Sad Disco Master: Reinke Talks with Mike Hoolboom
From 1990-1997 you worked on The Hundred Videos, a lo-fi epic that calmed your superego interdiction to "complete one hundred videos before the year 2000 and my 36th birthday. These will constitute my work as a young artist." You immediately cleared the table for new work, beginning with Andy. What's the relationship between the two?
I finished The Hundred Videos in 1996 — I'd been working on them since 1990, and had originally thought it would take me until 2000 to finish them. Ten a year for ten years and then I'd have a body of work as a young artist and be ready to move on to more mature work. In a way, the series was about moving on, not getting stuck on a single idea, allowing for a proliferation of things: images, proposals, desires without getting bogged down (or tied up) with a single project. I wanted to be fast and cheap and follow whatever caught my attention. As an artist I've always proceeded by telling myself two lies: one is that the images already exist independently of my authorship (I'll say more about that later) and the other is that I'll make something really good in the future and the work I'm doing presently — whatever it might be — is like a dry run, or preparation for the real work, which is endlessly postponed. The Hundred Videos was great for me in this respect: a series of short works which present themselves as sketches, proposals or little wishes.
But I had a couple interests which couldn't be accommodated within the series, mostly because it seemed to me that each of the components should be very short. The average length is under three minutes, the longest, a re-edit of a documentary I shot in 1984, something like ten. So while many of The Hundred Videos were concerned with ideas of documentary representation, the short running times didnŐt really allow me to engage directly with documentary production.
The other avenue The Hundred Videos didn't allow me to explore in-depth was work based on following through a pre-determined set of instructions, kind of like structuralist film, but more directly from the compositional methods of John Cage and the early process pieces of Steve Reich. Doing work like this is sort of like a hobby for me: I like to make a set of procedures — a heuristic — and begin the process of carrying it out, usually as a transformation or re-mapping of a particular film or piece of writing, but often do not finish the projects, and usually do not release the ones I do manage to finish. Here is one I worked on a few years ago, and have the yen to complete: I began reading Joyce's Finnegans Wake into my computer. A voice recognition program transcribes the text. Because most of the book is not really in English — it's made of neologisms from a wide variety of languages — the computer transcription bears little resemblance to the novel. In it's own way, though, it is a more rational, readable text as it is now limited to a basic English vocabulary. I managed to read about the first third of it into the computer. It was very enjoyable — lots of fun to read out loud. As well, it is doubtful I would ever read the thing on my own; it almost the requires the commitment of another project — reading Finnegans Wake is not necessarily its own reward, one benefits from having an ulterior motive. It is perhaps the ultimate modernist writerly text: to read it is to recompose it, to write it over again. In a way, this project literalizes Barthes' distinction between the readerly and writerly. At first I got the computer to read back my transcription, but the monotony of the voice became tedious after a few minutes and seemed unlistenable and anyway, the voices that come with Macs are overused. So instead I read (and recorded) the transcription. It sounds very good, like an endless obscure bed-time story. So far it takes close to three hours (I recite it fairly quickly), but if I finish it, I expect it will be upwards of ten. Still, with a lot of compression it should fit on two MP3 CDs, or on an iPod and be at least as good as any John Grisham book on tape. I would also publish my transcription, giving it the title my voice recognition program gave it, Finnegan's Wake. Coincidentally, a few weeks ago I was at a Michael Snow exhibition at Jack Shainman's in Chelsea and the press release misspelled Finnegans Wake as Finnegan's Wake. I wished my book were finished, as the press release would not have contained a typo, but a reference to my book.
