PRINT September 1972

Talking at Pomona

what i would like to talk about really is a
subject that probably doesnt have a name if i
were to give it a name it would sound kind of
pretentious and it might be misleading

so let me begin by reminiscing slightly last
quarter we have a trimester system that
has quarters it is an absurd system i set about
to ask myself out loud with a group of
students who were ostensibly concerned with art

what we could do to make a discourse
situation in art meaningful or comprehensible

now that sounds a little vague but what
i really wanted to know was this how can you
think about making art and i use the word
art as an undefined at the moment how can you
talk about it in such a way that it will lead
to making more art and the making of more art
will itself be rewarding rather than a
diminishing return now how do you set about
looking at art making as something that will be

valuable to do and the value of which
will increase as you proceed to do more of it

im afraid this sounds like an absurd thing to say
because people who normally come to a
graduate school or to undergraduate school to
be art majors or graduate students normally
assume that it is valuable to make art whatever
that is and typically they have in mind
the things that people have always done when
they made art and you know there is a kind of
consensus a low level consensus about
what art making is i mean without placing a
utilitarian role upon what it does to you say

there is a kind of function that people seem to
attribute to it nevertheless they know
what it is beforehand people think they want to
make paintings or they want to make
sculpture now this is a commonplace and
obvious idea of course very few people have
any clear idea of what it is that a painting
ought to be that somebody should want to have it

for example if any of you or all of you
are graduate students or artists or whatever or
art makers and i say to you "you want to
make paintings and youre really interested in
making furniture right? i mean you want
something to hang on the wall right over the
sofa and they have a persimmon colored sofa

and you want one that will give them
pleasure so that they will buy it?“ and at that
point you will either say ”what is he coming
on?“ or you get up and start trying to get out
the door or show me the door you mean i
make furniture what do you think thats
a very offensive thing to say ”what do you
think i am an interior decorator? no im not an
interior decorator im an artist!“ i said
”well i thought you were an artist and you
wanted to make paintings" paintings you
know what paintings are in the art scene theyre
seven feet by seven feet and the important
thing to know is that a painting is big it is very
important to know that a painting is large
and not easily portable a painting is a flat
nonportable object frequently covered with colors
and usually stretched canvas over a support

and the important thing is to realize that when
people look at it automatically in the beginning

uninitiated people walk into a place to see
it they dont think of it as a painting i said "oh

thats a painting?“ ”no you dont understand

painting is about " and then theres a
dead end painting is about something that
is not easy i mean theres a kind of feeling a
great consensus that its not easy its never
easy the one thing you know from painters who
paint is that painting cant possibly be easy

they struggle about it because it would be easy

if lets say the little lady the proverbial
and mythical little lady who down in our area
around san diego we think of the little
lady from la jolla the little lady of la jolla has a
gold frame painting and thats not what
you want to make and she bought it in balboa
park and you say “but whats the matter
with buying a little painting in balboa park with
a frame she hangs it there she looks at it
often it gives her pleasure” and thats not what
you want to make because what you want
to make means something else and i say “but
that doesnt mean anything?” no what that means
is that that woman has a set of historical tastes
that she loves and she is attached to her taste and
she wants to stick to those ideas that she
knows very well and she will be satisfied by
it the way she will be satisfied by
having a particular dish served to her once a
week by her cook lets say her spanish
speaking cook to whom she doesnt speak because
she doesnt speak spanish but this

particularly peculiar dish that she expects
regularly her taco dinner and she knows
what she wants in art it tastes a particular way

now my young artist or old artist
doesnt want to make that kind of art because hes
not making food hes not making a consumer
item so all right youre not making a consumer
item you re making a painting and its a big
painting and what else is there in the painting
that is why are you carrying out this unnatural
act say with respect to a large piece of canvas

stretched on a support? i mean what is
this all about i mean there is this thing and its
heavy its nonfunctional it acquires dust
and you put colors on it and theres a sigh a
tremendous sigh and they point to other
paintings that is to say its like with other art

and it turns out after a while that this art this
painting relates only to other paintings that is
to say it relates to other paintings in the minds
of the people who relate to other paintings there
are a set of people who are painting relators
and these painting relators relate your painting to
other paintings which is how you know these
are paintings now in order to make a painting
of the sort that is related to other paintings
by painting relators you have to find painting
relators thats very important painting relators
are essential to artists. sometimes these
painting relators are other artists and sometimes
theyre people who do nothing else but
relate paintings they have sometimes been
thought of as critics sometimes theyre hustlers
called dealers and sometimes theyre people
who are just sort of wandering around
with nothing else to do but relate paintings they
sometimes relate sculpture which is about
the same business that is sculpture has a similar
career i didnt pick painting because i think
of it as less or more than sculpture that is in
sculpture for example there will be a man who
will have a theory of sculpture and he will
relate things that other people will for example

im giving a parallel example that is im
not leading into greater depth here what im
assuming is that a man publishes an
announcement in some accessible place saying
that he will pay a reward for the capture of
this notoriously nondangerous criminal who is
among the twenty most or least wanted men
by the united states government the name of the
man who published this is douglas huebler

and he offered a reward of a thousand dollars
for the capture of this notoriously nondangerous
man who the police also wanted and he
was going to pay a reward for the capture on the
basis of selling the documentation that is to
say he was going to sell the documentation
involving the apprehension of the criminal and his
offer to pay the thousand dollars and when
he did this he set a kind of diminishing reward

if the capture was effective within so
many days a thousand dollars was paid if not

it was reduced gradually over a period of about
a year i believe and the thing was worked
out very carefully because as the time elapsed
between the offer and the capture the price of
the art work i believe was being reduced to
keep it equivalent so that the whole thing
operated so that the cost of the art work would be
paid to the men who apprehended the
criminal by the man who bought the art work
now you say to yourself what was that

what was this kind of creepy work I
mean what was this man doing intervening

was he as it were an auxiliary policeman? he
says “no im not an auxiliary policeman im
a sculptor” and you say “you re a sculptor”
“yes yes im making a piece of sculpture”

