Monday, February 11, 2008

ARTe MEDIA: an Interview. What is your background? Performance art, publishing, gay activism. When do you create? I have a two-room studio in my home and I try to be fairly regimented about work – which usually involves puttering around every day. Probably like all artists, I’m a master procrastinator – and thinking about the work takes more time than actually making it. Who inspires your work? Not who as much as what. As a cultural voyeur, I can cherry-pick at will from mutually exclusive sources – the morning headlines, the official record of 20th century avant-garde art, the signs and signifiers of the gay male underground – affording me the chance to explore the spaces between these charged relationships. I’m constantly trying to get a handle on the zeitgeist, to understand my place in a world that is rapidly descending into madness. What is art? While it is virtually indefinable, this much I know for certain: art is not suitable for family viewing, nor should it be emotionally uplifting. Nothing should be considered untouchable. Art must refuse to kowtow to the limitless demands for the familiar and the safe and the conventional. Art has nothing to do with social work or political stability or with the ending of negative stereotypes: these are the jobs for propagandists. It’s a dangerous world out there and if art is expected to hold a mirror up to the society in which it was created, do we really need any more decorators? Much of my work at this point falls within the category of "new media" – a form which is only now beginning to be defined. "New Media", in my mind, is the logical extension of Marcel Duchamp’s innovative removal of physical labour from the art-making process. By using various communications tools – the internet, e-mail, photoshop, power-point -- this process has allowed artists to alter the means of production and distribution by displacing the notion of geographical boundaries and limitations, and calls into question the concept and value of unique, privately-owned "works of art". In many ways this electronic means of production was tumbled upon by accident, as it was the only (affordable) tool available to realize ideas that involved altered photographs and projects that were more and more "cinematic" in nature. Have you ever exposed in Italy? Many years ago I was involved with a series of collaborative site-specific performance art pieces that were created in Europe. In Italy, works were created at the Palazzo Diamante in Ferrara and at the Museo di Arte Moderna in Bologna (with Arturo Schwartz). Aside from that, I have not had gallery exposure (although it would be certainly welcome!) How do you image your work in a city-space? I see my work as an insinuation rather than as an intervention. Tell me more about your work. I’ve always been known for my cheekiness. Influenced by many of the theoretical issues raised by performance and conceptual art, I eagerly accept the role of cultural provocateur. Working against the backdrop of an increasingly Disneyfied monoculture dominated by trivia and gossip and a global visual art practice that is all too often a self-contained tautology, my body of work is often described (and sometimes dismissed) as merely "political". But it is not political in the traditional sense. From the earliest point in my career as an artist, I have delved into the question of the "gay sensibility". But rather than taking the standard trip down memory lane into the suck-and-fuck paradigm, I’ve positioning myself as an ironic spectator. As the chief curator throughout the 1980s with the International Gay History Archive – then the largest collection in private hands of archival materials and ephemera in North America -- I was impacted directly in my understanding of the broader context of our political, social, and cultural lives. This provided me with a wealth of raw information that fed directly into my art practice. This collection, with materials dating from the 1890s, is now in the Rare Books and Manuscripts collection of the New York Public Library. By adopting a post-gay stance – in which the homosexuality that once segregated us into the otherness of ghetto-life is now, not unlike blondness, infusing the culture to such a profound degree that it has become invisible. Herein lies the challenge. It goes without saying that, as a contested site, the male body continues to be a provocation. This is old news, yet ironically, a critique of manufactured masculinity has gone largely unexplored. The proposition explored in much of my work is that it is possible to be simultaneously hot and sweaty and critical and detached. It is desirable – even exhilarating – to question the givens of our cultural baggage while at the same time wallowing in them. If there is any theme that unites my body of work (regardless of the form it adopts), it is that it concentrates on the representative gestures of maleness, their signifiers, and their remains.

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