PRINT Summer 2007

Larry Bell

I MET GUY sometime around 1965 or 1966 through a woman named Susan Hoffman—aka Viva, who was one of Andy’s actresses. I was dating her sister, and one day she introduced Guy to me; he had just arrived in New York and needed a job. He spoke practically no English, but I liked him so gave it a shot. He worked in my studio for some seven years. Socially during that period, however, he said about seven words to me. He was a very mysterious person. But I learned a little bit over time. I saw his drawings, ciphers, and stick sculptures. I noticed that he would sometimes shoot videos from the window of his apartment (formerly mine) of a toothless old lady across the street, who would hang the bloomers she was laundering on a clothesline along with aluminum foil.

Not long after Guy stopped working in my studio, I began taking blurry pictures of friends of mine as they moved around that space. When I came across a pamphlet by a Belgian writer named Raoul Vaneigem, who was in the Situationist International, the thought occurred to me to get back in touch with Guy. On the back of the pamphlet was a notice saying that anyone could use this text in any way they wanted. So I did exactly that, shifting around a few of the sentences in the text—which was originally called “Thoughts on Living for the Young”—and giving it to Guy. I asked him to convert my pictures into text, making a kind of translation out of them, which ended up as a book called Animated Discourse, 1975. A final passage read:

History is not setting us a goal without giving us the equipment to reach it. When the illusion of real change has been shown, a mere change of illusion becomes intolerable. People who talk about revolution and class struggle without referring explicitly to everyday life and without realizing what is subversive about love and what is positive in the refusal of constraints, such people have a corpse in their mouth.

We made a key for those interested enough in deciphering it. But, that said, I am not sure Guy’s own work had anything to do with communication. In fact, I think it was just the opposite. His act was about total silliness, the most difficult thing to communicate. And so, while his influence on many people was quite profound, I do not think he has ever received any acclaim except from artists.

Larry Bell is an artist.