SB- It was a very macho show.
MK- Yes, it was a very macho show. But then it was about playing with different kinds of psychology, so it wasn't a unified macho image, except in terms of material. It was like going into a rental wood shop and having a bunch of different men make a bunch of stuff with the same tools. That was the way I was thinking about it: "Here's the guy who's into orgone therapy, and here's the guy who's into..." -- you know, a lot of it was about self help, but it had a kind of psychological/body pathology overtone to it. That's what gave it continuity, and the materials also gave it continuity, but there wasn't any kind of unifying theme. Even formally there wasn't much connecting the pieces, besides the fact that there was a kind of general furniture orientation. But never was any of that discussed in any review of that work. I thought it was screamingly obvious, and I wrote about it and told people what it was about. This latest body of work, "Missing Time," has almost only been shown in Europe, which is funny because the whole repressed-memory syndrome phenomenon isn't so prevalent there, and they have a really different relationship to art and all of this material; they will never understand it. And then the people here just essentially refuse to look at it.
SB- Perhaps it was too painful for some people to go through it, because it came around a time when a lot of stories about abuse were coming out, like the little girl in Long Island who was abducted by her uncle and kept in a dungeon that he had built, stories like that. And then your show was talking about people empowering themselves through craft, through these very homey things.
MK- Yes. That show is what got me interested in architecture -- exactly what you're saying, that you can have this kind of craft, or produce these kinds of spaces that have a really highly charged negative overtone, and they have the veneer of homeyness, but then they are very frightening. That's when I decided to build schools; I said "Well, let's expand this to a larger scale," to an institutional scale, instead of something like a cubbyhole -- you can have a giant cubbyhole that has the same horrific tone. And that's what I tried to do with this educational complex. I'm going to do new buildings where I actually build full-scale rooms -- it's like building one room as an educational complex. There will be mixtures of various styles, and still have cult overtones, or torture rooms, or sex rooms, or something like that. But they're going to look more like stage sets. They won't look like rooms. They'll look like paintings, like three-dimensional paintings.
SB- What is your work for Documenta about?
MK- "The Poetics" is an overtly historical piece. Tony Oursler and I were in a band together in the late 1970s and early 1980s, "The Poetics," so I suggested to him that we pick up that work and develop it into a new body of work. The first thing we did was remix all these old tapes; we're going to make a CD box set, a reissue. And then we did all this video stuff, real straight documentary footage of interviews and landscape, the environment and things like that. But then we're also doing things that are scripted, and things that look like reality television. So, it's kind of a play with how you picture history, and in a really particular way rock history. Basically, what we're doing is going back and remaking works that we were going to make then, but never did. What we were thinking about was this kind of trope of conceptual art that was about when it was designed in your mind -- this whole thing about backdating, and the controversy surrounding several artists who have made works that people claim that they backdated, and all that stuff.
SB- Didn't Yoko Ono did something like that a few years ago?
MK- Yes, and I think Robert Morris has done this; he's built things from his notebooks, and they were dated the year in which they were designed. This has always been a major tenet of that kind of conceptualism. So we're doing that, but it doesn't look anything like that, you know, it's just very weird. A lot of the work was designed to be seen almost in a nightclub kind of environment, really garish. And then we're doing a fanzine and a CD box set. And there'll be a room with video projections and sculptures and all this stuff. So it will be part art show, part historical kiosk.
SB- Are you going back to performance with this work?
MK- No, I'm just doing music again. I haven't been performing, I've just been making music. When I was young, I took music very seriously as a kind of analogue of my visual production, but when I started performing I gave music up. I saw the theater, and these performances, as a kind of sculptural music. I thought it was more serious, more analytical, or more deconstructive or something, so if I played music then it was purely for relaxation, and I didn't think about it as art. Recently I've felt compelled to make music again, but because of the way I've looked at it, I've had a hard time justifying it to myself as art. So this was a way for me to approach it -- as a problem of historical constructions -- to think of the pieces as visual tropes of history or something like that. That would allow me to start doing the music as a kind of theater, without worrying about the quality of the music. It's analogous to my return to painting; I don't have to care whether the paintings or the music themselves are good in any traditional sense.
SB- In a sense it is going back to performance, just not a public performance.
MK- Not with me as actor. The problem became that I couldn't be on the stage anymore, but I don't have any problem with doing this work with media, or playing music, where the focus isn't on me personally.
SB- I always wondered whether performance was a means to help you build a work.
MK- The way I came to it was that the whole body of work was the performance. Then people called the part at the end the performance, but I thought the whole thing was the performance, and then the part on the stage was just the end of the performance. There was the social cliché of what a performance is, but I thought of the whole thing as performance. I thought of my work as operating very much within a Beuysian tradition, and that it was about the whole thing. You can compartmentalize certain things off, not so much for any real reason, but that's the convention of presentation. People can't take in the whole thing. They can only take a chunk at a time. So really, it's more about using the social code, or visual language, so that people understand what you're doing.
SB- When you mention Beuys, do you also identify with the "shamanistic" element of his work, or the whole idea of "healing?"
MK- No, no, I mean no. I've always been against primitivism in art. I just don't like the word "Shamanism" because it always hooks into the New Age, or into neo-primitivism. The word is so colored by these implications that I refuse to use it. Within that kind of dialogue people use other words -- like "the trickster," or "the warrior," and all these terms that people bandy about, but it all goes back to clichés of tribalism. I just won't use that kind of language. I only use language of the industrial environment. The problem with the metaphysics of Beuys is that it allows people to see his work as based on timeless principles, and not to see it as a constructed myth. I dislike that about Beuys' work, even though I feel that his work is so much more, because if you look at its logic, it is very funny. And the more you look at it, the more humor you see in it. It's sort of absurdist. People miss that, people don't talk about that. I don't like the connection of artist to priest.