A revealing and informative interview with Lawrence Weiner. A seminal figure in the post-minimalist conceptual art of the 60’s, Weiner’s art practice spans over 50 years.
Jesper Bundgaard’s interview with the legendary conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner discusses the connection between cruelty, hierarchy and rationality. The artist must ask questions past ordinary logic, he says.
In this interview Weiner philosophises on how the artist can present things people might not have noticed. Art is not meant to answer questions, but rather to ask them. Art is about things you don’t know. Art is a means to answer questions. The artist must go beyond logic and risk madness, he explains: “You have to re-adapt your own logic just to be able to communicate with somebody else.”
The artist must communicate a kind of “what if?” past the point of understandable logic, Weiner says: “Does each rock have a place in the sun?” Art is not telling, but showing. If you take away hierarchy there will be no racism. Cruelty is only possible because people find ways to rationalise it: “I wish people would stop being so cruel to each other.” Because of this Weiner wants to “fuck peoples lives up” in the kindest way possible.
American artist Lawrence Weiner (b.1942) is regarded as a founding figure of Postminimalism’s Conceptual arm in the 1960s. His work often takes the form of typographic texts. He lives and works in New York.
Weiner began his career as an artist as a very young man at the height of Abstract Expressionism. His debut public work/exhibition was at the age of 19, with what he called Cratering Piece. An action piece, the work consisted of explosives set to ignite simultaneously in the four corners of a field in Marin County, California. That work, as Weiner later developed his practice as a painter, became an epiphany for the turning point in his career. His work in the early 1960s included six years of making explosions in the landscape of California to create craters as individual sculptures. He is also known during his early work for creating gestures described in simple statements leading to the ambiguity of whether the artwork was the gesture or the statement describing the gesture: e.g.”Two minutes of spray paint directly on the floor..” or ” A 36″ x 36″ removal of lathing or support wall…” (both 1968). In 1968, when Sol LeWitt came up with his Paragraphs on Conceptual Art, Weiner formulated his “Declaration of Intent” (1968):
1. The artist may construct the piece.
2. The piece may be fabricated.
3. The piece need not be built.
Each being equal and consistent with the intent of the artist the decision as to condition rests with the receiver upon the occasion of receivership.
Weiner created his first book Statements in 1968, a small 64-page paperback with texts describing projects. Published by The Louis Kellner Foundation and Seth Siegelaub, “Statements” is considered one of the seminal conceptual artist’s books of the era. He was a contributor to the famous Xeroxbook also published by Seth Siegelaub in 1968. Weiner’s composed texts describe process, structure, and material, and though Weiner ‘s work is almost exclusively language-based, he regards his practice as sculpture, citing the elements described in the texts as his materials.
An important aspect of audience participation in Weiner’s work is site-specificity. In SOME LIMESTONE SOME SANDSTONE ENCLOSED FOR SOME REASON (1993) he recast the iron weighbridge of the Dean Clough carpet factory, incorporating the words of the title as an embossing inscription.
Since the early 1970s, wall installations have been Weiner’s primary medium, and he has shown at the Leo Castelli gallery. Nevertheless, Weiner works in a wide variety of media, including video, film, books, sound art using audio tape, sculpture, performance art, installation art, and graphic art. In 2007, he participated at the symposium “Personal Structures Time-Space-Existence” a project which was initiated by the artist Rene Rietmeyer. In 2008 an excerpt from his opera with composer Peter Gordon – The Society Architect Ponders the Golden Gate Bridge – was issued on the compilation album Crosstalk: American Speech Music (Bridge Records) produced by Mendi + Keith Obadike. In 2009 he participated in the art project Find Me, by Gema Alava, in company of artists Robert Ryman, Merrill Wagner and Paul Kos.
Interviewer: Jesper Bundgaard
Photography and editing by Per Henriksen
Produced by Christian Lund
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2014
Supported by Nordea-fonden