Episode 12: Paper Monument

Episode 12
Image by Eric Wen.

The new episode the n+1 podcast brings interviews about art and art criticism for the release of Paper Monument Number Four. First, an interview with Paper Monument editor Dushko Petrovich and contributors Julian Kreimer and Martha Schwendener to discuss politics and art criticism in the contemporary art world. Then, Chris Kraus joins us for an interview to talk about her recent piece in n+1 Issue 17, “Kelly Lake Store,” art communities, and “social practice.”

Hosted by Elisa Wouk Almino, Moira Donegan, and Eric Wen.
Audio Engineer: Malcolm Donaldson.
Produced by Elisa Wouk Almino, Malcolm Donaldson, Moira Donegan, and Eric Wen.
Music from New Order and Melody’s Echo Chamber.
Original Music by The Westerlies featuring Andrew Mulherkar, Luke Sellick, and Sammy Miller.

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Elisa Wouk Almino: Welcome to the n+1 Podcast.

Moira Donegan: I’m Moira Donegan.

EWA: I’m Elisa Wouk Almino. In this episode we’re going to talk about politics and art criticism in the contemporary art world today, in light of Paper Monument’s fourth issue—they just came out with a new issue in July, it’s beautiful—and I’m going to talk to one of the founding editors Dushko Petrovich and two of the contributors Julian Kreimer and Martha Schwendener.

MD: And then we have an interview with novelist and art critic Chris Kraus. Chris was in New York in September to celebrate the new edition of her novel Aliens & Anorexia, and while she was here she was nice enough to come sit down with me. We talked about her piece in n+1’s Issue 17 “Kelly Lake Store” as well as the art critic, the evolution of art criticism, and something called “social practice.”

Segment 1: Paper Monument with Julian Kreimer, Dushko Petrovich, and Martha Schwendener

Elisa Wouk Almino: So Dushko, for listeners who are maybe less familiar with Paper Monument, do you want to talk a little bit about it and maybe a few words on why or how it came to being and on the latest issue?

Dushko Petrovich: Sure, Paper Monument came to being—I think it was 2007. I had written a few essays for n+1 at the behest of Mark Greif who’s an old friend of mine and I think I wrote the third one and it was very aggressively edited and they weren’t even sure if it was going to go in the issue and I think in some way that was the catalyst for me just deciding to start my own magazine and [Co-Founding Editor Roger White] and I had known each other for a long time; we’d gone to college together, we’d both been writing for various venues and we talked about it and decided that it couldn’t be that difficult to have a magazine. And we were wrong. We initially thought we’d publish it every six months and this one took us like three years, so it’s a very intermittently published journal. But I’ve been reassured that that’s why they call them periodicals. And, well I guess, yeah, it’s about art, broadly.

EWA: So after reading this issue, if I were to come away with one impression or grand theme was that the contemporary art world really demands upon artists to have these public personas, to have articulate opinions, a political stance, presence in social media, a sense of humor, an artist statement, and so forth. And the editors’ introduction touches upon this in a very funny way. So what’s all this about and do you all think that artists should have/be public figures?

Martha Schwendener: I guess I’ll respond to that because I’m an art critic but I came up in art history and I started taking that very early. So a lot of things that we say are happening now really have been happening for centuries. So that Rubens—people like Peter Paul Rubens—painters in the 17th century were public figures as in held public office, were diplomats, were advisors to aristocrats and monarchs, and things like that. So it is true right now, but even in recent art history, I mean, sometimes I get a certain fatigue around it myself even though theoretically I would be celebrating the most intellectual art world possible. Although you were really asking about having a public presence. But it’s really, you know, it was like that in the Sixties too. People were supposed to be sort of articulate. The thing is that there is this kind of dual persona or kind of mythology around the artist that they’re these people who are kind of isolated in this kind of garret or the studio, which is a sort of quasi-isolated space even though it’s not. It’s a kind of network of cells, usually, in a building wherever it is in SoHo, you know in the old days, or Bushwick. So yeah, so it’s this person who’s cut off, but then it’s not that way at all so you’re supposed to be engaging with the current ideas of the day. So that’s, I think, part of it. I’m not sure, maybe if you’re also talking about a kind of market persona. So the irony with very contemporary art, say within the last 35 or 40 years, is at the same time you’ve had this huge push coming from continental theory in terms of the death of the author, you also had the real extreme making of art stars. So Warhol would’ve been one of the first people, and then now your people like Jeff Koons or something like that. But the sort of mid-level—in literature the kind of B-list artist—those tend to be very, yeah, what you’re describing. People who are really articulate and sometimes writing criticism, writing essays. I don’t know, Julian can probably speak to that better than me.

