Willats Chapter 1

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S.R. How do you describe your work in intellectual relations?

S.W. How do I describe... I mean, you would have to say the question again because I don't understand it.

S.R. I mean, you were working formerly with, for example, texts, images, collages, montages, but the issues are different. You are for example working with social relations and with dynamics, communication dynamics and social groups.

S.W. I think there is probably a misunderstanding about the intentions of these works, but, nevertheless, these works are, as all our practice does, concern the society and the world we live in; my intention is to put forward ways of approaching the visions of the future of that world; philosophical visions, also practical, pragmatic visions. To say that in a way, that this work is concerned with social relations is maybe a kind of linguistic (laughs) sort of misunderstanding about the description of these things. I think, the way of approaching... perhaps, this is to say, right from the outset of my own practice I've been concerned with... I saw immediately that the art was really integral to society, and that, in a way, a work of art could not operate independently of its relationships between people; in a way the work of art or the so-called work of art was a kind of channel between people, and when I came to originally think of these ideas which was in the late 50s, it was almost a heresy to think that the receiver of a work of art was as important as the originator of a work of art. But nevertheless I thought of them. Everybody lived in a kind of network of relationships like that in which certain things mediate the way in which we understand and act upon the world around us. So you may have direct experience and you have referential experience; I saw that the work of art was in a way a kind of aspect of this referentialism. At that time I was working in a art gallery, a very avant-garde art gallery; and no one came to this gallery. We put on show after show which were really fantastic exhibitions of the time in London. But no one came. I began to think about the role of the work in the gallery, this is really how things started out. I thought, well, when people are coming here: what are they are looking for? They are looking for a kind of certainty, these are icons of certainty, cultural certainty. They are either a kind of emulative in the sense that people try to emulate the projections, the ramifications that radiate from these works , or in some way they reinforce their social network in which they exist within or one thing and another. But they are certainly looking for certainty. So my idea was to ask what happens if we change the paradigm absolutely? When somebody comes to the gallery, instead of finding icons of certainty, what they find is a random variable.

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