VDB Interviews

On Art and Artists: Video Data Bank Interviews

This section comprises taped interviews with artists, architects, musicians, critics and other creative practitioners, recorded in conversation with Video Data Bank staff, colleagues from the School of the Art Institute faculty, and others knowledgeable about the particular interviewees work.

The first interview dates from 1976, the year of VDB’s official inauguration, and VDB continues to add to the collection to this day, recording and producing approximately ten new interviews a year.  Many of the interviewees are guests of S AIC departments, such as the Visiting Artists program or Conversations at the Edge screening series, or invitees of the Society for Contemporary Art.  The VDB interviews supplement these visits, allowing for an in-depth conversation that underlines the development of an artists’ practice.

 

1991
Mel Chin: An Interview

Mel Chin (b. 1951) received national attention when he had to defend the artistic merits of his work Revival Field to the NEA in 1990. The work is a public sculpture aimed at cleansing toxically polluted areas of land through the introduction of hyperaccumulators, plants that absorb heavy metals through their vascular systems. In this interview with Craig Adcock, Chin discusses the research and development that went into Revival Field, which combines such disciplines as alchemy, botany, and ecology, and the subsequent controversy that resulted from the piece.

2004
Sebastian Cichocki: An Interview

An interview that charts the activities of the Polish critic and curator Sebastian Cichocki. The dialogue is centered around, particularly, the difficulties of operating in a peripheral, Eastern European artworld context. Considerations of resources, audience and the effects of globality are foregrounded. But, despite some of the challenges this situation creates, Cichocki cites some of its advantages as well. He talks of a strong sense of community between artists, curators, critics, and journalist in his native Poland.

1988
John Clark: An Interview

John Arthur Clark (1943-1989) was born in Yorkshire, England. He attended Hull College of Art, receiving a National Diploma in Art and Design (N.D.D.) in painting. From 1966 to 1968 he attended Indiana University, receving an M.F.A. in painting. From 1968 to 1978 he was a lecturer in Fine Art and Art History at Hull College of Art and Newcastle Polytechnic. He emigrated to Canada in 1978 and became coordinator of painting and drawing at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design.

1994
Chema Cobo: An Interview

Spanish painter Chema Cobo discusses his early years of studying and creating art in Southern Spain. His career began in the mid-1970s, exhibiting at the Buades and Vandrés galleries, along with a generation of now-established artists. His work began showing outside of Spain in the ’80s. Cobo also talks about the ways that his Spanish background and identity have informed his work.

A historical interview originally recorded in 1994.

2001
Jem Cohen 2001: An Interview

In this 2001 interview, filmmaker Jem Cohen discusses the origins of his film philosophy, and the circuitous route he has taken in his pursuit of an anti-narrative film practice outside the mainstream. Cohen sheds light on the many influences that have impacted his sentiments towards conventional film, and his desire to eschew both classical avant-garde and theatrical filmmaking in favor of a model rooted in the tradition of the 1940s New York School of street photography. Cohen also locates his aesthetic as being impacted by the 1970s hardcore and DIY scenes he was exposed to as a youth in Washington, DC.

2006
Jem Cohen 2006: An Interview

In this 2006 interview, filmmaker Jem Cohen discusses his early interest in art, his family’s welcome antipathy towards commercialization, and his unconventional, anti-mainstream film practice. In particular, Cohen discusses his film This is a History of New York, and how this piece exemplifies his interest in the “territory of sensation” rather than simple visual descriptiveness. Cohen concludes by discussing the role of archiving in his practice, and how compulsive documentation of the quotidian and unexceptional can result in the empowerment of the everyday.