Julian Kreimer: Yeah, as a B-list artist. [Laughs] I hope! Like a good day. Artists are in this bind in terms of they are small entrepreneurs and I think that’s as clear as it’s ever been. And I think that there’s a shift in our history now—I mean, I’m not a practicing art historian, but I know there’s been a shift towards economics as the sort of reigning sister discipline that people go to to sound interesting. And I think there’s some truth to that, that artists are small entrepreneurs. Most working artists have some kind of other small cultural entrepreneurs. They have a mix of different ways that they make money, so there is a certain kind of canny marketing. Even the ones who play at being inarticulate do it extremely articulately in wearing the right clothes and they’ll know which signifiers to drop, and this and that. When you hear artists talk at the university and they play at being the dumb artist, it’s a whole persona itself.

DP: You should see the rehearsals.


DP: Yeah, and it’s exactly as Julian put it. Everyone’s in kind of a—trying to be some kind of a unique franchise. You know, which is horrible. But it’s also, I think, a broader cultural problem in the sense that almost everybody now has a kind of public life, but it’s just a question of what the outcome of that is, what the efficacy of it is. But everybody plays at—I mean, I just walk down the streets and some people are dressed as if they were celebrities, and they might believe that they are.

MS: Well it’s also just the way it is now. I mean, this is a dumb way to put it, but the so-called neoliberal situation where these things have been kind of internalized. So the sort of example that comes to mind is like in Venice in the late 17th century how they would have Carnival, and then at some point everybody just decided, “Let’s just do it six months of the year!” so people were walking in masks for six months of the year. And it was like, “OK, at what point is it Carnival and not-Carnival?” And then that, from the art historical standpoint, Rococo comes very much out of that; this kind of performance, which has now been turned into the performative. But that’s the problem now, is that everybody’s so sort of like “at what point are you being, at what point are you stepping back and watching yourself being?” But the other thing for me where I come in the art world is that I came in, growing up as a teenager et cetera, it was really the moment of irony so that you could always see that layer. And then after 9/11 and sort of continuing on, things started to get a little more extreme and the irony started to feel less—kind of like, “OK, now no joking around. We’ve got some problems we really have to deal with.” So it’s also irony, I think, too, in that we’re in this sort of different moment of, I don’t know, in the mid-aughts, in the mid-2000s they called it neosincerity. But I don’t know.

DP: Yeah, we’re also in a further layer of irony I find. Because we always now—in the age of irony you knew it was sort of irony—and now, I wrote about this one time, now you don’t know, which is even weirder. There’s so much confusion, not just in late-night text messages, but in actual publications and things like that. One of the pieces in this issue was Chris Hsu’s piece “Spasm to Spasm” which is all about the impetus to have humor constantly. I even feel it now in the podcast. Like, “let’s make sure there’s some levity otherwise we’ll be serious and that would be bad or whatever.” But there’s that kind of thing too and I think about it in terms of the exclamation point, which I never used to use and I don’t speak that way, I don’t think that way. And now if I write “thanks” and then put a period, it looks sarcastic to me, you know, and I have to—I delete the period and put in an exclamation point and I hear myself saying it and I think, “Now am I yelling at this person?”

MS: You just juiced it up.