Of course, it wasn't only length that had hampered my engagement with documentary production, but also a general inability, or even refusal, to engage with people as documentary subjects. In other words, although I am very interested and continually tempted by the observational documentary, I seem to be unable to actually do one, at least with people — I think I would have no problem with plants or animals. Andy is a compromise — a documentary, I suppose, but a simple one, conceptually simple and completely pre-planned. The subject, Andy, offered himself up. He'd heard my work contained pornographic images and wanted to be videotaped masturbating. (He had already starred in a few amateur porn productions.) My previous sexually explicit images had all been appropriated. I'd never shot sex, but was certainly willing, and even eager. At the same time, I thought that shooting a solo scene might be fun, but not interesting enough to be a tape. Both Andy and I were interested in making a tape for the public, not just a private sex thing. The two things Andy was most proud of, and most fond of showing off, were his penis — large — and his apartment — well-decorated. I thought it would be good if the video showed him masturbating in his living room while, in voice-over, he discussed his decorating choices as if he were giving an in-depth tour of his apartment. It seemed to me that these two modes of self-presentation — home decorating and sexual exhibition — perfectly encapsulated a particular contemporary urban gay male way of being. I think of Andy as a kind of ethnographic portrait: Andy not only as an individual, but as a type, an exemplar. I was embarrassed to ask him to talk about his apartment — after all the home decorating parodies the jerking off and the jerking off spoofs the home decorating: the two modes of exhibition are supposed to be incompatible, one private and the other public. So in a way it makes fun of Andy's exhibitionism and his decorating proclivities equally. But he got it right away, and thought it was very funny. It takes a real fag to be Martha Stewart and Al Parker at the same time. Here in the book, by the way, we've abridged the transcription of his voice-over.
Everybody Loves Nothing (Empathic Exercises) continues your recycling of pictures, familiar from The Hundred Videos, but now drawing from the Prelinger Archives. Mostly you've run tv moments (Oprah Winfrey) or moments from widely available docs (Lonely Boy), why this search through musty archives?
I'm more of a browser than a researcher. In terms of any particular discipline I am a dilettante rather than an expert. I have some research skills, and have been employed occasionally as a researcher, but generally prefer a less structured relationship with the archive. The trouble with archives is that they are well-organized and strive for comprehensiveness: you will find whatever it is you are looking for. That's okay if you know what you're looking for, but I'm more interested in finding things I had no idea I was looking for (a category which includes things I had no idea existed as well as things I was not consciously thinking of). Never let a librarian or archivist know you're just browsing — that is not what they are there for. One must always enter with an appropriate set of concerns and browse on the sly.
Back when I was a youth I used to think that the destruction of an archive, museum or library was a horrible thing. (As a child reading about the Seven Wonders of the World I was traumatized by the burning of the library of Alexandria.) Now I'm not sure I care. All those grand collections seem overwhelmingly oppressive. We should just get rid of them and start over.
Rick Prelinger (of the Prelinger Archive of ephemeral films) has nothing against browsing. Still, I entered his archive looking for films documenting brain surgery prior to my birth. He has a number of them, and they were exactly as I had imagined from the descriptions I'd been reading, except better. For some reason, I've never used them. It ended up that for reasons of expediency (I forget what exactly) I culled all the material I used from a few hundred 3/4 inch video transfers he had in the main office. I'm not sure if I had the central idea for Everybody Loves Nothing at that point. I think I just took whatever caught my eye, dubbing the clips to another 3/4" tape. A lot of the stuff was from the Levy family's 16mm home movies. They're famous bakers in New York — I think their motto was/is something like "You don't have to be Jewish to like it" — and took yearly vacations to faraway places which they documented far more proficiently than most amateur vacation films.
Everybody Loves Nothing (Empathic Exercises) is the video of mine I like the least. I've been tempted to pull it from distribution, but its been one of the most successful, being purchased for broadcast (which rarely happens with my work, partly because sexually explicit imagery and/or issues of copyright) and winning the Telefilm Canada Award at the Images Festival. I think I dislike it because I stoop to cheap, seductive tricks so often in it, most particularly slowing down footage until a clip ends with a freeze-frame as the subject looks directly at the camera.
Echo Valley is an episodic series of portraits. I appear in one of them sucking a candy-cane. I remember the shooting was brief and casual, you assured me at the time that you would make up in words what might be missing with pictures. Can pictures be re-captioned to mean anything at all? Would you also ask, like Walter Ong, that if a picture is worth a thousand words, then why does it have to be a saying?
