Miller Chapter 1

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S.R. Once you wrote in a catalogue... would you say the same in relation to persons or individuals...?

J.M. Yes. And I guess, just in terms of semiotics, it's unavoidable that you have to deal with representation, and I suppose also the generation of artists I come from, this notion of representation was a key issue, and then the following generation of artists... they moved away from representation, going more to design for example; something like that. But I guess I'm staying with that, those questions.

S.R. Do you agree that this exhibition collects subjective announcements which are at the same time advertisements for the people themselves?

J.M. I didn't quite understand the question.

S.R. ...kind of advertisement of the people, they try to represent themselves. It's this self-referential representation.

J.M. Yes, absolutely. To specify that a bit more, all the representations are as individuals, there's never a representation... you know I guess by the very nature of the kinds of ads that they are, people don't represent themselves as a class or as a larger group, but as isolated individuals.

S.R. One question I wanted to ask you is, exactly, what this work is about. How do you see relation to the advertisement for the self in relation to the work-representations of the so-called »original» in art, the art person, the artist?

J.M. It's funny because part of my impulse for doing that came out of some of those questions, because I felt like, well, here I am appropriating ads from other people without having written such an ad myself .[...] What you talk about is partly what prompted this piece, because here I am appropriating ads from other people, without ever having taken out such an ad myself. Initially I thought... I will try to write my own ad and subject myself to the same process, but in the end... I ended up not doing that. In the end, I took myself out of the equation. Also, given the view I have on the whole process, I don't think that it's in some ways possible to represent yourself. I was kind of setting a hard problem for myself since I didn't really believe in the process. I guess the funny part is, when I've talked about this work to other people, I would run into a few who've said, Oh, my friend met her husband through personals ads, or something like that which puts a much more kind of cheery spin on the whole thing. But I guess I respond to a kind of tragic element that I see in it.

S.R. Do you, like Franz Boas did for anthropology, bring an empirical level into conceptual art or is it more a gesture... ??? How do you conceive this?

J.M. I think it's more a gesture. I can claim that the information is real to a certain extent and that it is objective to a certain extent, but I wouldn't hold this up as a rigorous kind of sociology, for example. That's a good question, because it's another facet of the process, kind of posing as a sociologist; on the one hand I try to bring as much of my own insight to the material as I can, but... I don't have the training and there's a kind of subjectivity of my own that feeds into the methods that I've kind of cobbled together... In terms of sociologists who I've been influenced by – I don't really know Boas' work at all, but Bourdieu's diagrammatic approach of course. Also I studied some linguistics and was very much interested in the work of a socio-linguist named William Labov... many of his studies were based on just very small amounts of information; a famous one was about the class-stratification of the sound »r« in New York City, and for that he went to three different department stores. I think Bloomingdales, Macy's and Klein's. So these were kind of upper, middle-class and lower middle-class stores; he just spoke to people who were shopping there and made notes. His theory was that at the time he did the study the hard »r«, which is pronounced [a:], was a more upper-class pronunciation and the soft »r«, that is like »pa:k the ca:«, that kind of soft »r« which was the same accent that Kennedy had (that is in pronunciation of the »r«), but was also acquaintant with the Brooklyn accent in New York, that is a more proletarian accent. But anyways, he was able to find these oppositions based on relatively small amount of data that he just gathered personally himself and was able to take this phonetic material back to a kind of index of class structure, that's what I found compelling about his work.

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