November 27, 2007

We've heard this little scene, we've heard it many times.
People fighting over little things and wasting precious time.
They might be better off ... I think ... the way it seems to me.
Making up their own shows, which might be better than T.V.

Royal Nebeker, Rockin in the Free World, 2007

* Imagining American Leadership. excerpt:

"Our presidential candidates could use a little more imagination. In fact, imagination is the very trait that our nation would do well to hoard in coming decades.

"Would-be presidents have offered various education-related formulas for continued American competitiveness. This involves such good-faith efforts as increased support for K-12 education or improved access to community colleges.

"But a more strategic vision would involve two priorities: First, we require a greater commitment to the American research enterprise than Congress has displayed of late. Second, we require a national renaissance of the arts and humanities, so that American imagination can continue to fuel American innovation.

"Sufficient federal funding for basic research is vital: Cutting-edge science and technology discoveries can spur vast new industries and economic sectors that drive the global economy. The American-born Internet is today's exemplar; tomorrow's exemplar may be nano-science or quantum computing."
"Our creative edge can be honed, even as other edges grow blunt. While most of China's new engineers must focus on developing and servicing China's vast infrastructural needs, American infrastructure is already so well-developed that lower-level technicians can service it. This reduces the need for the United States to produce a matching number of engineers, and also allows the bulk of American-based engineers and scientists to dedicate themselves to technologies that can drive our economic future.

"But a revaluing of the arts and humanities is essential to this process. Numerous lofty reasons exist to re-value the right-brain realms: to ignore the arts and humanities is to commit cultural suicide. The arts help us discern what it is to be fully human, and to live in the society of other humans. There are practical reasons too: The arts help us produce better engineers, better scientists, better physicians and better entrepreneurs.

"Art is the ability to impose a meaningful pattern on experience and existence, the English mathematician Alfred North Whitehead noted. An artless technologist, one who attempts to innovate without this ability, will produce work that is sterile or even dangerous."
"The arts have captured their imaginations long enough to expand and then unleash their imaginations toward practical purposes. A recent USC Student Innovator Showcase spotlighted a range of student innovations -- including efforts to take wiki-knowledge to the next level, address overlooked health concerns, and reorganize how entertainment is distributed and shared. These students are finding that their enhanced ability to create new opportunities and new solutions can serve as a precious anchor as their world lurches in unexpected directions.

"This should remind politicians, pundits and ordinary citizens that an American college diploma should represent far more than a job credential confirming that a few years were spent in a classroom; it should represent a uniquely transforming experience of lasting benefit to both student and society. It just takes a little imagination."

* 2005 Index Magazine interview of Richard Prince. excerpt:

Interviewer: Do you ever look at one of your pieces and ask yourself, "What was I thinking?"

Prince: All the time, especially with my early work. The other day, I saw a set of photographs I took of fountain pens in 1978 — what the hell was I thinking? It's so precise. It looks as if I was in control. I wasn't in control. I didn't know what I was doing. I was so young.

Interviewer: You were working in New York at the Time-Life Building around that time.

Prince: In 1975, I was twenty-seven and working part-time in the employees' bookstore. There was a large storage room three levels down in the basement. No one ever went down there, so I built myself a studio.

Interviewer: That's where you started photographing photographs.

Prince: I got a job in the tearsheets department, ripping up magazines like People, Fortune, Sports Illustrated, and Time, and delivering the editorial pages to the appropriate departments. At the end of the day, I was left with the advertising pages. I started looking at the ads very carefully. These images of happy couples were supposed to represent something, but they didn't really mean anything to me. So I began to use a camera to make fake photographs of the ads.

Interviewer: Why did you rephotograph the photographs?

Prince: By rephotographing a magazine page and then developing the film in a cheap lab, the photos came out very strange. They looked like they could be my photos, but they weren't. Then I started noticing patterns in the photos, and I would make things up, pretending that there was more meaning there. Back in 1978, I did a piece called Three Women Looking in the Same Direction, in which I photographed three original color advertisements and printed them as black-and-white images. I wanted to present them in a very normal way, so I matted them, framed them, and hung them.
Interviewer: You moved to New York in 1973 when you were twenty-four.

Prince: Ever since I was a child, I always had this fantasy about coming to New York City. The first place I rented was on Prince Street and West Broadway in Soho. I didn't know a soul. I would go days without talking. My only conversations were with bartenders. Since I didn't come from a university background, I didn't have the contacts that would lead me to people in the art world. But I've always loved art, so there was never even a question about my being an artist. Saturday was gallery opening day, and lots of people were out and about. I had a great time.

Interviewer: You were spending a lot of time in galleries.

Prince: I remember seeing Joseph Beuys' performance I Like America and America Likes Me, in which he was locked in a room with a coyote at Rene Block, a European gallery. And I became friends with Susan Gibson from the Gibson Gallery in Soho — she sort of took me under her wing. I would occasionally bring some of my work to show her. It wasn't about trying to get a show there, because the gallery was showing major artists like Vito Acconci, Dennis Oppenheim, and Bill Beckley.

Interviewer: Your first solo exhibition was at Metro Pictures in 1980.

Prince: I didn't have the best experience when I first exhibited my own work. The best time was during the summer before the gallery opened, when all of the artists hung out together in the owner's loft.

Interviewer: Back then, your photography was often grouped with the Pictures Generation, including Cindy Sherman and Sherrie Levine — artists who questioned notions of originality and authenticity.

Prince: I didn't really know those people at that time. Everybody was talking about ideas like the death of the author, and I was pulled into a situation where my work was looked at as theory. I felt that it was being overinterpreted. I would tell these critics, "I'm sorry, but you're wrong," and because of it, I sort of got kicked out of the club. I was friendlier with the next batch of artists — Christopher Wool, Martin Kippenberger, and Walter Dahn.

Interviewer: You opened your own gallery on the Lower East Side in 1983.

Prince: I opened Spiritual America anonymously, and I hired a girl to front it. It was a Malcolm McLarenesque gallery on Rivington Street. We never advertised, and we never invited anybody. When the media or someone from the outside world would call, we'd say that it was just for friends. But we were open to the public. We only had four shows, though.
Interviewer: How much of your work is personal and how much is commentary?

Prince: It's fifty-fifty. When I start out I don't know anything about my subject matter. I didn't know anything about publicity pictures when I started collecting eight-by-tens. I definitely didn't know that there are autograph collector conventions. Maybe the more I get to know about a subject, the more it becomes art. The one thing I do know about is art — but I don't know what makes art.

* Spiritualized, playing I Think I'm In Love, recently at the Apollo.

* "Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." -- Francis Bacon


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