DP: To sound sincere, though! [Ed. note: Ironic transcribing intended.] But that’s what it takes to sound sincere. It’s like an all-caps three exclamation points and then you rein it back. So I think we’re at a very interesting point where the experimentation or the experience of it is happening even with the minutiae of daily correspondence where you don’t know. We’ve done this thing where we’ve taken all these conversational modes and moved them into textual situations and I think it’s genuinely confusing. It’s a real, like, moment for the species.

JK: I don’t know if it’s a danger so much as it’s—I mean, it is, but it’s also…I don’t even know if we can talk about irony because now irony’s become like beauty. You can say, “oh that’s beautiful” but of course you can’t just say that. You have to define it and say what kind of beauty is it, like, fitting into that. So with irony it’s almost—irony’s become a much richer category, as is earnestness, which I think wasn’t the case 40 years ago with art. So irony’s become one of our main signals of what this means or how we should read this. But it’s like, irony has been through the ringer and an artist who went through 9/11 made earnest work for a few years then came back to irony, but with a chastened self. [Laughter] It was like a different feel to that. It’s often more interesting than like, “Oh, here’s somebody who’s just coming up who’s too young to know or to have felt 9/11 or whatever, and then they just had this un-problemetized irony,” but it does seem, not to bash young artists, it does seem often too simple. And it’s like, “Oh the irony’s not complicated enough yet.” It’s not layered and you can feel that in the work, the layers of earnestness.

MS: It’s not vintage irony. It needs a few years.

JK: It’s the same with earnestness. It’s like with painters where you walk into a show and you’re like, “Oh my God, I don’t even want to go into this gallery. I don’t even want anyone to see me in this gallery because this person has never even considered irony as an option.”

EWA: Julian, I was drawn to what you said in your piece that you’re more interested in art work that is implicitly political as opposed to explicitly. I was wondering if you could talk a little more about that, and Martha if you make a similar distinction.

JK: Well I think that it goes back a little bit to the irony thing. The funny thing is that politicians—politics is itself now has become like art. What they do, and like when you watch all these new shows like Scandal or that terrible one with…I don’t know. But these shows about the back rooms of politicians, what they do, it’s a lot like what Dushko was describing of like art-world stuff. Like everyone was shocked that the art world works this way with a phone call here and an email there. And politicians, everyone’s like not really shocked because it’s been forever—since there’s been politics it’s been dirty—but now because of the media environment it’s like politicians function totally on the same logic as the art world. So in terms of the art work itself, I think that it’s facile. A lot of times, the explicitly political stuff is often times facile. There was a painter I saw give a talk recently and he had written on the sides of his paintings sort of these vague leftist things, like “Act Globally,” “Think local–, think whatever: globally, act wherever.” This sort of thing. And it was just such an uninflected sort of bumper sticker thing. I’m pretty convinced the bumper stickers don’t make a huge difference in getting things better or worse. They just sort of like become this spewing. I think there is work that does deal explicitly with politics and some of the social—some of the work that uses sort of social discourse as its medium or social activist stuff is very lively and interesting and certainly some people go right at it. Somebody like Catherine Opie comes to mind—somebody whose photos did make a pretty explicit difference in the discourse in general. I mean, after Catherine Opie, there’s kind of a flood of the way that, say the LGBT community, is shown in the general media discourse. So I think art can have this sort of explicit effect, but by and large when artists sort of explicitly deal with politics, it just becomes simplistic stuff. It’s really platitudes that you would read in the op-ed pages of a newspaper and it doesn’t really get to underlying complexities. And I think it also loses what art does well, which is much more complicated and subtle and deals with sort of things that are outside of verbal language. That’s why art being visual can deal with vague feelings and sort of things that are in the air that artists pick up on and because they don’t have to put it into words, they can actually suss that meaning out that people are feeling but aren’t ready to put into words yet.

EWA: So I guess my final question for you all would be what do you think the role of the art critic is? I mean, I know that Julian and Dushko you paint as well as write and I’m just wondering what you think that role is or if you think there is a role for the art critic.

