Inspired by Duchamp's 'Three Standard Stoppages' (1913-14) and other art work that used chance, William Anastasi made "unsighted" work - the Blind drawings (in the early 60s) and Pocket drawings (late 60s). These led to the Subway Drawings of 1968 and the late 70s (and onwards):
In the late 70's he reinvestigated the Subway Drawings riding to and from daily chess games with John Cage.Images of the drawings: Untitled, 1994 (Subway Drawing) and another subway drawing.
Sitting with a pencil in each hand and a drawing board on his lap, his elbows at an angle of 90 degrees, his shoulders away from the back rest, Anastasi was operating as a seismograph, allowing the rhythm of the moving train - its starts, stops and turns, accelerations and decelerations, to be transformed into lines on paper. This signifies not only the internalization of chance in a work but furthermore the phenomenological process:..."it is an art object that expresses the physicality of its making." (Pamela Lee)
Anastasi demonstrates his concerns and reflections with the act of not seeing. In an 1990 interview about Anastasi's modus operandi vis a vis Surrealism's Automatism John Cage made a clear distinction:"It's not psychological; it's physical." Anastasi surrenders to a random process, allowing deeper or more intricate structures to surface. The results are mysterious and highly subtle drawings, exposing another order, a timeless noncausal scenario of universal physiological conditions.
The explicit importance of physicality and chance, the implied importance of physiology, and the denial of psychological as a goal makes Anastasi much closer to the random artists, process/documentation artists (eg Spoerri), and plotter artists (eg Verostko), than to Surrealist automatic drawing/writing. Where the Surrealist strategy attempted to remove the brain/intention from eye-brain-hand activity in order to short-circuit a more direct link to the unconscious, Anastasi, the demented archivist, removes eye (and brain) from the loop to gain distance, to allow a more indirect link - the body as seismographic machine, the artwork as record - attempting its own documentation (and yet "noncausal"?).
Anastasi's interesting James Joyce and Marcel Duchamp attempts to tease out the connections, influences and references to MD and the Large Glass in JJ's Finnegans Wake, and he discussed the influence of the 'pataphysical Alfred Jarry on MD and JJ with Jean-Michel Rabaté in "A Conversation on Joyce and Duchamp via Jarry with Anastasi" (Real or WinMedia). There are good written notes on that conversation at Artblog.
[via Ian Hays, thanks]