Terry Adkins

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    IT’S STILL UNUSUAL to play an artwork, no matter how many interactive screens or relational games we’ve encountered. But playing the piece is often the first thing that happens in the practices of TERRY ADKINS and GEORGE LEWIS—each of whom breached the borders between the visual arts and music, and each of whom came of age in the 1970s and ’80s ferment of post-bop and cyborgs, identity politics and institutional critique. Artforum invited the vanguard, multidisciplinary artist Adkins—whose work features in the Whitney Biennial in New York this month—to talk with renowned composer and computer-music pioneer Lewis about performance, improvisation, history, race, and sensation. Tragically, Adkins passed away, at the age of sixty, as this issue was going to press. We hope that the conversation that follows might also serve as an unexpected valedictory of sorts, pointing toward the rich possibilities that Adkins’s work has opened up—and will continue to open for years to come.

    TERRY ADKINS: George, when we first started out, it was almost forbidden to be actively creative in more than one field. Everything was railroaded into these categories, and one was forced to choose.

    GEORGE LEWIS: Well, you used to read in the New York Times that a composer was “eclectic,” and that was supposed to be a bad thing. And then several things happened to smash that to bits. Among them were the civil rights and black power movements—I mean, that liberated everybody, not just African Americans. Suddenly, there was increased mobility on all sides, and the term multivoiced took on