In 1957 John Cage was paid $400 a month to serve as a graphic artist/stylist for the advertising and promotional program for the New York firm of Jack Lenor Larsen, Inc. His contract ran from July 1st to December 31st. It was not renewed.

Towards the end of the year, the head of the company wrote him a respectful letter, sympathizing with his originality and labor, but noting “the job that needed, does need, will need doing, was not complete.” Cage replied with a stinging rebuke, thanking him for the “cursory vocational psychoanalysis” and noting that his working method was "intimately my own" and renowned elsewhere.

Before this exchange Cage was tasked with creating the company's yearly holiday card. He proposed a hand-cut paper snowflake placed in a small handmade Japanese box upon a small piece of one of Larsen's fabrics.  Their discussion was later recounted as follows:

Larsen: John, your idea is a lovely one, but I'm afraid the notion of handcutting hundreds of snowflakes is a bit much. Perhaps we could have them die-cut instead and save you and Merce [Cunningham] the trouble of doing so much work.

Cage: I dont think it would be the same.

L: No, but with the right printer, I doubt I would be able to tell the difference between the two.

C: Perhaps, but I would be able to tell the difference.

L: I've seen this done recently, and the results are quite nice. I'm certain you couldn't tell the difference...

C: Even if I were unable to see the difference, the snowflake would know.

The printed card Cage designed in the snowflake's stead is above. 

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