“why are you making a piece of sculpture?”
“im making a piece of sculpture because
this work doesnt mean anything see basically
this work is a solid that is to say it is
noncommittal there is no meaning attributable
to this solid object” and you say “wait a
minute solid object?” "it is as it were
nonreferential or nonsymbolical what it is

is that there is an offer made by me the work
has an offer and it pays i pay this man a
thousand dollars if he catches the criminal and i
pay it with the money i receive from my art
buyer its a perfect system it is a sculptural
system“ ”say why is that a piece of sculpture?"
and it turns out to be a piece of sculpture
because and im not putting the work down

it turns out to be a piece of sculpture because
a piece of scuipture becomes defined as a
self-enclosed system referring to nothing and in
doug huebler’s case not occupying physical
space hes advanced over the work that was
noncommittal and occupied physical space that
is to say several years before that there was a
fashion in presenting objects which were
intended as noncommittal now to say it is

noncommittal that is a man fashioned oh a
cube and the cube might be a piece of

fiberglass and the fiberglass was placed in
the room and somebody came into the room and
he looked at the fiberglass and then he
went out having seen his piece of sculpture now
he may not have known it was a piece of
sculpture he may have thought somebody was
doing something modifying the room in some
manner providing it with some sort of
architectural modification but had he been a
member of the sculpture relating community he
would have come to the astonishing conclusion

that an advance had taken place in
sculpture that is to say that up to then there
had been a theory of sculpture relations that went
like this sculpture consists of the coupling of
elements in space now nobody ever says that

that is to say three-dimensional elements
arranged in three dimensional space people
don’t say that sculpture had the idea of adding

part to part in such a manner as to energize

differentially various parts of the space
but they used to say “sculpture articulates space”

it was one of the great lines i remember
everybody since about 1910 to about 1960 said
sculpture articulates space they said it about
architecture too nobody knows exactly what that
meant what it meant was apparently
that shapes were placed in a three-dimensional
continuum and apparently emphasized for
certain people who were remarkably sensitive to
these emphases various parts of the continuum at
the expense of other parts of the continuum
so that the continuum was reduced to a
noncontinuum now if that was a sculptural idea

the idea of presenting a noncommittal
cube in the same three-dimensional space might
have been considered by sculpture relators
a move after all you take a cube and its so big
and you place it there it also articulates
space in the sense that say in this poem by
wallace stevens wallace stevens talks about putting
a jar in tennessee now putting a jar in
tennessee is after all an odd idea merely
because the scale of the jar and the scale of
tennessee is discrepant that is as soon as you
say i put a jar in tennessee you have an
idea of a relation between a geographical entity
that isnt visible and something that is trivially
handleable that is to say you have created a kind
of conceptual nexus between the jar and a
state of the union now this peculiar activity
might as it were be extended to the career
of sculpture one might say that sculptures
proceeding was to create a conceptual relation
between spaces of a sort now you say “what
sort?” and theyd say “well of an interesting
sort” well whats interesting about space
itself? and you could think of a lot of things that
are interesting about space but to a sculpture
relator space being interesting that is real space
being interesting lets take sculpture relators
and painting relators separately sculpture
relators are interested in relations in real space

in three-dimensional space and painting
relators are involved in in nonreal space
whatever they are involved in is involved on a
surface that is imagined to be separated from the
space you walk into that is it is not typical for
paintings to be placed in a doorway such that you
walk through them and that thats intrinsic
to your experience i mean people dont take a
painting put it here and you know the gallery
door is there and as you open the door you smash
the painting in half and go through thats
not the way of painting one could conceive of
somebody doing that he would then be
treating painting as a kind of entrance way

that is to say painting is an obstacle to your
entry into the art gallery when you wind up in
the art gallery you turn around and look at the
hole youve made and they say that was the
painting you know and that may well be a
way of dealing with painting im not putting it
down as a matter of fact there are things
to be said for painting producing that effect but

typically painting has been regarded as living
in a sacred space of its own sacred and inviolable

that is to say it is a virtual space no matter
what they do with it its what happens
on a picture plane by itself or inside on the other
side of the picture plane if it comes out
and hits you like in those rube goldberg cartoons
you look at it come up to it close and a little
fist goes bang then you regard it as a
cryptosculpture that is to say there was sculpture
lurking in that painting you know like the
man who comes around wearing gardenias or
something like that and you walk up close to him
and he goes squirt and hits you because
he had an inviolable visual object a gardenia
here which then turned out to be a fountain

to your regret now the point that i would like
to make is essentially that painting had been
imagined to be something that was interesting in
a conceptual space that was not really physical

whatever it was it wasnt really physical now
you may say that it was perceptual and in
that sense physical but the perceptual triggered
the painting and there was a career of
painting and triggering activities triggering
mental activities in relation to something that as
it were was marked off behind some kind of
sacred barrier sculpture occupied a place lets
say on the floor that is to say the intrinsic
thing about sculpture is that its in your world

it can fall on you you can trip on it it
could be a terrible disaster as there was recently

dick serra killed somebody recently the
melodrama surrounding serras lead sculptures

that is there was always a great deal of
melodrama largely provoked by dick and his
own style of how the works were leaning against
the wall and how they were likely to fall down
and cripple people and if you walked alongside
of it you were taking your life in your hands and
there was this feeling that it could in fact
do these things and anyone who knew anything
about leaning metal on other pieces of metal had
a very bad feeling about what would finally be
the outcome but one of them finally fell and killed
someone now he doesnt make them that way
anymore and he in fact hadnt made that one
so that it should fall it had been made so that it
shouldnt fall and they put it up incorrectly and

it killed someone but the point that im
making here is that sculpture is intractably part of
your space in that sense it even cohabits
the world with you or its an invader and