DP: There are all these various forms of criticism, but the only ones that the people outside the circuit know about are the published forms, because there’s verbal criticism that happens among artists, there’s criticism that happens between the artist and the gallerist or the curator, there’s internal—W.H. Auden has a great essay where he talks about the sensor, which is like the critique that happens of an unfinished work that you yourself have made as opposed to the critique that happens of a finished work that someone else made. So there’s that whole process too and I think all of it’s really important. And I think part of what makes the published printed part of it so important but also so fraught is that in a weird way it has to account for all the unpublished, unprinted aspects.

MS: I was just going to say again there’s this whole language that’s fraught around art writing, criticism, et cetera, which is—I did this too, the “art writer” is a sort of newer term and I would say, “Oh, I’m an art critic.” Critic sounds very “Oooh-oooh” so you’re like, “Oh, I’ll just pick up ‘art writer’ for a while.” And then people would say to me, “What does that mean? What do you write?” And they wanted to know history, criticism, et cetera. So it’s gotten a little bit more broken down. I mean, one of the terms that’s very clear is when you say you are a reviewer, which is what I’ve spent most of my life doing, is reviewing, meaning going to shows, and that’s gotten more complicated because now you have a lot of work that’s not necessarily in galleries, that’s not necessarily an object, that’s not necessarily enclosed even within a specific time frame. We were talking about in the elevator on the way up, I’m so distracted right now because when I first started writing about art, I was following fifty or eighty galleries and it was in SoHo. Now, it’s something like eight-or-nine hundred venues with galleries, museums, there’s a book fair going on right now. There’s so much going on, so this idea of the critic that’s got sort of this mastery over the whole situation is just like absurd. And then you’re also supposed to have it with like Berlin, and “Oh, have you seen so-and-so’s gallery in Shanghai?” Like Shanghai is Brooklyn and I’ll just pop by there.

JK: It’s the seventh stop on the L.

MS: It is just insanity. The other thing, poststructuralism—and I say that in a very broad way, all these other things that were along with it—was a critique of these major figures and grand narratives. So we have a horrible habit of pointing to Clement Greenberg like he was the only critic in the ’50s—you know, ’40s-’50s—but he was a kind of master voice and people still like to do that because it’s easier than looking at ten people and sort of saying, “Well this is what all these different people think.”

EWA: So criticism isn’t just about the art, but also about the conversation that’s going on within criticism in that sense?

MS: Well, Roland Barthes used to call writing a tissue of texts. So instead of creating this original—I mean, criticism, just to use the plain word, is complicated because it’s a 19th century genre. So you think of people like Baudelaire where it was about taking a position and having a sort of, again, persona through writing, but that it came out of you. That’s part of why I’m getting really tired of writing about criticism. It’s easier to do academia, and first of all you can write as long as you want, and secondly you’re quoting everybody so it’s very explicit: I get this idea from this person, this idea from this person. Whereas criticism, this traditional version that we’re talking about, is somehow this kind of wellspring. Like, I saw the work and I had an epiphany and here’s what I coughed up. So you’re sort of suppressing this conversation, which is what art is really about and basically has always been about, which is why it’s always happening in urban centers. People collect in urban centers and have a conversation about what they’re seeing, what they’re thinking, what they’re experiencing, and this is what art sort of becomes.

DP: I had a recent conversation along those lines too where it was two editors talking and one of the questions was when you edit someone, then they get the credit: their name runs on it and nobody knows. It’s a kind of theatre of publishing, is that nobody knows how much the editor really did. In some cases the editor does very little and in some cases the editor does a lot, but there’s a kind of secret pact, right? But that’s just so odd. It’s so funny we preserve what Martha was talking about even when it’s not actually there, we preserve this kind of myth of a univocal eminence that just occurred in perfect grammar and everything like that and credit it to one name. So it’s kind of interesting and I wonder—this editor and I were talking about whether that will continue on the internet. Now there’s this kind of different model where you say something rather sloppy very quickly and then other people come in and correct you rather sloppily and rather quickly and it ends badly, but there’s a kind of honesty or whatever; an embarrassing mess as opposed to—I mean, even Greenberg was edited. There’s a lot of debate over this figure Greenberg. It’s almost like the Shakespeare problem or the Homer problem and I think with the critic—I mean I know that just from doing Paper Monument, what I like about it actually is the kind of polyphonous situation that you can arrange as an editor, which I feel like is more honest.

