Interview with Philip-Lorca diCorcia

ART.ZIP: Theatricality in your work, you picked that up in school as well?

PD: In the late 70s, the idea of staging photography didn’t really exist. Of course there was Cindy Sherman, but I wasn’t really aware of her when I was a student. That’s about as close as I can remember. Once you make the move to stage things, theatricality is a natural result of it. As a matter of fact, one of the problems is to keep that theatricality from being the only quality of the work.

I know that the system that exists in China for instance is very different from the system that exists in the United States. Even within the United States, there are different systems. If you want to be a photographer, and if you want to know everything you could possibly learn about, everything digital, technical, every piece of equipment that you could possibly use, there are schools that teach you that. I didn’t and don’t participate in those programs, I don’t think there is anything bad about it, it is just not the way that I approach it, not the way that Yale approaches it. And most of the programs that I am aware of or have contact with, they don’t either. They are usually sort of like what they used to call the humanistic education. It’s not to train you to do something, it’s to train your mind to be able to do something later. That’s kind of the way that it is approached. If you, as increasingly you do now, need training in Photoshop or Final Cut Pro, whatever, you can get it. If you are going there to master your Final Cut Pro, forget it. It’s not the right place for you. I would say that my knowledge of Chinese education in the arts is that it is more technically oriented. They train people to have the skills to reproduce things, for one, quite accurately. It’s more of an industrial education.

The Chinese artists that are known in the United States, a lot of them didn’t develop in China. It’s well known that the Chinese art market is now huge, but it’s mostly traditional Chinese art, it’s not contemporary. I don’t have any regrets about having chosen to pursue art as a profession if you want to call it that. But I never really consider myself a professional artist. The one thing about the current relationship of the art world to culture in general is that there is a lot of myths about what it takes to be successful or even survive in this environment. Everybody thinks you can be a super star in a couple of years – that does happen. But it’s much more unusual than people think. Very often, just having an exhibition or being included in an important group show, that doesn’t really change things that much. You do need to figure out a way to survive, while being able to still make your work, and keep it from disappearing. That’s not quite so easy. One of the ways that a lot of people survive, and one of the reasons why there are programs like Yale’s which gives you a Master of Fine Arts degree, is that they teach. To work in a university in the United States, you pretty much need a master degree. I am not sure how many people that enroll in the program have that in the back of their mind: I need this degree in order to be a teacher. I never thought of that I was going to be a teacher, when I graduated thirty – something years ago. The vast majority of my professional life has nothing to do with being a professor. That’s the way it should be done – teaching should include at the very least, practicing artists. Sometimes the act of teaching excludes the capacity or time or whatever to actually do what you need to do. Or, you get a job in the middle of nowhere, and you suddenly are isolated. That happens quite a lot. Teaching can be a kind of curse. You can start teaching right away, and never be anything more. It’s just a diversion. It’s so hard to be so methodical, to say: okay, every Tuesday between 2 and 6 pm, I am going to work on my own project. Universities don’t pay you very well, that’s one thing. If you are teaching full time – and I do not teach full time, never have – you have all the benefits, health care, whatever. But that’s probably at least three times a week, and all the peripheral things you have to do. The time in the classroom amounts to about three days – that’s the minimum – before you are considered to be full time. Believe it or not, that’s a lot. Three days doesn’t sound like much, most people work five days a week. But it doesn’t really leave much time and energy to do other things. Universities and colleges are social contexts as well. There are other people and other things. I am not talking about a lot of money, people have to do other things. There are a lot of stars, they fly in for a day… I don’t know, I don’t even know if that kind of thing exists anymore. Well they did exist. For instance, I think Gary Winogrand used to teach in Texas. He would just fly to Texas, stay there for two days, and then they would give him a lot of money and he just goes wherever else. He was not from Texas, I don’t even think he liked it.

ART.ZIP: 你作品中的戲劇性也是在學習時練就的嗎?

