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D. T. Suzuki, John Cage, Fluxus

Posted 6/21/2012 4:20pm by Eugene Wyatt.

The members of Fluxus were alumni of John Cage's seminar in experimental composition at the New School, and subscribed to certain ideas emanating from Dr. Suzuki's seminars in Zen Buddhism at Columbia, both of which took place in the late 1950s. Zen ideas, as framed by Suzuki, had a vast transformative influence on the intellectual life of New York in those years. My own thought, set out in the already mentioned 1964 article, "The Art World," is seasoned with imagery I acquired from sitting in on Suzuki's class, as well as from his books. Cage is widely known for his endeavor to overcome the distinction between music and mere noise—a program generalized by Fluxus as "closing the gap between art and life." In those crucial years, especially in and around New York, the commonplace world of everyday experience had begun to undergo a kind of transfiguration in artistic consciousness. And this is a direct consequence of Suzuki's teaching. I found it philosophically thrilling to realize that nothing outward need distinguish a work of art from the most ordinary of objects or events—that a dance can consist in nothing more remarkable than sitting still, that whatever one hears can be music—even silence.

The Abuse Of Beauty, Arthur C. Danto, 2003.