sculpture has always done this now when you
talk about painting painting has never as
it were inhabited your space in the same manner

now those are limiting definitions theyre
not exhaustive and they are not entirely
descriptive within those areas theres no reason
why those should be the art career theres
nothing intrinsically interesting about making
painting or making sculpture those are merely
arenas what we have described are two
arenas one arena is in a sacred space one arena
is not in a sacred space now you say why
should someone be concerned with operating
in this arena and what sort of operation
has he got in mind in this arena well painting
as we all know has a history of presenting
in some manner beginning from an art of
representation that is to say representing some
aspect of reality in a perfectly ordinary
manner that is presenting to a visual inspection
some encoded message concerning the
nature of a visual reality now thats a very cagey
statement but i want to be very cagey about it

that is i dont propose that painting was
intending to simulate the real world at any given
time it was intending to present a representation
a representation is a model a model is
not a real object and a model may always be
counted upon to neglect certain features
of the thing that it is a model of otherwise its
not a model its the thing that is to say
you make a painting of a man there are many
features of the man you undoubtedly leave out if
you couldnt leave out any feature you wouldnt
know that you didnt have the man youd have
the man now this representational basis was not
only art it was also a function that is to say
there were functions of representation
and it is a history that painting is stuck with

sculpture had other things it was stuck with

there were these careers but those careers are
way in back of us that is there are these
careers so far in back of us not because people
dont do them any more but we dont even think
about them any more because they are so banal

that is that there were these careers of making
sculpture lets say as it were sculpture to
adorn the wall of a temple that everybody took
for granted that is to say you narrated a story
in sculpture on a frieze say you narrated
something or you encoded a god in an
appropriate place well thats pretty functional
and people would know why you did it but
no one would agree that that was the art function

and everybody is aware that theres an art
function and it started from some area back
there and that were here making art in an
arena that was not necessarily set up to be the art
arena well thats because were not sure what
we mean when we say the art arena we
mean something ineffably pure apparently now
what is this art arena what do we do in this
art arena and this is very curious i mean to me
it seems curious because as a poet and artist

ive always felt secure that what i was
doing was valuable to be doing that if someone
should be doing it i should be doing it

that it needed doing other artists
feel secure that there is something going on

and you say to yourself well what is it that
people want to do in this arena having started
with this background this absurd background
of art which in certain cases. in the case of
the visual arts was a commodity at one point it
may have been sacred and another point
it was a commodity certainly from the renaissance
on art was a commodity now i dont know
how many of you people here are artists but if
all of you are artists or even a fairly large
number of you are artists there are probably very
few of you who are concerned with art making
as the making of a merchandisable commodity
primarily i mean everybody figures if youre
going to make art as a commodity your going to
use that as an out as a method to get by while
you do your thing you know what you
have in mind youre going to go to a gallery
and the gallery owner is going to be a jerk

and what you’re going to do is youre going
to convince this jerk that what youve got there
is a sellable commodity in spite of the fact that its
a piece of art thats one attitude another attitude
is that you think the guy is really smart and
you say to him you say to the smart man “nick i
want you to look at this” you say "nick

youre a smart guy dont you think this is very
meaningful?" and then you wait and if nick
thinks its very meaningful it means he thinks he
can sell it to rowan than hell think its
very meaningful but your main concern is
no matter how you feel about it you feel rather
ambiguous with relation to the hustling of
merchandise and its fairly evident were all here
and like there are no spies so i think that
basically we can say that here we will feel that the
selling of the thing is secondary that its
merchandisable relations to the rest of the
community are secondary to what we want to
do so if theyre secondary to what we want
to do they may in fact become an obstacle but
they may not the point is how do you manage
with some piece of merchandise that
youve got there with something that can function
as merchandise to do something else you want
to do what what do you want to do with
this piece of merchandise? now think of all the
kinds of merchandise that people have

people sell old merchandise all the time many
things are merchandise for various reasons

there are people who hustle it and there are
people who buy it now think of people buying
art objects buying a painting what does
a man buy a painting for there are a lot of buyers
there are people who buy art that is in a
sense they like the art theyve seen before and
presumably they think that your work is related to
it or maybe they dont maybe they consume

they look at a work and it gives them pleasure

now you say do i really want to make a
pleasure giving machine that is to say am i
essentially in the business of trying to provide a
universally human pleasurable experience
relatively durable for an average human being?

not on your life you know you dont think
about that for a second i mean thats ridiculous

i mean its an honorable career but you
dont think about that that is to say the honorable
career of providing consumer value is not
something that immediately occurs to you as a
matter of fact if you think about how you
go about making art you have a taste for things
that people will find somewhat difficult that
is to say somewhat uncomfortable you know if
they said yeah they saw your painting
and said id love to hang it right over my sofa

youd get very nervous you know and maybe
if you got enough money for it you wouldnt
be too nervous but on the whole you dont start
out with taking a survey to find out if you
really wanted to sell presumably youd find out
what people. wanted to buy and youd find out
what it is people like what houses they had

how big their houses were where you wanted
to put the thing a person has only so much
wall space but you make seven by seven
paintings and you haven! figured how many
people have seven by seven wall space rooms

how many people can hang a seven
foot painting have you got any idea there are
really not too many considering the way they
make houses nowadays and when you consider
that they use plasterboard rather than regular
lath and plaster how do they support this thing?

you dont care because youre image is of getting
it into a museum you know perfectly
well that there are only certain places that you
want that painting to go because you want it to
get into a museum which is what one might
call the first stage of getting into history

that is in a certain sense you have a very funny
relation to this art work you dont really
want the man to put it in his home you dont care
if he puts it in his home but you hope its
the kind of man who lends paintings to traveling
shows you hope its the kind of guy who
if he gives a painting to a museum they wont
throw it out the door you know there are plenty
of people who call up museums every day in the
week and say “boy have i got a painting for
you” it happens all the time it happens
all the time you know as a matter of fact my
school specializes in having an administration
which is very lovable we have some of the most
lovable scientists in the country and outside
of science theyre really very astonishing people

i received a phone call from a member
of the administration who said “id like you to
come over and look at a painting to evaluate it”

and i said “why should i come
look at it to evaluate it whats the problem?”