It's interesting that your question isn't if pictures can be captioned to mean anything but re-captioned. It supposes that images come pre-captioned, which I think is true: every image comes to us, or can have meaning to us as an image, only if it is already caught in webs of discourse, in language. Pictures mean nothing without words. In fact, they are not even pictures.
I don't think anything is missing in the images of Echo Valley. They are as complete as any image; they're not asking us any questions. Certainly I'm adding something, but it isn't something necessary. What I'm adding isn't only not necessary, it's superfluous, occasionally ridiculously so. The little written monologues are a parallel stream of information that can be attributed to the people pictured (as their thoughts or speech), but they can just easily be attributed to the artist as implied narrator. I hope it is also unclear which chunk of text might go with which character, that is if the character precedes the text (text captions image) or if the text comes before and, in a way, introduces the character (image captions text).
From Marcel Duchamps's Anemic Cinema to Richard Serra's Television Delivers People (and many more besides) there is a future-past of motion pictures comprised exclusively of text. Could you talk about how Incidents of Travel fits into these heritage moments?
Moving pictures without pictures always seems sophisticated to me. What is the thing that would be said about the Duchamp and the Serra? Although very different pieces, they would both be termed conceptual, a word I hate more and more. But text-based work tends to get categorized as conceptual, as does any work which bares any resemblance to minimalism. Incidents of Travel could be called Anemic Video. It is a sluggish piece, low blood flow. The soundtrack is the most annoying pop song, Popcorn by Hot Butter, a moog synthesizer piece from my childhood slowed down many times, but with the original pitch maintained. The text, which fades up from white, is from the two-volume travelogue of a Victorian adventurer, John L. Stephens' Incidents of Travel in the Yucatan. (Robert Smithson has also worked from the books.) As was the style of the time, the Table of Contents contained descriptions of the contents of each chapter. I included only the descriptions that do not contain proper nouns (names of specific people or places) or strong actions/events. What we are left with is a string of short descriptions of nothing in particular, evocative of an episodic narrative but not in themselves constituting a narrative. It is my hope that the video leads viewers to imagining a context for the descriptions: it is meant to be evocative, to open a space for certain antique imaginings, lost wonderments reglimpsed.
How Photographs are Stored in the Brain seems like a departure for you. There is no voice-over and the tone fells nostalgic, even romantic.
Nostalgia is a strange thing. It comes up all the time when people talk about art. History has disappeared and left us with only nostalgia. So we're left ignorant, but filled with intense, if vague, emotion. We want to return to a time and place, a home, we never experienced but can almost remember. A few years after making How Photographs are Stored in the Brain I curated an exhibition for Argos Gallery in Brussels called Attack (Retreat). The premise was that popular culture's most powerful force for interpellating us is nostalgia. One would have to be heartless, inhuman even, to escape its heart-tugging force. It cannot be attacked directly, for every attack is rendered as hollow cynicism. But where attack is not possible one might be able to engineer a strategic retreat.
I said before that an archive is a horrible thing. That's true, but a collection, especially if it fits into a box that is easy to carry away, is a fine thing. A friend of mine found a box outside a recently sold house in Toronto. The box contained twenty-or-so old 78s, a photo album and a bunch of personal correspondence. The photos and music were used for How Photographs are Stored in the Brain, while the correspondence and a few of the photos were used in my only interactive cd-rom Mr. Green.
I have seen Fireball many times now, and while it hovers always at the border of coherence, it never arrives, it never makes any sense to me at all. Steve, help me out with this one, what does the title refer to? What are these strange goings on? Who are these artists and why should we care?
