Coding and Decoding

John Cages Absolute Silence suggests that this performance generates no sound what so ever. Yet, ironically, when performed there can never actually be “absolute silence” because, depending on the location, there will always be some form of background noise.

From the first time it was performed in 1916, to present day, this piece has garnered a fair bit of popularity amongst many musicians and artists. The concept behind this piece repeated, again and again, for audiences around the world. The score is certainly a controversial, inspiring, surprising, infamous, perplexing, and influential musical works. (Gann, 2010 p4)


Kern, K 2016, William Marx of John Cage’s 4’33, MaCallum Theatre, May, viewed 11 August 2016, < 

For those that have not been to a performance might believe that this is a simplistic art piece. The lack of notes on the sheet music, might seem an easy composition. However, once implemented, is actually far more complex when you consider that each time the end result is completely different to the previous performance. This is because audiences are asked to focus on the noises that surrounds them, rather that listening to the melodies they might expect to come from a piano. Gann (2010 p X) expresses Cages philosophy in regards to his work and that Cage believes that silence a very integral part of music. That there is no such thing as total silence, unless in a vacuum (Gann, 2010 p X)

When considering an artwork by Jackson Pollock, viewers can instantly see the complexity in each work as no two pieces are the same. Even if given instructions on how to perform this work, artists would be unable to generate a copy that is exactly the same as the original (that is if they were using the same materials as the original artwork). This is of course if it is indeed a human performing the task. Should the piece be given to a computer, it could be argued that an exact replica could be generated in print form. In fact, two works were exhibited in a tour of Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice in 2015. This exhibition brought forth a whole new meaning to the inherent challenges conservators face in restoring the two pieces (Collin, 2015 p95), Mural and Alchemy.


Jackson Pollock, Alchemy, 1947


Jackson Pollock, Mural, 1943

Deciphering (decoding) a piece of code that has been given to you brings a whole new meaning to both these artists and their works. To take an image then breaking it down into easily manageable steps in order to generate a new code exemplifies just how much work is actually needed in order to create a piece of work that is easily “put back together”. Especially when you have no access to the original. Having performed both tasks myself, I found that it is easy to begin a code with a complex set of instruction when first taking on the task. However, after doing this a few times, you soon begin to realise that the simpler you make the code, the easier it is to actually write instructions for images that are very complex that can then be de-coded by another person(s) with ease. Again, the simpler the code, the less likely there is to be misinterpretations of the piece. The same can be said when trying to de-code a piece of coding you have been given. The simpler the code is, the easier it is to decipher and re-create the image. Over all, after performing the tasks I was able to appreciate the works of Pollock and Cage far more.



Colin, M 2015, Mural and Alchemy by Jackson Pollock, I 95, p95-97.

Gann, K 2010, No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage’s 4’33”, Yale University Press, Vol. 1.



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