they said “well its being donated to the school”

i said “do we want it?” and they said
“well yes you do its. . . . . .” and they named the
name they said its bob rhinestones painting
i said “what do you mean its bob rhinestones
painting did he paint it?” they said no

he bought it i said “well whos painting is it?”
and they said “its a spaniard he bought it in
spain” and i said “what possessed him to
buy a painting in spain? why would he go to spain
to buy a painting? you know where did he
buy it? estramadura?” you know and he said to me
“i dont know the name of the painting”

they dont know the name of the painter they
dont know anything i should go down there
and put a price tag on it and they had a very
strange idea why should i put a price tag on it

“why youre the chairman of our art department
surely you can put the value on this painting”

and i said “but i dont know anything
about estramaduran painting at this time of the
year” i mean how do i know what its selling
for in estramadura and the answer is

this person thought that there was an arbitrary
scale of consumer values that is fixed that is
to say maybe not an arbitrary maybe a natural
scale of consumer values that is instantaneously
apparent to us art connoisseurs we can go
down and find the cost of a painting we say that
painting is worth two thousand three hundred
and thirty-nine dollars and forty-three cents
and next week it will be worth three thousand four
hundred and seventy-four cents you know
and so forth and it will be based on quality
that is to say i will go over to that painting and
i will say yes brush strokes fifteen hundred

color and i will put together the components
of painting and i will lay a value on it now
while it is perfectly evident to me that
this is absurd it is not perfectly evident to the
vice chancellor of the university of california that
this is absurd and its for a very good
reason artists have worked very hard to convey
the illusion that paintings are very important
in a way that should carry financial reward with
them that is usually part of our conspiracy

that when we go out into the world we as it
were say yes thats a terrifically important
painting what do you mean its important? its
important financially? that is to say if it were
stolen the insurance companies would have
to lay out a lot of money everybody knows
the game of insurance and paintings and
what would happen finally with testimonies

a curator will be called in and he will say
yes thats a painting of a particular sort and
they pay two thousand dollars for paintings
like that but nevertheless everybody knows
perfectly well that a painting has no intrinsic
value that is to say monetarily its very hard
to establish a monetary value on a painting
because nobody knows what anybody wants to pay
for it nobody knows what anybody wants
to pay for it because nobody knows what
it is theyre paying for now take either an
old painting old art take old art like a
cézanne what you have is a picture and what
it costs is a peculiar accident undoubtedly
but the art world tries to convey an image of
importance in the art activity but they are
not willing to say what the art activity is now
cézannes mentality i mean if cézanne was
working on let us imagine that cézanne
had an idea i will not say that he did
have this idea but let me assert what cézannes
idea is if cézanne was an impressionist

which he was and impressionism involved
a number of people with different attitudes
but one of the most astonishing attitudes
they had was the liberation of painting
from its darkness that is to say of opening up
the possibility towards a tremulous sunlight
being rendered in paint treating everything
under a kind of trembling veil of sunlight and
that this was one of the most exciting ideas
for about four or five years in painting and
that cézanne was one of the people who was
intoxicated with this possibility and
cézanne finally looked at it and said “yes im
intoxicated with sunlight but im not intoxicated
with what sunlight seems to do to
volume i mean its ridiculous you look at what
the sunlight is doing to my sense of voluminous
reality and i cant stand it” and so he
invents a style which presumably is intended
to render voluminousness and luminosity
all at once and it does it lets say and it
does this and it does this for example at the
expense of annihilating mass cézannes
mountains always look like tablecloths they
always look like a tablecloth thats been crumpled

and theres a reason for it you cant get
everything you know its like gambling art
is like gambling you pay your money you
take your choice you cant have everything
at once because there are certain things that are
contradictory in the late painting by cézanne
theres no mass no sense of mass because by
the time he got through rendering volume
and luminosity he has no room for mass

that is the characteristics that he has to
sacrifice finally destroy the idea of weight well
thats fine now lets say he has this idea now
he may not have had that idea very long
but there is a period during which he had that
idea what is that idea worth to a gentleman
who made himself ten million dollars in the
movie business and hes in a position to buy
it or to some gentlemen who ran for office not
so long ago and didnt succeed what is this
idea worth to this man why should he care
about cézannes concern for improving or
shifting the emphasis of an impressionists
passion what difference could it possibly make
to him whether cézanne managed to achieve an
image of pure configuration and luminosity

it doesnt make any difference to him in
fact it has never occurred to him that this was
the idea nor does he think the idea is
meaningful if the idea were given to him he
might say “and thats what the cézanne is?
im turning it back in i thought it was great
art the point is i thought this great art was
relatively eternal you know this man was
working on something that had a dense drive
a drive that was universally clear and was
always to be found in art” but its not always
to be found is it an interesting idea? does
it interest you? i dont know if its interesting
i mean i dont know why i dont start from
an assumption that art has to be dealing with
luminosity now it may be that thats not
interesting anymore but it was very interesting
for cézanne for a while if cézanne lived longer
it might not have been interesting to him
much afterwards you know it might have
been another ten years and cézanne didnt
care now in which case if he didnt care what
if cézanne decided he didnt care anymore
about those early paintings who cared? his
dealer? its a very funny situation if art is
about this set of ideas that cézanne was
dealing with at the time that they were
interesting theres no inherent way of a thing
holding its value if the ideas lose their
interest now museums are there largely
to capture and embalm ideas that were once
interesting that is to place an idea that was
once interesting in a place where you can stumble
over it and for reasons that are humanly
valuable reconsider the idea that is it may be
that any idea ultimately that is no longer
available that is any set of ideas and passions
and concerns that one may call the art idea when
they disappear may still be as valuable
intrinsically as any other past idea which is gone

