Bochner Chapter 2

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S.R. Let me just add one thing to the media strategy. The one thing is that the film will be one and half an hour and we will try to do something like an archive of all the usable material of the interviews, that is certainly around the reception of your works, your drawings and paintings and also your photographs are well known. And how do you see, if you have a historical view on the whole thing, how do you see the change of reception of your work? How did it start at the end of the 60s, in the middle of the 60s when the Conceptual movement started –  and after that?

M.B. A couple of years ago, a young critic came to speak with me and he said, ‚How does it feel to have been part of the dominant discourse of the 60s? – to which I said, 'You've got to be joking' (laughs), because I couldn't even pay the rent. The way in which history looks back on that time and chooses what it can use or what appears to be valuable in hindsight has almost nothing to do with the reception that it has at the time. So [...] I can say that besides other artists, nobody was interested in my work, and I was in New York for almost eight years before a gallery in New York represented me; the first reception of my work was in Germany, and the first one person exhibition I had was at the School of Visual Arts, which happened more or less by accident because I was a young teacher and the director of the gallery asked me to organize a drawings exhibition for Christmas. And I thought she said a drawings exhibition, to be on during Christmas, and she thought I was going to make a drawings exhibition about Christmas. When I brought in the material that I wanted to show – because at that time I was very interested in what I called what was »upstream« from the work, like the work in drawing, the thought-process, rather than the object, what lead to the object. When I showed I her the things that were going at the show, which were little scraps of paper, people's bills, Judd's fabrication bill – she thought that was a joke, and she said, people don't want to see this for Christmas; and [...] of course we don't have any money to frame it. With there being no money for framing I either had to give it up the exhibition or think of something else, and I didn't want to tack the things on the wall with pins, so the school had just purchased a Xerox-machine which was a very new technology then. Because I taught in the art history department rather than the studio department, I had unlimited access to the Xerox-machine [...] to Xerox articles to give to the students for reading. So I had all these paintings xeroxed, and as they came out of the Xerox-machine they were in a nice perfect stack, it was already like a book. So I thougt, rather than putting them on the wall I make them into a book. And just having one book didn't seem like a very interesting idea. So I thought, well, I need more than one I make four, because four is the first non-prime number. And then I thought I put them on a table, but then I it seemed to me that it would be amusing to put them on stands, which would be a kind of pastiche of a Robert Morris sculpture. And a book is a volume, a sculpture is a volume, it just seemed to play out. Suddenly, there it was, it was an exhibition. Many artists attended the opening, but not one single review was written of the exhibition because nobody understood, is a book, is it an exhibition, the word »installation« didn't exist, the word »Conceptual art« didn't exist. The way one judged one's reception in those days was not by the mechanisms that exist now, which is generally commercial gallery exhibitions, sales, museums – it was by the response of other artists. The fact that within six months of that show other artists started making book-exhibitions was the reception of the show, the ideas had entered the stream. That was the way one worked, one worked for the discourse with other artists. [...]

S.R. So if you say that was one of the first steps, would you say that in the beginning of the 70s or a little bit earlier there was a bigger reception of this kind of work or was it still something like in art circles, small art circles?

M.B. Well, probably it changed in 69 when Szeemann organized the »attitude-form« show, that brought it to public attention and suddenly, out of nowhere, there were dealers, but again in my case mostly European dealers. The first dealer who came to visit me in the first person, who, outside of my friends and other artists, took the work seriously, was Heiner Friedrich. He came to my studio in '67 for the first time; and then Konrad Fischer came very soon near after –   but in both these cases because other artists had told them about me. Then first commercial gallery show that I had was with Friedrich in Munich in '69, but he had been interested in the work before Szeemann's show, so I have to give him that credit, but it was the »attitude-form« show which brought institutional interest to the work. It was suddenly as if (...) certain lines were being drawn that connected all of these things, which didn't look alike, together and gave them a name. That's the way the art world works – they look for an -ism, a name to tie things together, and as an artist that's both a negative and a positive, because it levels out the definitions into a broad general category which generally doesn't fit anybody's work, but, because there is something that your work can share with that broad general category, it brings people around to look at. You have to take those two things together; and it happens to everyone, and then you start fighting with the name of the movement; as Judd hated »Minimalism«, I hate »Conceptualism«, but you're stuck with it.

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