In 1949 John Cage – polymath composer, poet, theorist and visual artist – after archival research, published Erik Satie’s 1893 composition Vexations. Unpublished in Satie’s own lifetime, Vexations would quickly become what the New York Times would later call “a dangerous and evil piano piece.”

Satie’s Vexations, is a score of only a single page, yet it contains, at the top of the page, a short note, which, translated into English, reads “In order to play the theme 840 times in succession, it would be advisable to prepare oneself beforehand, and in the deepest silence, by serious immobilities.”

In 1963 Cage organized a marathon performance – lasting 18 hours and 40 minutes and performed by a group of 10 performers (including David Tudor, Christian Wolff and John Cale of the Velvet Underground), in shifts. He later believed that Vexations complemented his own efforts in repetition, silence and boredom: “In Zen they say: If something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, try it for eight, sixteen, thirty-two, and so on. Eventually one discovers that it’s not boring at all but very interesting.”

For the last year I have been engaging in a visual translation of Satie’s Vexations. Echoing the marathon performance of 10 musicians, each performing 84 iterations of the score, I use 10 different photocopiers to  copy the 1-page score repeatedly, a copy of a copy of a copy, 84 copies per machine. The copies are then scanned and published through an online print-on-demand publisher in a limited edition of 26 copies. When completed I will have created / written 840 iterations of Satie’s score, each piece reflecting the idiosyncrasies of each machine’s “performance.” The volumes interpret and disintegrate Satie’s score, they slide, deform, degrade and fade into the graphic equivalent of “furniture music”; an ambient visual poetic. As each photocopier “reads” and “performs” the piece, the performance reflects the personality of the performer, the “physical” and “mental” strain of the marathon expressed in physical degradation.

Each volume uses a different photocopier to degenerate Satie’s score – with startlingly unique results. Taken as a 10-book suite, the completed project will present 840 variations (84 variations per book over 10 books). The books are each produced in a limited edition of 26 copies (176 pages $26 + shipping, each)

The editions of Vexations so far:

Vexations Book 1Lexmark XM9155.

Vexations Book 2: Xerox Workcentre 5755.

Vexations Book 3: Lexmark XM5163.

Vexations Book 4: Xerox Workcentre 7845i