As with Echo Valley, I wanted monologue without character, monologue not rooted in a particular voice or character, which could be spoken by someone and seem perfectly, profoundly attributable to that person and then be spoken again by someone else and still be perfectly, profoundly attributable to them. A floating monologic perspective which could be multiply-voiced, pertain to anyone. In one of The Hundred Videos, "Jason," I interviewed a guy with lots of tattoos. I meant to do a portrait, a documentary portrait, but what he said did not satisfy me. I wanted the boy with the tattoos to say things as interesting as he looked. (One could say I wanted him to voice my projected desire back to me; I wanted him to live up to his image. After all, isnŐt a tattoo an advertisement for something? Or at the least an exteriorization of something?) So I wrote for him what I wanted him to say, and he said it. Suddenly it was clear to me why it would be interesting to work with people in front of the camera, or even to make little dramas. But so far, I've stuck to the monologue. One could say that one of my main concerns at this time was to find ways to make the monologue, to use Bakhtin's terms, dialogic rather than monologic.
Fireball came out of a project I made for a group show of public, interventionist work sponsored by Mercer Union in Toronto. I printed a dozen or so monologues on little cards, took to the street and asked people to recite the monologues for me. The results were not so good — it's difficult to get a good recitation on the street, everyone was flat and stumbling and in the end there was nothing of that footage I used. But I took the monologues with me to Berlin, where I was staying for a few weeks to participate in the Frank Wagner exhibition Fleeting Portraits. I gave a talk at the Hochschule where I recruited people (mostly students) to participate in the video. I spent an hour or so with them where they lived, taping them in their homes, and then either wrote a monologue for them or gave them one of the existing monologues to recite. The monologues which I wrote about them were to seem to be about them specifically, but also be endlessly transferable: that is, anyone should be able to recite them and they would seem just as particular.
I'm very fond of Fireball, though I may not have many reasons to be. It was crudely edited on Premiere in a few hours (a program I have never used before or since) with star wipes between each scene. I think perhaps I am overly pleased that the thing I wanted my monologues to do — be both particular but, not exactly universal, but transferable — actually works, in a way that still thrills me. I know it can seem like a lame travelogue, or even worse, an obliquely political tape about life in post-wall Berlin, but for me it is about throwing my voice, a very particularly mediated kind of self-portrait as a documentary of others.
Spiritual Animal Kingdom raised the bar for your work, showing new commitment to old-fashioned cinema values (framing, montage, complex sound work) along with a shiny pop gloss. Its train of episodic fragments has become a model for some of your subsequent work.
My work since The Hundred Videos, however much I like them as individual works, seemed to me a wonky, idiosyncratic collection of shorts. I wanted something more substantial, work with the presence and authority that would be able to seduce an audience into sustained, thoughtful engagement. The Hundred Videos was, in this respect, an ideal structure for me: individual components could be slight, while the overall project was grand. Spiritual Animal Kingdom is something like that: a container for an arrangement of individual, modular components. Not to say that the components don't "go together" — it is important that they work together to form a whole which is coherent (thematically and otherwise) — but some modules could be removed, others added, their order shifted about, etc. In other words, the structure isn't tight or closed like works based on pattern or epic myth, or some other kind of solid structure.
It was made for the Montreal Bienniale. In large group shows, people spend very little time with individual works. My work is usually shown in a theatrical setting, which is good is many ways. It ensures that audience members will most likely see the entire piece from beginning to end, from a single comfortable seat with minimal distractions. In galleries and museums, people walk in and out very quickly. They must determine if they want to spend time with a time-based work, and if they do if there is a place to sit, etc. (It is no wonder that video in museums and galleries tends to be simple and bombastic: a single overwhelming image (or bunch of images to a single piece of music) all presence and affect, with no discursive development possible: no arguments, no stories, no descriptions, even — just a single performative gesture, a painting or photograph that changes over time, or a music video.) So Spiritual Animal Kingdom is a work one can enter at any moment. I tried to seduce the audience into staying until they've seen the whole thing by making the modules short, snappy, colourful, humourous and full of familiar hits from the 70s.
Afternoon (March 21, 1999) is set inside your apartment, a little duet of camera and maker, playfully turning the space through your lens. At one point you open your shirt to reveal your chest and say, "Oh, I've got more in common with Vito Acconci than I thought." Vito seems father to your musings, and I wonder if you could speak of the importance of these ancestors, tradition and the individual talent, to your considerations.
