PRINT October 2003


When Artforum invited Richard Prince to contribute a writing project in tune with his visual work, the artist looked to his ongoing series of “nurse paintings” and to a recent photo shoot with Kate Moss—and created this dreamscape screenplay that extends his signature reframing of mass-media iconography.

Two drunks wandered into a zoo and stopped in front of a lion’s cage. They stood watching the animal for a few minutes and suddenly it let out a roar. “C’mon let’s go,” said one. “Go ahead if you want to,” said the other. “I’m gonna stay for the movie.”

In my movie there’s a cowboy, a nurse, a comedian, and a girl on a motorcycle. The nurse tells jokes. The cowboy takes care of people. The comedian rides a horse. The girl on the motorcycle stays home.

The nurse is played by Kate Moss. I don’t know if she can act, but she can tell a joke.

Kate rents the movie Freud. Montgomery Clift plays Freud’s part. John Huston directs the movie. In the movie Clift, playing Freud, says art is about sublimated libidinal energies. He says art isn’t like science, it isn’t analytical, abstract, unemotional, left-brain, Apollonian. In the movie Clift, playing Freud, says art is playful, concrete, intuitive, Dionysian. After watching the movie Freud, Kate says art is the Coke bottle in the movie On the Beach.

The girl on the motorcycle moves away from home and works at a video rental store, renting mostly pornographic videos and DVDs. She says pornography is a fragmented emotion, a natural consequence of a high visual gradient in any culture.

The cowboy seems to have a life of his own or at least a sensation of unreality that looks real. He has an oppressive effect, glowing hallucinatory energy.

The comedian comes very close to being tragic, his humor very close to being terrifying.

You know that part in the movie The Day the Earth Stood Still, when Michael Rennie . . . he plays this intergalactic diplomat . . . he comes to earth and shuts everything down, makes everything even . . . he shuts all the machines down, anything that moves stops and all of a sudden everything is still like a picture in a frame and the entire population of Washington, DC, can’t figure out what’s happening and they’re all just standing there on the street looking in the same direction . . . Do you know that part?

In my movie Kate says the primary component of art is truth. Once you know how to manipulate the truth you should be able to produce art.

Nicknames are visual memberships in society. You want to be smart, you want to be a genius, you want to be divine, you want to be an angel, you want to be a saint. But first you have to have a nickname. In my movie my nickname is Guy.


In Texas Hold ’Em, the poker game that’s played at the World Series of Poker at Binion’s Horseshoe Las Vegas, the reraise, or “all in” bet on “fourth street” (that’s the fourth community card, after the initial flop of three community cards and before “the river,” or fifth community card), is sometimes referred to as “accidentally on purpose.” This scene should include Kate, the cowboy, the comedian, the girl on the motorcycle, and someone who works in the body shop.

Kate dresses up: “I think dressing up is a physical act. First of all you’ve got to clean up. You’ve got to take a big bath. You’ve got to be excited because you are drying yourself. You’ve got to be excited about what you’re going to wear. It takes time. It takes planning. You’ve got to think of earrings . . . that special touch. Dressing up has nothing to do with vanity. It has to do with exuberance. It’s an athletic activity. Your throat will get smaller. Your neck will get longer. Your hair will get thicker. Dressing up is a pleasure-giving thing. But caution. You can’t compete when it comes to dressing up. Competition is devastating. Compete and you’ll lose your individualism. You’ll be competing against an advertisement or something or someone you’ve seen in the street. Don’t try to be popular. Popularity is a barrier. If you’ve ever been popular you know how easy it is to lose the sense of yourself. As for the doubt about what to wear, that’s a detail. Your dress is a detail. But your eyes, your essence . . . that’s not a detail, that’s the point. Pour it on, wrap it up, get the right temperature going.” (What’s actually happening here is a breakdown. Kate’s character is sounding like she wrote this for some kind of beauty book. Think Stepford Wives, Marisa Berenson, Dormitory Nurse.)

In my movie Kate plays Washington Nurse, Man-Crazy Nurse, Nurse of Greenmeadows. She looks like a nameless new form of life. Half-present, half- absent, a fragmentation where what she looks like is herself and her ghost simultaneously.

