Interview with Philip-Lorca diCorcia

ART.ZIP: So identity politics and art about ego are trendy at Yale?

PD: Oh it is quite trendy. One of the reason why I have a problem currently is because I believe that Yale’s reputation is based upon a certain tradition. That might sound stuffy and old-world or something like that, in an atmosphere in which everybody is looking for the latest development or trend. I think everybody knows the latest development and trend is usually not the latest, it is really a reiteration of something that has been done before, but because there is no cultural history at play, like there is an amnesia. If somebody digitally makes a reproduction of something that was done in an analog manner 50 years ago, is it new? I don’t think so. But that seems to make a difference for some people, and it is not a discourse that I really feel is worth engaging in.

It is not as if there is no sacrifice to being a professor, a critic in Yale, it is work. It is not as if they pay you a lot or you get a lot of benefits or it doesn’t take energy, or a degree of commitment. I see increasingly that people that are invited are just egos. They don’t invest themselves very much in what they do at Yale, in terms of critiques, they just talk about what they do. That’s fine, most people want to know how these people practice, but, you cannot do it year in and year out. That is the difference. I mean the people that have stayed there, the people who are showing up year after year, they are not talking about: “alright this is what I do.” They are trying to engage with what is being done by other people and placing it in a context that is useful to that person. They are not stars to talk about their lifestyle and how they figure out that a giant stainless steel puppy dog would sell for millions of dollars. I am not naming names. There are of course in any institution, any job situation, personality conflicts that arise. But I think my doubts about continuing in the present situation have more to do with a general change. It is not just a change in art education, it is a change in the nature of the practice. And we all see it. I have – I would guess – a very good perspective because galleries that I work with in some ways are quite indicative of the way that the art world has changed. I see it first-hand because, to some degree, although I may not feel this way at all, galleries like David Zwirner or Sprueth Magers are considered to be a symptom of a consolidation of money and power, in the art world which has, depending on whether you are getting that money and power or not, been described as corrupting. You see it quite first-hand how these things work. It is never the way it is described. The people are not what you think they are like. They are all committed, truly believe in the work they are trying to exhibit, promote, and sometime sell. It is also a big myth that everybody that has an exhibition gets rich.

I think I would continue some relationship with teaching, but I may not be at that particular institution. You know there is a cynical aphorism, I cannot quite remember how it goes, but something like: “Real artists do, bad artists teach.” There is within all art institutions a group of people who have basically either never accomplished anything, or accomplished something so long ago that nobody can remember. But they got their jobs, and it is a lot harder to get rid of them, than to get them. All schools are filled with these people. They have a few thankless jobs – not every student is a good student. Somebody has to deal with the very basic levels of art education, and that is usually on an undergraduate level. The people who are privileged, as I believe I am, are those who really just have to deal with already developed artists, and don’t have to do much more than to express their opinions that are valuable to the people there. Not just to the people you are talking about, because you are doing it in front of all the other students as well. So the dialogue is larger than just the specific person that you are talking to. The references can often be seemingly relevant but that is the nature of the practice that you are trying not only to help somebody improve what they are doing but possibly to change it into something else. I cannot put it down into a percentage, but a large part of the people I worked with, they come into the program doing one thing, and they leave it doing something entirely different. It is not the intention of anyone I think to make everybody change into a different beast but it happens, and increasingly it happens in a way that I am not particularly interested in, which is that they change medium altogether. Almost every single person who applies to that department – there are twenty students, so ten are admitted every year – applies with a fairly traditional form of photography: something in a rectangular format, and has an image. I would say that when they leave, at least half of them are not doing it anymore. Like I said previously, they will be doing maybe video, installation, performance… It is kind of difficult to even quantify it in some way. It is not unusual. There are a lot of installations and videos, short films these days. The art world is used to that now. Having a subject has always been a large part of the practice of photography and increasingly that subject has become more and more nebulous and hard to define. When it is truly interesting or well-developed, it can be a really good thing. But when it is just an excuse to avoid the fact that, you are kind of stuck but you need to make work: that is the nature of going to school. That is not the nature necessarily of being an artist. Whatever I do – of course there are all sorts of pressures to finish things, to do them well, and to have them exhibited, all of that – but I do not have to, necessarily. But when you are a student, you have to produce on a regular basis, and you have to show it to a bunch of people, and you have to take the criticism, that is a form of pressure which is somewhat artificial, although it does reflect in some microcosmic way the larger world works. That pressure can take quite an emotional toll. I am not sure the students think of it as fun.


ART.ZIP: 所以身份政治和關於自我的藝術在耶魯很流行?