and that there is something valuable about
considering it from the human point of view
but thats a museums problem its not a problem
of absolute value it is an exercise in humanly
reevoking the world its like an exercise in
shamanism the way a shaman evokes the
presence of the dead person that is to say
someone who is very real and had a very real
effect upon his wife and his children and
the tribe and the shaman draws upon his
reality and brings him there long enough for
people to recognize an anterior person who
stood once fully alive and it may very well be
a terrific role that the museum should play it
very often doesnt play it at all and that art history
should play that is to say to play this kind of

intellectual human shamanism and i would say
thats a very respectable role but its not about value
nor is it about the art youre making now the
careers that van gogh or cézanne were embarked
upon seemed to them perfectly reasonable
careers that is to say what it was that they
wanted to do always seemed plausible to
them and were in an art world where the
things that were doing for some reason dont
immediately seem plausible now i dont
mean by this that there is no art that is meaningful
being made in the world that is for some
reason there was a consistent series of moves
that seemed available to people like cézanne

and so that cézanne always knew what he
wanted to do in a sense that is he knew that there
was something about delacroix that he thought
delacroix did right and there was something
delacroix didnt do right that is to say if he
thought that delacroix did everything right he
wouldnt have wanted to borrow some delacroix
if he thought that he did everything
wrong he wouldnt have wanted to borrow it
either there was a funny relation he had to
delacroix that is to say for delacroix maybe it
was right but there is something he is not doing
right now but who is doing something for
us that is not quite right that will clarify for
us what we should do today i mean its a
funny problem if there was a continuous
career in which youre involved and your friend
over here who just died or whos aging is
just missing the point of whats really important

you want to correct it for me you know you
want to rescue whats go ing wrong now what
is this sense that you want to rescue? you
want to rescue a sense something of importance
in this sense painting has a historicity or art
making has a historicity that is to say it is a
historicity of common career he was doing
something and something has gone out of the
beer its faded somewhat something is not
quite right now i can give you an example
of a situation that i feel has faded very significantly
i mean in a very realistic sense so far we
have been talking in general terms but when in
1965 when there appeared in new york galleries
certain very simple looking work particularly
at the green gallery certain very simple shapes
thrust into a room and having no other
justification that was obvious the shapes were
placed before you there was something

apparently very exciting in being confronted
with the idea of simplicity simplicity being
offered to you as a significant enough object
to respond to it was in virtue of its simplicity that
it accused people like di suvero of being absurd

now di suvero was a very reasonable sculptor
who made things by knocking things together
in a very amiable way a tire a chain and
something that hung on something else and
there was something very likable about di suvero
and there was something very likable about
people like george sugarman who put gay little
shapes together all over the place and they
sprawled out over the floor and people liked it
and they said its kind of interesting see how im
not saying why i liked it but people said gee
it was kind of nice but on the other hand it
was kind of obvious it was obvious in that
it was a lot of movement and you said well its a lot
of movement but to no end i mean what does
he need all this machinery? why all this coupling
all this mov ing around ? if its possible to
energize a space which people thought was
interesting to do if its possible to energize a
space maybe its possible to energize a space
without all that obvious sign of being an art
maker maybe just one cube in the room what
is putting a cube in a room? or how high a
cube? that is to say any cube? is any cube
exactly the same as the other cube? consider
the possibility a room is a cube make believe
the room is a cube it may not be imagine
that the room is a cube twenty feet by twenty
feet and you say to yo urself the first kind of cube
that i put in that room that s going to make that
room very difficult is a cube nineteen and a half
feet by nineteen and a half feet by nineteen and a
half feet i assure you that that cube is going to
have a very grotesque effect and will certainly
articulate the space of that room that is if you
can put that cube into the other cube you will
have articulated the space to such a degree
that almost nobody can get in there and this
is one way of articulating the space in this
sense sculpture is an invader that is to say
sculpture then occupies space but it calls
attention to an idea something is represented

that is the possibility of art as an invader and
an aggressor and this is meaningful

now you may not want to be aggressed
upon nevertheless in going into an art gallery
that is twenty feet by twenty feet by twenty feet
and when you encounter a cube within it that is
nineteen feet by nineteen feet by nineteen feet
you still have to open the door to get in there
however difficult it may prove to be once youre
in so that its aggression is relatively limited

you open the door you thought there was
going to be an art experience and it turns out
you can hardly get in the door thats your first
experience on the other hand you have other
experiences which were presented earlier
because that in fact was not the kind of
thing that was done you were presented lets
say with an empty room where a slab say
three inches off the ground and five
feet wide and five feet long was presented

a square slab and it was perhaps twelve inches
thick and it was three inches off the ground
and you see a few of them lets say three
of them or four of them and you came in thats
all there was and the peculiar problem is
there was this large shape it appears to be
too low to look at head on it appears to
be peculiarly lifted off the floor for no purpose

that is to say you cant see under it so that
its lifting off the floor is largely obvious from
the light that falls on it you could put your
foot under it if you want ed to but on the whole
you are apparently aware that its off the floor yet
its off-the-floorness appears trivial because

youre damned if youre going to get on your
hands and knees and look under it because
it only has this much space under it so a lot of
things begin to become apparent once youre
in this kind of work once you take for granted
that people will question the moves that were
made that is to say if there is a question
concerning why it is that these things were
done why it is that this thing was three-inches
off the floor and why it is that it was this
size in relation to a presentation that you would
normally imagine to expect it begins to assume
a certain kind of meaning but only if you were
going to inspect it notice that this all hinges
on your assuming some relation to a presentation
in that space up to then everybody has validated
that presentation everybody says you
come into the room and you expect to be
presented when you come in you are presented

youre presented with something which is
different from what you intended to be presented
with and the manner in which its a different thing
than you expected is the meaning of the work