Segment 2: Interview with Chris Kraus

Moira Donegan: Hope you enjoyed that. This is Moira Donegan and I am going to present an interview I did with Chris Kraus back in September. Chris has a really great piece in n+1’s Issue 17. It’s called “Kelly Lake Store” and I spoke with her about that and a couple other things, and here’s our conversation.

MD: Tell me about the venue Mexicali Rose in Pueblo Nuevo that you visited. It seems like that’s a sort of new tradition that’s growing outside of these institutions of the art world.

Chris Kraus: Right, that was just wildly romantic.

MD: Yeah! It’s so idealistic. You also have written about that venue Tiny Creatures in LA, which was also something that emerged as that scene seemed to be diversifying a little bit, and there’s something really idyllic—and I almost want to say naïve—about these people who don’t have credentials creating these sort of communities.

CK: Yeah.

MD: Is there hope for anything like that?

CK: Well absolutely! I mean there’s hope all over the place. That’s the name of my next art book: it’s going to be called The Most Hopeful Project.

MD: Really? I like that!


CK: Tiny Creatures and Mexicali Rose, the people knew each other, actually. They were kind of friends. Tiny Creatures was this alternative gallery in Echo Park and it was started mostly by musicians. So only one of them, Jason Yates, had gone to an art program. The rest of them—Ariel Pink was one of the people, and Matt Fishbeck of Holy Shit was another—they were all in the music scene and they just, like, you know, they were doing a lot of amphetamines and like, so you like to keep your hands occupied. [Laughs] And they ended up making a lot of art. So [Founder Janet Kim] was such a visionary person. She thought that at first she’d have a recording studio and then she realized that there was all of this visual work that she and her friends were making and that it would be better to use this space as a gallery. And it just evolved over time, and I tell that story in the orange book, Where Art Belongs, but it’s a very different case of Mexicali Rose. That’s not the middle of Los Angeles. That’s Mexicali, Mexico where the opportunities are so much more limited for anybody who wants to be a working professional artist. There’s no commercial galleries. The only way that artists survive is by being on these kind of state-run biennials and by getting grants. There’s really hardly an art scene for these people to tap into at all, so that was a really kind of weird and heroic project that sprung up there. At first it was going to be about film and video. The intent was it was going to be a film and video workshop for kids in that neighborhood, but then all these people Marco Vera, the founder, was meeting, they came in with art and they wanted a place to show their art. And so it became that and it was not just for the people in Mexicali, but it was for the Americans on the other side who were even more deprived than the Mexicans, if you can believe that. I mean in terms of the richness of culture, there’s just like nothing. It’s just desert factory farms on the other side of the border. And so like these kind of weird drifters and like high school art teachers who were working in El Centro and Calexico would start going over to the other side, to the Mexican side, to participate in the cultural life.

MD: It’s interesting that you talk about the dearth of culture in sort of non-urban American spaces, because something you’ve written about elsewhere is the idea that you’re not an American artist: you’re an American-born artist who goes to Berlin or New York, and something that was striking to me about Mexicali Rose is that these were people from Mexicali who didn’t go to Mexico City or LA or whatever, they stayed in Mexicali. What do you feel the role of localism in contemporary art is or should be?

