Henry Moore was there, but had to leave. — the arpanet dialogues vol.III (1976)

_______ROSALIND KRAUSS_______ 

3

(…)

ROSALIND KRAUSS

I dont consider artists any more or less free than their compatriots. What I said was that the avant garde today has chosen to explore political and philosophical issues through the lens of what has been termed conceptualism. Which is a different set of practices than much of the avant garde preceeding it.

JUAN DOWNEY

But it implied that conceptualism negates expressionism and I think that is not the case if our view of what art is and its location is expanded.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

These artists are more interested in a kind of archiving of ideas rather than the raw individuality that has framed so much avant garde artistic practice.

JUAN DOWNEY

What do you mean by archiving of ideas.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

Its the legacy of structuralism and post-structuralism. An interest in exploring and revealing systems of thought of politics of meaning.

JUAN DOWNEY

And would Joseph and Henry be examples of raw individuality for example.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

Mr Moore is of that generation yes.

JUAN DOWNEY

They are so different as artists. Cant see what can unite them.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

From what I know of Beuys his work and his biography share this conception of raw individuality.

JOSEPH BEUYS

I am an individual among individuals. I wish to organize all of our creative potential in a platform for social and political regeneration.

HENRY MOORE

Im afraid I must leave.

JUAN DOWNEY

Why Henry we have not had a proper conversation yet.

HENRY MOORE

I find all this very peculiar. I dont know who half of you actually are. In any case Im not feeling too

JUAN DOWNEY

I had some things to say about your art.

HENRY MOORE

feeling too well. Perhaps you can visit me in my studio. Im afraid I must lie down. I think I may have eaten something rotten.

JUAN DOWNEY

Goodness where are you exactly.

HENRY MOORE

Mombasa. Blast. I feel extremely unwell.

JUAN DOWNEY

Oh very sorry to hear that. Perhaps you just ate a type of food youre not well accustomed to. Take care and visit a doctor as soon as possible.

JOSEPH BEUYS

I think he has left us.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

Yes I think so. Too bad.

JUAN DOWNEY

What a shame.

JOSEPH BEUYS

I think I once saw his exhibition in London. Curious.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

Hes certainly a part of the canon.

JOSEPH BEUYS

I liked the elemental quality.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

And copied at bad art schools the world over.

JOSEPH BEUYS

Im sure he was happy about that. Im a professor too.

JUAN DOWNEY

His work is an archetype that I tell my students to stay away from. I teach at Pratt.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

Well what archetypes do you recommend your students.

JOSEPH BEUYS

Me too. But I appreciated how he considered the elements. The metal and the stone. But too limited in a way. Too macho.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

You are interested in archetypes as well Beuys am I right.

4

JUAN DOWNEY

None. I recommend them to not have any archetypes and see everything and every artists work as mere information that can be used as a connector in this world.

JOSEPH BEUYS

Well in the sense that we all understand basic material elements.

JUAN DOWNEY

I think Moores work did have some quality to it but not now. The way we perceive quality has changed or is changing drastically.

JOSEPH BEUYS

I agree. He worshipped the materials too much. And the human form too.

JUAN DOWNEY

I wonder why Krauss selected him for this experiment.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

As I alluded to earlier he brings forward the perspective of a previous generation even two generations ago of modern art.

JUAN DOWNEY

Ah yes.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

He and Beuys share something interesting in their formal excesses.

JUAN DOWNEY

Really.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

And their mythic dimension.

JOSEPH BEUYS

Only to a certain degree. I however no longer agree with the master and apprentice mode of being a professor unlike Moore.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

Maybe that is true. Ive never observed your teaching. But you do position yourself in a heroic light which is similar to Mr Moore.

JOSEPH BEUYS

Moore is very British. Stealing from foreign culture without care. I am against this.

JUAN DOWNEY

But the heroic in Josephs work is deconstructed by the objective pedagogical methodology he develops and presents his discourse with.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

His modus operandi is easy to criticize in its blatant imperialism. Cultural and otherwise. Not deconstructed. Contradicted.

JUAN DOWNEY

There is no foreign culture Joseph. Culture is a concept developed through history and history is a fiction that builds and is built on the basis of unequal representations.

JOSEPH BEUYS

Well I agree with this. You are right. Everyone can create their own history.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

Is this how you arrive at the notion of culture as pure information Juan.

JUAN DOWNEY

Thats what you did right Joseph. The story about Tartars and grease keeping you warm and all that. Fact or fiction. A document from the archive of human history or a romantic fictional account from the expressionism of mankind. How should we read it.

JOSEPH BEUYS

This event happened. I still have the scars to prove it. It was the most formative event of my life. These people knew how to save my life with the most basic elements.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

And the photographs to prove it as well Im told.

JUAN DOWNEY

Information is never pure Rosalind. In fact nothing is pure but culture can be understood as something that is manufactured and if you live in a society where information is a currency or capital then it makes sense to understand culture as part of that.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

Whether true or not the important thing is that you have shaped this biographical detail into the organizing theme for your work which gets back to my assertion that you are within the heroic mythic tradition in art.

JUAN DOWNEY

I think the difference is the narration. I have had similar experiences but I would not narrate them that way. Its the equation of subjectivity and objectivity.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

Despite Beuys political and pseudo revolutionary activity his heroic artistic production always seems to contradict those emancipatory aspirations.

JUAN DOWNEY

That is different. And I think Joseph represents a breaking point. His oeuvre or the very idea of him as an artistic character is about shifting between modernism and contemporary times.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

But his work only functions within a narrow system of belief. That is not contemporary to me.

JOSEPH BEUYS

I fear neither of you know my work. Have either of you ever experienced it. I assume you have only see it in books.

