Could Be Asked, Might Choose to Answer
Raimundas Malašauskas Interviews Anonymous Artist
Raimundas Malašauskas: In The Devil Wears Prada Meryl Streep asks her assistant to get the not-yet-released manuscript of a Harry Potter book for her kids. She needs two copies because the kids are twins. One would assume that twins could share one copy, no? How do you share information?
Anonymous Artist: The double complicates things. Meryl Streep needs to be difficult. I am no double. I am not a stuntman.
RM: Do you find yourself difficult?
AA: No. I guess it depends on how you mean difficult. I’m not one to make decisions. This indecisiveness plays an important role in my work. It is the collaborative element. I rather like it when curators make decisions. I find they have better ideas as to how works should be executed.
RM: What does execution mean to you? And what follows after?
AA: Nothing follows execution. I’m not sure if I really ever execute works but once in a while it comes time to exhibit something. The works normally come about through conversation with a curator of an exhibition. Execution is a performance for me.
RM: So you see yourself more as a whole school rather than just Harry Potter? What can I learn from your school?
AA: There is nothing you can learn that we didn’t already know. Was it not you who said, “Why are we so attracted by the missing, the lost, and impossible to know? Only because of the fact that we think that everything is available to us?”
RM: Do you think of it more as a redistribution of the information or is it also a rewriting?
AA: As redistribution. There is always a rewrite. Distribution is something I would like to put off till later. Actually, it’s always being put off. Or being put on. It’s a put-on. Distribution is a put-on.
RM: Isn’t it curious that hardly anyone can write, but everyone can rewrite?
AA: I am not sure why this is. Could it be due to the film montage?
RM: So, handing over property. Or the exchange of property.
AA: It’s a gift. Something considered, “... whether this object will give pleasure, whether it will disappoint ...” But it’s an exchange in the end.
AA: Something happens, and you talk about it. Or it hasn’t happened, and you talk about that. I am more interested in exchanging exchange than in production. Production is only a by-product for me. Nothing has to happen. Nothing needs to be seen. If you would like to see something then make it, but for now we should talk.
RM: But isn’t conversation the most common mode in the production of knowledge economy?
AA: Yes, I agree. Conversations play a fundamental role in the expanse of knowledge, but I am more interested in what falls through the cracks. What we leave out and why do we keep what remains.
RM: But doesn’t this require relinquishing the idea of a society beyond division and power, without any need for law or the state and where in fact politics and art would have disappeared?
AA: You can’t relinquish something you don’t already have. When you think about something for too long it becomes a myth. I think it was Michel Foucault whom said, “Never make politics out of it.” I guess I would say that I am a cultural producer. We all need titles. It would be nice if we could speculate on what our titles could be.
RM: What would it lead us to?
AA: I am not sure if it needs to lead us anywhere. Maybe, it would lead us nowhere, or to a nowhere. We just need to explore. Now that our planet is charted, and space is out of the question for me, I am frightened of the idea of space, we have to explore titles. Systems. There are some places I would like to visit for instance Sakhalin, Khabarovsk, Primorsky, and Tbilisi.
RM: Visiting them in this particular order?
AA: No, do you know a good order in which to see them?
RM: Slow down. Before you were just talking about production, disappearing into production. It’s hard to say where the production starts and when it stops. Not in terms of work versus free time, but just in terms of what you’re actually doing. For example, looking at things on the Internet – is that already production?
AA: I’m not sure if the Internet is production. It just happens to be there, and we might as well have a look. I was thinking the other day about reality as a ready-made. It can be a nice activity to take things for granted. My work takes things for granted; this might be where production comes in. I am not sure as an artist if I believe in free time. That’s not to say that I believe in work time.
RM: Isn’t non-productivity one of the most radical and violent means to counteract dominant structures? Do you use the notion of a product in your artistic practice?
AA: I like to think of non-productivity as a life style. Like Jean-Pierre Léaud’s character Alexandre in La Maman et la Putain. This is a model that we may want to follow?
RM: What is so special about this model?
AA: In a way Alexandre is one of the last holdouts of May ‘68. He is completely apolitical but he wants to experience all the ways one can manoeuvre in society. He is exploiting the position where someone does not need to be the subject of labour. We know he is a writer, but we only see him writing in one scene towards the end of the film. It seems that as a writer for him writing is completely forgettable. It would be nice to forget one’s profession. Alexandre is searching for responsibility, I just hope he never finds it, but it looks as though he has. It’s a tragedy.
RM: Once you claimed that elusiveness is a way of resistance. Do you still believe in it?
AA: Elusiveness can be used for a variety of means. Politicians use elusiveness. What is one resisting? I’m not sure if I know resistance, but I would like to. I guess we both have a bit of elusiveness in our own practices both as artists and as curators. Elusiveness can be used as a tool not to be pinned down. It might be in this sense that a model of resistance can be worked out but once again it’s not too far a position from that of politicians.
