May 03, 2005

poets and text artists

Thursday saw a great night at Bury Art Gallery with me in conversation with Carolyn Thompson, followed by readings by Robert Sheppard and Mark Nowak (editor of XCP from Minnesota.

The conversation with Carolyn went like this:

TT: I think the first place to start is the problem of performance. In discussing this event, it was immediately obvious that as a text artist you were not keen to translate or mediate performatively the 2 works on display. “Poets read; text artists don’t” (my quote not yours!) I know when we talked about this initially you considered (however briefly) possible use of readings, can you tell us that thought process and why you rejected them?
CT: Yes, first and fore mostly I’m not a performance artist. In fact it’s just these sort of occasions that I personally tend to shy away from! I do however understand that for some, there is a performative aspect to my work, however I want the experience of most of my recent pieces to be an intimate one for a viewer and completely unconnected to me. I feel performance would detract from the issues I’m trying to deal with here.
The only way I would have been happy with the work becoming part of a performance would be if I had nothing to do with it, would be if the translation continued and another artist were to take one of my pieces and translate it into a new work, their new work, without my input.

TT: Why Breakfast at Tiffany’s?
CT: I’ve always enjoyed Truman Capote novels and Breakfast at Tiffany’s in particular had always intrigued me. I had begun to look at novels which have been adapted into films prompted me to revisit the novel at it at this particular time. Love and relationships were increasingly becoming themes throughout my practice, and lets face it Holly Golightly is one of twentieth century literature’s romantic icons.

TT: Why were you willing to have it over hung?
CT: I intended to deal with the themes of loss and missed possibilities portrayed in the novel, and ideas of individuality and companionship, and the relationship between the two. My relationship with the piece was one of devotion and obsession, cutting and sticking all the words. Like a relationship between two people it involved patience and endurance. I wanted this to be evident in the viewing, so by placing it behind other works the piece becomes part of the furniture, like everyday relationships continuing around us, it can go unnoticed. It requires seeking out and nurturing, but it also subtle enough to be neglected and ignored. It also means that the viewer requires some trust in the artist, believing that the piece continues to run behind the others, and this trust in itself becomes part of the viewer’s me/you relationship with me as the artist.

TT: Does your title appear in the book?
CT: No it comes from a song which is actually unrelated. It seems reflect Holly Golightly’s role in the novel as a loveable rogue. She is loved by everyone yet faithful to no one: lover, friend or even herself. It also seemed to be a solemn reminder that although it is easy to view the piece as a romantic story, the me/you relationship in question may not be a secure and comfortable one, and the devotion and obsession may be of a sinister nature.
The title also reminds of the aspects of trust in the artist I’ve already mentioned. There is a natural desire I think in viewing the piece to believe in it, and not to query. It often doesn’t occur to ask questions whether what you think you are seeing is really the case, whether the words really do go behind the other works and whether they are really in their original position.

TT: Is there a thread in your thinking that connects this work/book with the American Psycho piece in the next room or your Winston & Julia piece from 1984?
CT: Yes definitely. In all of the pieces I’m concerned with manipulating and retelling novels. The editing and reconfiguring processes I’ve put the books through, have been decided beforehand like a set of rules for that particular piece. I’m trying to make the distinctions between authenticity and fabrication ambiguous whilst questioning the value of authorship. Through all of that my goal is to create new realities and/or fictions.

On top of this, all deal obsession, the obsessive nature of the character in each as well as the obsessive quality in the work.

TT: The other day I was giving a talk in the gallery and someone was amused by my observation that you could see that you’re so pretty is a later work than After Easton Ellis because you are moving away from the book towards a language concept. Are you conscious of this movement and is it a progress you see continuing?
CT: Yes I’m definitely conscious of it, it has been somewhat of a premeditated move, but I wouldn’t exactly describe it as moving away from the book towards a sort of language concept. It has always been the language that I’ve been most interested in, the book references that appeared in the format of earlier works were there as I wanted to use preconceptions of original source in order to influence interpretation of my subsequent adaptation. Whilst in Winston and Julia, I put it in a book format to create intimacy. The books became gifts, this gift of a love story, something intimate, like reading is an intimate pastime. With You’re so Pretty when You are Unfaithful to Me although references are still made to the book, the particular book from which the text came became less important, as the relationship between the me and you became the stronger element.

TT: One of the questions that is sure to come up is how is this work not Orwell’s or Ellis’s or Capote’s? What is your relationship to the original authors and texts?
CT: That’s really for an audience to decide. I want the viewer to determine the value of authorship and create their own parameters to the word and its connotations. I don’t deny that the original work is theirs, particularly with the Orwell and Ellis work, I am really only highlighting and celebrating something that has already been created. That’s why their names appear on the pieces.

TT: Familiar in other Artforms (for instance sampling in popular music), the idea of using splicing source texts for a new work – intertextuality – has been a recognised strategy since the sixties. It is one of the themes that the festival and this exhibition have identified as central to current text-poetic practice. Your work actually manifests the others - Spatialisation, materiality, parataxis and process-based restricted languages - especially in the Tiffany piece. Can you talk us through your response to this sort of analytical structure? (or) Are your texts informed by poetic/literary strategies and structures?
CT: Although I feel it more likely that my work references social behavior in contemporary popular culture than any poetic/literary structures, in saying that I’m fitting it perfectly into the intertextuality strategy. However I think it is almost impossible to create work which does not refer to the world in which we live and what is happening in the here and now.

Being engaged with the compression and reduction of information, and the ways in which existing material is reconfigured to create something new, I feel more than anything I reference popular culture including television, film and music as well as mimicking the way our increasing thirst and impatience for knowledge means our experiences become snap shots of a whole picture.

TT: How do you locate yourself in relation to the tradition of conceptual text artists (Weiner, Holzer, Kruger)?
CT: I don’t, as I don’t actually see myself as a text artist. I do however see myself as a conceptual artist who at this particular moment in time, is using text, or language, as medium as it’s the most suitable for my current body of work. I try to keep an open mind and not restrict myself too much by labeling myself as any particular type of artist, as I think it’s very easy to fall into the trap of feeling you must then conform to that, and consequently end up regurgitating the same old crap. So at some point in the future I may be using various other forms of media which I feel more suitable to depict the themes that I am interested in then.

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