Panel Discussion at Four Walls

PERRY HOBERMAN- I think perhaps we should hear from some of the artists at this point. Tim?

TIM MAUL- I'm really... It's amazing I'm here in the first place.

PH- Do you agree with...?

TM- Yeah, ever since about the age of six, whenever I made art, I always felt like it was someone else that was making it. And there was, much like this, a panel of people inside me that was making a set of decisions. I didn't see this as a bad thing. And when I went to art school here in New York, I thought this was even better because I found that I could please various teachers by addressing certain members of this interior panel to do certain types of work.

PH- So then you were a dissociationist before there was even a term for it?

TM- I couldn't help it.

PH- I'm curious if there was a similar experience for some of the other artists that are in the dissociationism show. David?

DAVID SCHER- People who are not artists suffering from those disorders have a lot of pain. The artists go through a period where they wake up and find they have no parents. They're alone and everything they've constructed has been at the bidding of people who aren't there. They start to crumble and face the truth.

PH- But somehow you've all been able to turn this condition into something very productive. There's been an outpouring of work. That is a lot of what has caught the attention of the public. Even the art establishment... The Whitney Museum is talking about doing a dissociationism show.

WARREN NIESZUCHOWSKI- Since you bring that up, can I put in a word for what you call the curator? I don't have any credentials as a curator. I do curate. .... This is a heretical notion in art. For generations, millennia even, art has been associational--Eros is the great builder. Freud showed us that Eros is fused with Thanatos, death. Why not try to confront this fact? Things fall apart. The center does not hold. Anything else is pretense.

PH- I'd like to hear from the artists about whether you think this is possible and broaden it a little... That implies a significant risk because if you do actually attain that state of total dissociation and it's not just a strategy, then it gets into some of the clinical conditions that you were talking about before, where you run the risk of really losing your identity altogether.

...usually stealing which we could do too

AUDIENCE [JEFF THE STUDENT]- I have a question. How different is taking the role of something other than your own identity, with the intention of making work that way, from being an actor or someone who has to take on another persona in another field?

PH- Well, in the way it's been written about in the media, and this is what's gotten a lot of attention, it's nothing like being an actor. This is happening for real. And my question is whether that's true. Maybe we could just go down the line with the artists on the panel, how do you see yourself in relation to this question.

HANNA SCHOUWINK- What I ended up doing, through an organic process, I began to recycle works that were out there. I became a painter without really choosing to. I never looked at myself as an artist, but I was part of what was called the art world. So I began to copy paintings that were there, trying to be as precise as possible. I did not make my personal mark on the surface of the paintings, so if a painting was made with great care and detail I would do the same. If it was more expressive I would try to do that. The whole idea of a movement is in contradiction to dissociation. It is about blending and losing one's identity and a movement itself can be an identity. I know I'm considered to be part of this movement but I don't view myself as part. [to Perry Bard] I don't think you do either, do you?

PERRY BARD- No, not at all, but I'm thinking about the organization of gangs in Brazil, for example, where people will get together and do an action, usually stealing, which we could do too. And then disband and there is no leader to the group. Then the group would reassemble the next day with none of the same people.

PH- I do think it's clear here tonight that there is no group leader as such.

I was part of what was called the art world

WARREN NIESZUCHOWSKI- But Perry's point is well taken, in that there is a challenge to actually not just rest on the fact that Tim is selling better, etc., but to actually incarnate, continually, the anti-ideal of the movement, and that's been the problem with every or certainly with all of the art movements since the Second World War.

PH- Yeah, but it's more critical with this movement.

WN- I don't think it should be held to a higher standard than anything else, although it would be great if it would. I think it's like fighting any war. Sometimes the losers are greater than the victors.

AUDIENCE [ROCHELLE FEINSTEIN]- Warren, I have a question for you. You are the curator of this presentation?

WN- I am a curator of a presentation.

RF- ...of a presentation. And as such, you are probably the person who has spent the most time with the critical community, who has been the receiver of the presentation. And so, if we acknowledge that this is not a movement but movement, what has the response been for the audience, critically, commercially and by other artists who are seeing this work presented for the first time as an amalgam of dissociation?

WN- Well, I do think that at the end of the atomic age ambivalence is the only way to come to a point. And they're very ambivalent. They know that a lot of the great energy is there. They know their art well enough to know where it came from, where it's going, what it's worth. Everybody needs everybody else. They know there's no energy in re-runs. There's money in re-runs but there's no energy. And I think they realize that a lot of the energy of the younger artists and of what I would call the art community as opposed to art society, is something that beeps in greater resonance with what we've chosen to call dissociationism than it does with some attempt to canonize contemporary art as some world-historical art.

PH- Yeah, I think the response has been that you just can't argue with it. I think that's one reason we're here tonight. We're trying to figure out what we can say about it, what it is, but I think in general the response has been that it's there and there's nothing you can do about it. The qualities that define what we're calling dissociation tend to make any effort to codify what these artists are doing almost impossible.

WN- But the goal of the show... Of course the ideal place to see this work is not at PS1. PS1 is performing the task for which it receives the aid of the community around it, that is to gather up and present occasions for art-makers and art people to present their work. But the fact is, you have to see the work wherever it occurs and a lot of this work has been seen in corners, on streets...

PERRY BARD- Even within the movement there is a specific problem and it's the idea of critics and curators. Maybe the idea of having shows in places where there are four walls, maybe that's antithetical to the movement. Because people like to organize in their minds, they like to try to make meaning where there's no meaning anyway.

DAVID SCHER- That's what I was going to say.

PERRY HOBERMAN- I don't think you'd get an argument from anyone.

WN- And it's important for dissociationism not to take over dissociation.

DS- That's what I was thinking.

...not a movement but movement

JEFF THE STUDENT- Yeah, I find this interesting, because in the past, artists used to aspire to a style, and now, it's like artists are wanting to come clean and show everything they do has their creative energy in it. I personally feel that I wash the dishes with a creative furor. But I wouldn't show people that activity because in the lineage of my work right now it would be inconsistent. But I would like to communicate something of the things that I'm interested in. But, as I said, now a lot of people are willing to come clean and other people are having a hard time accepting the fact that creative people can do almost everything with the same frame of mind that they would do what is normally considered the "high" art projects like sculpture and painting. It's a hard balance because, where do we go, do we open up the floodgates and say that everything a creative individual does is worthy of merit?

WN- That's a difficult choice, just for myself, for example, drawing the fine line between the washing the dishes part, which I would define as preparation for the art...

PB- Training.

WN- ...and what could be called "good" dissociationist art. In other words do I show Hanna painting over these paintings or do I show the product and run the risk that people won't get anything of the process. These are all dilemmas. There are no solutions to these dilemmas. You make a choice.

AUDIENCE [PAUL RAMIREZ]- Wait a minute. I want to know what's so great about this movement. I mean, here you have a panel, an audience, the audience is feeling cowed, smart questions, stupid questions, why are we in the show, why aren't we in the show. If this movement is really for real, why don't we just trade places. You come sit here and some members of the audience go there.

PH- This is serious, would anyone like to just come up...


.....I guess this is good.

PAUL RAMIREZ- I'd like to say that we're all artists and we're not in the show and we're happy that we're not in the show.

ROCHELLE FEINSTEIN- Well I haven't seen the show so I don't know if I'm happy.

PH- Do any of you consider yourselves dissociationists?

UNIDENTIFIED AUDIENCE MEMBER- Not yet, but I'm interested.