RM: But there are certain things you prefer to believe in, no?
AA: I prefer to think rather than to have thought.
RM: So in the infinite conversation of culture you prefer to be both seated and remain standing?
AA: It might be my fear of heights. When you sit you can listen but when you stand you are speaking and never listening. I am a bit passive, I like to talk too much.
RM: So what role does chance play? To me, it doesn’t seem that you leave anything to chance in what you do. The elaborate construction of contradiction may keep things in radical ambivalence, but not contingency.
AA: To me it is all chance. I know things... they happen, you watch, and you may make sense of them... but in this method of trying to understand they become skewed. One might make metaphors that both explain and complicate. Conversations happen either because of common understanding or a misunderstanding. It’s like trying to find Lithuanians in San Francisco, don’t you think?
RM: Yes, they didn’t wait. When do you recognise something as being repetitive?
AA: Never. I was once at a three-hour screening of Aurelien Froment’s Theatre de Poche (2007).
RM: Can your pieces be redone in another situation, somewhere else, by someone else, actually?
AA: Yes, but I don’t want to be quoted, I want to be redone. But also, I am not sure if my work is not constantly being remade. Recently I have been collaborating with Robert Barry. I am somehow reminded of a quote by Sol LeWitt, I can’t remember where I heard or saw it, but it went something like, “I want to make works that Giotto would appreciate.” I would like to believe that Sol was remaking Giotto.
RM: At one particular point of his career or throughout all of it?
AA: Throughout all of it. That’s how I understand his statement. It’s kind of nice – Sol sampling Giotto. I would not mind quoting Giotto. Wait, I have found a quote, “The human heart is a frail craft on which we wish to reach the stars.” Kind of nice?
RM: Is it from Sol or Giotto?
AA: It’s from Giotto but it could be from any number of people. This is why I am fond of conversation. We can speak in hopes that what we have said disappears into time so that nothing is left.
RM: Do you feel flattered when you are being sampled?
AA: At first, I felt flattered. But now everyone has sampled me.
RM: Lightness, speed, ready-made. These words are recurrent in your vocabulary. Is this your legacy?
AA: I would like to be remembered as an index.
RM: Since we tend to agree that our identities are collectively authored, who are your authors?
RM: Including your enemies? Why?
AA: Enemies are the most intimate others.
RM: Have you ever created work under a different name? Can you imagine creating the work of another artist? Do you sometimes imagine the work of another artist that hasn’t ever been created?
AA: Yes, sometimes I remove the C from my first name, but other than that only in collaboration. Names are names and I have one. I don’t need another. I once remade the work of a friend. The piece had been made in collaboration with someone else, but I felt some authorship. I have been thinking of about Bruce Nauman’s proposal for an “earth art” exhibition in 1969. He requested a plane to sky-write, “Leave the land alone.” It was never made. Do you have a pilot’s licence?
RM: No. But do you know why Nauman never made it?
AA: It’s speculated that it was not made either due to a lack of funds or the curator did not take it seriously.
RM: I wonder if there’s a difference between that old idea of the death of the author and something more like ... the disappearance of the author. Roland Barthes’ whole idea of this post-structural kind of producer, the author, is somehow a dead idea. I am wondering if that can be a new idea of an author.
AA: It might be that the editor is now the author. Maybe not. I am often too worried about positions to think about authorship. It’s something I seldom think about now-a-days. I could kind of care less about the author. I am not sure what role the author plays in production today. The author could be anyone. I am working towards giving up any authorial position altogether. I would rather index time and events.
END OF TAPE
Raimundas Malašauskas’ character has two palm tree palms. Often, you would read Rai's email closing: "easy." That had been plain-sailingly typed by the palms.
Rai thinks thinking is like what he eats: fungus. Rather than saying that Rai thinks about things, he's more passing by things. So I would re-phrase it as: he navigates thoughts in a way like a mycelium's network which tends to fork. People understand Rai’s practice performs a certain degree of post-socialist schizophrenia, but in the eyes of a Chinese, however, Rai is quite a-sociailistic.
Soup, it is salty soup that he adores to drink. The grains of salt accumulated as Rai's works crystalizes different salt fields. Oo. o O. o Oo. If you do a crystal gazing, you see what I’m saying in the area where Rai's stomach is supposed to be. The sodium chloride forms a Spiral Jetty along the rhythmic ‘Os’.
That actually leads us to understand why he walks so fast, extremely fast along the Amsterdam streets and canals that form concentric circles. I’ve once seen the helicopter documenting along the spiral range of a spiral jetty. One needs certain speed to convolute the thinking and chemical processes akin to the crystals of the Great Salt Lake.