Category:interviews

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Ray Johnson, The Paper Snake, 1965, published by Dick Higgins, image: rayjohnsonestate

I've been thinking of various audio projects, something this side of an actual podcast, perhaps. But unlike a podcast, it'd be useful and interesting and not something being done already by everyone else.

And so I'm experimenting with a series I'm calling Better Read, art-related texts transformed into audio. While I'm working, I'll often use text-to-speech to listen to papers, interviews, essays, and other various longform writings. It's imperfect, but also an improvement. In the car, we've been listening to Moby Dick | Big Read, in which each chapter is read by a different person. It generally works.

So for Better Read, I am envisioning a mix of live and computer readers. Sometimes I'll get the author herself; other times, someone can read from a text they really like. I might read a few myself, but to be honest, I really don't like listening to me. Maybe you do? We may find out!

That W.H. Auden poem I posted the other day may become Better Read #1, and once I figure out the frequency, &c., I'll set up a dedicated URL

But for now, please enjoy this 1968 interview with Ray Johnson, recorded for the Archives of American Art's Oral History project. It really is a standout among an invaluable collection. And I especially like the idea of using a transcription of a recording as a script for another recording; fine tuning this process will be useful before I tackle any large, intense deposition transcripts [*cough* Canal Zone/Yes Rasta]

So definitely let me know your thoughts, advice, feedback, suggestions, requests, &c., and we'll see how this thing shapes up.

Better Read: An Interview with Ray Johnson [45min, 22mb, dropbox greg.org]

October 22, 2014

Two Hands

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It hadn't occurred to me at all until yesterday, but a still of Richard Serra's first film, Hand Catching Lead (1968) suddenly reminded me of Felix Gonzalez-Torres' 1992 billboard, "Untitled" (for Jeff). [the installation below in a Frankfurt U-bahn station was for MMK's 2011 show of G-T's work. (what is up with your impermanent links, MMK?)]

Untitled_For-Jeff_1992_mmk2011.jpg

As if the association couldn't be any more un-Serra, the title of that show, "Specific Objects without Specific Form," was co-curated in Frankfurt by Tino Sehgal.

But in a 1973 interview with Liza Bear originally published in Avalanche, Serra dismissed intention and emphasized experience:

The focus of art for me is the experience of living through the pieces, and that experience may have very little to do with the physical facts...Art's a state of being, and it's continuous. You're not just an artist when you're making art.
And in his talk at the Hirshhorn in 1994, Felix recounted how, regardless of whatever his intention for the image, the reactions to a billboard with an open hand varied dramatically depending on the culture and context in which it was shown.

Normally this is the point in a blog post where I make a profound or definitive conclusion, or at least a witty wrapup. But I put all my effort into the title, and so I have none.

The Smithsonian has added the Hirshhorn Museum's audio archive to their digital library collection, and it's great. Too often in the art world, what happens in Washington not only stays in Washington, it's forgotten in Washington. So it's unsurprising that the Nation's Attic has interesting, even important stuff in it that really should be dusted off.

One of the first recordings I headed to this weekend was a lecture by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, in association with his Summer 1994 retrospective. I hadn't heard Felix's voice in almost 20 years, and I'd never heard him talk at length about his work. I was not prepared, either, to hear him say he was getting tired about an hour into the recording. After that, I couldn't not hear his exertion to complete what was clearly a difficult, but imperative task.

It turns out I was also not prepared for how unfamiliar his work sounded in his own words. And how different his practice was from the received, sort of calcified, canonical understanding of it. The things he emphasized vs the things we saw or now see as being elemental.

Felix read part of his 1993 interview with Tim Rollins, which we know. But he also talked along to a selection of slides, which I tried to follow along in my books. Easily half the works he discussed were not included in ostensibly definitive catalogues and anthologies. Many had different titles. Some weren't illustrated.

All of this is of a piece with Felix's work, though. He would change the titles of pieces. Works he showed and sold were, near the end of his life, recategorized as "additional materials" and "non-works." But some things, installations and site-specific projects in particular, seem to have been sorted out of his canon completely and/or ignored by critics.
We work with what we have, but we too often don't see what else there is. And when we find out we've been using incomplete or inaccurate info, we're slow to adapt.

So here's a single example. It's a piece Felix started his Hirshhorn talk with, and which he said "is a key to a lot of my work, and also the way I am." And it's piece I'd never heard of or seen, whose bare, incomplete, and contradictory references in the record so far I have completely overlooked. The artist called it "Untitled" (Quatrenium).