CK: Well it’s really interesting to me and I would never want to say one is good and the other is bad. They’re just different choices and with those choices come a whole different set of limits and responsibilities. I mean, for sure there are people in Mexicali—I mean like anybody, else they’re international people: they’re international people, they’re bilingual, they’re in their thirties, if they wanted to be in LA they could be in LA, they could be in Paris, they could be in Berlin, but they decided to stay in Mexicali. So that’s a different situation from the postcolonial situation of fifty or seventy-five years ago when these people are kind of bravely—actually, it’s kind of fascinating. In Mexicali, the postcolonial situation occurred really just a generation or two ago.

MD: Really?

CK: I met some artists there who were in their seventies who were of the first generation who decided like, “We’re Mexican. We’re going to stay in Mexicali and create a national art.” Because Mexicali is such a new city—it’s less than a hundred years old—so that postcolonial moment happened actually very recently. That’s not the case for these people now who in their thirties, like, they can be anywhere, but they just thought that for whatever reason that for them there were more possibilities and more, I don’t know, stimulations or more nuturants for them to be in Mexicali and make their work there. And there’s this similar scene now that I hope to explore—I’ve never been to Beirut, but I’ve been reading, I’ve met some artists from Beirut and I’ve read a lot of the work of [Kaelen Wilson-Goldie]—she’s an excellent critic and she’s Lebanese and she also lives here and she’s been writing a lot in the last year or two on the Beirut art scene for different international art magazines. And that also, in Beirut, is a group of completely sophisticated artists who could be in Germany or France or the Scandinavian countries, but they’ve chosen to stay in Beirut and with that, you know, when people who are born there choose to stay there, it brings up a whole different set of possibilities for those kind of amorphous quixotic thing called “community” that a lot of American artists so kind of naively go around the world talking about. And that’s like the most sad thing to sort of see all these artists who are completely dislocated and transnational sort of talk about “Community! Community!” Like, “Tapping into the community, creating the community!” and it’s like utterly impossible. It’s like a completely self-negating enterprise. But for these people in Mexicali and Lebanon, it’s not. They grew up in these places, their families—I mean they have legitimate ties and stakes in these places. So that is a unique and singular situation. It’s kind of un-copy-able and not repeatable, but it’s certainly terrific to watch it.

MD: What do you think are the conditions that make American artists so starved for community and almost hysterical over the idea of it?

CK: Well because we’re competitive from day one. Everything in our upbringing makes us compete against each other. What communities existed in the US have been totally strip-mined. There really is not such a thing as community. It’s a sort of nostalgic phantasm. Of course everybody, especially when they’re starting out, like, has this certain idealism and wants things to be better so people look for ways that they can create those, so of course it’s much more genuine if it occurs by spending time with people electively in our situation as artists. It’s much more genuine if it happens that way. I mean when people sort of move themselves to another place like New Orleans or Detroit I think it’s a little bit artificial unless they’re just prepared to spend a decade there, which in most cases they’re not. It’s a very kind of fake enterprise.

MD: It’s interesting that you bring up New Orleans and Detroit, in particular as these sort of postindustrial American cities in decline that always get pointed to as not-quite tabulae rasae, but like places where the ground is fertile for kids with ideas. What is the appeal of the rural or the sort of less-visible space for an artist?

CK: Well, I mean, the obvious answer is that it’s cheaper and easier and you don’t have to work two jobs to support yourself and pay your rent and pay your loans, right? It’s just easier to be there. So there was the tremendous appeal of Detroit years ago after the crash when you could buy a house in Detroit for $5,000. Like, who couldn’t do that? Who couldn’t get together $5,000 with their friends and just go live there? But in terms of actually people being willing to move to these places and create something there and really spend the time and to live part of your life, that’s a whole other thing. I think the biennial that’s being in preparation now that will open in March and April—the Whitney Biennial—I think the emphasis of this biennial with it’s three curators, none of whom were from New York or LA, really has a lot to do with this sort of decentered situation of contemporary art. And so it would be great to see what they do with that. Michelle Grabner is from Chicago and she has a project that she does every summer in Wisconsin called “The Poor Farm.” It just was actually a poor farm, like a debtors prison in rural Wisconsin that she and a partner took over—I think maybe they bought the building and they have this invitational thing where different artists come in every summer and install work in the ruins of this place. And Anthony Elms is coming from Philadelphia and Stuart Comer is coming from the UK, though he’s now in New York. So none of the three were from what are considered the major American art centers and I think there’s this idea that the center might not have the same significance as it did twenty years ago and that in this decentered situation, something else can be defined.

