|Clifford Owens photographed by Lizzie Gorfaine (via artinfo.com)|
27 Questions for Artist Clifford Owens
Name: Clifford Owens
City/Neighborhood: New York City/Elmhurst, Queens
What project are you working on now?
"Clifford Owens: Anthology."
For your "Anthology" project, you asked a multigenerational group of African-American artists to submit a performance score — written or drawn instructions for actions — and then performed them yourself throughout MoMA PS1. Twenty-six artists, including Glenn Ligon, Senga Nengudi, and Kara Walker, contributed scores. Whose contribution surprised you the most?
I was surprised by all the scores contributed to "Anthology."
You have said that you dislike the label “performance artist." Why?
I dislike labels in general, but I'm particularly allergic to the "performance artist "label that has been attached to my practice. I'm a trans-disciplinary visual artist working through photography, video, and installation. I don't want any one to confuse my practice as a visual artist with the performing arts. I'm not an actor, a dancer, or an entertainer.
All the performances you executed were based on pre-set instructions. This echoes a long legacy of performance art stretching back to Fluxus, in which the artist acts like a machine, dispassionately carrying out an a priori set of directions. Do you think this squanders spontaneity? Is that necessarily a bad thing?
First of all, "Anthology" has nothing to do with Fluxus. According to George Maciunas, the self-appointed founding leader of Fluxus, "Fluxus is about jokes." "Anthology" is not about jokes and the artists who've contributed scores are not jokers; they are serious artists. Secondly, I've interpreted the "Anthology" scores in terms of my own conceptual interests and aesthetics sensibilities. Above all, "Anthology" is intense, passionate, and remarkably spontaneous.
You carried out these performances in spaces all over MoMA PS1, from the boiler room to the attic. Which location was least conducive to the performance you did there?
There are no locations in MoMA PS1 that could not accommodate a work of performance art. Performance art can exist in any architecture, in any space created for human interaction.
If you did all the performances over the summer, what can we expect to see now at your PS1 exhibition?
The exhibition at MoMA PS1 is comprised of photographs, videos, sound works, and live performances. Of course, the experience of the exhibition will be vastly different from the experience of being present for the performances.
What's the last show that you saw?
Lauren Kelley, "FrouFrou Conclusions," at The Kitchen. Lauren is one of the most interesting artists of her generation and this exhibition reinforces that fact.
What's the last show that surprised you?
I haven't seen that show yet.
What's your favorite place to see art?
MoMA PS1, of course.
Do you make a living off your art?
No. I do not make a living off my art; I make a life off my art.
What's the most indispensable item in your studio?
I don't have a studio. I work in my head and from my heart.
Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?
I find ideas for my work in the lives of my beautiful, brilliant sons Inti and Joaquin.
Do you collect anything?
What's the last artwork you purchased?
I've never purchased a work of art.
What's the first artwork you ever sold?
The first artworks I sold are in the Studio Museum in Harlem collection.
What's the weirdest thing you ever saw happen in a museum or gallery?
Does anything weird ever happen in a museum or gallery?
What's your art-world pet peeve?
I'm not interested in the art world because the art world is not interesting. The art world is not about art; it's about class privilege.
What's your favorite post-gallery watering hole or restaurant?
When I was in residence at MoMA PS1, I frequented the Shannon Pot. I love cheap, shitty bars.
Do you have a gallery/museum-going routine?
Know any good jokes?
I know a few bad jokes, but who wants to read a bad joke?
What's the last great book you read?
Emile Zola, “Germinal.”
What work of art do you wish you owned?
I would like to own one of David Hammons's handsome hats.
What would you do to get it?
I would do everything and nothing to get it. Hammons would gift one of his handsome hats to me.
What international art destination do you most want to visit?
I hate to travel.
What under-appreciated artist, gallery, or work do you think people should know about?
Terry Adkins is a brilliant artist and mentor to many, including myself.
Who's your favorite living artist?
My favorite living artist was born an hour ago.
What are your hobbies?
I don't have any hobbies. Hobbies are for boring people.
|Clifford Owens. Anthology (Nsenga Knight) (detail). 2011. Performance still. Courtesy On Stellar Rays (via momaps1.org)|
Clifford Owens: Anthology
November 13, 2011 - March 12, 2012
22-25 Jackson Avenue
Long Island City, NY