in a sense but notice the meaning of the work
only to the degree that it is a modification
of the preceding work that is it modifies the
other work in terms of general conditions
imagined to be imposed upon presentation by the
preceding history of art in that sense there is
a historicity there too notice theres a live
discourse sculpture was this series of shapes
in a room now you come in and there is only
one shape and you wonder why its presented
so low or why its so high or why it takes
up so much room which makes you ask a
question is that an adequate rationale for
doing the work at all is that discrepancy that
discrepancy which is like a move in a chess
game is that next move is that the meaning
of the work then you say to yourself what
about the game itself that is thats a move in a
game thats older and longer and a game
which has had previous moves and this is just
one move now the move has maybe changed
the nature of the overall game to some degree
but on the whole it makes you wonder
about what is necessary or what is possible and
to be sure there were people in the new
york art scene who quickly saw that if you could
present a cube let us say or a slab three inches
off the floor and people would in fact respond
to it that is the people whom you cared about
would respond to a lot less than this now you
say what do you mean a lot less than this this
is still merchandise this stuff can sell i have
a set of four slabs and somebody comes into
the gallery and says “you know i thought that was
kind of terrific the way that operated I have
a living room thats not unlike the living room
in which this was in or i can lower my
living room or i can raise it im a serious art
collector ill raise my living room to an
auspicious size and ill put it there in the same
way” now he may very well have found a way to
house it and try the same experience if thats
what hes really interested in but notwithstanding
all that how much concern is it for the
artist to be able to produce this experience again
and again once its been done that is is he
producing a reliable experience for people

to enjoy regularly that is is he going to be
happy about the taken home work which
will be there will he bring his friends to
come look at it will he say here is my art
work? the logical thing is that he probably
wont that on the whole there is a feeling
that once this was done it opens up a new
opportunity now theres a funny opportunity
for something else that is to make a new
theory a new theory of what you could
make with the next move and the new theory of
the next move might be that you saw so much
less in this move than in the last move you
see that the morris that im describing is a
lot less meaningful in any other sense than as
a modification of previous experience well
now what if we modify this in the direction
of even greater simplicity now theres no need
that it should have to go in the direction of
greater simplicity but let us say supposing that
we even operate with a less objectlike thing

supposing what we do is introduce a situation
that forces questioning which this does the
slabs did force a questioning as to what they
were the first time you saw them and the
second time perhaps and maybe for about two
or three years but by the third year by 1967
there was nobody terribly concerned with
whether a cube was off the ground or a slab
was up in the air it didnt matter anything
like that was not only acceptable but what you
expected now if you expected this this isnt what
the artist intended to do he was furthermore
going to modify the situation in such
a way that you would receive an experience

that occupied your mind for a certain length
of time perhaps with the same amount of intensity
mainly because it wasnt like this so then let
us say that you take the doug huebler as if the
doug huebler were the next work it isnt the
the next work in my mind but imagine a doug
huebler piece in which doug huebler operates
a system he operates a system in which he

proposes that you apprehend a criminal and
he offers the closed system if the work is
bought if the criminal is apprehended the
buyer pays for the apprehension now what
kind of work is that? is it a piece of
sculpture? its an art work to the degree that
it occupies your mind? perhaps its not an
object and its a piece of sculpture to huebler

now huebler sees it hes chipped away a certain
amount of the physical materiality of sculpture

and yet retained the kind of displacement
character of minimal art that is the work is
entirely displaced spatially i mean forgetting
all the other aspects of it the sociological and
humanitarian about which one might raise
some very interesting questions but there is a
displacement the work itself involves history
and geography there is someone who has been
identified by documentation as a committer of
a crime somewhere in the past whatever crime

and his name is known and a photograph
is given of him in order to capture him
somebody would have to go out and find such
a person to conform essentially to the
photograph and to the history that is ultimately
someone who conforms to the photograph
will be supposed to conform to the history

and then other tests will be invoked to find
out whether the person conforms to the name
as well as the history now that will be
done and then this particular situation will
invoke a necessary reward or initial outlay of
money by huebler say a thousand dollars that
huebler will have to put up because the art work
hasnt been sold yet and then this whole thing
will be sold as an art work this is a comical
idea you notice the comedy now you say to
yourself “but huebler thats not physical space”
and huebler says “no but its real space” its
very real space police action only occurs in real
space sculpture occurs in real space its a
sculpture sculpture is real space this is real
space real space is experience space its not
physical space its not three-dimensional
twenty by twenty space its not the space of
this room as a three-dimensional manifold
that is metrically determined thats not human
space human space is experiential space i
dont experience the part of the room that
those six people are sitting on though it is
metrically possible i could refer it to axes that
are arbitrarily there but thats not a space i
recognize i may recognize the people i may
move from part to part with my mind but
not all of this room is experienced humanly by
me at any given time and i only refer to the
room as a conceptual continuum i think thats
fairly obvious to everybody its almost banal

on the other hand human space is a kind
of conceptual manifold that is not
continuous its the space of experience that
is the space of all kinds of experience tactile

social literary acoustical olfactory i
mean its a very complicated operation huebler
presents a piece that operates or could
conceivably operate in real space there is a
danger of it becoming real space now there
is the danger of it occupying moral space if
you picked out i think that with deliberate
malice huebler picked out a criminal whose
criminality first of all is neither clear
nor significant that is he happened to wind
up on a wanted list despite the fact that
his crime seemed to be publically real though
he may not have committed the crime he
looked marvelously innocent that is the
photograph of a man who looks terrifically
unlikely as a criminal and what youre being
invited to do is participate in what one might
call a potential obscenity that is to say youre
being invited to take part in the apprehension
of the human being only on the faith that
the wanted poster is accurate this raises the
question about the accuracy of the documentation
of the first part and it offers this problem as a
temptation it offers the art work as a temptation
to crime of its own sort so that it evokes this
moral space a very curious moral space is
invoked by this work now you say this art
work is an interesting art work for a very good
reason its not an interesting art work because
its a work modifying art history its an
interesting art work because it raises the question
about the meaning of art it raises the question
about what sort of space a work of art could
possibly occupy and huebler is in a certain sense
paradoxically suggesting what about occupying
this insane moral space i mean consider it

