Siegelaub Chapter 3

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S.R. If I see it right, you had a Marxist background ...

S.S. Yes, absolutely... It wasn't a background, it was a development coming out of this. In other words, I didn't come into the art world with a clear political vision. Anyone has a clear political vision ... but it was only for the Vietnam War, a lot of fundraising and activity in the art world, Art Workers Coalition, people were involved with that ... Carl, ... Lucy was involved with it, a lot of people and I too, to a minor degree, was involved with it, producing, picketing in the Museum of Modern Art ... That was part of my growing-up, too. And that, in part, led, I don't know how closely it informed my art-organizing projects or anything like that, but it certainly led me to a series of Stepps, which eventually took me away from the art world, because, actually, when I left the art world which was in the spring of '72 and moved to France, what I did was political publishing. I published left books on the media, including Marx, including cultural imperialism, including a whole number of books ... which I did for many years. And in the latter part of my work in the art world, I actually became very interested in journalism, newspapers and things like this ... And one of the ideas I had which never ... fruictified or never bore fruit was to develop some kind of alternative newspaper. It was just too much work, too much, it just doesn't finish ... But it was something I did look into very carefully when I was in France, which is where I moved to ... I did talk to a number of journalists there, a number of things were going on there concerning left newspapers. But I went off into research, Marxist research on the media, and that's what I was involved with for many, many, many years ...

S.R. ...If I see it right, you also have a kind of a critical impulse when you are talking, when you are writing about that time as you were involved ... For example you criticized the text of Benjamin Buchloh in the French exhibition ... at that time very famous text »From the Aesthetics of Administration to Institutional Critique» ... You had some points very ... for me it was convincing ...

S.S. I was kind of shocked. This takes us back 15 years ... this was 89. I was kind of shocked although I had not been involved with the art world, and that was the first museum exhibition to try to bring together that moment of so-called Conceptual art. I was kind of shocked; I hadn't been aware of that. I owned a lot of work myself, in my personal collection and I did give an interview and things ... And I was kind of shocked ... sort of what Buchloh said, because I had always had the impression from Lawrence and from Daniel that Benjamin was like a progressive – and he is! But I found this a very conservative kind of, you know, typical: »Who did what first?« and all that kind of thing and I actually criticized him very strongly when they redid the... I actually wrote a small text... But I actually criticized him very strongly for a sort of the... - I forgot the words I used, but it was actually published- // S.R. ...formalistic...? //S.S. Yea, formalistic kind of thing... [...] And the fact that this history was very limited to Dan Graham, I mean very ... Marcel Broodthaers... There's a few arbitrary selections of ideas, and totally ignoring even reference for example to the Vietnam War. I don't even know how you can talk about our period without talking about the impulse behind that, and the students' movement in Europe -which I would say profoundly affected Daniel- ... and many other people I'm sure ... and also affected us, not in the sense of making our activities more political, but making you aware of the power structures in society. That was definitely one of the underlying problematics ... under some of this work: the question of private property, ownership, longevity of art, the permanence, things like this... which every one of these artists were contesting in their own way, with various degrees of political consciousness, if you like, and things like this ... You really can't look at that period without thinking about that [...] You have to remember too that in the early 60s: Marshall McLuhan, information society – all this was coming up here! And although, [...] we did or the artists or myself not fit into it, this was the subtext, the undercurrent of what was going on there. So to see this also as part of or a manifestation of or influenced by the information society; I remember they were talking about the third sector: ... finish up factories, and everyone is going to be xeroxing, communicating ... advertising agencies became super important, things like this ... [...] But this was the toile de fond, background for this kind of activity even though you could really think twice about the political consciousness of these artists in various degrees. A number of years ago I did a project, which was recently published, called »The Context of Art«, [...] in which myself and two women, German dealers in Düsseldorf, the Frickes... agreed to do with me, for which we asked about 100, 120 artists who were active in 1969, just happened to appear in the »Attitudes« show, my shows , Konrad's prospects in Düsseldorf and things like this ... and we asked them what they thought of the last 30 years [...] It was called »The Context of Art« and it was published first in French in 1996 as an issue of Art Press and it was just published now in German and English by ... Marzona's Son, Daniel Marzona who is in Berlin. [...] What we tried to do was try to get the feelings of the artists or their understanding of how the world had changed since 1969 to the questions, this was in 1993 or 4, something like this ... It's kind of surprising, the variety of answers but also the political; [...] some people say, the world hasn't changed at all, I'm just a little richer, more successful; whereas for me, when I look at the work again – Rumple Stiltskin? rather like Rip Van Winkle [...] goes to sleep and wakes up and there's a whole world. This was sort of my situation in a way, too. In the sense that, well I wasn't really sleeping for 20 or 30 years, but I did miss what happened between 1970, '71 and what happened up until 5 or 10 years ago because I was, [...] I wasn't involved with that. I just heard it from friends ... there is a painting thing ... and then there was this business thing ... in the 80s ... stuff like this. But for me, looking at the art world between when I knew it and what it is today, it's absolutely unrecognizable, not just qualitatively but even quantitatively ... I mean the amount of galleries, money involved, its relationship to capitalism, the art schools, the art bars, the art courses, [...] – it's just totally unbelievable. [...] Even just quantitatively, the amount of these things going on – and of course, with that you have a qualitative difference in what art is and so. I had the impression that the artists has become ... another profession if you like. Not quite the same as a lawyer or a doctor or a teacher, but a more acceptable profession. It's possible to think of becoming an artist – going to art school or not or going to Yale or going to ... becoming an artist – and think about maybe earning a living as an artist. What I remember, looking back 30 years ago, you couldn't say, I mean – there were ... rich, successful artists, but the idea that that was the possibility of a career choice.(laughs) I mean it's just not through. When I was involved with producing one of my last projects ... »artists' contract«, royalties and certain kinds of control [...] In the course of doing that, I spoke to a lot of artists which I've normally would not have spoken to just to orient myself or ourselves, it was done with a lawyer friend... The impression that I had, even from artists who were very, very successful, I mean - call up millionaires ... still the predominant attitude was that they were workers vis-à-vis the collectors who were like the capitalist exploiters, even if they were ten times richer than the most capitalists – I mean at the same level [...] That was the mentality of the time, and that has changed so dramatically, that artists, not only many more artists but the model of an artist has gotten much closer to a rock musician, which in turn is coming to a fashion designer, which is ... like another successful creative business person [...]. This has obviously has had an effect on what the art world looks like, and for me doubly so because ... I just closed my eyes and then looked around and saw all these things. So it's a very different thing. But to get back to Conceptual art or what we were saying at the beginning or what we were saying earlier. (break; terrasse, Publication: The Context of Art ...) It was just published ... last year. And it's one of my last projects, or one of my recents... [........]

S.R. ... lots of documents...

S.S. Basically, what I did – the Fricke Ladies did all the interviews, which is all the hard work, let's say. But it also deals with, what I considered (...) To deal with that kind of history ...

S.S. I was interested in the history which would incorporate,... or at least not the history but the elements for a history which would incorporate both the successful artists as well as the unsuccessful artists as well as the people who... [...] History is written from the point of view of the people who still have the voice, the power to be able to be heard. So this was an opportunity to be able to hear from everybody we could find. And we actually tried to track down over 120 people. There's a list at the beginning. By the time we did this, like 10 or 12 a day/are dead? ... actually you couldn't find like 10 or 15 people... totally disappeared. Many people didn't want to answer didn't answer... not so many, let's say about 15 or 20 didn't answer... But most of the people we had to go after or the Frickes had to go after them to actually interview them [...] The answers are very variable...


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