July 06, 2005

Lawrence Weiner

After a brilliant and very long day with Lawrence Weiner on Friday we went into the Text Festival public conversation. It turns out that my anxiety about his reputation for ‘difficulty’ was based on stories from the 60’s and 70’s when he was ‘set-up’ in unsympathetic anti-conceptualist forums – so our day was much more relaxed and conducive than I had feared. He was really pleased with the WATER MADE IT WET installation, which looked fabulous in the summer light. His RADCLIFFE HORIZION piece always looks good in the sun anyway. The poster archive show at Bury Art Gallery is also an impressive installation, though he thought that more of the posters could have been fitted in. He had read the Art Monthly review and disagreed with it but was very positive about the festival achievement, which was gratifying. The conversations through the day were relaxed and free-ranging. Of particular interest was the discussion of my methodological analysis of the current text situation. Since the articulation of the 5 methodologies in the TEXT, I have considered a potentially missing element in the equation – temporality. Not in the simplistic way of this being the Sixth Element (or the even more superficial recent analysis of the longpoem by Ron Silliman which statically operates only with a traditional undifferentiated classical model), but in an analogous quantum structure: Quantum Gravity Theory/M Theory postulates the structure of reality having eleven dimension (ten plus Time), and my current work follows a thread that this is mirrored in the Glass Bead Game of Text as five methods plus Time. Lawrence engaged with this with his recent thinking on the dialogue between Simultaneity and the Parallel. Some of his thinking in this resurfaced in the public conversation which will be transcribed and available shortly.

In preparation for the conversation cris cheek joined me and despite much briefing on how to approach the situation he immediately upset the intellectual openness of the discussion by flagging up his platform plan to question Lawrence on areas of writing, line length, compositional practice - which LW would reject as irrelevant

The Met had a great atmosphere, and there was a good sized and mixed audience of festival familiars, artists, students and curators.

Overall we talked for an hour and half covering Lawrence’s artistic theory and practice and issues facing artists in the 21st Century. The prickliness engendered by cris pushed Lawrence into preparing positions giving the conversation an edge which (people report) made for a tantalising debate (one poet in the audience commented that it was fun watching cris ‘intellectually bitch-slapped’) but it was annoying for me because it drove it away from the more thought-provoking ground of the Text Festival which required more trust and openness. Maybe this was never possible anyway and that that work had happened earlier in the day and will valuably resurface in the follow-up to TEXT which I have started working on.

1 comment:

cris cheek said...

Hi Tony, was just reading this after doing a search in Bob Grenier's 'Sentences'. So, strange things happen through time,

But I want to take issue with you over the way in which you characterise what happened with Lawrence Weiner. Your brief to me, even from early on, was to want a poet in conversation with Lawrence explicitly to put him under some pressure in respect of his writing. You had said several times. The ways in which I had thought about it were in response to your brief. I had also run my thoughts past you in advance. I was open and honest in wanting to ask him about the writing, both with you in advance and with him. Surely that IS trust and openess? The questions were simple really and in choosing not to answer them he displayed himself as utterly confused and in denial about his work. In fact it was your reportage to me, on that day, of his response to WATER MADE IT WET that opened the first conversation topic - namely the interplays between versions of pieces and sites in which versions appear and his sense that WATER MADE IT WET had found its home. Those last three words aren't quite what he said but convey the gist of your report on his reaction that you passed on to me. If it had found its home then surely he could say more about the interplay between site and work. But no, he simply refused - utterly falling back into previously held positions. Just another sad example of an artist incapable of modifying his earllier poses - desperately, and on that night pathetically, striking a tired poise. From that point on his answers became more and more silly. The page is the same as the screen is the same as a wall, for example. How can he retain any credibility after saying such a ridiculous thing? On that basis his placements can be read as no more than dogs peeing on the neighborhood to mark territory. I know, I know that he doesn't really believe that. Yet he says these things publically, to derision of many in that audience, because he has a position to uphold. Surely it was he who refused openess and trust? Surely the contract to converse openly and in a trusting way was broken by him and not by myself which your blog entry suggests. Surely his seeming interest in discussing the things i mentioned, line length for example (one business of a poet and one reason why you wanted a poet to be a conversant) which is critical to the shape and the placement of his work(s), in the restaurant beforehand and then refusing to when sat in front of an audience reveals his duplicity not my foolishness? And since you were sat there participating in that discussion at the restaurant, evidently having the thoughts that you formulate on the blog, then why not say something - in a spirit of openess and trust, either at the time or in the interim?

I wanted to have the transcript of that conversation to take publlic issue with Lawrence and to show exactly what he said. I think many contemporary practitioners would have been amused and amazed by his behaviour in that conversation. I had respect for his work, prior to that evening.

By the way I didn't feel at all intellectually 'bitch-slapped' although that description would sit pretty well with his overall mien. I did feel intellectually disappointed, left intellectually bereft and intellectually infuratiated with the false promise of an open and trusting discussion. I am even more disappointed that you read it in the light by which you have blogged it. Refusing all detail and painting with gaudy blobs, to raise the banner of the artist and to demean and bemoan the petty poet. Surely the Text festival was more about rapprochement?

I am hoping that either yourself - or Lawrence - will respond here.

love and love
cris