By Catherine Wagley
By Catherine Wagley
By Wendy Gilmartin
By Jennifer Swann
By Claire de Dobay Rifelj
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Catherine Wagley
By Zachary Pincus-Roth
You’ve talked a lot about the importance of play in making art. What is play for you now?
Play is not setting a problem with a conclusion. Play is about trying to put ideas into motion without the expectation of solving a problem. The ideas might not even lead to a solution but to another idea. So you set up a system of, say, playing with torqued ellipse sections or whatever — whatever you’re dealing with — and you say, I’m not going to try to make anything, I’m just going to see what happens when I move these things around, when I connect them in ways I haven’t connected them before, when I make a series of paths. Or what if I just thought, where do I want to walk? Let’s have time and paths drive these pieces and then let’s fit the pieces to the paths or the time. So you set up situations that don’t have conclusions at the end, and then you get lost. If you get involved with the activity itself and you’re not hung up on the solution, then things might occur that you couldn’t have foreseen. When you’re really pushing hard to come to a conclusion, then somehow in the back of your mind you’ve got a narrative or a script or something, and that gets like pulling teeth. I mean, I’ve worked that way also but I like to keep the situation more freewheeling. I like to say, at the end of the day, I don’t give a shit. I like to be able to walk away from it. And then come back the next day and play some more. And I don’t mean play without consequences — I take it very seriously. I mean putting in a full day and if you don’t get something you don’t get something and don’t beat yourself up over it.
You start from models.
Yes. I don’t make drawings before, I start from models.
How big are these models?
Inch per foot.
Do you ever show them? Do they hold any interest for you as art objects?
I used to give them away. I gave a lot of them to Dia. And at one point I had to raise some money for a lawsuit going against the government so I sold a few. But I don’t consider them works of art, I consider them models.
But isn’t that space equally interesting, even though it’s smaller?
No, because you can’t project yourself into it. If you could, I wouldn’t build the pieces. With the show at the Modern, I had no idea what these pieces were going to look like — I was as surprised walking through that space as anyone else. You don’t know until you stand them up in the steel mill what they’re like. And then even with these pieces — when [an associate] was over there [in Germany] measuring them in the steel mill, he got confused about where he was. That happens.
Is that good?
For me it’s good. I’m interested in disorientation, so if you lose your coordinates — that interests me. Usually it happens if there’s no vertical to align yourself to. In these pieces it happens because of where you are in relation to the path, where you are in relation to where you’ve been. So you anticipate something and you remember something, but you can’t really anticipate from your memory because the path doesn’t lead to what your memory’s telling you. That interests me.
You know who figures them out right away? Kids. Kids, if you tell them to draw one — they don’t draw it in pieces, they don’t draw the elevation, they draw the plan. Kids draw where they’ve been, where they’ve gone. Even if they’re wrong, that’s what they do.
What is your interest in Zen gardens, and their influence?
If you grew up in the Western tradition of the frame — defining perspective in terms of orthogonals — then that’s the way you know space: placing things in relation to a vanishing point. In Japan, in the history of Japanese culture, they don’t see things that way. They see things all coming in simultaneously. And they don’t distinguish between solid and void. If you don’t distinguish between solid and void, then everything is matter, and matter kind of imposes its own form on form, so you have to start thinking of the space of this room.
One of the problems with the space of this room right now is that the space kind of gets away from you. The room is a little too big, it’s a little too long. The sculpture’s going to kind of collect the space, and hopefully bring it into itself. But if you’re in Japan and you walk those gardens and you pay attention, you can see that everything — from the detail of the stone to the way the rocks are set — is meant to be seen simultaneously as you walk. Well, that’s different than measuring something in the field that’s in perspective in relation to its height or its elevation. That idea of a continuum of time, or time being ever present, is something that really changed how I thought about my work.
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