The Scholar and the Feminist XIV (Women in the 21st Century: Looking Forward and Looking Back): Afternoon Workshop 19, part 2

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  • Andrea Fraser: .....piece of territory that was being staked out. And it precisely contrad...I mean it was completely contradictory. And, I mean, that's what seems to me is very dangerous and very problematic is to get involved in making -- in elaborating or stating strategies that in which one is not engaging. Basically. [laughter] At that moment.
  • Aimee Rankin: [laughing] She did pretty well. But I know some of you, did anyone else um, you didn't see. There was this series of panels and they were very academic as a rule. And they were on certain topics that were more or less kind of politically correct. And people got there and I was really disappointed because they ended up really degenerating how [Foster] who organized it said he really wanted to emphasize dialogue, right. But there was no way in hell there's going to be dialogue in that space and in that set up, it was this really scary looking room that looked like, you know Starship Enterprise or something. And there was like, you know, all the audience was sitting down. They couldn't see each other and then this podium like, was really intimidating. But it ended up just degenerating into this sort of either empty [polemics] in a way that like someone up here would say something stupid and everyone to be like, you know, from the audience like taking potshots at that person, trying to make them look even more ridiculous. Or it would be someone in the audience maybe who was being referred to, would feel personally challenged in a way that would be detrimental to their career. So they were having to, kind of, defend their thing. So it really was totally unproductive I thought, and I had the misfortune or the fortune or whatever of giving one of the things. Then afterward I got confronted by someone who basically accused me of trying to stake out a certain territory which I was, you know, maybe self deluded enough to not realize I was doing. But it really stung me and it made me really unable to do what I originally intended to do here, which was, you know, give more of a prepared statement. I just couldn't deal with that after the [Dia] thing and after feeling that it had nothing to do with discussion, it had nothing to do with ideas. It was, I much prefer what's going on in this room, which seems to me more about potentially, you know, real things maybe emerging that are about talking with each other than I am and what was going on there. Which is all about a kind of, like in the animal kingdom you know sort of puffed-up feathers display of [laughing]
  • Speaker 1: Well, just a thought as Aimee was talking that, this, do you find this accusation of trying to stake out a territory is more often applied to women than men?
  • Aimee Rankin: Uh, that's a good point because generally it would be more applied to marginal groups who aren't given that territory by birth or whatever. [laughing]. So it's the rest of us are clawing for what little crumbs in the margins we can get. That may be true. But I think in general when you deal with academics in the art world, I mean, I went to this thing in '78 that was supposed to be a feminist conference and `I couldn't call myself a feminist for two years after that because here I was so idealistic thinking that we're going to talk about ideas, you know, we're going to get come stuff done. And it was everyone just reading their paper and trying to get an academic job. [laughter] Which is good, I mean, you know maybe they really deserve the academic job. But it had nothing to do with the kind of lofty ideals of intellectual debate that they were claiming it did. So I don't know, I'd rather just talk about stuff and not, you know, not have to make it in this way but I guess the structure is, we're the catalysts maybe.
  • Speaker 2: Yeah, but I think that's alright for this context. I mean, we're talking about ambivalence in and lots of people can participate in that. [laughter] Aimee Rankin: Well, we're all ambivalent about being up here [laughter] Speaker 2: Right, Jim do you want...
  • Speaker 3: Yeah, I wanted to go back Leslie [that you] were talking about the, it sounded to me like what I heard was you, you wanted the film to sort of be, you know, at a point where people begin talking. Um, and I, sort of can accept that. Um, you know, it did seem like um, throughout sort of problematized the whole, you know, its ability to name things. Um, it also set up a lot of situations which, you know, where, it's a dramatized you know that, you know, incapacity or that refusal, or at least that sort of, slow down in a process of you know, quickly naming. Um, although I am, I really agree with Andrea too that there's this, I mean, if uh, the president's saying, you know, my management style uh, I don't know what's going on below me. That's beyond my knowledge. Speaker 2: Yeah. Speaker 3: Um, that seems like the ultimate version of claiming, you know, claiming loss of knowledge in the favor of power.
  • Leslie Thornton: Well I'll tell you what. This sort of actually fits in nicely to what's [just going to discuss. The ideal situation in my mind for this work in terms of screening is for it to be there as the bad crippled thing that it is. And then to talk about it so that what it doesn't say can come out amongst people immediately following. And not for me, although, since I know it best, you know. And certainly I've lots of opinions about it. I'm going to be dealing with that. But that, it was a film that was made to be followed with discussion. Very much. So uh, you know, I don't want -- I wouldn't be comfortable leaving this room saying only this is sort of empty and mute and doesn't do. That's the point. It start, it, that's what that does. And then you work around that. Like, what's that about, you know?