PD: 在70年代末,編導攝影(Staged Photography)並不存在。當然,那時候辛蒂·雪曼(Cindy Sherman)已經開始創作,但作為學生的我並不熟悉她的作品。其它以相似方法創作的藝術家並不多。一旦你開始布設場景,戲劇性就會隨之而來。事實上,避免這種戲劇性成為作品的唯一特質是我經常要面對的問題。

我知道中國的藝術教育體系與美國的現存藝術教育體系非常不同。就算在美國境內也存在著許多不同的藝術教育體系。如果你想成為一名攝影師,如果你想知道所有你能學習到的東西——無論是數碼科技的或是技術層面的——所有你可能將要用到的器材,你能夠在某些學校裡學到這些事情。我從未也不會在這些課程中任職,儘管我不覺得這樣的課程有什麽不好。這不是我的方法,不是耶魯的方法。我知道的或接觸到的課程也不這樣做。他們很像是人文教育課程。這些課程不嘗試訓練你去做些什麽,而是嘗試訓練你的頭腦,以在日後完成什麽事情。這是一種常見的方法。如果你現在的普遍狀況一般,需要學習使用Photoshop或Final Cut Pro一類的工具,你能夠輕易地進行這種學習。如果你為了掌握Final Cut Pro而進入到學院之中,算了吧,學院不是適合的地方。我想,我印象中的中國藝術教育更多地關注技能訓練。他們訓練人們精確復制事物的技能,更多地像是一個工業教育。在美國聞名的中國藝術家,他們中的很多人並不是在中國得到職業發展的。中國藝術市場非常巨大是眾所周知的,然而這個市場更青睞傳統中國藝術,而不是當代中國藝術。

我不後悔選擇藝術作為我的職業,如果你要把我的創作稱作職業的話。但是我從來沒有把我自己視作職業藝術家。現今藝術界與整體文化關係中很重要的一點是:今天存在許多關於在這個環境中成功或生存的神話。每個人都覺得自己能夠在幾年內成為明星——這的確發生過。然而,事實上,這件事情發生的幾率比人們想像的要小。通常,得以展出作品或被邀請參加某個重要群展,並不能真正改變什麽。你需要找到一條生存的道路,繼續創作,並嘗試不要讓自己消失在人群中。這不是簡單的事。很多人生存的方式——同時也是耶魯之類研究學院課程的設置原因——就是教學。在美國,碩士學位是在大學內任職的必要條件之一。我不知道人們在申請入學的時候有沒有考慮這件事:我需要這個文憑以在大學擔任教職。在三十多年前我畢業的時候,我從未想過當老師。我職業生涯的大部分與教授職位無關。這是一種有效的工作方式。教學應當包括正在實踐的藝術家。在某些情況下,教學不能保證足夠的時間、精力等以完成你應當完成的工作。或者,你突然得到一份教學工作,而也因這個工作被孤立。這經常發生。教職可以是一種詛咒。你可以馬上開始教學,就這樣過去一輩子。這可以是一條分岔口。有條理地同時進行教學和創作不是一件容易的事情:比如,在每周二下午兩點到六點,我將進行我的個人創作。學院工作並不能提供很高的酬勞,這是其中一個問題。如果你是全職教學——我不是,從來不是——你能夠得到所有的福利,醫療保險等等。但是這意味著最起碼一周三次課程,以及所有其它日常工作。全職教職每周在教室內的工作最起碼要花掉三天時間做準備。不管你信不信,這其實已經非常多了。三天聽起來不多,大部分人一周需要工作五天。但是這真的意味著沒有時間或精力進行什麽別的創作。學院也是社交環境,學院中也有其它人進行著其它事。各種明星飛來進行一天的課程,再馬上飛走。我不清楚這樣的安排現在是否仍然存在,最起碼這種安排曾經存在。我記得加裏·溫諾格蘭德(Gary Winogrand)曾經在德克薩斯州教學。他會飛去德克薩斯州,在那呆兩天,學院給他許多錢,他再飛去別的什麽地方。他不是來自德克薩斯州的,我想他根本不喜歡那。

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