A Response

Article excerpt

This series of papers explores an underexamined genre of writing in art-the artist interview. I write underexamined despite the fact that the artist interview is a form we experience as entirely familiar due to its ubiquity. On the rise since the 19605 as a regular format of the art media and of the mainstream media's coverage of art, today the artist interview is undoubtedly the most frequently employed form of artists' writing, while it is also a staple of monographic catalogues and art magazines as a functional and efficient form of art criticism. Yet this apparent convergence of interests and functions among the artist interview, artists' writing, and art criticism only superficially conceals an unquestioned status for the interview-we remain largely uncritical of its historical value, of its significant divergences of quality and intent, of its approach and critical rigor. The artist interview might also be assessed among other journalistic forms of criticism, forms largely given over to the function of description-and here scholarly interviews and interviews conducted by clear methods of critique are exceptions. The artist interview often belongs to this broader and more diffuse category of art writing, which is not necessarily equivalent or continuous with historically and theoretically specific forms of art criticism as autonomous critique.

Even within its own category or genre the artist interview reflects more than the assumed transparency of the perception of the artist or the explication of a range of facts and sources, conditions and contexts, ideas and interpretations that an interlocutor might ask an artist to furnish in relation to his or her work. To characterize the specificity of the artist interview beyond these fundamental procedures and functions is indeed a worthwhile object for our sustained consideration, as Johanna Burton and Lisa Pasquariello have suggested in their conception of this panel, and as Gwen Alien, Suzanne Hudson, and Tim Griffin have demonstrated in their papers. In this process of reflection, the frequency of the interview's practice is, in itself, meaningful. Taken together with the assertion that the artist interview rests complexly between the procedures and functions of art criticism and artists' writing and the broader category of writing about art we might call art writing, this observation may offer compelling evidence for an identification of the artist interview as an emblematic site through which to consider the present conditions of criticism in contemporary art; indeed, each of the arguments presented here locates through the artist interview a series of conflicts in art discourse.

I polemicize deliberately, for the benefit of this dialogue, at the risk of staging problems that can hardly be supported in the short format of my response. First, an observation: the artist interview, at its weakest, practices a compromised form of both art criticism and artists' writing. second, a diagnosis: the familiarity of the interview is an unquestioning one. Our relationship to the artist interview could stand to be far more conflictual. The unique position of the interview, so frequent in practice and often so undecided and unreflective in practice and status, might be counted among the symptoms of what has recently been named "a crisis in criticism" by George Baker and the participants in the round-table discussion that appeared in the journal October in spring 2002.' The artist interview reflects several of the conditions of this crisis as diagnosed in this discussion. It privileges direct access to artists over the discursive contexts for art, or it delivers the two together. It mixes the critical or reflective and public dimension of the experience of art with an experience of the work's maker as a private locus of meaning. It performs the functions of promotion and publicity and celebrates persona as demanded by the institutions of art and by the packaging of art by the mainstream press. …