  • Speaker 4: Yeah, but don't you see how that fits in really closely with the whole [Reagan] thing? Like okay, I'm going to do this but then I'm going to cover it up with my speech afterwards. And [unclear] to the whole Hollywood dialogue. And what does it mean to say [ah, i'm not going into that]. And what does that mean about my own covering up of like, my own ineptitudes. And what do you say to it I'm tired of like looking up at people's pleasure? Like, what would you say to that? And what would you say to everything that I've just like, spurted out? Leslie Thornton: I can't relate to your statement. I doesn't relate. I can't respond to it. If anyone else here has an interest in responding. I just, it's not something that registers at all. Speaker 4: Really? Leslie Thornton: I cannot relate to it. Speaker 4: Really? Speaker 5: Well I just think there's a fundamental critique in the from the very opening, which is are you looking at um, are you looking at Chinese people? Are you looking at women? Or are you looking at the way they're imaged in our culture? And if you can't get around that reversal, if you can't find some discomfort in the way the film is structured, then a pull together take of this [unclear] little, you know as a reinforcement.
  • Leslie Thornton: I don't think the problem with Reagan is his ambivalence, I think it's his lack of it. You know? He knows exactly who's right, whose wrong, and who's got the white hat and the black hat. And he knows where he stands and you know, I think if that guy had a little tiny bone of ambivalence in his body, you know, maybe this whole thing with the conjugate wouldn't have happened. [laughing] Leslie Thornton: Now, you know, ignorance, stupidity, incompetence, that's another story. I don't think that's got anything to do with ambivalence. [laughing] Speaker 3: Well, I, maybe I shouldn't have like, made such a dramatic kind of comparison Leslie Thornton: [laughing] Speaker 3: Cause I just think. I mean I think the slowing down of ascribing [proper name]. I mean, I see your work Aimee, I get kind of like excited about that, too. But,
  • Aimee Rankin: [laughing] Excited in what way? Speaker 3: Well, I think in the, like, like in the, after, [unclear] was like speeded up to like some kind of insane Dada destructive level. Some kind of ...instead of picking on a, you know, a kind of, like he did with a Shakespearian play. You pick on these, these kind of mass cultural, you know, American modes of sexuality. You know, the kind you get on the FM radio. And to me, I mean you rev those up. --- you take the position of authority and you kind of, it misfits, because I don't know. I mean, this is my version. But you take it on and it just kind of, you know what I mean, just, it just goes kind of crazy. Aimee Rankin: I don't know if I take it on. It what? Speaker 3: It breaks down Aimee Rankin: Good. Speaker 3: In a kid of destructive way. You know, in a totally, you know, like blow the whole house down.
  • Aimee Rankin: Yeah, just. In a way I'm very self critical. And really ironic. Cause at the same time that um, I'm setting up this work which is about a kind of fascination and repulsion in my own life. I mean, you know totally mushball and I totally buy a lot of the things that I wouldn't never, you know, kind of intellectually want to admit. And I think that were also constructed by mass culture. I mean, a certain formative point I was reading all of, you know, True Romance magazines from the supermarket and they're just disgusting, I mean they're really, like freaky. But they touch some real, you know, kind of psychoanalytic nerves in the populace. And I mean if you want to do work about desire I think you have to touch those nerves even if only to make people aware of what you're dealing with. But I really want to push, push the edge of horror a little more in my work. My next series, I mean I'm moving from bedrooms to hells. [laughing] And that, that, the hell things have been collecting a lot of monsters that money can buy. And I've been looking at a lot of special effects horror movies and reading a lot of like Stephen King and stuff like that. So I'm getting really interested in some of these other really powerful nerves. This guy Jim Cameron who directed Terminator and Aliens, he says stuff like "You know fears are really important emotion is it makes people feel like they're alive' [laughing]. You know that's what they're saying, you know, in Hollywood and stuff, so. I mean they're using certain knowledges, Madison Avenue and in Hollywood and so on to manipulate us. And I just kind of want to deal with the results of that myself.
