texts 1975 statement

1975 Statement 


There’s only a certain amount of control that you can have over a situation. I’m interested in working in that area in which the mind can no longer hold on to things. The point at which all ideas fall apart. 

The inherent mysticism resides in persisting in wanting to make something as factual as possible and having it turn out just the other way—the immediate positive engagement with the way situations always transcend our perceptions of them—the realization that the simplest and most comfortable of perceptions are shadows. 

I can’t isolate the pieces by letting them have any sort of modulation of time. Space can be modulated extensively in a way that does not imply temporal modulations. The way you arrive at a notion of the way anything is, as opposed to how it appears, is by constructing that notion in time—putting some things together at the expense of not seeing some other things. 

My three-dimensional pieces are physically unstable—some exist for a day or so and then are finished. That’s the right scale for me. A piece can always be remade. 

The problem is to express the impossibility, the futility, of getting a hold of things in the everyday way. The most careful and precise descriptions are in the end absurd and at best poetry. A line of string isn’t a line, it’s a thing, and as a thing it doesn’t define a plane but everything else outside its own boundaries. It’s an “aggregate of experiences” equally . . . a conceptualization to make something which can be perceived in enough different ways that its identity becomes apparent as something independent of the mode of perception employed. 

Materials just aren’t very interesting as ends in themselves. 

My work has always been dependent on a general sort of rectilinear interior architecture. I have worked away from this dependence to a certain extent. 

Recent pieces have less of a significant structural relationship to their surroundings—earlier pieces seemed to always be in two parts, and I wanted the string to have more of an identity of its own without compromising its being in the room. Opening it up and letting go of the allusion to two-dimensional surfaces was one route, and allowing colors to be more specific seemed another. 

One way to act is to define a boundary and to move toward the center implied by it. I’m doing the opposite, defining a center and moving outward toward the boundaries. 

They’re not deduced from the structure of a place. Their presence anywhere is, finally, absurd and incomprehensible, because as much as possible they’re single whole entities. Their two-part existence with given interiors is casual—they are certainly not there to teach something about a space. 

I am interested in a strong, immediate, and beautiful situation. Also in one that is quite inclusive. So, though some of my pieces lie flat on the wall, they are no less three-dimensional for that fact. 

A piece made with just a few lines at first seems very purist and geometrical. My work isn’t either of these things. In some ways, the drawings make that clearer than the three-dimensional pieces. My three-dimensional pieces never make precise connections with the geometry of a space—the connection is always rather loose, but in the drawings it’s clear that the edges of the paper don’t matter at all as long as they’re far enough away from the drawing itself. In both cases, the lines aren’t distillations of anything, but simple facts, products of my activity which don’t represent anything beyond themselves. They are not instances of a system or order larger than themselves, in contrast to constructivist line, which takes natural science as its model. Awareness of existing local order is my interest, as opposed to the creation of a different order. 

Understanding something often means dissecting it into its component parts. My work resists that kind of understanding, as it’s all one thing to start with. I don’t proceed according to rules. 

Art is for me a comprehensive activity. I’m not working on “a problem.” I am occupied by a great variety of “problems.” So it’s true enough to say that I am very interested in the shape and scale of particular places, and how they are reciprocal with my personal scale and form. But this is only one aspect of my subjective mood. 

What I am doing is influenced by history, but it is not concerned with history. It’s not concerned with developing but rather with a lateral sort of expansion. I don’t want to develop an idea in my work. I’m interested in the specific qualities of a thing, not in its cultural context. 

I intend what I do to be concrete and particular. It’s just the opposite of abstract art, which is derived, deduced, or refined from something else. It’s a point of origin rather than a conclusion. 

Keeping the art from being decorative is a hard thing—using only a line, it easily becomes pretty or zappy—the phenomenon isolates itself too easily—becomes just something to look at. 

I’m full of thoughts (more or less). My work isn’t. It’s not a demonstration of an idea either. It’s an actuality. Ideas are also actualities. The notion that there are ideas that then take form, or ideas that can be extracted from the material substratum, doesn’t make any sense. 

I’ve always balked at writing anything because there’s this need that everyone seems to have for the conceptual or verbal validation of art which doesn’t interest me at all. Maybe I’m trying to get too specific about it. Specifically, my work just is what it is. To the extent that it’s successful, you can’t take it apart. 

These draft notes were written by the artist for inclusion in the exhibition catalogue published by the Kunstraum, Munich, in 1975. They were first published in Fred Sandback, (New York: Zwirner & Wirth, Lawrence Markey, 2004).


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