Response to Harrell Fletcher
The most mind-opening part of the interview is where Fletcher uses David Hammons words to criticizes the overeducated art world audience because “they have expectations and immediate cynicism or they try to dig into it too deeply right away”. What Flectcher focuses on in his work is the ‘actual experience’ and the direct access for everyone.
He challenges this idea that I always have which is to understand art, you need to be as educated and knowledgable as possible. Also, the deeper you dig, the better. For example, only after I read Krauss’s Video: The Aesthetics of Narcissism that I felt like I truly understand Acconci’s Center. When I watched it for the first time without any prior knowledge, I only felt bored, confused and speechless. But now if you asked me about it, I can talk to you for hours about the implied narcissism, the mirror effect and the psychological model. It takes me a lot of time to understand Krauss’s writing, but a weird sense of achievement comes along as if understanding an art work is supposed to be something that requires knowledge and efforts, something that only ‘intellectuals’ can accomplish. But is it?
I also get into the habit that when trying to understand an artist’s work, I feel the urge to spend hours searching his/her whole life, the environment and history when the work is created so that I can be sure that my interpretation is ‘correct’. But is the over-emphasis on interpretation and the pursue of ‘correctness’ of interpretation necessary? It consumes a lot of time and energy and also set a distance for it makes it more difficult for other people to understand me. Not everyone is willing to pay the efforts, nor should they.
It is kind of ironic that while I started reading Acconci’s interviews, I realized that he himself might never think of anything that Krauss wrote. He rarely commented or explained his works. He even refused to call himself an ‘artist’ but an ‘art doer’. He just does it. But Krauss’s interpretation is still an interesting and insightful one. I just realize that I don’t have to force myself to reach that level or thinking that understanding an art work requires any form of ‘qualification’.
Coming back to Fletcher, his works are all about ‘others’. Over the past few weeks, I studied how early artists used video to examine themselves, which is ‘narcissist’ in Krauss’s view; then I learned about how Nam June Paik examine the the medium itself. It is an interesting shift of focus, coming back to people, but this time, others. The interviewer Allan McCollum describes his works as a kind of ‘unexpected generosity’, which is precise. My personal favorite is the Ulysses project, which is the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard. Knowing that somewhere in Portland, a guy named Jay waited for ten years and finally had a film made in his gas station, starred by the staff and passers-by, and finally projected on the station’s big white wall just makes me genuinely happy. I love it.
In a way, Fletcher and artists such as Duchamp and Beuys shared the same values. They all challenge the hierarchical and elitist art world and believe that art should be for everyone. But Duchamp and Beuys do it by radical actions, and most of their works still remains in the museums. But Flecther just walked out of the museums and walk into ordinary people’s life, and give them power to realize their ideas about art.