  • Speaker 5: Well I was just thinking about the use of music in Leslie's piece as opposed to Amiee's. And Leslie's, theres this, you talked about this trace of um, correspondence but also a real contradictory sense to the music in terms of mood. And in Aimee's work it's like the music is used almost in a literary way. Like you have to hear words in order to hear what, in order to deduce a relationship between the construction and the music. And I wonder if you'd ever considered using music that had a different kind of relationship to objects. Aimee Rankin: Oh yeah, I mean this series... Speaker 5: To increase the access rather than undercut it. Because in a sense the music really does, it keeps you distanced from really losing yourself in the .. Aimee Rankin: Well you can't understand the words in the Opera boxes so it ends up being like, mood music. But, in this new work I wanted to be as literal as possible and I really wanted to use the tackiest puns and cliches when I organized it. And the jealousy box is green and it plays I Heard it Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye, and has all these green plants, and you know, I mean, I really want to be as stupid as possible and kind of, you know not make any accusations about the mass mind. But just, you know sometimes those things are, I mean, they're kind of dumb and obvious because they work. I don't want to talk about it [laughs]. So, Andrea Andrea Rankin: I might not talk [unclear] [laughter]
  • Speaker 6: I actually have one comment. There's one thing that to one extent distresses me and comes up in the relationship of language to the work that we looked at today. And the kind of role [unclear] that language. It seems to me that if you carry [unclear] that you have a series of in institutions, certainly within academic institutions, in the art world in general, a series of constant, incessant territorializations, re-territorializations, deterritorialization. That the problem begins to be one of - in such a situation, in such a context, what kind of language, what form of address is effective. And that's why Andrea was [hinting] and [unclear] language can be used to [recover things off]. Which, certainly in some places [unclear] must be true but I would [conjecture] in here. And yet it does really throw a light on the problem maybe it is a matter of what kind of, how do you um, what form of [unclear] in a situation when people are [unclear] territory.
  • Speaker 7: I think hopefully [unclear] the two of them are working on posing images against other images and cutting, and using music and experimenting. I think [unclear]. I think that's hopefully, a form of ongoing [unclear] Speaker 6: No, I would agree. [unclear portions of tape] ...devil's advocate Leslie Thornton: I think Andrea's done more work on language then either of us because you're, you've been interested literally in doing that. Of taking bits of writing and setting them off against each other. And then again twisting that relation wants more when you speak them, in a kind of performative way. And very different voices and demeanors. So, she's she's doing much more for words, in a way than images. Although when you work with images you were using some of those strategies as well. Andrea: Mhmm.
  • Speaker 8: I mean, it's interesting his comment though, because I think it's one of the questions being raised is the choice of what do you gather together to help encounter this issue of strategies of representation. If you gather together words as part of what you're offering to look at this set of issues. I mean, it's interesting to me that there's, a lot of the bulk of what we've all talked about has been the two pieces of work where we had essentially something separate from the person and their speech to look at. And therefore could add our words to it with some sort of safety and distance. I don't know, because I think the things you raised in your presentation seem to be the center of a lot of things we talked about. Yet we don't address them to your talk. I wonder how much it has to do with what you're saying, of choosing words as the medium through which you're addressing. I just, I don't have any idea of a simple picture of that relationship is [unclear] something seems to be up there. Could you....
  • Andrea Fraser: Yeah, I mean it's interesting cause... I mean in a way we've seen that the aim of of my practice would be opening up discussion. Or at least stretching the framework in which that a discussion could take place and what could be discussed. But at the same time, it also, I mean it's, I mean no one ever asked questions when I'm giving a gallery talk, right. [laughing] I mean, it's just sort of an impossibility. There's no, it seems, I would imagineā€¦ And the way that I would think that, or would be experienced is that there is no place to address the question. And so I mean it's kind of, and in a way I'm kind of uncomfortable with that as well. But it's -- um. But I guess what I was talking about in the talk about the talk, which is sort of central to me, I think, is it's not, it's the not eliciting response. Not making a demand; okay now we'll talk about this. Or these are a set of terms. So, I think that's also what sort of might make it difficult to address. Or I mean I hope it would make it difficult to address as well. I'm not being very clear.
  • Speaker 9: Do you ever do the docent talks with people who are familiar with what you're up to. Or are they generally groups of people who are [unclear]? Andrea Fraser: It's mixed, it's mixed. The way that the gallery talk was set up was that I was in the show and my name was on the wall at the entrance to the gallery. But I didn't have anything in the gallery and there was just a sign in the lobby that said New Museum: Damaged Goods Gallery Talk starts here. And so there was no connection between Andrea Fraser who is an artist participating in the exhibition in this gallery talk. So, but they're people who knew about it. Ans it actually became a cheap thrill [laughs] in The Voice saying that it was a performance. So, but there was a mixture of people. There would be people who wanted to hear a gallery talk, there would be people wanted to hear a performance, there would be people who just happened to be in the gallery and didn't want to hear anything and didn't know what was going on. [laughter]
  • Andrea: Um, and I mean, but eventually, ideally I mean, the audience is the person who wants to hear a gallery talk. But that's not really the audience. And I don't know exactly how to deal with, or what exactly would be the other demand in which I was not a docent. Or Jane Castleton was not a docent but Jane Castleton was a production of Andrea Fraser who's a performance artist. I mean, that's like something which I think is really a problem. I mean how I think about what I'm doing is that I don't know how to address that. I mean, maybe I do.
