Magazine article Art Monthly

The Power of Repetition: Sturtevant

Magazine article Art Monthly

The Power of Repetition: Sturtevant

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

COLINE MILLIARD: FROM YOUR VERY FIRST SOLO SHOW AT THE BIANCHINI GALLERY IN 1965 to Vertical Monad and Cold Fear at the Anthony Reynolds Gallery in 2008 and 2006 respectively, your exhibitions have always been conceived as installations in their own right rather collections of objects. will this thinking manifest itself in your exhibition, 'The Razzle Dazzle of Thinking', at the Musee d'Art moderne de la Ville de Paris?

Sturtevant: Yes definitely. In my show at the Museum fur Moderne Kunst in Frankfurt am Main, the installation was devised in terms of tonality, movement and transition. It wasn't about the objects per se, but more about how the objects move in relation to each other. The installation demonstrated what the work is about, which is giving visibility to thoughts. My recent piece Vertical Monad of 2008 is most certainly making thoughts extremely visible. In the Paris show, the first part of the wall text, 'Wild to Wild', is about the reversal of hierarchies. For example, it is image over object. There is not much to look at but there is much to think about.

CM: Vertical Monad really stands out in your production. The installation is completely grey, including a monochrome grey video, and a voice intones in Latin from Spinoza's Ethics. Your other recent works are often brash, sometimes verging on the aggressive--I'm thinking for example of The Dark Threat of Absence, 2002, which combines the re-enactment of a Paul McCarthy performance with filmic collages of TV footage--but here you seem to be opening up a space for introspection, or even meditation.

S: No, no, no--not meditation. Absolutely not. I do not want people to meditate. During one of my lectures, someone said: 'What do you want people to think?' The work is not about what to think, but rather to engender thinking. 'Triggering thinking' is what I am going for. For instance, if you are put in a situation that we could call 'displacement', it brings discontinuity into play and that in turn should--with the gaps and the jumps--bring you to a different place and a different space.

CM: Anthony Reynolds told me that you were thinking of repeating Vertical Monad three times in the Paris show. How do you think this will affect the way the piece is perceived?

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

S: It becomes something else other than a total installation. How will it change the way it is received? I'm not sure. How is that going to work? We'll have to wait and see. It is about taking risks. And if it doesn't work, the first thing you say is, 'Wow, how did that happen?'

CM: In 2008, your 'philosophical musical' Spinoza in Las Vegas was played at Tate Modern. It involved dozens of dancers and actors and some of your video works projected in the background. You even performed as the philosopher and Anthony Reynolds was the ventriloquist. Vertical Monad and your philosophical musical' Spinoza in Las Vegas seem to be two faces of the same investigation, one inward-looking and another one outwardlooking, more fiesta-like. Do you agree with this reading?

S: Spinoza in Las Vegas really has a strong interior structure, so even though it looks festive, if you read the script--it's really hard to pick up everything when you are looking at the theatre because the action is pretty disturbing--you'll see that it has a very profound under-structure. It is a critique of Spinoza and of the cybernetic world. I was on Spinoza at college and I just couldn't stand him--he's so logical, he's so tight and so rigid--I always wanted to get on his case. Basically, what motivated this work was the fact that if you want to open new space in your head, you tackle Spinoza. It's an enormous challenge. Spinoza in Las Vegas brings a more profound level to something which is basically amusing, like a musical or a play. But it's really a severe critique of Spinoza, not heavyhanded and yet very accurate. …

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