JUAN DOWNEY

I thought Joseph would be more aggressive.

JOSEPH BEUYS

I always have this from critics. They never see my work. Only in books.

JUAN DOWNEY

I have seen it on different occasions Joseph.

5

JOSEPH BEUYS

Perhaps you should both come to my class.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

Ive seen a few installations here and there. A colleague saw your performance at Documenta in 72.

JUAN DOWNEY

Namely this year at the Venice Biennial. And in smaller exhibitions.

JOSEPH BEUYS

Well I find this hard to believe. You are portraying me like Im Picasso or so.

JUAN DOWNEY

You see your class or your teaching as art dont you.

JOSEPH BEUYS

Indeed it is the most important space for me. This is when art and idea can be developed collectively. And anybody can come and join. Free class.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

Perhaps but tell me how does this art and these ideas become transmitted. How does it ascend into the realm of culture of contemporary art.

JOSEPH BEUYS

Through basic human conversation. There is nothing convoluted. From there on it is free will and aspiration.

JUAN DOWNEY

So it is this part of you that is the most contemporary for me and what you carry from it on to your objects or performances that is most interesting and zeitgeist to use a German word. What you carry on from teaching learning and live experience into a continuation of notions of romanticism and individuality.

JOSEPH BEUYS

Everybody has the potential to be creative or be dangerous. It is about nurturing in the right environment.

JUAN DOWNEY

If I look at myself I dont believe in those notions of romanticism and individuality any longer. The past is all an archive to me all equal and the present is my tool my looking glass that helps me develop a new take on the past and perhaps the future.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

But I think that this identification with romantic individuality absolutely undermines any sense of contemporary any libratory aspirations. Beuys you are developing a catalogue not an archive.

JUAN DOWNEY

What do you mean. Do you understand what she is getting at Joseph.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

A catalogue of myth fragments that somehow for you add up to an idealistic utopia.

JOSEPH BEUYS

I do not accept your accusations of romanticism. It sounds like a very academicist way of putting somebody down.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

I thought you were an academic Herr Professor.

JOSEPH BEUYS

Yes but as I say I do not believe in the old professor and apprentice model. I learn as much as my students.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

But surely you believe in the discourse. Juan do you understand my distinction between archive and catalog.

JUAN DOWNEY

Not precisely but I think I get it roughly.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

The catalogue is suffused with idiosyncrasy with personality with eccentric individuality. It is the essence of the artist as heroic individual.

JUAN DOWNEY

The catalog is all that needs to be unlearned because it has become cliche or over used in the fabric of art history. The romantic artist figure van Gogh. The triumphant individualist Picasso. The transcendental spiritualist Rothko.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

Yes.

JUAN DOWNEY

When a present day artist cannot escape these personifications these identities in his or her work their work enters the realm of the catalog.

JOSEPH BEUYS

I understand you are to start a new magazine of some sort Rosalind. Who is it for.

JUAN DOWNEY

To escape it they must first acknowledge that such a catalog exists and then look at it as mere information and not attempt to continue along its narrative. Rather they must look at it from a disconnected objective vantage point. This is the key to the archive. Am I close. Im using my own terminology of course.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

Clearly you understand the value of the archive. The magazine Im working on is called October.

JUAN DOWNEY

Why October.

JOSEPH BEUYS

Oktoberfest.

JUAN DOWNEY

And yes who is it for. A beer magazine.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

After the Eisenstein film.

JUAN DOWNEY

Haha. Oh yes.

6

ROSALIND KRAUSS

Which of course was a dramatization of the October revolution.

JUAN DOWNEY

So you are calling for a revolution in art.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

The journal is intended to further academic discourse on the related subjects of contemporary art within the States. Its a critical journal. Our contributors will come from the worlds of theory philosophy politics sociology and contemporary art to name a few. Our conversation today might be quite interesting to publish there sometime.

JUAN DOWNEY

But Josephs and my question was who is it for.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

Its for practitioners in those same fields as well as anyone who cares to engage a current discourse on the state of contemporary culture and politics.

JOSEPH BEUYS

It sounds very exclusive indeed. Will artists write in it.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

Artists will contribute Im sure. It is urgent that they do so. Beuys dont you see how the artist persona youve developed aligns you with this catalog that Juan describes. Or am I wrong.

JOSEPH BEUYS

Im afraid I see this argument as a kind of one-upmanship from pure academics. I think it is important that artists have the lead in their own destiny and I find it sad when others find this challenging. I do understand the difference between the two things you are discussing. Germany feels quite palpably its history and I think artists are important for finding a way forward.

ROSALIND KRAUSS

I agree with you that artists are important in forging new ways of being in the world. This is why the archive as a frame around history is so useful. The catalog constrains the freedom you aspire to. The archive seems to be less so.

JUAN DOWNEY

I think the importance of Josephs work Rosalind is exactly that it is a mix between the catalog and archival mentalities. Its neither nor but somewhere in the middle. But Rosa I must say the archival mentality is something that has just recently come up to the surface of artistic output because of the rise of information consumption. History is the greatest art critic and only through time can we make such judgments. You are slightly too judgmental in your approach. Nothing is a closed circuit as you seem to suggest. Circuits open on to each other causing death or recharging.

22 March 1976 – The transcript presented here records a conversation between four figures from the 1970s-era art community: German artist, educator and activist, Joseph Beuys; Chilean-born multimedia artist and filmmaker, Juan Downey; Rosalind Krauss, art critic and co-founder of the new journal October; and the world-renown British sculptor, Henry Moore. The occasion of this conversation was suggested by Donald Lupton, a computer scientist and researcher working at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in a lab funded by DARPA. 

The Arpanet dialogues Vol.III(1976) text was copied from www.arpanetdialogues.net

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