Editorial - Inside the Interview: Exploring the Workings of the Artist Interview (part 1)
This issue of Dialogue has been guest edited by Lisa Le Feuvre and Jon Wood. Drawing upon their long-standing interest in the artist interview and its role within contemporary art discourse, this issue explores the complex issues, formats and contexts of the interview through six specially commissioned articles.
The 'artist interview' has become an extremely popular means of communicating information about contemporary art and artists. Today there is an increasing variety of artist interviews and these can be found across a wide range of art publishing - from magazines and exhibition catalogues, to monographs and collected writings - and across a wide range of other media, such as radio, TV, audio guides, PDF guides, websites etc. The last few years have also witnessed an increase in anthologies dedicated to artist interviews, including Patricia Norvell's Recording Conceptual Art (2001), Kersten Mey's Sculpsit: Contemporary Artists on Sculpture and Beyond (2001), Sandy Nairne's Art Now: Interviews with Modern Artists (2002), Judith Olch Richards' Inside the Studio (2004) and John Tusa The Janus Aspect (2005). In addition to such manifestations, the artist interview has also become the material focus of a number of national archiving projects, especially those concerned with the conservation of contemporary art.
Those writing about art have always used information gleaned from discussions with the artists themselves. This was the case as early as Vasari's 'Lives of the Artists' (1568) (to use that familiar example) and such art historical appropriations, of course, continue well into the present. It was only, however, in the post-war years - and from the 1960s in particular when the Philips audio cassette recorder was introduced - that such information acquired a new urgency and importance. From this moment and via this portable technology, artists were more easily able to speak for themselves - in conversation and on record - and bypass critical framing and assessment by a third party. From this point on, anyone with an interest in art could not only conduct such interviews, but also conduct them beyond the confines of the recording studio - in the gallery, in the artist's studio, in the home, on the street. Organisations such as Audio Arts (est. 1973), founded by William Furlong and Barry Barker, were dedicated to the oral testimony of artists and to documenting what they had to say about their own work, at particularly interesting moments (the exhibition opening still today remains the preferred context for a recording). Such recordings were not only ways of getting material, that would otherwise have been lost, on record, but also ways of giving voice to individuals, groups and practices that had not always received proper attention from the mainstream art press - of capturing views, attitudes and opinions that would not otherwise have been heard.
In the face of the ubiquity of the artist interview today, and given, through technological advances, the relative ease with which interviews can be carried out and published, it is understandable that we have lost contact somewhat with the history, dynamics and motivations of this genre of art communication. We have also become removed from its raw realities, its complexities and, perhaps, from the seriousness of its aims and potentiality.
The artist interview is never just a single mode of articulation. It can be accessed and experienced in many different states and forms. Interviews can be listened to as audio recording, watched and listened to as visual recording, and read as transcription - and all are likely to have experienced some level of editorial mediation. What you finally read on the page is often a very long way from what the interview participants experienced at the beginning and such transitions (and transcriptions and edits and re-edits) need to be considered, discussed and agreed - whether you are an interviewer or an interviewee. Indeed the relationship between the two parties is a crucial one that goes right to the heart of the interview and its ambitions. 'A conversation is not the same thing as an interview' one might say. Nothing is ever really 'off the record' if it is recorded. Artist interviews can also be conducted and encountered in very different contexts and under very different circumstances. Sometimes the venues elected for the recording could be deeply private and away from the glare of the art world, at other times conducted live, on stage, in front of an audience. Where an artist interview takes place and how it is accessed and made public is as important as how it might be structured and edited.
This issue of 'Dialogue' - Inside the Interview: exploring the workings of the artist interview - is dedicated to this subject and to looking at some of the complications inherent in the artist interview. This is not merely a topical issue, nor just an intriguing academic concern, but a deeply important subject that has a direct and active relationship with the lives and practices of contemporary artists and writers today that use it and take part in it. It is for this reason that Le Feuvre and I have proposed it as an issue for Dialogue. It is hoped that the six texts that make up this special issue will generate further discussion and awareness of the artist interview and perhaps even help create better spaces for people to think and talk about art together. The issue comes in two parts. Part 1 is concerned with process and production and Part 2 is concerned with formats, media and venues.
Jean Wainwright is completing her PhD under the supervision of William Furlong and has worked for Audio Arts for a number of years. Wainwright has interviewed over 150 artists, curators and critics over the last ten years. In her article she reflects on this experience and discusses the importance of the environment and circumstances of the interview, and the primacy of the spoken word.
Henry Lydiate, regular columnist on art and the law for Art Monthly, turns his attention, in a specially commissioned article, to the issues of copyright and statutory rights that the artist interview raises for interviewee and interviewer.
Le Feuvre, as co-editor of this issue, provides the editorial introduction for Part 2 which will be presented online during August 2006. For Part 2, Le Feuvre has also interviewed the editors of ArtpodLondon, Judith van Ingen and Sabine Brummer, about their new web based podcast interview series. Having participated within this project as interviewee, Le Feuvre turns the tables and discusses how one acquires interviewing skills and the potential for the web as a vehicle for disseminating the artist interview.
Gavin Wade interviews the curator and interviewer of contemporary artists par excellence Hans Ulrich Obrist. In two interviews, the first taking place in 1999 and the second in 2006, Obrist discusses his ongoing interview project and how this relates and differs from his curatorial projects. Interestingly, this resumption of the interview mirrors Obrist's own methodology - interviewing artists again and again to establish a deeper dialogue.
Liliane Lijn, is an internationally renowned artist working in a broad range of media including sculpture, film and live performance. From the perspective of the artist and interviewee, Lijn considers the differing approach taken by two interviewers, Guy Brett and Valeria Tassinari, both of whom interviewed Lijn in preparation for exhibition catalogues.
Jaspar Joseph-Lester, an artist, writer and leader of Postgraduate Studies in Art and Design at Sheffield Hallam and Sharon Kivland, an artist, writer and Reader in Fine Art at Sheffield Hallam University reflect upon the dialogues produced within their lecture and publication series Transmission: Speaking and Listening. This is an ongoing project developed in collaboration with the Site Gallery and Showroom Cinema, Sheffield.
Jon Wood, 2006