Although Vito Acconci is central to my work, I'm not sure how much this particular video was influenced by him. With the in-camera editing, seemingly straightforward record of someone making their way through the world (even if the world in this case is reduced to a tiny studio apartment) and comic persona, it owes more to the work of George Kuchar. Still, the reference to Acconci works in a of couple ways. In the video I toy with the audience about showing myself. My body (or somebody's body) is central to the work — the camera is very clearly an extension of the narrator/artist/protagonist's body — and I show fragments of myself, but only fragments and never my face. For the Acconci joke I am lying on the couch, unbutton my shirt to expose a hairy chest and claim that my similarity with Acconci may be as much physical as anything else. It asserts that the piece means to be read within the historical context of video art. It divides the audience clearly (as humour often and citations always do): those with a first-hand knowledge of Acconci's work laugh, and others do not. It first screened to an audience of film people who did not have the capacity to understand it (although it is really very simple and not inherently challenging) — many of them took it as some kind of provocation (as often happens when an audience is faced with something outside the realm of their possible expectations). For an art or video crowd, it is easy to make sense of — they might still think it is as boring as hell, but will not find it strange or feel like I must be "pulling their leg."
It seems strange, in a way, that the work takes as its fathers Acconci and Kuchar. Surely it must be one of my most self-consciously video art videos. Ideally, I'd like to claim a much wider set of influences, from a much wider set of mediums and claim for video the ability to combine stuff from almost anywhere.Video art and experimental film once had completely separate histories, but now that film is dead (and mourned) and video is dead (its death has not been noticed) and we've gone digital, these separate histories seem quaint and totally irrelevant. New histories are being written, and a new canon is forming. Wavelength will be placed beside The Red Tapes and no one will think it strange. Last year the Whitechapel Gallery in London showed my Sad Disco Fantasia with Stan Brakhage's Dog Star Man. In a previous time such a pairing would have appeared merely idiosyncratic and silly.
When I was much younger and a prose poet, I wondered why my work was so much like the work of Michael Ondaatje, Christopher Dewdney, Margaret Atwood, Marie Claire Blais, etc. in terms of sensibility and style. I did not believe in national identity (at least not as a defining creative force) and would have preferred to be able to choose who my influences were. Why not write like Beckett, Joyce, Berryman, Genet, Faulkner, Emily Dickinson or Cormac McCarthy? There is very little one gets to choose in life and one may choose from whom one steals but one may not choose by whom one will be influenced. (Gertrude Stein.)
I don't feel the anxiety of influence, and although I have managed to kill my father I haven't fucked my mother, and don't imagine I ever will. Oedipus and the conflict is too familiar to function any more an interpretive possibility. Perhaps influences are merely inheritances: my hairy chest may come from my biological father (though literally from the combined genetic material of both parents, the psychological connection is to dad), but the significance of the image of the hairy chest in the video comes from Acconci.
I'm writing a book on early Canadian (okay, Toronto mostly) video, which seems to me constitute an amazing body of work, more distinctive and rigorous than has been acknowledged: Rodney Werden, Lisa Steele, Colin Campbell, Tom Sherman, etc. I do not think I mean to destroy them Oedipally, even subconsciously. If my sense of history and influence were teleological — which it isn't — I would be writing a history which leads only to me.
Sad Disco Fantasia begins with the death of your mother, like the famous novel of Camus which begins: "Mother died today." But unlike this affectless cri de couer of existentialism, your work features animal musings, brightly relooped pop music from the seventies and drenching animations, haunted always by death. Is Charlie Brown correct when he says, "Good grief." Is this another of the oxymorons the work explores?
Yes, I believe in the death drive, and will say no more on the subject. (Except that we're all going to die. And not everyone loves us.)
Anal Masturbation & Object Loss features a single shot (with edits) which shows a close-up of your hands gluing together pages of a book. In its performative, one-take non-stop chatter approach it recalls early vid art, as well as your vocation as a teacher. Can you comment? And why do you have to keep gluing pages from the female masturbation chapter together, repressing once more a feminine erotics?