PD: 非常流行。我現在感到困惑,因為我相信耶魯的名聲是建立在一種傳統之上的。在當下追逐流行的環境中,這可能聽起來很古板很保守。但我想所有人都了解,所謂最新發展或流行往往不是最新的,而只是過去發生過的事情的重述。但因為文化歷史的缺席,失憶症得以蔓延。如果有人以數碼攝影技術復制了一張以膠片攝影技術在五十年前創造的照片,這新鮮嗎?我不認為是這樣的。但似乎有的人是這樣想的,而我覺得這是一個不值得考慮的話語。

在耶魯擔任教授和評論家並不是沒有犧牲的。這是工作。這並不是拿著高額的酬勞或大量的福利而不需付出精力,不需履行職責。我看到越來越多被邀請來學院教學的人只關心自我。他們在耶魯的工作中並不投入。在評價作品的時候,他們只提他們自己的創作。這沒什麽問題,人們想了解他們是怎麽創作的,然而你不能沒完沒了地這樣做。這就是不同。我的意思是,在學院內工作的人們,全身心投入學院之中的人們,他們不僅討論自己的創作。他們嘗試介入他人的創作之中,並為他人創造有益的語境。他們不是那樣的明星:只會討論自己的生活方式,或吹噓自己是怎麽想出來做一只價值幾百萬美元的不銹鋼狗的。我不在針對任何人。當然,在任何一個機構中,在任何一個工作環境中都會存在性格沖突。但是我想我目前關於繼續教職的困惑與整體環境的改變有關。這不僅僅是藝術教育的改變,這也與藝術實踐本質的改變有關。我們共同目睹了這些改變。我想,我有一個非常好的視角,因為與我合作的畫廊在藝術界的改變中有指標性意義。我有發言權,因為在某種意義上,儘管我自己沒有這種感覺,大衛·茲維爾納畫廊(David Zwirner)以及Sprueth Magers等畫廊被視作金錢與權力媾合的產物,而藝術界因為這種畫廊的存在而被視作是——視你是否是既得利益者而定——腐敗的。我親眼見證了這一切的運作,而這一切與那些傳聞大相徑庭。在這些畫廊裡工作的人們也不是你想像的那樣。他們非常投入,真正相信他們嘗試展出的作品,宣傳,並偶爾完成交易。每一個能夠辦展覽的人都能變得富有,這也只是一個大神話。

我想我會中斷某些教職,也可能不會留在耶魯。你知道那句話——原文我記不太清楚——“真的藝術家創作,糟糕的藝術家教書。” 在任何藝術學院中都有這樣的一群人:他們要不然沒有任何成績,要不然就只在很久之前做過些什麽。但他們得到他們的職位,從此之後,解雇他們比得到他們要難得多。所有學院裡都有很多這樣的人。他們有一些不成功的工作經歷,而學生們也不都是好學生。總有人需要進行最基本的藝術教育,而這往往是學士學位時期的事情。幸運的人們——比如我——只需要與成熟藝術家們溝通,而不需要做提出有益意見之外的事情。而意見不僅需要對你的單一談話對象有益,因為你需要在全體學生面前發表意見。所以對話不僅僅是一對一的對話。意見可能只在某種程度上有效,但創作的本質要求你不僅需要幫助學生進步,也需要幫助他轉變他的創作。我不能給出數據,但是我接觸的學生之中,很大一部分學生畢業時的創作與入學時的創作完全不一樣。把一個人轉變成一個完全不同的人不是任何人的本意,但是這時常發生。這也經常以一種我不感興趣的方式發生:他們完全轉換了創作媒介。幾乎每一個申請入學的學生——系內有二十名學生,即每年級十人——在申請時都提交了相對傳統形式的攝影作品:矩形,有明確形象。大約一半的人在畢業的時候完全不做這樣的作品了。有的人在做影像,有的人在做裝置藝術,行為藝術。量化這樣的轉變是困難的。這都經常發生。在今天,我們經常看到裝置藝術作品、影像作品、短片等等。藝術界已經習慣了這樣的作品。創作對象對於攝影實踐來說一直是非常重要的,然而在今天的攝影中,創作對象越來越模糊,難以定義。如果這攝影是真正有趣的,或是很好地發展出來的,這可以是一件非常好的事情。但是有時這種攝影只是這樣的一種藉口,用來逃避你在創作中停滯不前卻又必須創作的事實。這是學院體制決定的。做一名藝術家未必需要這樣做。無論我做什麽——當然,我需要在各階段面對各種壓力,完成作品、做好作品、展覽作品等等——我不需要不情願地創作。但當你是一個學生的時候,你必須以一定的頻率創作,必須得對一群人展示作品,必須接受批評——這些是一種人為的、非自然的壓力,儘管這個狀況多少反映了現實世界中的壓力。這種壓力能夠帶來不小的心理影響。我不認為學生們覺得這有趣。

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