Bochner Chapter 3

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S.R. One possibility or one option to work with this situation, with this context is – like you did – to write texts, essays. I read not long ago your critique of Lucy Lippard's book »The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972«. In this text you are coming up with a very harsh but also a very precise critique of her strategy to make this book and what she was historicizing in this book. When did you start to write in this kind of specific critical language about art, about art books?

M.B. My writing career was a complete accident (laughs); I had no interest in writing. But I found myself one day in 1965 without a job and without any money (laughs), with no prospects. And trying to think of something that I might be able to do to earn some money I thought, well, surely I could write those little reviews that appear in the back of art magazines. Judd had written for art magazines, so I thought, they are sympathetic to artists, I would go in and try them so I went in and asked the editor for a job, and he asked me what experience I had, and I said: none. He found that amusing (laughs) for some reason, and he said: Ok, we'll give you a tryout. Then he gave me a list of twenty-five shows to go and see and write reviews of anything that interested me and turned them in and he would decide. I turned them in, he didn't say anything and the next month they appeared in the magazine. Now, I suppose in those days they were desperate for writers (laughs). Suddenly I was a critic. In the beginning I was just doing these shows which were not terribly interesting or important; any gallery or even frame store that took an advertisement in the magazine, they would send a reviewer to see the show, and they knew it would pay $ 2,50 for every review; my rent at that time was $ 22 a month, so I could just get by if I reviewed all 30 shows (laughs). They didn't publish them all, but they would pay you just for writing, whether they'd published it or not. Then at a certain point after I'd been doing it for so many months there start to come along shows that I was interested in, and I asked if I can write about those shows, and then I was writing about those shows. And the first one that I did that got any attention was a review of the »Primary Structures« show, and that was a very important show at the Jewish Museum because it was something like the first Minimalist show. I wrote kind of a strong critique of that show in terms of mixing English sculptors like Anthony Caro and those people with people like Judd and Flavin, Morris and Andre. Suddenly I found that people were reading this and responding, and that there was a real audience for that; other people started asking me to write things, so pretty soon I was writing more than I ever intended; that was in terms of the critical things. But then in '66, Smithson and I became friends and we embarked on this project, which was published in the fall issue of Arts Magazine, where we began to think about using the magazine as a primary site, rather than a secondary site, instead of writing about sth. make the writing the thing itself. What we wanted to do is in a way camouflage the artwork and sneak it [...] under the radar of the system; so that instead of a reproduction of something, the article would be a reproduction as something. Without telling anybody, except friends, what we were doing, we did this article called »The Domain of the Great Bear«, which was an article about the planetarium [...]. That was the other stream that writing took in my work, there was one stream that was critical and there was one that was the writing as art, as artwork. By the time it got to the Lippard book, I had more or less stopped writing; the editor of Artforum, John Copelands, called me up and said, would you review the Lippard book for Artforum. At first, I was very hesitant to do that, but after thinking it over I thought there are some things that I have to say and that would be the perfect place to say it, because if I didn't say it, it wasn't going to be said. That article is more or less my last critical piece, and since that time I haven't really written that much that addresses criticism // S.R. So that was '74? // M.B. '72 actually I think, '72 or '73. // S.R. And the Text you talked about with Smithson was...? // M.B. Was '66.

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