Bochner Chapter 7

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M.B. If I can refind that thought (...). The discourse around conceptualism was basically kidnapped by one side of the equation, and if the equation or the dialectic is »knowledge versus experience«, or »knowledge vs. perception«, the »knowledge« side (...) gained a certain authority during the 60s. It was always my position, belief, thought that if you have an art that's merely material, you have an empty art; if you have an art that turns its back on experience, than you have a different kind of emptiness, but an emptiness nonetheless. And so if there was one thing that I was fighting against ... and you used the word »motto«... if I did have something that ... I believe was being missed, it was the statement that I wrote on the wall in a gallery in 1970, that language is not transparent (nods). Because you can't refute the Abstract Expressionist's position that a brushstroke equals emotion, by saying that a word equals a thought (smiles). So if you are going to try to engage with your work in that historical critique of what Abstract Expressionists means to my generation because I was educated as an Abstract Expressionist (...). You oversimplify to believe that language is some direct conduit to knowledge. And it has been one of the things that has driven my work to try to find a place where language and perception or language and experience have some equality, with neither one having authority or domination over the other. And that's probably as theoretical as I want to get in this conversation (laughs).

S.R. No, that's, that's's pretty interesting. (...) I ask myself a very trivial question. If you say you stopped writing or publishing writings of yourself in the beginning, in the middle of the 70s (...). How is your relation to theoretical reflections published in for example »October« or other magaines like »Documents«...? Do you read this [...]?

M.B. Yes, I do. I read it the same way I read the sports picture (smiles); it's like following a sports team (...), it's a kind of amusement, because when you've been around long enough you know that it's always changing, and so it's very interesting; it fits in with my interest in misinterpretation. Over a period of time that one has worked and seen many things written about their work, the misinterpretations change constantly. The fact is though, it's not my responsibility to provide correct interpretations. And in some ways, the more misinterpretations that accrue that sort of like attach themselves like barnacles to the bottom of a ship, the more interesting the work becomes. Case in point: Warhol. What did Warhol intend or mean, no one can imagine but there are so many different possible interpretations of that. (...) So one follows that like one follows the baseball scores, but one never takes it seriously // S.R. Some do. (laughs) // M.B. Well, there are works by art historians that one reads and gains a lot of information from and certain people whose work I follow, but in terms of... what's rapidly become obvious that there are theoreticians who gain a fashionable following and their interpretation becomes dominant and then they go out of fashion [...]; they come and they go for no apparent reason. I guess the relationship of theory and practice has changed over a period of time. Whereas once –  and this has always been my position –  theory follows practice, a practice evolves out of experience; a theory is cobbled together to attempt to find some (...) way of conveying general principals about this theory. But that has been turned around now as theory evolves out of theory, then practices try to attach themselves to theory and follow the prescription of theory. Theory is interesting to me as long as it doesn't become prescriptive; once it's telling you what to do, then it's the same as going to a doctor. You go to a doctor to ask for some medicine to make you well. I don't feel I'm sick.

S.R. But do you think it's possible that sometimes the theory is more productive or more effective in creating ideas than the practice? // M.B. For example? // S.R. For example in the 80s the discussions about new streams of Abstract Expressionism like Neuen Wilden in Germany or Transavanguardia; maybe the theory or the non-existence of the theory was more interesting to read than to see the pictures because for me this pictures were, I was socialized in that time, I was studying in that time, and for me it really was not interesting to see the pictures [...]; but reading the texts which were really flat often told me that it is not interesting to participate in a discussion [...]. If you read the texts you understood that it wasn't necessary to look at the pictures. In parallel, there were very small gestures for example like appropriation and the discussion about appropriation until now is very productive; there are happening a lot of things talking about context, gender, sex, institutions, economics. What is the difference between the vintage print of Walker Evans and the photo of Sherrie Levine for example...

M.B. That's an issue of inside and outside of certain circles. I hear what you say and I understand the truth of that. As far as I was concerned, none of those strategies were particularly new. And, maturing as an artist during the 60s, those were already underground conversations; these were not things that came as a surprise to me when I saw them in the 80s. Perhaps for people who were outside of this conversation, it was very productive and lead to a possibility of thinking things they hadn't thought about before. But in relationship to things that already existed to the work of myself, Smithson, Buren, Nauman, Dan Graham, the feminists, the early days of feminism; the Artworkers Coalition meetings and arguments, the closing of museums, [...] all the conversations that came out of that, to me it wasn't news. In some ways you are dealing with information that is entering to a mass audience by the 80s, and certain people did work that was very interesting, but it's not as if it was work that didn't have very strong precedents. I think the theory was already in place with Foucault's writings and Derrida... which were coming to us between 1969 and 1972. The fact that it took another ten years, twelve or fourteen years, to enter the larger... to filter through Artforum and through Artforum to all the media people who read Artforum –  that doesn't surprise me.


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