  • Aimee: Well you're pushing it to an even weirder end. I mean, Jane Castleton was Jane Castleton the whole time that you did that piece in the New Museum. But when you did that piece in the fairy tale show, she did a docent tour for this show at Artists Space. And you dealt with all that stuff from like the [Meese] commission and actually changed voices, change personas in the middle. And, you know, people are wondering you know, people who would come to the New Museum and you know, would see Jane Castleton. They might actually, you know, for a while I think that it was a regular docent tour if they hadn't gone to one before. Except, you know, well why is she talking about the security system, why is she talking about the bathroom door, you know. But other than that, [laughter] you know, there was a certain kind of coherence about your presentation. Whereas, in the other one, I mean, there were times where you were just sort of totally off on this screaming fit and then you'd be really calm the next second. And, you know I'm sure people would, wouldn't dare ask you a question. [laughter] Cause they wouldn't know which person they would get. Andrea Fraser: Right
  • Aimee : But um [laughter]. But one of the things I want to say is when you're dealing with a situation like this one, I did find it curious that you know, people talk about me and Leslie together cuz we not what the majestic stuff, but you were sort of somewhere else. And I think it's because in a context of dealing with images, language is usually assumed as being more or less transparent. I mean maybe if we were poets and you had done that thing, people would have called into question language more. And that really bothers me about talking about art, you know, that people assume that the words act as some kind of caption which pins the image for one or another form of truth. And I think that it's really good to have you know, with the majestic people, someone who's really working on, you know, the ways in which art is addressed at the same moment. I think that was a good stroke of ... Andrea Fraser: Well, I think it's important not to distinguish so. I mean to say that there's representation and there's language. Language is a form of representation. I mean one represents with language. I am representing myself when speaking. Aimee: But you'd be surprised at what people can say that and then forget about it when they're talking about art. Andrea Fraser: Right. Yeah.
  • Speaker 3: They're all those reminders replaced with the images, that, I mean we're so accustomed to reminders that this is somehow a more complex presence than just a simple face. And those as reminders aren't present when somebody is speaking. Except you consciously develop them by changes in attitude and changes in demeanor which helps sort of, clue the listener that something is up here. But I think you're right, that without that we can all think, "of course we know language is representations". But as I say those words, [they are transparent]. Speaker 10: Greg? Speaker 11: Yeah, I just want to say, it's addressed to Andrea, that I'm a little bit confused about relegating um, when Andrea does to really topically addressing language again, has been, what Aimee just said. I just wanted to know, I mean, to a certain extent it's a pictorial activity Speaker 12: It's a what?
  • Speaker 11: Pictorial activity. It's a process of imaging. It's not really, it seems perhaps, that I just wanted to suggest that maybe it's not merely about pointing to what circumscribes um, what was printed in the museum. But recontextualizing it and opening up a sense of space and a possibility of response. To the extent that it's pictorial, is that it's about imaging or reimaging of the imaging. Aimee Rankin: All I said was that she has taken as her stated aim, you know, to kind of deal with the discourses that are used to describe art. I mean, that's the whole point of a docent lecture. Speaker 11: But its... Andrea Fraser: Let's not actually Speaker 11: I wasn't disagreeing Andrea Fraser: I mean it's just an instance. And that's what I was saying. I knew it was kind of, it's an experiment Aimee Rankin: Right, but that's, you sort of end up falling prey for people's assumptions that the language can kind of explicate the work in a certain way. Speaker 12: I don't think so because I think it's more about being a speaking subject than it is about um, you know, language as having like, and explicative function. [unclear] Language as explaining art, i think it's more how art is spoken through and how people speaking about art spoken through.
  • Speaker 13: Can I, actually I'm gonna flip the table [unclear] most instructive about [unclear] because it does pull out a certain thread that ties together all three presentations and it's, it operates under the name and the affirmation of something that you usually find in speaking about written texts or spoken utterances. And the words quotation " that all three works seem to deal with various ways and means" quotation, some of which would, in a very curious way, actually exceed precisely a speaking subject or a particular authorial or even speculative position. Uh, some of which we [unclear] entirely within that. And do [unclear] tricks. like Andrea's who quotes "is self quoting somebody else quoting themself". [laughter] And who operates, I think really quite beautifully, this [unclear] a performative shift. And, uh, it sets up all sorts of little traps there. In a way, not dissimilar to the way that, the little traps that we found in Amy's boxes, traps from Leslie's film. So that's possibly one way, one thread, one approach into the common theme among all the differences in these three works. [murmurs of agreement] Marianne Weems: Actually that might be a good place to end and it people want to stay and talk, please do. However, time's up. Recording ends.