Here's what he had to say:

It's taking longer to gather these things together, but I just found another fascinating statement-as-question from the Q&A session of a panel discussion. This time, it's "Fractures of the Civilization," a discussion by composer/philosophers C.C. Hennix and Henry Flynt, along with John Berndt, held in June 2013 at the Goethe Institut in NYC. The talk was organized in conjunction with a realization of Hennix & Flynt's 'The Illuminatory Sound Environment" at ISSUE Project Room.

I've been a fan of Flynt's music for quite a while, but in the last couple of years I've also tried to step up my engagement with his writings, his talks, his ideas. I must say, it's exasperating; there's real genius and groundbreaking thought, action and insight there, but Flynt's a maddening interviewee, and even more frustrating on a panel. My operating theory is that he's been not listened to for so long, he can't but vent. And his views often have that determined, hermetic brittleness of someone who's had to figure out the world and what's wrong with it by himself. His far-ranging intellect and the rapid vigor with which he makes leaps and pronouncements makes it basically impossible for anyone to ask a follow-up question, or to challenge or probe something further.

My hope is that someone smart enough and well-versed enough will go deep with him on the art and music where his contributions are still only feebly understood. Anyway.

ISSUE Project Room's video of the talk is here; the question comes at around 1:19:00:

There's like this thing that I think about sometimes--
oh, thanks [gets mic]
There's this thing that we--about the Cold War, Progress science in the 20th century, there's this fight between the superpowers in order to get to some,
you know, higher place
to prove some sort of animalistic thought
When that fell apart with the end of Communism,
with this idea that,
you know, Capitalism,
Neo-liberalism's gonna go all through the world
people don't have this thing to fight against, as far as this race,
we've kind of--
the science that we have--
the futurism that we've come to
it's very social and helpful,
but it's not the futurism that we had in the 60s and 70s that idea of what we'd be like
now.
So there's this need
or something
for these
you know people,
Futurist Transhumanists,
to fill in this blank area, that's sort of this faith area that I think you're talking about
where,
you know
they're taking this place of--
basically we work more, as humans now
at some point they thought
robots were gonna
DO most of the work
And people were actually worried
what the lower classes are going to do with all their free time.
But apparently, we work more
than we did in the 60s and 70s,
at least in this country.
So there's this, like,
WANT
for
something to happen with futurism,
this futurism that might be based on a science fiction or something, but
essentially these people are running away with it
and it captures people like a relgious-type
experience.
So I just wanted to say
what do you have to say about that?

Previously: 'I'm going to fail,' or Protocols of Participation

September 13, 2014

Maybe I Should Paint Them

One of the quotes that sticks with me from Richard Prince's deposition in Cariou v. Prince:

Q. All right. Now, you say you picked up a book on them?
RP: In -- literally, yes, I picked up a book.
Q. Okay. And that's the Yes Rasta book --
RP: Yes.
Q. -- that we've been talking about, that's in front of you? okay. now, down a few lines you said, But I love the look, comma, and I love the dreads. What did you mean by that?
RP: What do you mean what do I mean by that? I just said it. I love the look and I love the dreads.
Q. What did you love about the look?
RP: I love the way they looked.
Q. How so?
RP: I don't know how to answer that question, how so. I love the way they looked. I mean that's usually I get -- that's how I respond to images.
I think maybe I liked the way that they were so different.
Q. Than what?
RP: Than myself. I don't have dreads. I wish I could. I mean I think that was some of the thinking or some of the -- perhaps it goes back to the girlfriends.The reason why I took the girlfriends is I wanted to be a girlfriend.
I think some of the attraction that I had to some of these people who looked like Rastas in St. Barth, hanging out at the bars, I said to myself, Gee, I wish I could look like that some day.
So if I can't tweet like that maybe I should paint them. Maybe that's a way to substitute that desire. I mean that's the only way I can answer that love question.
Then he goes on to talk about his stepson turning him onto the reggae cover band Radiodread. It's really awesome.

September 3, 2014

Colored

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Gordon Parks, Untitled, Shady Grove, Alabama, 1956, image via arthurrogergallery

Hilarie M. Sheets' recent Artnews article on black artists and abstraction includes Howardena Pindell, whose intensive work making paintings by punching out tiny circles in the 1970s triggered this childhood memory:

On a car ride through Kentucky in the 1950s, she and her father, who lived in Philadelphia, stopped at a root-beer stand and were served mugs with red circles on the bottom.

"I asked my father, 'What is this red circle?'" she recalls. "He said, 'That's because we're black and we cannot use the same utensils as the whites.' I realized that's really the origin of my being driven to try to change the circle in my mind, trying to take the sting out of that."

