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Public Lecture, Performance

Lecture on Nothing by Kay Larson

Oct 25 | 7:00 pm - 10:30 pm

University of Victoria, Phillip T Young Recital Hall

Kay Larson, art critic, columnist and author (New York), discusses and directs a performance of John Cage’s Lecture on Nothing, first performed at the 8th Street Artists’ Club in New York in 1949. The lecture is written as a piece of music organized around a series of “empty” time intervals or durations. The central statement of the lecture, ‘I have nothing to say and I’m saying it’ reads as an oxymoron at first, but when considered further reveals Cage’s inquiry into Zen.

In this lecture, Larson explores how the “emptiness” that Cage was seeking is embodied in the “nothing” of “Lecture on Nothing.” She asks, what is emptiness? What is nothing? Empty of what? How is “nothing” construed in relation to all the “somethings” we partake in? What was Cage thinking? Her insights are embodied in a performance structured as a proposition on emptiness performed by UVic students and community members. 

Larson is an acclaimed art critic, columnist, and author who wrote feature articles and a column of art criticism for New York magazine for fourteen years. When that job ended, she began Zen Buddhist practice at Zen Mountain Monastery in upstate New York. She has been a frequent contributor to the New York Times and her writing has appeared in many types of publications: Artnews, the Village Voice, Vogue, Artforum, as well as international newspapers, popular press, and museum exhibition catalogues. After a decade of intensive Zen, she now practices in the Karma Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

About ‘Where the Heart Beats’ Larson writes: “This book has been a fifteen-year journey into the world of John Cage, who was teacher to so many, and who taught me, too. As real Zen teachers do, he modeled a way of life for me. This kind of teaching doesn’t need physical proximity. It is best displayed within the life of the person who teaches. What choices did he make? Why did he make them? What questions did he ask? Cage modeled a life that lives on in the daily moments of those who knew, loved, and were taught by him.”

Presented in partnership with The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria and the University of Victoria, Faculty of Fine Arts, Orion Series in Fine Arts.


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