Mobile Strategies: Cage, Rauschenberg, Paxton and the ‘Body’ in mid-century Minimalism.

This paper focuses on the body as the ‘invisible heart’ of Minimalism.

Cage’s 4’33’’ (1952), Rauschenberg’s White Paintings (1951), and Steve Paxton’s Small Dance (1967?) could perhaps be a trilogy of works representing the Minimalist limit-point of music, art and dance in 20th century American modernism.

These three works and their artists are brought together here to represent both this culmination of reductive aesthetic strategies, and the historical moment at which art turns inside-out and lands, squarely, in the bodies of artists and their audiences. If ‘there is no such thing as silence’ for Cage, ‘a canvas is never blank’ for Rauschenberg, and later ‘a dancer is never still’ for Paxton, it seems that the end-point of Minimalist reduction is the body as it is experienced.

This paper focuses on the body as the ‘invisible heart’ of Minimalism. In doing so, it critiques Minimalist sculpture as the origins of ‘post-modernist’ contemporary dance, asserting pre-existing dance knowledges as circulating trans-disciplinarily, and being crucial to the emergence of certain radical aesthetic strategies in sculpture, music and art. This provides an alternative aesthetic genealogy for experimental dance since Judson Dance Theater, and repositions dance within the creative milieu of mid-century America.