Siegelaub Chapter 5

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S.R. If you look at contemporary art, because there's a lot of contemporary art that looks like Conceptual art - but often it's not epistemologically rebound, for example Lawrence Weiner's work or Joseph Kosuth's work, which is very developed out of a philosophical, linguistical thinking ... Wittgenstein and so on. Do you see the difference when you see contemporary art?

S.S. I don't see contemporary art ... I mesan young art as much. One of the reasons is that it takes a lot of effort to do this. I mean, if you are interested, you really have to be interested; [...] you can't just spend an afternoon and walking through and understand what's going on. Mayo ... who I live with ... she's a curator at the Stedelijk, and ... because of her ... I have more contact with younger people, because she's constantly doing exhibitions ... But I really don't give it the attention it deserves. We go to the art schools, to the Rijksacademie here and there for openings and things like that. But I don't look as carefully as obviously you look for example. So it's difficult for me to make comparative statements. It's hard to, I wouldn't venture it; I wouldn't even say what I've seen lately that I really liked [...]; it wouldn't have any sense for me to do that. I think because there's so much being made and so many people active ..., it takes a lot of time and energy to ... [...] It always takes a certain amount of energy to understand what's going on around you, in any profession, anywhere, but now because of the multiplicity or the volume of people working... I mean the exhibitions go on and things like this, it's almost for me like, by chance ... It's really difficult to make any kind of comparison with my generation. I could even say that ... you could even question how much I really remember from 35 years ago...

S.R. How is it when you see not contemporary art, but when you see the arrangements of the material you brought out in the end of the 60s ... when you see work of that time ... how do you behave, what does it feel like?

S.S. It's hard to say that. You mean in like a museum or an institution environment [...]?

S.R. Because I want to come to one point ... because once you said, it's wrong when the museum puts invitation cards on the wall ...

S.S. Yes, the presentation. The museum itself; you really have to think very carefully about of the role of the museum in valorising or giving value to things in a way ... You could say that it sort of denatures, sort of changes the nature of all kinds of art that would nromally be put in there. But particularly, the kind of sort of more ephemeral art activities that hardly lend themselves to the permanence of a museum. [...] A museum, in very real way, is to make permanent ... sort of the artistic moment is something, but you have to have it extend through eternity. There is an underlying belief that art is universal and millions of people ... we understand the Greeks or the Romans or the Africans ... which I think is total bullshit; it's our egotism in a way... Maybe it's good that we conserve these things and protect them but the idea that you are ever going to understand all the imagery in a medieval painting [...], the way probably a peasant from Italy or Germany would have, just because he ... »l'air du temps» ... – it's just totally ridiculous. The museum has that function and it's inherently [...] It takes that sort of spontaneous character away, and in the case of this kind of art it's more dramatic, in a way. I mean it also happens with other kinds of art, too. [...] You mentioned the invitation cards of Barry's or the idea of coming around a street corner and seeing something on a wall or a building. I mean, graffiti, to use a general term ... The whole point is you are just confronting it on the street and in your daily life, in your coming and going [...] ... these influences you're thinking in one way or another. The museum is meant to sort of make eternal a certain art experience that not necessarily was intended to be done in that way. This is a sort of a very -I don't know if this is a really capitalist idea - but this is the idea of preserving things, ostensibly for generations to follow, but really so that to create value or selectively create value, so it's passed on to future generations in a way ...

S.R. This is a kind of power impulse that the museum has because they are writing the history, putting the things together they can get; they don't get the things, so they are not in.

S.S. Exactly. That kind of power, that kind of selectivity – of course we all do that in our selections – but museums have evolved in such a way that they have an extra strong power to be able to give this kind of vision in a way and of the museums, certain museums far more than others, have the ability to create value or sustain value [...] But the problem is really, on a social level, is that we allow them, or society gives them that prerogative in a way ... -because that choice aspect is the same that we have. If you go into a supermarket or something, you're gonna choose this or this ... you are making a choice [...] But the problem is that certain choices are more important than other choices. And that is something that the capitalist society, the social society, [...] the society in which we live gives incredible amount of value to museums to be able to do this for us in a way. And it takes away our critical edge of thinking about things in our own way. I'm not talking about the art world just, but I'm even talking more about the general world because these kinds of institutions do try to cater to a much larger population. And so a lot of the people maybe [...] would go to this, the way you go to a church; this is ... the way history was ... the MOMA has been often criticized, even the new building or the new kind of history they have established. I wish they've always had before [...] to be able to establish a certain line of history...


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