2009
Cecelia Condit: An Interview

In this interview American filmmaker, poet, and lyricist, Cecelia Condit gives shape to the contours of her work process. The artist describes the influence of her relationship with her mother, her long-term investment in the macabre, and her ongoing desire to confront death through art. While covering a broad range of topics, Condit’s discussion of her work and interests returns to several defining themes: aging, grotesqueness, and the notion of movement, both in terms of her own past as a dancer and the notion of the body in decay. With a particular emphasis on the production and context of her videos, Annie Lloyd (2008), and All About a Girl (2004), this interview offers insight into the artist’s fascination with aging, sweetness, and storytelling, while also articulating her joyful sense of discovery within the art-making process. No longer working with scripts, Condit presents herself in the interview as a scavenger–much like the crows she incorporates into her work–assembling videos which straddle the line between strange and silly. – Faye Gleisser

2004
Matthew Coolidge: An Interview

Matthew Coolidge is a founder and director of The Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI), an organization dedicated to raising awareness about how land is apportioned, used and perceived by its inhabitants. Through exhibitions, publications, and guided tours, Coolidge and the CLUI seek to foster and encourage a heightened sense of awareness of natural surroundings. In this interview, Coolidge defines a ‘land art spillover effect,’ in which the perceived significance of the landscape seems to increase the closer people get to a piece of environmental art.

1976
Robert Cumming: An Interview

Robert Cumming (b. 1943) is an American photographer/sculptor/bookmaker who borrows from the artifice of theatrical sets to construct his elaborate and often absurd images. He has also published several books of photography and narration.  Central to his work is his desire to remind us that we are looking at a photograph, and not at the thing being photographed. His captions sometimes draw on a photograph's narrative aspects or are used to mislead the viewer.

2016
Ann Cvetkovich: An Interview

Ann Cvetkovich is the Ellen Clayton Garwood Centennial Professor of English and Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at the University of Texas at Austin.  She is the author of a number of books and works also with documentary film, memoirs, music and dance performances, and visual art. Her work focuses on feminist and queer theory, affect and feeling, trauma, theories of the archive and oral history.

2013
Vaginal Davis: An Interview

In this interview, American artist, independent curator, writer, and experimental filmmaker, Vaginal Davis reflects on her initiation into the punk rock and art scenes of Los Angeles during the 1980s and 90s, her stylistic influences, and her ongoing efforts to theorize queerness and visuality. Caught between the opposing poles of Hollywood classicism and the rawness of punk, Davis defines her unapologetically gender-bending, campy, and at times aggressively critical performances as scenarios, rather than spectacles or entertainment.

2001
DJ Spooky: An Interview

Paul D. Miller (b. 1970) is a conceptual artist, writer, and musician better known as DJ Spooky. A popular and prolific recording artist, he has collaborated with Ryuichi Sakamoto, Butch Morris, Yoko Ono, Thurston Moore (of Sonic Youth), Kool Keith, and Killa Priest (of Wu Tang Clan). Miller’s work uses a wide variety of digitally created music as a form of postmodern sculpture.

1999
Willie Doherty: An Interview

Northern Irish artist Willie Doherty (b. 1959) works in photography and video installation. Since the late 1980s, his work has responded to the urban setting and rural outskirts of his hometown of Derry, Northern Ireland. Doherty’s artworks tend to begin as responses to specific terrains (most often mysterious isolated settings; places, we suspect, with a troubled past) and evolve as complex reflections on how we look at such locations — or on what stories might be told about their hidden histories.

2000
Nathaniel Dorsky: An Interview

Nathaniel Dorsky’s films are precise articulations of cinematic qualities: the surprise of an edit, the composition of framing, and the flash of the image. Dubbed the “filmmaker’s filmmaker”, Dorsky’s work captures the fleeting moments of everyday life in its poetic chaos in such films as Pneuma (1976-82), Triste (1974-96), Alaya (1976-87), and Variations (1992-98). Using a spring-wound Bolex and 16mm reversal stock film, Dorsky’s films operate in the realm of the purely visual.

2009
Terry Eagleton: An Interview

In this interview, political and social theorist, Terry Eagleton (b. 1943), shares stories of his Irish upbringing and British education, and sums up his current engagement with art theory, leftist politics, and spirituality under capitalism. With reference to Henry James, Frederic Jameson, Christopher Hitchens, and Richard Dawkins, among others, this interview spans a vast landscape of literature and social theory.