Sabrina: I thought we could begin by talking about what the Destruct Film at the Judson Gallery-later installed at the Whitney-had in common with your 1967 film, Kusama's Self-Obliteration.
Jud: Actually, there was no connection between them whatsoever. The show at the Whitney in 2000 was media environments by myself, except for the collaborative work that I did with USCO, which was the one with the balloons, spinning around, called "Yin/Yang Sine/Pulse," and everyone's contributions to it were equal. Many of the films from the USCO period were shown at the final weekend of the show. The second installation, the Destruct Film, came out of my participation in the "Art and Destruction" movement-I was on the American Committee of Artists for that-which included, among other people, Jon Hendricks, Jean Toche, Al Hansen, Lil Picard, and a number of other people. The "Art and Destruction" movement was an international movement, of course, in England and all over. There was a big show of Destruction Art at the Finch College Museum; a lot of things were going on at that time. The Judson Gallery became one of the venues where that kind of art was explored, and people did a number of things there. There was a series called "Manipulations," which included Nam June Paik and Charlotte Moorman; there was a very famous, almost infamous moment, when Charlotte was performing this piece by Paik, "One for Violin," which involved smashing a violin, and she was about to smash it and some artist/activist-I think his name was Saul Goodman, or something like that-stuck his head right into the place where she was going to do this. It was a kind of protest to prevent her from smashing the violin. And what happened in the end was that somehow Charlotte actually completed the action, but he got hurt.
Sabrina: She smashed it on his head?
Jud: Probably. There are a lot of different accounts of that. Also Al Hansen gave a Dada lecture, and there was a painter in the area named Steve Rose, I think-he's now teaching in Pennsylvania-and his idea was to do an Abstract Expressionist painting as a live performance. Then there was also Jean Toche with his light machines that said, "Do not hurt me, I am a human being," and lights that were too bright, that hurt your eyes, all these other kinds of things. I filmed a bunch of these things.
Sabrina: So they asked you to be the filmmaker for this?
Jud: Well, I was a friend of all the people there, so there was never a formal asking. I filmed it all on regular 8 mm and left it unslit so that on 16 mm it's four screens and this film was shown as a continuous loop. The big thing is that Destruct Film was a piece that I designed site-specifically for the Judson Gallery, where as you walked down into the gallery, you walked into a sea of film strewn all over the place; there were some projections, there was a loop of "Some Manipulations" that ran continuously, like feedback, of things that had happened in the space, being projected back into the space, and there were two slide projectors, which had at that time slides from filmstrips that used to have "start" and "end" printed on them, but later the slide projectors showed 35 mm slides that had the standard 35MM countdown on them, and this is the way it was presented at the Whitney. And in front of the lenses of the projectors, I had motorized beam-splitter mirrors, which spun the images around the room. So you had all these light beams going on, with all this film in the middle, and people had to destroy the film by walking on it, sitting on it; people made piles and jumped into it, picked it up and held it into the light, and so forth. The whole thing was based on the idea of film as a strip and a loop; it was a comment on the nature of film in the context of art and destruction.
Sabrina: There seems to be a thematic link between Kusama's Self-Obliteration and Destruct Film, no?
Jud: Well, only because it happened the same year. …