Bordowitz Chapter 2

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S.R. [...] For me the interesting point is – and you already touched it a little bit – the inter-relation between conceptual reflexion on the representation system, and then in the 80s as you figured it out by the AIDS-crisis and other influences the issue of identity politics came very strongly into the artistic field. Maybe it's interesting to hear a little bit more about this, how you experienced this and how you developed your position.

G.B. The context of the Aids-crisis completely shaped my work and my life very specifically and dramatically. But I have to say my interest in politics predated the Aids-crisis. Mark Dion and I worked together on the Lower East Side with a group that was working in solidarity with the Nicaraguan revolution. We were very much interested in doing political work, and using our talents as artist we idealized the Soviet model (smiles), Constructivism and Productivism, Productivism more specifically which we had actually been studying and hearing about through B. Buchloh's class at School of Visual Arts, as well as being influenced by C. Owens' engagement with feminism and identity politics. We were trying, I was trying to find a way to bring my work directly into contact with social movements for change before the Aids-crisis. The Aids-crisis happened and I was already pre-disposed to moving my work in that direction. I was dissatisfied (?) to talk to Mark about this, I have talked about it to him a long time, but I was very dissatisfied with the abstract nature of the political work I was doing and the way I couldn't really bring formal experimentation into that context. When I say that we did Nicaraguan solidarity work, we were basically making the posters (smiles) [...] there was not much room for the kind of formal interrogation I was very much interested in as well. Also it seems very abstract I was living in a Spanish-speaking neighbourhood yet I was doing political work about a place in Central America that was very far away and of a different culture than my Puertorican neighbourhood [...]. I tried to do political work, and also be in contact with the people around me, but in fact, the work that I was doing wasn't really bringing me in direct contact with my neighbours and friends in the Lower East Side. The Aids-crises arose and posed a challenge to meet, which was a challenge I was ready to meet, which was to do work that was directly responding to sth that was happening to all of us. But you asked a slightly different question. There are different tendencies within the history of art that I identified with that made this leap possible. I was very much interested in historical Conceptual art, I was J. Kosuth's assistant in the mid 80s form 1983 to 1985. That was part of my interest and love of art and the history of art, and my work at that time and my studying with Kosuth was very much about furthering art, and I've never let go of my preoccupations with the language and discourse in history of art but I've always felt that the language history in discourse of art were shaped and advanced – there can be an advance – through its engagement with larger history. There was a certain kind of hermeticism, a sealed-off nature of gallery Conceptual art that lead me to look to models such as M. Rosler and A. Piper and then most significant for me Y. Rainer. [...] Y. Rainer is probably the most significant and largest influence on my work and my thinking about my work. I saw »Journeys from Berlin« (?) in the mid 80s and I saw »The Man Who Envied Women« also in the 80s and Yvonne's capaciousness, the way that she can brace everything within the scope of a film and not let go of her formal interrogation; how she could be experimental at the level of representation and at the same time directly engaged with what's going on around her in her world was hugely influential on me. Basically I just tried to do that; my first video is (...) the videotape of a young bisexual man caught in the Aids-crisis trying to do a M. Rosler videotape (??) some aspect of a shared lifestyle (smiles). If you see it, it's deeply indebted to M. Rosler's »Vital Statistics of a Citizen Simply Obtained« – it's a combination of that and Yvonne's work [...]. I'm not embarrassed (smiles), I am not embarrassed, but you can see if you look on my first tape it is me just attempting to try to do what the models I adopted were doing (nods).

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