Before I said that Afternoon (March 21, 1999) must be my most self-consciously video art video. I guess that makes Anal Masturbation & Object Loss my most self-consciously academic video art video. One can't even claim the work is a parody or critical examination of academic video art as those things are already built into the category.
Let's say the video has three components: the voice-over monologue, the action of gluing the book together, and the view of the book itself and the words on the page. While the narrator claims to be gluing all the chapters except the eponymous one together, we do mostly see him gluing together a chapter on female masturbation. Although the shot is too tight to read any entire page, we get a good view of chunks of the text. That particular chapter had the raciest case studies, and used a lot of coarse and provocative language. I wanted viewers to be compelled to read the book's text as well as listen to the voice-over. Of course, they can't read very much of the text: little chunks and then they're glued. The action is itself provocative: the glue is applied with a penis-like glue stick, the pages pressed together with a repetitive, gentle rubbing motion, then the book's slammed shut, pressed down and re-opened. One identifies immediately the irony of the narrator's voice over. For instance, you would never ask what I have against books and libraries — it is clear I'm having my narrator make outrageous claims in order to put forward other arguments and ideas, as in a modest proposal. The action of gluing the book is also split between a narrator and an implied author. It is not really me gluing the book. The action is just as ironic as the voice-over. There is no destruction of female sexuality in the video. On the contrary, female sexuality is fore-grounded. If the gluing together of the pages of a book can be seen to symbolically represent the repression of sexual thoughts and desires (and why not) it must be remembered that at the very least the gesture has a double movement: it first reveals that which it obliterates (as the narrator says, nothing is missing, all the words are still on the page, you just can't access them). Moreover, the gesture isn't only doubled, but also ironic. The narrator's actions cannot be straightforwardly attributed to the implied author.
In The Chocolate Factory you present a series of drawings which show the victims of Jeffrey Dahmer, along with snippets of Black Sabbath's "Fairies Wear Boots" and a slowed voice-over. The cruelly repetitive, serial nature of the work is so dull that I have to ask: don't you want to be loved? Don't you long for that moment, after the screening, when strangers will rush to embrace you? How could you make a work so difficult as this?
Do I want to be loved? Well, I am loved, well and sufficiently. I don't need any more. There is too much love in the world. I don't long for the moment after screenings when strangers rush to embrace me. I prefer screenings to occur in my absence. I do often enjoy a good q&a, but questions from an audience member gushing with love are as useless as questions from someone in an antagonistic rage.
Of course, The Chocolate Factory is not meant to bore people, although that is undoubtedly often its effect. It's meant to be as full of stuff and as exciting as anything else I've made. I don't think it's a difficult work so much as an unpleasant one. There is perhaps not much to give an audience immediate pleasure. But it is rich and pleasurable beneath its boring structuralist crust! And in the same comic/ironic mode as my other work. As a viewing experience, it is both empty and full. The range of images and sounds is small, and their use monotonous. Yet the voice-over can be quite dense, and changes rhetorical mode frequently. At some points there is too much to take in. I imagine the video, although slow and monotonous, is sometimes dense and overwhelming. I imagine that one cannot follow the whole thing, that oneŐs mind will drift in and out of paying attention to the voice-over. Although the work hasn't shown much, some people have said that the video works in the way I've imagined. Those who like it really like it. It may not yield its pleasures and complexities as directly as other stuff, but they are there and can be accessed. Although it is a text-heavy piece, I think it will work very differently in print form. The experience of watching some of my videos may send people to this book. I think with The Chocolate Factory, this book will send people to the video.
It is partly a sign of the times that unpleasant work (the code word is "difficult") seems useless and unbearable. Back in the 80s difficult work got at least a kind of grudging respect. Now it is met with anger: How dare you bore us! We must be amused.
J.-P. is a first person confessional which, unlike most diaries, exists in multiple versions. Can you talk about how you came to this footage, and why you treated it the way you did.