And I realize I've never heard of this. Even though it makes sense within the perverse, racist logic of the segregated South. That discrimination would be manifest not just in signs over drinking fountains and bathroom doors, but that it would be in products, too, woven right the fabric of the material world.

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I looked around for examples of such discriminatory dishware, and I haven't found any yet. I wonder what they looked like. The only red dot image I can muster is of Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel tea cups, which were supposedly designed to mask ladies' lipstick marks on the rim. I'm going to assume this was not like that.

Were the dishes sold with red circles on them, or did each diner paint them themselves? Is there a folk taxonomy of segregated china and utensils, the racist equivalent of the coded language of hobos? Were they on the bottom, only visible to the waitress, on the side, where everyone could see, or legible only to those who knew? Are they hidden in plain sight in photos of the era?

Do people collect these artifacts, or is it too fraught? Is taking too great an interest suspect, like collecting Nazi dishes or mammy cookie jars? Are these things buried in attics like Japanese-American internment camp objects, too painful to unearth or discuss? Am I just looking without knowing the proper ebay keywords?

blue_pullman_blanket.jpg

While searching, I did come across this: a Pullman Porter's Blanket, at the National Museum of American History.

The standard Pullman blanket in the 20th century was dyed a salmon color, which became almost a trademark of the company. When a blanket became worn or damaged in service, it was assigned to those blankets reserved for porters' use.

This wool blanket in use between the 1930s and the 1950s, was used by African American railroad porters. According to Pullman service rules, a porter's blanket was never to be given to a passenger. Ostensibly to avoid mixing these with the passengers' blankets, the porters' blankets were dyed blue. This was to comply with statutes in the South that dealt with the segregation of blacks and whites.

og_pullman_blanket_collwk.jpg

Here's a salmon-colored Pullman blanket [via collectorsweekly]. I can't see how you could dye this to make the blanket up top. Which means these were dyed at the factory. Am I wrong, textile people?

The Changing Complex Profile of Black Abstract Painters [artnews]
Related: "Segregation," an exhibition of Gordon Parks' photos of the 1950s South, is at Arthur Roger Gallery through Sept. 20 [arthurrogergallery]

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Arthur Dove, Snow Thaw, 1930, phillipscollection.org

In this interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist, Franz Erhard Walther talks about becoming interested in the early 1960s in frames:

The original idea was to have a frame with nothing in it. It asked the spectator to project his or her idea, image, object, whatever. So, a projection field. Through the decades, it's a main theme for me, working with a frame, and the idea of projection, filling the frame by imagination.
Which I find particularly interesting because I've been looking at just the opposite: artists who paint frames around their work.

stuart_davis_blue_cafe_phillips.jpg
Stuart Davis, Blue Cafe, 1928, phillipscollection.org

Folks like Seurat painted his frames and considered them as integral elements of his works, of course. But at the Phillips Collection a few weeks ago, I noticed that American modernist painters like Stuart Davis and Arthur Dove were painting frames, and painting borders around their paintings. It gives the paintings a sense of self-containment, completion, wholeness, but it also sets them apart. With aluminum strips on each side Dove gave one later collage a window effect. ANd Davis did some kind of frame treatment on nearly every painting in the Phillips. [And on prints, the border of the paper beyond the stone serves the same formal function.]

I imagine it was something early modernists had to take on themselves because they didn't want some collector or dealer slapping a pie-crusty traditional frame on there. It was a control thing. But also a gesture of breaking with the norms of the established painting and art world of their day.

In either case, frames were still the place where the terms on which the artist's work met the world were set.

Also, I just love this Dove painting, even more than the many great Doves in the Phillips collection.

Here is an interview [in Danish, subtitled] with Danh Vo, on the making and exhibition of We The People (Detail), his full-scale copy of the Statue of Liberty. Many of the 400+ pieces of We The People were rotated and stored at the Statens Museum for Kunst in Denmark in 2012-13.

I am enthralled with this work; it strikes me as one of the smartest, most elegant, and provocative sculpture projects in years, and yet it didn't occur to me until Vo mentioned it that Gustave Eiffel, who designed a steel armature to support Bartholdi's copper repousse skin, did not see the Statue of Liberty installed in the US.

centennial_exhib_liberty_torch_stereogram.jpg

But reading up on the Statue's history, it turns out the entire statue was assembled in Eifell's factory in France, and then disassembled for shipping. Also--and I did know this and should have remembered it--the statue began as parts, exhibited. Bartholdi made the statue's arm and torch, which traveled to the US for the 1876 US Centennial, and which remained installed in Madison Square Park for several years afterward. And the head was exhibited at the Paris World's Fair in 1878, all as part of a fundraising, promotional effort for the project.