huebler always presents it as if it were a
formalist scheme everything is beautifully
presented that is you capture the man youre
paid the thousand dollars huebler receives a
thousand dollars from the buyer of the art work
the buyer of the art work is thereby the man who
finances the whole operation and there is
neither gain nor loss as a matter of fact huebler
is not profiting the piece was aimed at
nonprofit its a nonprofit art work now take
the structural piece which is very curious and
regard it as formalist sculpture the work itself
from the historical and abstract art point of
view is very ironic what the work does is
create a kind of total irony with respect to
formalist concerns in sculpture it raises the
idea that formal concerns applied to things
that might be interesting in human space

would turn out to be obscene on the other
hand thats very interesting it raises the issue
essentially of what i would call pornography now
art has always played with pornography in the
west i mean pornography has been a very
significant concern of art in the west its been
significant because it has always been the
challenge of the artist that art is informal
because one responds pornographically the
most cheerful aspect the most heartening aspect
of western european art was its possible
pornographic concerns because it was always
the specter of the human however formal an
art work was if it played with pornography as
an idea not because the pornography was
beautiful or cheerful but because it was a
reminiscence of human maneuver within the
work now if hueblers work is an assault on
it there are many works in the art world
that are not i picked hueblers work because
hueblers work is an art work of a rather odd kind
he presents it as a formalist nonrepresentational
piece and what it is is a rather bizarre model
of reality that is it is a representational piece
of sculpture if it is sculpture it is representational
sculpture but there are many sculptural
works that are not consider take a dennis
oppenheim work dennis oppenheim did a
piece of work in which he managed to get some
things harvested in a field i dont remember if
it was wheat or corn or what it was but he
harvested it he harvested it he arranged the
field in such a manner as to correspond to the
route between there and the place he was
shipping the grain to he harvested the grain
by making this contour pattern in the area and
when he harvested the grain he sent it to an
art gallery and the grain was sold now big
deal i mean thats formal there was a task
an arbitrary relation between field and grain
which was there and the natural environment
and the removal of the grain into an art context
where it became a commodity that is it was
labeled art and it was sold now theoretically
the works look like they have the same structural

center that is to say they work in human
space the oppenheim harvests corn or wheat
and it goes through a situation in which the
activity the costly labor of oppenheim and the
people are then paid for by the purchase
of a patron say say rowan whats the
difference theyre paid for by the pasadena
museums large backer and you know he buys the
grain he wont because it doesnt look like an
olitski but thats not the point the fact is he
pays for it and that makes it a complete
cycle its a perfect system now you say to
yourself they did a perfect system of the same
order as the heubler i mean is it interesting the
way the heubler is interesting the huebler
verges on obscenity and triviality and the
huebler is a very violent piece thats why
huebler is one of the best conceptual artists
and there are very few good conceptual artists
i mean that is why heubler is a profoundly
disturbing artist and oppenheims not disturbing
theres nothing disturbing about an oppenheim
piece not of the type now consider other
kinds of work now i dont remember if it was
oppenheim or heizer who did this piece and
there is a very interesting and very violent
conceptual work that is done by one of them
which was the police dog piece that was done
in boston its a different kind of piece than the
huebler piece the huebler piece verges on social
structures and sociology in a way what im
talking about is a social art that doesnt work
within an arbitrary formalist frame but this piece
which was either oppenheims or heizers and
if i dont remember which one ii is its because
I begin to-think of them as the bobbsey twins at
times involved the placement of police dogs
in front of the museum near the entrance to the
the museum and these police dogs were chained

they were chained down in such a way that
if you walked a straight line between them the
police dogs however violent they got would not
be able to reach you but they would come very
close now i would say that articulated the
space rather clearly the space was articulated
very well you walked down the space the
animals lunged at you and you found that
the space was very narrow there were three
inches on either side which were not dog and
you got into the museum to get into the museum
you had to go by these rather peculiar animals
now theres something interesting about that
and amusing a kind of witty idea but now this
dog work occupies a space somewhere between
the oppenheim canceled crop operation and
the huebler piece the violent relation this sort
of funny special path to the museum now
you think about the piece itself as a model of
art structure that is the art structure being
represented as a model path into a museum it
is an amusing idea and kind of terrifying in a
funny way theres something interesting and
peculiar about its operation its trivial in a sense

that you know the animals are not going to
kill you its trivial oh you may not believe
in the secure technological assurance of those
chains one knows of those mistakes made by
industry before i mean one knows that
lockheed exists if lockheed exists its possible
that the chains may not exist all the time

lockheed has planes that dont exist very well i
mean why should the chains hold up all the
time still youre toying with fear in a more or
less pornographic sense i mean this kind of
work shares a pornographic character with
the huebler what youre offered is a kind of
frisson a kind of chilling quality in the work and
youre setting up the chilling quality by trying
out the art work in a way this piece questions
art making too in relation to pornography that
is it questions it because the art itself handles
human feelings toys with human feelings in a
situation that is ultimately rather protected
which is pornography and it is self-provoking

you enter into it now apparently to the
degree that both pieces are rather melodramatic

i dont mean to advocate only melodramatic
operation but youll notice that both of these
operations are about pornography in art they
are about art as it were opportunizing over
social human activities now it seems one of
the problems here thats raised is the kind of
conflict that exists between human values and
the idea of art making itself as a career that is

what art making is about or what it has often
been about take the nude say the female
nude from the renaissance on it has always
offered something of an entrance to the
painting through human sexual feeling the
consumer the art looker was always assumed
to be a man now everyone knows that men
dont get excited when they see a painting
of a beautiful naked woman not a gentleman
or an art lover relator not now anyway that we
have photographs and movies still who can
deny that there is that momentary flicker of
of interest sure its more complicated than that

