Baldessari Chapter 7

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S.R.: Would you like to be an artist again? If you had the choice?

J.B: An artist again? What do you mean?

S.R.: If you had the choice... [...] maybe you started studying art, you would again use this possibility to be an artist, or would you want to be something else?

J.B.: Oh I see, if I could play the film backwards, would I still make a choice? That's a good question. [...] I sort of got a little late into art, because I really had this social consciousness, actually I thought I should be a social worker, and then I thought art was very self-indulgent, massapatory, it really didn't help anybody. [...] My epiphany came when I was teaching juvenile delinquents – next step would be prison [...] – and I discovered they valued doing art more than I did, and I'd say, well that's interesting. It seemingly does some good, and I suppose it's a kind of – for want of a better word – some »spiritual nourishment« that people do need. I guess that was enough. I said I probably have more gifts as an artist than a social worker and I can always help out by some social courses by donating art or whatever [...] in a live action. So I guess knowing now, what I know, yes. If I didn't know what I know now, then it would have been the same agony. Sometimes I want to quit. In the middle of the night I think all artists do is make trinkets for rich people, and I get discouraged, but then I just know that's part of it. It does supply a lot of nourishment for other people, too.

S.R.: I have one more regular question in my list. And this is a little bit more personal interest. How would describe your ideal typical daily work as an artist?

J.B.: My good friend, Lawrence Weiner, once called me a nine-to-five-artist, like an office worker. I guess he's right. In a sense I have a very routinized life. We open up the studio at 10 o'clockand we close at 6 o' clock [...] everyday, well any other than Saturdays and Sundays. I think if you are an artist you belong in your studio. My good friend Bruce Nauman always said, it doesn't even matter if all you do is sweep up the studio, at least you are doing something. And the idea that eventually you're going to get bored. I think creativity comes out of boredom, so you start doing something. I don't think it's going to happen unless you are there in your studio. I really think it's very important.

S.R.: I think it's the opposite to what Daniel Buren is practicing with his in situ-works. We just met him three weeks or four weeks ago. I asked him, how it came out after thirty years traveling around and having no studio, and he said, I feel fine. It's still being on the trip and so on. This is very interesting to see these polar types of working with art. [...] As a young student he was traveling around through the studios in Southern France visiting all the great masters like Picasso. He developed his own practice out of this experience. The opposite is to have this very concentrated [...] situation of the studio where you continue your own work step by step.

J.B.: [...] There can be the person that really never gets out of their studio and is a hermit. Perhaps you'd call them a closet artist. The work never gets out into the world. I think I was kind of like that when I was in this movie theatre, I didn't know how to get my work out in the world, I just kept painting. But on the other hand Daniel would be a good case, a person that was always out in the world. And I think between that artists locate themselves. I don't know that it's possible ever to get it right. Sometimes I think I'm on the road too much and sometimes I think I'm on the road too little. It's really hard to get the right balance. I guess the answer is how and where do you do your best work and then you'll obviously in situ. [...] like Lawrence Weiner, a good friend and also Daniel too, he's out in the world a lot, too. He does works in the house, but he is o the road a lot. I couldn't do it. Everybody finds their own way of being able to address that problem.

S.R.: I think I got some very useful answers from you. Thank you very much. At the end of the interview I want to ask you if you want to say something from your heart [...]?

J.B. Free all artists?! (laughs)

S.R. Maybe...

J.B.: No. I have nothing to say ....

S.R. Thank you very much. It was a great honor to be guest in your studio.


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