SMK TV: Danh Vo - We the People [smk.dk youtube via @aservais1]

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When this arrived last week, I immediately thought of something Sturtevant said in her short Frieze video last year, how due to cybernetics, "Simulacra was becoming minor in terms of its force."

Also: "Repetition is not repeating. Repetition is like interior movement, It's also difference, and it's also pushing the limitations of resemblance."

Because all those things feel very, very true right now.

Previously: Wade Guyton and Anxiety In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction

I like to keep up with the discussions and presentations at NYU's Institute of Fine Arts. They recently posted video of a panel I'd been waiting for from late April titled, "Protocols of Participation: Recent Models of Socially Engaged Art in the United States and Europe," where Creative Time's Laura Raicovich, and Xavier Douroux and Thérèse Legierse from Nouveaux Commanditaires, who commission and mediate public artist projects in France. IFA's own professors Thomas Crow and Alexander Nagel participated as well. [It was organized as part of ART², a whole month's worth of events I missed across the city.]

It was an interesting comparison of the two systems designed to facilitate artists' engagement in their politics, culture, and communities. So watch the whole thing.

I had it playing in the background while I worked, and during the audience questions, I was suddenly alerted to the change in cadence. I knew what was coming: the long, winding, potentially discourse-derailing statement disguised as a question.

It's a cliche of the panel discussion/public lecture format, the kind of interaction that organizers sometimes like to head off by explicitly warning against, or even by soliciting written questions. It's almost always an uncomfortable, flow-breaking moment, met with either indulgence or annoyance. No one's come to hear some rando bounce his pet theory off the headliners.

It breaks form, yet it is the form. Such questions and their possibility are intrinsic to the very format of open, public discourse. So when the breach of protocol came for an event titled, of all things, "Protocols of Participation," I resisted the urge to close tab or tune out. And I was transfixed by this unseen, unidentified woman's speech, how she said it, and even what she said. It occurred to me that probably no one would ever take her comment seriously, or even know about it.

[I vividly remember my first audience question in New York City. It was to Brice Marden at MoMA's Cy Twombly artist panel. Years later, when WPS1 posted the audio of the event, it omitted the audience Q&A segment entirely. Which can be interpreted on several levels.]

In every panel or discussion I attend, I, like everyone else, always fantasize about revolutionizing the format. Or at least fixing it. It never feels optimal. And yet it never, ever changes. So I'm going to start collecting these marginalized, random, dodged, cut-off, derailing statement/questions from audience members and see what comes of it. Do you have a favorite? Send a link, let's add it to the collection!

As you can see from the complete transcript of the audience member [with a couple of interjections and a response by Prof. Nagel], maybe these things should be written down and studied after all. Because as a text, I think it's rather fascinating. Expectations and context.

Watch/listen to the question, beginning around 1:27:10. I wanted to capture the sense of hearing it, so I left in the ums and repetitions. Line breaks are pauses.

I'm going to fail
um I missed a little bit, but I was misdirected to the wrong place, sorry
um

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Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

comments? questions? tips? pitches? email
greg [at] greg [dot ] org

find me on twitter: @gregorg

about this archive

Category: interviews

recent projects, &c.


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Social Medium:
artists writing, 2000-2015
Paper Monument, Oct. 2016
ed. by Jennifer Liese
buy, $28

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Madoff Provenance Project in
'Tell Me What I Mean' at
To__Bridges__, The Bronx
11 Sept - Oct 23 2016
show | beginnings

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Chop Shop
at SPRING/BREAK Art Show
curated by Magda Sawon
1-7 March 2016

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eBay Test Listings
Armory – ABMB 2015
about | proposte monocrome, rose

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It Narratives, incl.
Shanzhai Gursky & Destroyed Richter
Franklin Street Works, Stamford
Sept 5 - Nov 9, 2014
about | link

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TheRealHennessy Tweets Paintings, 2014 -
about

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Standard Operating Procedure
about | buy now, 284pp, $15.99

CZRPYR2: The Illustrated Appendix
Canal Zone Richard Prince
YES RASTA 2:The Appeals Court
Decision, plus the Court's
Complete Illustrated Appendix (2013)
about | buy now, 142pp, $12.99

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"Exhibition Space" @ apexart, NYC
Mar 20 - May 8, 2013
about, brochure | installation shots


HELP/LESS Curated by Chris Habib
Printed Matter, NYC
Summer 2012
panel &c.


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Destroyed Richter Paintings, 2012-
background | making of
"Richteriana," Postmasters Gallery, NYC

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Canal Zone Richard
Prince YES RASTA:
Selected Court Documents
from Cariou v. Prince (2011)
about | buy now, 376pp, $17.99

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