Interview

Confrontation is the element that defines Acconci’s work, from explorations of the body and self to his performances, videos, and installations to the more recent “transporting and self-erecting architecture.” Throughout his work Acconci has aggressively challenged the status quo: he has violated sexual/cultural roles and has pointed out social/political ambivalence—and in doing so, his notorious activities have stretched the boundaries of what we accept as art.

Vito Acconci (b. 1940) is known as a conceptual designer, installation and performance artist. In the 1960s he embraced performance in order to "define my body in space, find a ground for myself, an alternate ground from the page ground I had as a poet." Acconci’s early performances, including Claim (1971) and Seedbed (1972), were extremely controversial, transgressing assumed boundaries between public and private space and between audience and performer.

Dennis Adams (b. 1948) is an American conceptual artist whose work includes photography, text, and installation. Adams is best known for his projects involving structures placed in urban bus shelters, uncompromisingly inserted into the public sphere. These politically charged photographs and their accompanying texts are not used to make overtly ideological statements, but are open-ended in ways that challenge viewers to test their own convictions.

In this interview, American filmmaker, teacher, and video artist Peggy Ahwesh (b.1954) delves into the key figures and primary texts that have inspired her work in Super-8 and video since the 1970s.  She discusses her early influences as a member of the underground art scenes in Pittsburgh in the late 70s and Soho’s Kitchen in the 80s. Ahwesh’s experimental hand-processing and controversial subject matter can be traced to feminist theory, and her exposure to underground experimental films, including works by Werner Herzog, George Amaro, Kenneth Anger, Jack Smith and her teacher at Antioch College, Tony Conrad.

Chantal Akerman (1950-2015) gained international recognition with her three-and-a-half hour masterpiece, Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), which portrays a housewife’s dull existence and eventual violent action. She has continued to be one of Europe’s most innovative filmmakers with more than forty film and television projects to her credit. Akerman’s work is minimalist, structuralist, and feminist. Major themes in her films include women at work and at home; women’s relationships to men, other women, and children; food, love, sex, romance, art, and storytelling. In this interview from 1976 Akerman discusses her early films, and the development of her particular vision.

The word-based art and performances crafted by world-renowned artist Alison Knowles (b.1933) are central to the 1960s international Fluxus movement and its enduring legacy. Describing her experience as a student at Pratt University in the 1950s where she learned from Richard Lindner and Adolf Gottlieb, Knowles recalls her transition from Abstract Expressionist painting to the chance operations initiated by John Cage and Bertolt Brecht.

Laurie Anderson (b. 1947) began her career as a gallery artist specializing in photography, before moving to critical work as a writer for Art News and Art in America. She later returned to the art world, making groundbreaking multimedia performance art. Her most widely known work dates back to the early-to-mid-’80s, and is marked by an innovative use of technology in blending media-based and staged performance.

Laurie Anderson is perhaps best known as a performance artist who works in both the art and commercial worlds. Anderson talks to Steven Poser through a voice manipulator, commenting on how performing abroad has informed her work and her perspective on American culture, especially regarding issues of language and voice in communication.

This video was produced for the Artists TV Network series Conversations.

In conversation with curator and educator Mary Jane Jacob, visual artist Ann Hamilton (b. 1956) talks about care, interactivity, and social relations — key concepts that preoccupy her practice — and why she feels compelled to revisit these issues under the Trump administration. Hamilton was trained in textile design and sculpture, and she received her MFA from Yale University School of Art in 1985.

Through her performances and videotapes, Eleanor Antin (b. 1935) creates characters (King, Ballerina, Black Movie Star, and Nurse) while spinning tales that blur fiction and history. She avoids good taste and flaunts concealed intentions, forcing one to stretch all possible associations to the breaking point.

“I believe interesting art has always been conceptual... that it appeals to the mind. That does not mean that it cannot seduce and attract through the eye,” Antin says in this interview with Nancy Bowen.

In October 1969, the Videofreex visited the home of wealthy political and social activist, Lucy Montgomery, as she was hosting the Black Panther Party of Chicago during one of their most fraught times – the period just after Chairman Bobby Seale was wrongfully imprisoned for inciting riots at the Democratic National Convention a year earlier. This video documents an interview with the wife of Bobby Seale, Artie Seale.

This video features California artists: drawer and painter Deanne Belinoff, sculptor and poet Sana Krusoe, wood relief carver and painter Palema Holmes, and New York-based video artist Shirley Clark.

The Artists: Part 1 was produced in concert with the exhibition Four Solo Exhibitions at the Long Beach Museum of Art in 1988. The artists are introduced by LBMA’s senior curator Josine Ianco-Starrels. The video presents and contrasts the diverse styles, media, and personalities of these four women artists.