The music from the Rolling Stones song “2120 South Michigan Avenue” comes up slowly. (Kate puts on a surgical mask. It’s all she’ll wear tonight.)

The cowboy (he’s played by Sigourney Weaver) buys a 1967 Shelby Mustang GT350. He parks it under the carport, a plastic transparent aquamarine roof suspended between house and garage. The Mustang is a fastback, with competition suspension and front air spoilers. It has a small bloc 351 Cleveland, a drag-pack option with positive-action no-spin lockers. Riding on it is a valve-lifter camshaft, 780 cfm Holley carb (high nodular iron crank), forged-aluminum pistons, and four-belt main caps on number 2, 3, and 4 pistons. Sigourney’s Mustang is alive.


Kate is happy with the price of beer in Los Angeles. A dollar sixty-nine a six-pack. She likes the idea that a drugstore like Buy-Rite sells beer at three in the morning. This “liking” has something to do with living in the United States. “If it wanted to,” she says to Sigourney, “America could make a lot of things easy.”

In Australia, the aborigines have a death penalty called “bone pointing.” The members of a tribe point a bone at someone and never talk to him again. You die by being ignored.

In my movie Richard Prince talks to the camera. It’s kind of like a screen test. It looks like a screen test. He’s talking about realism.

“An accurate account of an event is hard to see or hear or produce. Usually the account has to be presented in such a way that its accuracy has to be modified or even sacrificed so that the event can be presented, framed, understood. This presentation is usually done with words, photographs, voice, light, and/or film. Sometimes with mirrors. Sometimes with anything it takes. This ‘whatever it takes’ usually ends up being the reason there’s a difference between what happened and what actually happened. And this difference between what happened and what actually happened is a license that’s sometimes referred to as ‘poetic.’ It’s strange, sometimes funny, to read or see something about an event that you were part of, privileged to, or at least present at when the event actually happened. And sometimes you read something about an event you were part of and say, ‘That’s not true at all . . . Hey, what’s going on?’ But of course nothing is going on. What’s going on is that you have to get used to reading or seeing ‘what happened’ instead of ‘what actually happened.’ Getting used to what happened. That’s what it takes. The crazy part is you were there and even though what’s been reported wasn’t what actually happened, you start believing in this new ‘public version.’ Hmmmm . . . So what are you going to do? The problem is not so much what to do with the new public version, the problem is what to do with the ‘private version,’ the one you know about but the public doesn’t. Do you complain? Do you tell anyone? Do you start writing letters? Or do you shut up and keep it to yourself? Like the new version of what actually happened you’ve got to be realistic.” End of scene. In this screen test Richard Prince looks twenty-five years younger. Like when he was a member of the rock group the Blues Magoos.

The Louvre is a garbage pail for artists.

In my movie perky tits as opposed to big tits.


Ican no longer produce an image of myself. What I see when I look in the mirror is an image that stays on the mirror after I’ve walked away and gone to bed. This mirror where my image stays is mounted on a cabinet behind which is a prescription to relieve possession and jealousy, emotions I once associated with recovery. I believe the “script’s” primary ingredient, the one that’s supposed to help me throw away my image, is slowly, effectively working.

I’m afraid my reflection, the one that once went back and forth, is becoming one-way. And the day this paddleball thing freezes, I’ll remove the mirror and put it up in the attic alongside the family scrapbooks. And I’ll stop shaving. I’ll stop brushing my teeth and combing my hair. The tiny black strings in my nostrils will get long and start to curl. The white nylon strands in and around my ears will yellow and gather and mesh and resemble a nest. The unnamed bumps on my forehead and scalp will bubble and cake and start to spread and join together, reinforcing themselves like units in a hive, moving out from their centers until they colonize my brow, the sides of my mouth, under my chin like a wild, unstoppable beard, tufted and gnarled, anchoring like barnacles on a hull, with deep, fluid-filled roots. I’ll miss places when I wash. Bits of dirt and little spots of oil will crust and pockmark. Cuts and scratches will have trouble healing. I’ll start to look like a werewolf. This is my future. A future somewhere off the face of the earth. Sometimes she uses the ashtray. Sometimes she uses the floor.