MD: Tell me what you’re seeing happening in parts of the country that are so far away from these metropolitan centers. I’m thinking largely of Minnesota—I don’t know if you own land there, but that’s where you proposed to do this Kelly Lake Store project.

CK: Right, but somehow through this fluke, because my partner who’s a therapist went back to school in 2009 in Minnesota to become a therapist and I went with him and I ended up renting a cabin in northern Minnesota and it was just such an excellent condition for me to write and just so incredibly physically beautiful. Such wildlife habitat; more wildlife than I’ve seen anywhere ever. I just kept going back there year after year. And so that was in, you know, riding my bike on the bike trail and that was how I came across this store, Kelly Lake Store, which had been, like, the first years that I went was open and doing business and then it had closed. And in the 4-5 years that I’ve been going back there summers, I’ve noticed they, after the census, they re-did the population signs and so one summer the population of Hibbing was eighteensomething thousand and then the next some it was only sixteensomething thousand. And that was just heartbreaking and shocking to me, because there are all these amenities, there are all these buildings, all these spaces, you would think all these opportunities, and people are living in such a cramped and constricted and desperate way in so many metropolitan areas. It’s always been so hard for me to understand why the center of America is so depopulated and the Metropolitan areas keep expanding, and the psychic life of them keeps constricting. So that was kind of a goof when I wrote that, the proposal, that it would be like, “Oh, ok, it would be a great art project! Give me a Guggenheim grant and I’ll use it to lease this store for a year and people can come and do their MFA art internships by working in this store.” And by that I mean selling groceries, not doing podcasts and not making videos, but just working in the store. In fact, it was what the Invisible Committee did when they left Paris. They took over the general store in Tarnac and the bar. That was their project as well as writing manifestos. They were operating a general store that otherwise would not have been—that would have been shut down. So that just seems to me like such an amazing utopian educational—highly educational and rich experience for people to have. To just kind of get off the kind of career and creative grid for a little while and do something else and find out what other people’s lives are like. So that’s kind of where that was coming from. I mean, amazingly, in this little village of Kelly Lake, you could still meet people in their eighties and nineties who were born in their houses and had lived in that village all their lives.

MD: Wow!

CK: I mean, that becomes like a national treasure, really.

MD: And it’s such an opportunity for art to sort of create something or create an exposure to ideas that are outside of these worlds that can be very insular, that can be exclusive to people who don’t have the same sort of experience.

CK: Exactly! I mean, I think probably, at least in North America, sociology is more or less dead as a profession, but it has a lot in common with what people in the art world now are calling “social practice.” And in the old kind of sociology where they’re doing studies of different groups, the really kind of bad inept sociologists would be the ones who were kind of going in with all this language and all this theory kind of from the top down with their ideas already about what it was. And the really good ones, the intuitive ones, were the ones who were willing to just sort of shut up and be there and listen and just kind of blend in for a little while like an anthropologist and keep your head down and really learn for yourself, just by being there and spending time, what the place was like. And I think in the art world a little bit more of that in art education of just shutting up and keeping your head down would go a long way.

MD: Thank you so much! This was such a pleasure!

CK: Moira, thank you! It was really so good to talk to you!

MD: Yeah!


MD: That’s it for this episode. Thank you to Chris Kraus.

EWA: And to Dushko Petrovich, Martha Schwendener, and Julian Kreimer.

MD: The podcast is produced by Malcolm Donaldson, Moira Donegan, Elisa Wouk Almino, and Eric Wen.

EWA: And thank you to The Westerlies for their music.


End of Episode

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