Art Has To Be Real: An Artist’s Statement

My last performance of Intermedia Workshop was in May 2003. In it, I showed the 1954 school psychology film, “Facing Reality”. an informational film about “when reality seems too difficult for us to face, we retreat behind defensive mechanisms.” There’s a scene in a high school class where a boy named Mike is is being peer-pressured to act against his wishes by everyone in the world. Peers, teachers, family, and friends — including the omniscient narrator — calls him a “negativist”. They mock him for writing a novel instead of making decorations. At this point I begin to channel Mike and interrupt the Intermedia class viewing this film and begin sarcastically criticizing everything. I make it as negative as possible and try to force the teacher and my class to “Face Reality”. I kill the omniscient narrator in the performance piece, break the 4th wall, and everything generally turns super duper awkward. The real Intermedia Workshop art professor is pissed and yells at me for sabotaging the evening. Mike and I become one.

Part I

A 1956 educational NBC film of Marcel Duchamp and James Johnson Sweeney in conversation. Duchamp describes his transition away from Impressionism toward a Cubist, and then post-Cubist, approach, providing commentary while standing before Nude Descending a Staircase (“I was not aware of Italian Futurism when I painted it”) and The Large Glass (“The two crackings are symmetrically arranged and there is…almost an intention there…a ready-made intention, in other words, that I respect and love.”). These concepts are paradoxically, although quite logically, articulated alongside his desire for “dryness” and mechanical precision. Viewers also gain insight into Duchamp’s thoughts on painting for an “ideal” public—a notion he clearly distinguishes from ivory-tower elitism.

Part II

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On Groundhogs day at dawn, I wrote propaganda on the back of some deteriorating paintings and set them up as yard signs in my back yard. They were not directed at anyone specific. My wife woke up and thought I was criticizing her. Our dog thought it was threatening as well. My wife asked me to take it down and I said I would if she agreed she was either destroying art, banning a book, or censoring me. She said sure, I took it down, and now the performance painting is over.

Part III

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There is a film from 1959 called “I Captured the King of the Leprechauns”. In it, Walt Disney blurs the lines of reality by filming a mockumentary about shooting the fictional film “Darby O’Gill and the Little People”. The man who plays the Irish expert, who is not Irish but actually is, but actually isn’t, claims that “all the old Irish families have their own banshee.” He names the Butlers as one of these old Irish families. Perhaps I’ve seen it.

Part IV

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In the Thames television show The Tomorrow People, a student in an art class makes a strange painting that changes color. It is title “The Change of Weather on Rexil 4”. The art student is channeling an alien force and using the painting to make the world violent and chaotic. The alien race uses violent energy as a power source. If they stay on Earth, they will die, but the violence needed to power their departure will completely destroy Earth’s civilization.

Part V

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The artist Hilma af Klint was born in 1862. Her paintings are considered among the first abstract works known in Western art history and she painted at the same time as Duchamp. She intentionally did not show her work in museums during her life. The first exhibition was 42 years after her death in 1986. Her abstract paintings were created by contacting the Masters of the Ancient Wisdom. She wrote, “The pictures were painted directly through me, without any preliminary drawings, and with great force. I had no idea what the paintings were supposed to depict; nevertheless I worked swiftly and surely, without changing a single brush stroke.”