this feeling is surely diverted or suspended
by some conflict of interest in painting say
or antiquity nostalgia still its a naked woman
youre looking at in a titian or a renoir or a

wesselmann it isnt a wine bottle or a mountain
though the feeling the flicker of sexuality is
protected from its consequences by its
surrounding attributes its props the case
is may be clearer with suffering than with
sexuality the painter has painted a picture of
a human being in torment you are filled with an
honorable ennobling sympathy for his exquisite
torment you look at grunewalds christ and
are filled with pleasure youre masturbating at
the crucifixion we are back to vito acconci

what is the point of all this self-stimulation
if you are the viewer or why all this generosity
if you are the artist this sexual assistance? what
are you masters and johnson? at least for
vito the pleasure is reciprocal he sits under a
plank concealment and know s that you the
audience are only a few feet away from his
trivial but scandalous pleasure he knows that
you are nearby and he is pleased to be so close
to disclosure his frisson you are close to his
sexual act about as close as you are to it any
time you walk by the door of somebody elses
apartment but you know that your being there
gives him pleasure and his being there gives
you pleasure this is a little fairer than
pornography as it is usually practiced in the
arts but what if you are not especially interested
in or in need of masturbation for an artist who
gets no frisson from exposing himself or
pretending to do so what is there to do?

supposing art making is like a kind
of knot making if youre a knot maker youve
got an idea about what is a knot and what is a
mess a legal way of proceeding what is a legal
knot and what is a snarl? all knots involve
some kind of double reversal you start out

going somewhere go back and take some of
the past with you to wherever you were going
to go and you find a way to mark off some
memorial to where youve been a node well
there are two kinds at least of knot makers

one knot maker knows how to proceed
making his knot s and watches himself proceeding

in the end he arrives at a knot he approves for
some reason if hes been watching the way he
has been knotting all this time he wont be
surprised at the outcome and though he may
be satisfied he will walk away and for get it then
hes a process knot maker or he might not walk
away but place it in front of you in the hope
that you will be bettered thereby in which
case hes a therapeutic or didactic knot maker

or say he is a forgetful knot maker as soon
as he finishes a loop he forget s it because all
the time he is only attending to the node
he is working on at any given moment at some
time when hes tired or interrupted by a phone
call he will look up and hell be surprised by his
knot because hell have no idea how he got
there hes a kind of magical knot maker but with
all of this and i think we should not
underestimate the pleasures and surprises of
knot making why in the world should we bother
making knots who cares about rope? in a way
this is a lot like playing chess and you can say
someone has played it well or played poorly
but why should you care about this game? it
seems ridiculous to spend all this time pushing
little pieces of wood about on a board havent
you got better things to do? but it was not
always this way with chess chess is a depraved
game it represents the world as a struggle
for dominance between two sides that have no
choice but conflict there is no clear demarcation
or boundary that cuts off one side from the others
hostilities and there is no bound to human
abilities it is an arrogant fantasy of war in
which the greater ability will surely win by
annihilating his opponent what sort of paradigm
is this? no experience on earth corresponds
to it so it is a game of no relevance it is a
fundamentally trivial representation of reality but
it wasnt always like that according to most
authorities chess derived from an indian game
called shatrandji which was supposed to
represent the state of the world the social
classes into which people were arbitrarily divided

and it was a game invaded by chance the
best player the best plan could as easily be
defeated as the worst by luck and this was
thought to teach humility to rulers shatrandji
was the game of which chess is the trivial example

and it doesnt seem that we have to be
especially impressed with shatrandji either but
as shatrandji was a game built up out of the
human experiences of its time arbitrary
inequities among people the facts of
unavoidable war and the absurd circumstances of
luck lying under the feet of ability it is possible
to construct make our art out of something
more meaningful than the arbitrary rules of knot
making out of the character of human
experience in our world

David Antin is on the faculty of the University of California, San Diego. This text is his transcription of a talk given to the art students of Pomona College, California, in April, 1972. It will be included in his forth coming book, Talking, which will be published by the Kulchur Foundation in October.



p. 39 and p. 46 it’s a nonprofit artwork

I seem to have misremembered here. Huebler is not notably philanthropic—and why should he be? Global was not a nonprofit piece, it was a gambling piece. Huebler’s asking price for the documentation was $1000 and he offered reward, which he guaranteed to pay until the piece was bought, was $1100. On purchase of the piece the buyer was to assume responsibility for the reward. Huebler was gambling that he could sell the piece before Edmund Kile Mcintyre was apprehended. The reward was lo be reduced S100 a month until there was no reward to be paid. A bold buyer stood to pay anywhere from a maximum of $2100 to a minimum of $1000 for the work.

p. 40 the gallery door is there and as you open the door you smash the painting in half & go through

James Rosenquist did exhibit a painting that hung in strips across a doorway like the entrance to a Hong Kong whorehouse. It was something of an image-painting and the conceptual integrity of the painting was to some degree established by the depicted image. Even a fragmented or partially deteriorated image will effectively maintain its integrity as long as it is recognizable as an image at all, because an image exists in a conceptual space not in a physical one. But the work was slightly more complicated than this beca use it involved a conflict between two images: the pictorial image cut into strips and the image of a curtainlike object that could be walked through, since coherent objects also represent themselves as conceptual images.

p. 40 a model is not a real object

Obviously a model is a real object but it is not a real object in respect to its role as a model. The conflict between the model’s status as an object and its status as a signifier has been one of the most fruitful confusions in the history of representation.

p. 46 either Oppenheim’s or Heizer’s

The piece was Oppenheim’s Guarded Elements and seems to suggest it is harder than one may think to get into a museum, though people exposed to the piece for a considerable length of time tell me the dogs were usually sleeping.

p. 47 who cares about rope?

I suppose Alexander’s solution was a reminder of this sort.