This video profiles the work and insight of California artists: sculptor, painter, and installation artist Laddie John Dill and painter and sculptor Clark Walding. It also includes a mini-documentary on Tony Delap’s The Big Wave, a public art sculpture that crosses Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica. 

Part 3 profiles three California women artists: sculptor and lint and installation artist Slater Baron, mixed media installation artist Beverly Nadius, and book artist Sue Ann Robinson.

This tape compiles three profiles of performance artists: A Creative Synthesis: George Coates Performance Works (10:00), The Performance World of Rachel Rosenthal (16:00), and Paul Dresher Ensemble (08:00).

Part of the Long Beach Museum of Art’s Institute for Art and Urban Resources' Collectors of the Seventies series, this video focuses on the Betty Asher’s acquisitions. "I started collecting in 1939. I didn’t really start collecting per se," Asher says in this interview with David Ross, Virginia Dwan, and Alanna Heiss. "I bought things, and one morning I woke up and—all of a sudden—people were calling me a collector."

Contemporary American composer and performance artist Robert Ashley (1930-2014) was a pioneer in the development of large-scale, collaborative performance works and new uses of language in operas and recordings. His landmark project, Perfect Lives, was opera produced for television in seven half-hour episodes.

Portable Channel, a community documentary group in Rochester, New York, was one of the first small format video centers to have an ongoing relationship with a PBS affiliate (WXXI). Portapakers interviewed Sinclair Scott, a member of the negotiating team that went into Attica when the prisoners' rebelled at the federal prison in September 1971. Thirty-eight guards were taken hostage after prisoners' demands to improve their conditions were ignored. After a three day stand-off between inmates and authorities, Governor Nelson Rockefeller called in the National Guard.

Julie Ault is an artist, curator, and founding member of the artist collective Group Material, which has organized exhibitions on themes such as the U.S.’s involvement in Central America, AIDS, education, and mass consumerism. Her exhibitions question traditional gallery and museum systems by asking “how is culture made and for whom?”

Interview by Michael Crane.

During her graduate studies at Hunter College, Alice Aycock (b. 1946) began to forge links between personal and more inclusive subject matter and form. In her quest for contemporary monuments, Aycock wrote her Master’s thesis on U.S. highway systems. Aycock’s large environmental sculptures create intense psychological atmospheres. Although she uses primitive rites and architecture as sources, her implementation of contemporary materials removes those specific connotations.

Luis Cruz Azaceta (b.1942) creates paintings and mixed media works which use the recurring theme of the displaced individual. Marked by his own exile from Cuba—he emigrated to the U.S. in 1960, in the wake of Castro’s take-over—the artist realized that home is something he carries with him from place to place. Through his piercing expressionism, Azaceta depicts the frailty of human existence in a world full of social anarchy, historically mandated violence, and natural chaos.

This video reveals John Baldessari's thoughts and intentions for his work over the course of his career, providing clues to the understanding of his paintings, books, and photos. What emerges is a portrait of a rebellious artist who attempts to undermine the catagories and dogmas of the art world--with the full realization that in the long run, some catagory or other will be named to label his work.

From his photo-text canvases in the 1960s to his video works in the 1970s to his installations in the 1980s, John Baldessari’s (b.1931) varied work has been seminal in the field of conceptual art. Integrating semiology and mass media imagery, he employed such strategies as appropriation, deconstruction, decontextualization, sequentiality, and text/image juxtaposition. With an ironic wit, Baldessari's work considers the gathering, sorting, and reorganizing of information.

In this interview, American cartoonist and author Lynda Barry (b. 1956) describes the philosophy of teaching that has inspired and mobilized her art since the 1970s. For Barry, the connection between gesture and thought collide in drawing and expose the therapeutic possibilities of art. Whether teaching undergraduate art students or prison inmates, her goal is to help others develop art making skills as an “external immune system” that will protect and monitor their emotional and mental health.

Jennifer Bartlett (b. 1941) is a writer and painter who makes large paintings with enamels on fabricated panels. She uses an overall grid structure on which she repeats images in a variety of styles ranging from lyric abstraction to childlike representation.  Near the end of this interview with Kate Horsfield, she reads the chapter “Dreaming” from her book The History of the Universe (1985). “I decided: 1) I didn’t want to stretch a canvas again, 2) I wanted to be able to work on a lot of things at once. I didn’t want to exercise my own taste, which seemed boring and hideous. I wanted something modular, a constant surface."

A historical interview originally recorded in 1976, edited in 2010 with support from the Lyn Blumenthal Memorial Fund.