Bochner Chapter 4

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S.R. I think we could come to the questions, which are more focused on Conceptual Art. The first of these questions is what do you consider as your strongest influence?

M.B. (...) Well, I don't see any single strongest influence; there are certain ideas that flow through basically early 20th century avant-garde art that I thought a great deal about and that have created a context or background for my thinking. (...) It doesn't really seem to me important to worry about influences because I could start and name a list of a hundred things that I'm interested in; no one of those things is dominant, but at any point in time something else might come into the equation. So I don't even know how to begin to answer that question.

S.R. Maybe let me turn it to a little bit to different direction. // M.B. You going to be persistent! (laughs) // S.R. Which practice in the history of art is your favorite? Can you focus on one piece or one practice?

M.B. (...) Well, my favorite artist is Michelangelo (laughs), because of the diversity of his interests and to use your word »practice«. He changed the history of sculpture, maybe ruined it for the next 400 years, and at the same time with the Sixtine Chapel he created the greatest painting that's ever been made. Then you look at his architecture (laughs), if he'd only been an architect (laughs) – the staircases in the Laurentian Library, you know... just all of it. And then he was a major poet. The fact that he was willing to undertake any medium or any means of expression and invest that medium with his ideas and content just strikes me as an accomplishment that no one has been close to since. But whether that explains anything about my work, I'm not so sure (laughs).

S.R. No but maybe about your approach as an artist, your understanding (...) Maybe we could flip to this work, which surround us here. There are for sure two entry systems; one is the painting and the other is the text. Do you see these paintings as a kind of poetry? Or what is your definition of art? Do you have a definition?

M.B. I don't feel that I ever have to make these choices and maybe that's my attitude. Once (...) Smithson and I were talking to Ad Reinhardt; and Ad Reinhardt took this very fatherly position towards us. He said, well, guys, some day you are going to choose between Malevich and Duchamp. After we left him we both looked at each other and it was like: why? (laughs) For his generation I understand why they had to choose. And I understand his choices, it's very clear. I understand that he was not saying it in a necessarily unfriendly way. But I don't feel I have to choose, one position or another, because once you make that choice, you predetermine the interpretation, and I'm really interested in misinterpretations. And I'm really interested in not helping the viewer. Now, I guess if I have one kind of abiding value it would be difficulty; I like work that presents a difficulty so that if you're the viewer looking at it you're caught between, you don't know, does this mean this? there are these clues, they tell you, well it's about this [...]. So it keeps you in an uneasy relationship. A lot of my contemporaries have spent a lot of time explaining their work; I would prefer to leave the explanations open. And I guess, in going back to the Lippard question, maybe actually trying to answer it rather than evade it (laughs), my problem with her book was – she was setting up definitions, like: this is the way, it was like an official primer: If you want to know what Conceptual art is, these are the boundaries, and if it doesn't fit within that, it doesn't count. With my (...) hostility to anyone setting up any boundaries for me that don't correspond to my own vision.


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