In my movie I go on a blind date. Her name is Linda. When I’m standing on the corner I say to the first girl to pass by, I say, “Are you Linda?” And she says, “Are you Richard?” And I say, “Yeah, I’m Richard.” And she says, “I’m not Linda.”

Kate goes to work. She puts on a white vinyl nurse outfit inscribed with a red cross on cap and gown.


An extension of scene 3 (the Texas Hold ’Em scene): The five characters are sitting at a card table. The scene should look like a Jeff Wall or a Gregory Crewdson or a Stephen Shore or a Joel Sternfeld. Everyone should be wearing fake beards and checkered shirts looking like a John Currin Uncle Sam. They should be eating hotdogs and sipping soup. The soup should be Campbell’s Chicken Noodle. The noodles should drip into their beards. Five women dressed only in aprons should come into the room around the fifth or sixth hand and shave the card- players’ beards. One woman to a character. One of the women (one of the hostesses) will gather all the shavings and arrange them on her pubic area. The five cardplayers (now the five “contestants”) will then pat her new hairy area for good luck. Whoever wins the card game gets to accompany this “hostess” to the next room. The new room will be big. In this room a telethon will take place—a nude telethon. The people working the phones will be nude. The emcee will be nude. (The emcee should be played by Ricky Jay.) The entertainers will be nude. The people in the audience will be nude. The winning cardplayer will attempt to eat the remaining noodles off the hostess’s pubic area. The emcee will try to say something clever and funny, something like, “Now, that’s entertainment.” The audience will object to this remark, rush the stage, and start fighting with the emcee and the people working the phones. This scene could be an Age of Aquarius. Julian Beck’s ghost will appear. Charles Ludlum could carry on with a mummers’ day parade. Marilyn Manson could cameo. The theater should become living. Nurses in red-stained surgical gowns and masks will inject all parties with All Tomorrow’s Tomato Juice. There will be punching, hair pulling, arm twisting, wrestling, and tickling. The phones will ring off their hooks. Lothar and the Hand People, the legendary Boston alternative band from the late ’60s, will descend from above the stage, belching, shouting, farting loudly to two sets of the “Flower Drum Song.” This scene will dissolve to a shot of a teenager in his room watching reruns of The Jack Paar Show. (The teen could be pictured switching channels between Jack Paar, Shelley Berman doing a bit on an old Steve Allen Show, and the all-nude telethon). A voice from below his room—possibly his mother—calls up to him saying there’s someone on the phone asking for a pledge. The teenager turns up the sound on his TV, picks up a copy of the latest W magazine, and opens it to an earmarked page of Kate Moss in a vinyl nurse’s uniform. For this set (the kid’s room) I’m thinking Larry Clark, Donald Sultan’s Cigar Bar, Jack Ruby’s strip joint in Dallas in the late ’50s, the bedroom in Candy Barr’s film Smart Alec.

In my movie the comedian is played by Sam Kinison. But since he’s dead, maybe Danny DeVito could play Kinison playing my comedian. He always wears cowboy clothes and always rides one of those broom handles with a horse’s head on the end. He does a monologue about growing up in the Panama Canal Zone. He tells a story about getting stung by bees and throwing bananas at girls on a school bus. He combs the beach in front of his house, claiming shells and sponges and driftwood. He does a bit about making black people feel comfortable at his eighteenth birthday party and another bit about passing himself off as a Jew to get into the pants of a German girl. His ethnic humor sounds like revenge and isn’t very funny. He does Polish jokes . . . like, “Have you heard about the Polish lesbians?” “No?” “They don’t like women!” He does Mexican jokes like, “What did Jesus say to the Mexicans?” “Don’t do anything until I get back.” When he does these as a headliner on a cruise ship he nearly gets thrown overboard. He calls what he does “shtick.” Example: What did the little old Jewish lady say to the flasher in the raincoat? “You call that a lining . . . ?” His heroes are Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor, but unlike his heroes he can’t do stand-up, he can’t do impressions, he can’t do characters, he can’t steal other people’s material, he can’t afford to buy a good joke, and he can’t remember a punch line.

