Sekula Chapter 2

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S.R. For me, as I saw your big exhibition at the Generali in Vienna. For me it was the first time that I had an encounter with your early works. And it was in kind of interesting relation to each other, that I found this work that was – I forgot the title- where you make some documentation of your parents in your home. That must be very early...

A.S. That piece I began working on in 1971 and finished in 1973. It's not the earliest project that I take seriously as a starting point but it was certainly the most sustained project I did. I mean I set myself a time-frame with that project working on something for 2 years. [...] And then the idea of turning a documentary eye on one's own familial background and circumstances was somewhat unusual at that time. I mean there were... As I found it a little bit later there were a few other examples of this kind of thing in photography ... somewhat autobiographical works – Daniel Seymore# (?)... – but these came from a kind of romantic, bohemian perspective rather than from a kind of cool sociological distance which was in some ways the fictional posture I adopted only to enter into a crazy polemic with my parents, you know, and their world. So in some ways there were deliberate references to the social documentary photography of the 1930s but also to a kind of small cameras of the 50s ... mind associate (?) with Robert Frank, but I very much thought of it as a kind anti-family of man, this family rather than a sentimentalized and generalized family, the family as a cauldron of ideological and socializing functions, you know, and conflicts.

S.R. In a contrast to that I saw at the same time these works you did as a student ...which had a very strong performative impulse. Like, I can remember this work where you're throwing pieces of meat, I don't know if it were steaks or something like that, on the street. And another performative thing: You came with some friends to a ... was it a Chinese or a Korean Imbiss ....I think it was a Chinese... // A.S. Yea, it's a kind of Pizza parlour ... there's a kind of joke about Maoism that runs through it.

S.R. What I found there was, I think ... This is a little bit the opposite of this approach I find in your more sociological work and your more self-reflecting work. How do you see it from the perspective now?

A.S. Well I think, It seems like the talk even then was fairly wide open; you could pick theatrical strategies. Not that I was able I was very interested in Brecht ...not that I was seeing a lot of performances, but I read the plays, theoretical writings ... And I was also reading Peter Weiss, ..., (Name ?) ... thinking about the living theatre you know, a whole range of theatrical projects that interested me ... I also found Genet interesting, sort of the reversal of power relations in a play like »the maids«. So I think that the idea that a photographic sequence could somehow come out of a theatricalized and overtly forsicle/versicle kind of simple theatre appealed to me ... very simple fictionalizations. What does it mean to fictionalize a work situation when you don't have the implements of work because they belong to the boss; you're forced to do pantomime because you don't own the tools. These kinds of simple problems that were part of [...] thinking about performance, coming out of specific social problematics. And so I think that existed alongside a documentary investigative impulse. [...] The link is that in a work like »Aerospace Folktales«# I'm looking at the family space as a kind of dramatic space, you know, that the lights are being adjusted, [...] my father is keeping the house neat while he's out of work, so he's becoming a kind of lighting technician of everyday space, as if they were a play going on. But in fact the only thing he's doing, the only play he's playing is that he is writing letters, trying to apply for another job... he's been doing this for 2 years. So for me this kind of had a durational aspect; that somehow you could record that in a sequence of still-photographs. The relation between everyday life and theatre seemed fairly... one of interpenetration, very much blurred boundaries. I think that's in some ways consistent with a certain spirit of performance ... or even happenings at the time. I didn't find myself that drawn to the (..) models of performance art as such. You know, I would read magazines like Avalanche and find them interesting, find the way that events were documented interesting ... the way artists' activities would be documented photographically...; that struck me as interesting to bring alongside, let's say reportage-photographs from Vietnam ... the similarity between the styles of these photographs.


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