this issue contains
>> Portrait Ursula Döbereiner / Kirstine Roepstorff
>> Lawrence Weiner: Interview
>> Cash Flow at the ibc in Frankfurt: Olaf Metzel

>> archive


Did you purposefully choose walls next to commercial spaces for your work?

No. I take whatever wall is afforded me. In the earlier days, it was really catch as catch can. There's no site-specific intent in the work.

What's the relationship of your work to docks?

Some people spend their time in art academies, I spent my time making a living on the docks as a kid on the east and west side of New York and Vancouver, New Brunswick, New Orleans, Algiers, and Galveston, so the reference is the docks.

How did you end up doing that?

I come from an area in the South Bronx where there was little employment. A lot of people were Merchant Marines. There were also Mafiosi, which meant those people running the dock labor unions - as a young Socialist working in civil rights, I found myself in opposition, like a lot of people.

Lawrence Weiner:
Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery

I'm interested in the transformation of your work from the early books to the internet, like Homeport, the project you did with äda'web. What are the differences between how public life has changed via television as opposed to the internet?

I believe in books, because society is in a position to close down the internet and everything to do with it. McLuhan made a mistake: the internet requires electricity, without it, we can't produce. Books, once they're printed, have a tendency, even with the Nazis, to survive. You can still find books underneath beds, in the Arab world, in the mid-West, where they've been censored.

Laurence Weiner Studiowall
Photo: © Cheryl Kaplan, 2005 All Rights Reserved

As opposed to the internet...

...which has a specific hierarchy requiring the economics of being unemployed or being so rich you can spend your life watching television. That's what the internet is.

Lawrence Weiner: WAVE AFTER WAVE, 2002
Courtesy Marian Goodman Gallery

Your earlier work dealt with TV test patterns. Did Nam June Paik interest you?

I liked his work, but it had little to do with me. I wanted to use an iconic structure and build a relationship to space. It was 1960, 1962. I learned more from Öyvind Fahlström, who was doing the same kind of thing. Fahlström dealt with reality by not accepting what they told you it should be. Nam June was involved in universals, and I'm not.

Your 1991 work in Vienna, "(IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT) SMASHED TO PIECES (IN THE STILL OF THE NIGHT)" is amazing for its shift and use of redundancy and how you allow an undermining to be felt.

If you went out in the street in Vienna and broke a bottle in the middle of the day and listened to it, and then did the same thing at night, they would sound a lot different.

They're two different versions of the same thing.

That's the point of the work. Each person comes with their desires and builds their own metaphor. The work has no metaphor - it's a reality. When you present a work that has a metaphor, you're asking people to accept the value structure that led to what you're showing as reality. The artist is not a special person. The artist is an integral member of society. It's about walking away with an understanding of your place in the world - that's the whole purpose of art. I see metaphor as an imposition of a value structure that you're making art in order to destroy. People want a reality that's security-based.

People look for equivalents. In your work, dignity doesn't flinch.

It doesn't have to. We're still not at the point that happens in other cultures, of rounding up artists and removing them from view. As long as they're not doing that, we have an obligation to do as much as we can.

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