My comedian’s big scene is at Jack Ruby’s strip joint in Dallas, Texas, on November 21, 1963. Ruby’s in the audience with his new girlfriend Candy Barr and her friend Lee Harvey Oswald. My comedian is trying to do Jose Imenez’s routine about being an astronaut when he starts to get heckled by Oswald. Ruby fronts this place for the mob (specifically, Trafficante out of Miami) and has got Oswald behind the eight ball with 15 percent nut on a loan with the juice running into the seventh week. Oswald can’t hold his liquor, and when he tries, like tonight, he gets mad, nasty, belligerent. My comedian and Oswald get into a shouting match, and they take it out to the parking lot. It’s not like Fight Club. It’s more like Danny DeVito and Richard Dreyfuss’s fight in front of the drive-in theater in Tin Men. The kind where someone says, “Step over the line if you want to fight,” and the person does and the someone steps back and draws another line and says, “Well, step over this line if you want to fight.” A lot of pigeon-chested puffed-up bravado. But one thing is established in the parking lot. My comedian says he’s a friend of the president of the United States of America. “I used to caddy for him when he summered in Hyannisport. I’m connected.” Oswald doesn’t know what “connected” is. He doesn’t know what a caddy is. He doesn’t know the movie Caddyshack. He doesn’t know who Bill Murray is, or Rodney Dangerfield. He doesn’t know about the game of golf or how it’s handicapped. He doesn’t know shit about how much money is bet on a “loop,” or eighteen holes. What he knows is that the next afternoon, around 1 PM, he’s one of three to four shooters who are going to take down Kennedy as he rides in a slow, funky Lincoln convertible (which should have been an AC Cobra or Jaguar E type, one with a fifth set of carbs or fuel injection to make it go faster, to get out of the way of that magic bullet that got him in the neck and brain).


The guy from the body shop is filmed painting a hood (interior: auto-body shop). The guy is played by Forest Whitaker. He’s applying Bondo to the hood of a 1970 Dodge Challenger RT. When it dries he’ll sand it with 12 sandpaper and finish it off with seven coats of Competition Orange. He’s being interviewed by Oliver Stone, who’s doing research for his movie JFK. Stone asks Whitaker what hap- pened to Oswald. “Nothing happened to Oswald,” Whitaker says. “He was seen disappearing into an old movie theater, arrested, fingerprinted, photo- graphed, and released on a ten-thousand-dollar bond. People thought they saw him shot live on TV by Jack Ruby, but that wasn’t Oswald who was shot.” “Who was shot?” asks Stone. “The comedian was shot,” Whitaker says. “It was the comedian who got shot during this crazy telethon. He was invited to do his bit about how to make black people comfortable during his eighteenth birthday party, and Jack Ruby shot him. Yeah, the nude telethon. It was a mess. The gun was all that Ruby had on. The comedian died nude next to a toilet in the men’s room. Kate was the nurse who arrived on the scene. The comedian mistook the red cross on her gown for a religious icon and began con- fessing to her. She said his last words were ‘Whistler’s mother . . . Whistler’s mother. . . .’ You know the painting was never titled ‘Whistler’s Mother.’ It became known as ‘Whistler’s Mother’ because the public ‘personalized’ the painting. Its real title is Arrangement in Grey and Black No. 1: The Artist’s Mother.”

The girl on the motorcycle leaves the video rental store and rides her motorcycle to the Florida Keys, where she willfully runs out of gas and sets up shop and home, right there on the side of the road. She opens up a surf and tackle shop and sells spare ribs every Friday and Saturday night. She says she saw this happen in an Elvis Presley movie. She says it reminded her of happily ever after.

Sigourney Weaver moves to upstate New York, up past the Catskills to a small hill town in the Helderbergs, and renovates a ranch house on eighty-five acres. She says she wants to hold music festivals on her property during the summers. Mini Woodstocks. She says it’s a free concert from now on.

Kate Moss moves to Park Avenue and becomes Park Avenue Nurse. She takes care of people who appear on The Joe Franklin Show, sidewalk musicians, call girls, tollbooth attendants, and Tiny Tim. She trades her vinyl cap and gown for a one-piece bathing suit because she feels more like a lifeguard than a nurse.

The End.