The full title is J.-P. (A remix of "Tuesday and I" by Jean-Paul Kelly). J.-P. was a student of mine. I liked his drawings and got him to illustrate the video The Blind Necrophile, which was based on an early psychoanalytic case history. The video turned out fine, but was unremarkable, so I didnŐt bother putting it in distribution. (I make too many videos and so have tried to only release the best, or most interesting.) He also illustrated The Chocolate Factory. J.-P. made Tuesday and I late one night in a despairing mood, depressed after a weekend of partying and ecstasy, a single 18 minute confession to the camera. His despair is compelling, but 18 minutes is too long. It isn't the 70s any more. So J.-P. has offered up his confession to any one who will re-mix it and make it shorter. I like J.-P. very much, but find the endless self-pitying of the confession tedious and annoying so I must confess my first impulse was to mock him, to deflate his gesture of overly dramatic self-aggrandizement. The material asks for either straightforward sympathetic engagement or for a rejection of empathy. J.-P. knows this, and offers up his confession, his performance, to be re-mixed in any manner. So initially I had dramatic music well up at certain points and cover up his words. This worked fairly well, but seemed reductively cruel. It editorialized too clearly about my take on the work. It reduced the complexity of the original rather than enhancing it, and so was an unsatisfactory solution. Instead I decided to keep his performance intact, but to speed up certain sections, initially only those sections in which he is not talking. As the video progresses, I also fast forward through some of his words, and the fast forwarding gets faster and faster. I was interested in using speed to squeeze sounds out of his body. There are the words he says, and there are the sped-up gestures and the squeaky sounds which I think of as being squeezed out of his body by the act of fast-forwarding, a parallel monologue.
You told me that every memory is accompanied by an equal amount of shame, eating breakfast, a humiliating sexual encounter, they're all part of the same sorry past. Why is that?
I am being misquoted/misremembered horribly, although you are almost right. It is not memories and shame (I remember nothing and feel shame very rarely) but things and embarrassment. Everything embarrasses me. There is something appalling about existence itself, or if not existence, consciousness. I don't worry about it too much. It is a trait I share with many previously shy people. It is like having a shyness or embarrassment switch: either it is all on or all off. Nothing is quite like a humiliating sexual encounter, but I can more honestly say the recollection of eating lunch today is just as embarrassing (and somehow as private) as my last sexual encounter (which may be considered sleazy, but was not humiliating).
My use of the confessional mode in the work may be connected to this — how could it not be — but I don't think my ex-shyness is the determining factor. Sure, I tease the audience with confession / autobiography which always becomes displaced into something else. My refusal of autobiography comes from somewhere else. Or, wherever it might have come from, it still seems a rich area of investigation. One is in the world as a body and a voice. Let's say there is no thought, no consciousness: just a body and a voice. Autobiography joins voice and body together through narrative. Confession interpellates us a social subjects. These basic ways of understanding ourselves in the world seem inescapable, but limiting. I want to move through them to something else.
In several of your works you announce that you are leaving, dying, or at least stopping production. This is it, you declare, and Final Thoughts shares these sentiments. Is it only possible to make these pictures when the end is near?
Well, the end is always near. The end is near and whatever we might make or do is shoddy and small and inadequate, though not necessarily worthless or irrelevant. So one keeps on working, especially as there seems nothing more pressing. So another project, grand and self-aggrandizing: Final Thoughts. Final Thoughts is a life-project: I will keep working on it until I die. It will not be complete until the moment of my death. It is an on-going collection of digital modules: image, text, sound that can be output in the form of video. Videos will be made from the modules of the Final Thoughts archive. The first of these is Anthology of American Folk Song.
At first I was just going to add modules to the series and release them every now and then in chronological order. I tried this with the video Final Thoughts, Part One, but wasn't happy with it as a discrete work: it didn't hold together. Of course, it wasn't meant to. It was just the collection of stuff I had assembled so far for the Final Thoughts archive in chronological order. Anthology of American Folk Song is assembled from parts of Final Thoughts. Of course, many of the components of Anthology were created expressly for that video and did not previously exist in the Final Thoughts archive. No matter; they are part of it now.
Final Thoughts doesn't refer only to death, but to the end or limit of things in general.