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October 25, 2004

Studio Visits as Interviews

I am currently conducting a series of informal interviews with visual artists, commonly referred to as studio visits, recorded primarily through written notes, as a means for assessing how to curate the objects they create. The interview that I conduct for this class in the following week will most likely be a studio visit with visual artist, Joy Garnett, and Jessica Lin Cox, another curator, to be recorded for partial transcription with my mini-cassette audio recorder. This will be a visit in a series of visits that have been initiated by me as an opportunity to have particular artists show me a survey of their work and to discuss with me issues of its display in relation to several curatorial projects I am planning.

�Tape recorders remind people that there will be a record of what they say.� (53, Weiss)

In my most recent visit, on Sunday, October 24, at a question as to whether she felt comfortable with a particular categorization I was making on the politics in her art, photographer and installation artist, Kira Lynn Harris responded stridently that she felt it was political that she had the �nerve to deal in white boy territory.� She immediately, somewhat in jest, added that I oughtn�t quote her on it, then perhaps realizing that it might very well be worth quoting, amended that I could quote her if I chose to. While I wasn�t using a tape recorder at the time, I wondered if in fact I ought to have been.

One of the aspects of �The Interviewing Relationship� as defined by Weiss qualifies the importance of the interviewer respecting the respondent�s integrity to mean that, �the interviewer will not question the respondent�s appraisals, choices, motives, right to observations, or personal worth.� (65, Weiss) While in many of the situations that Weiss discusses, this refrain from questioning the respondent�s �appraisals, motives, and right to observations,� might be less clear. Because all of the artists I am visiting with are interested in issues of representation in their work, engaging in some dialogue on artistic (and curatorial) responsibility in the representation of observations has been quite useful in determining how best to position their work alongside the curatorial project.

My first studio visit in this series,was conducted on October 12, 2004 with Zach Fabri, a second year MFA student at Hunter College. This visit was nearly twice as long as the three subsequent visits I have since conducted, a little over two and a half hours. I have brought my minicassette audio recorder on all of the visits I have conducted, but so far have only used it for this first visit.

The survey of each artist�s work has been accompanied by discussion of various aspects of the work important to the artist and/or relevant to my interests as well as a situation of each work within the larger body of each artist�s work and that of other artists that the work may be seen to parallel.

My visit with Fabre served as an opportunity for me to experiment with the types of questions that are useful to this work. While I don�t know this artist well, we had had several conversations prior to this studio visit and shore some interests. While our dialogue was relatively focused, I found myself interested in hearing what he had to say about some of my curatorial ideas, which while it perhaps helped me develop them a little bit further, offered me no more information about his own work, which at the outset had been my primarly goal for the tape. Because I had only one hour long tape, I was only able to record portions of the visit.

I chose not to ask the artists at the three subsequent visits if I could record our conversations for several reasons, though while I don�t think it is ever necessary with this type of interview, from these few visits it seems that the main factors that have discouraged me from continuing to record are that while all the artists have uttered lines that ought to be recorded, I�m still in the process of figuring out what I want to say, I only have two cassette tapes for the recorder I own, and the recorder I own is not archival quality. Aside from these addressable factors, for many artists, particularly those who have left the critical environment of art school, the studio visit offers the rare opportunity for feedback both critical and impressionistic. Secondly, my primary interest in the visits is information gathering about the objects that these artists create, rather than the collection of either their opinions or information about how they present themselves, both of which will be at least partially �evident� on an audio recording. Third, I am at an information gathering point with a range of artists some of whom have very little information available about them in the public domain than others with which to begin formulating questions. The composition of the general questions I have the information to compose would request verbal answers from artists that would then not likely be being given as description and categorization of the work they would be showing me. Question like this would add time to what has in the visits subsequent to that with Fabre, been about an hour.

Barbara Truesdell recommends the use of open-ended questions. When discussing images, this changes a bit. I have found specific questions about medium such as, �Do you do video work?� or �Have you done any performance art?� after being shown a number of prints to yield the opening of further notebooks and computer files with images that might not otherwise have been shown to me. In part in the interest of time, while I have compiled some basic points about what my own goals are for the exhibitions as well as a preliminary list of issues that I would like to address during the visit many of them logistical (such as whether or not the artist can email me a cv, and which works of theirs I am familiar with), I have found that it is better to let the work direct the dialogue than try to fit it to a predetermined script.

Posted by at October 25, 2004 6:16 AM


I'm interested in interviewing artists too and thought you might like to see an interview that I did. Check it out: http://www.maxgimblett.com/writings/endlessbeach.pdf

Posted by: bkg at October 25, 2004 10:22 AM

For this exercise, I would recommend taking a different approach, one targeted to the dissertation, rather than to the curating of an exhibition. This, in order, to be able to try out the kinds of interviews envisioned by the Weiss book and that you would likely want to conduct for the dissertation. We can talk in class about the options.

Posted by: bkg at October 25, 2004 10:32 AM