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1000 WORDS: JIMMIE DURHAM

Are those real poems or did you write them yourself?

—Overheard by Jimmie Durham

JIMMIE DURHAM DOESN’T KNOW WHAT HE’S DOING, but this is a good thing. In a practice spanning four decades and encompassing performance, sculpture, drawings, video, and writing, he has continuously resisted the idea that art should put forward an intricate concept or express a system of belief. He has argued that art is an intellectual endeavor that should activate and participate in a dialogue rather than take a position. He doesn’t want to make real art—as in, learned, authenticated, autonomous art—he wants to make art himself, in conversation with any number of discourses and always with the hope of not knowing more than he knows.

Durham has described his life in the United States as one act of resistance after another. An American Indian of the Cherokee tribe born in 1940 in Arkansas, he had wanderlust from

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