22 Mar 2013, 5:48pm
Diet Soap Update


Questions for Michael Reinsch

urlQuestion #1: Michael, a review of your installation “I have nothing to say” starts with a quote from John Cage:
““I have nothing to say / and I am saying it / and that is poetry / as I needed it” — John Cage
John Cage wanted to eliminate thought, to eliminate concepts and memory, in order to understand something like true being. He was a western buddhist. Your work, in contrast to Cage’s, seems to me to be conceptual by design. Is this right? If so, how would you characterize your ideas. Are they like other people’s ideas? Do you have a favorite philosopher? A favorite thinker? Do you have an idea that you think will change your life? Do you want to change the way we all live? (I do.)

Q#2: When I went to the Place Art Gallery I felt a little out of place. I had just been to the other gallery up there, I’d had a free glass of wine while wondering if I was really supposed to be there. I was taking my 16 year old son to a Symphony concert (I work for the Symphony), we were headed to a concert with an Orchestra. The orchestra was going to play the music from the Zelda video game. But we had time to kill and we went to the mall to get mall food and then we went to the third floor and looked at the art. Anyhow, your art was a desk with a cash register and a signs that read “Art On Demand.” And somehow I thought your desk was a permanent part of the gallery. I didn’t recognize you as an artist or your installation as an installation. I talked to you like you owned or ran the gallery. I was that guy who totally wasn’t in on the joke. You gave me a doodle and five dollars and I wondered if I could make more money going to your gallery and taking your crap doodles than I did at my Symphony job. After all $5 a minute is $300 an hour. That’s a whole lot better than what I’m making now.
The aim of art has been to blur the boundary between art and life, and you did that to me. [Insert your own question here.]


Q#3: The other day I went to the Portland Art Museum with my daughter. We visited the Mark Building and walked to the top, to the sixth floor, and I did my best to educate her about what we were looking at. I pointed out that something, one thing, was happening in the museum. That in 1870 or so the realists and impressionists broke with academic painting, with historical paintings of men in togas and grape eating and Socrates, and develop new ways of thinking and looking at the world. At the turn of the century we had impressionism, then surrealism, and cubism. There were all these interesting objects that these people made. You’ve got Renoir’s bulbous women and Picasso’s disjointed women. And the idea was to see the world differently in order to change the world. The impressionists were anarchists, the surrealists were Marxists, and then the cubists…well they sided more with formal innovation. And then you get the abstract expressionists, I’m skipping ahead, and things seem to go off the rails. Instead of trying to shape the world, to know it for ourselves, we’re trying to know the world as it is in itself. And they try for purity. There is minimalism and colorfield paintings and zip paintings.
What we are aiming at now is the thing outside us, to either find our spirituality or nature, or something else.
And then there are conceptual artists. There is a piece that consists of five words in orange neon that read five words in orange neon. And there is pop art installations that look like stage sets, and there is a turn away from abstract expressionism and a then a turn away from concepts too. There are Neu Wilde paintings from Germany that look like Motherwells, like abstract expressionism but actually secretly contain symbols and faces. They’re ugly and impure paintings that just say to the viewer: “Fuck you and your quest for real painting.” There is a painting which is just a crayon scribble that is just reacting to people like my daughter. My daughter who keeps saying, “My little brother could have painted this. I mean, come on!”
And then we get to the top floor and there is no technique anymore, no formal innovation, but rather just a mixture of pop gestures and spray paint and photography. There is a sculpture made from mannequins and pink styrofoam and I get the sense that art has given up. That artists have given up. They’ve set off to find what’s real and just found television and coca-cola and fashion magazines and the art institutions themselves. And Wall Street and Jeff Koons.
So in one of your pieces, Michael, you dressed up in a hot dog costume and read ironic poetry for a half an hour. Have you given up? Are you exhausted?

Q#4: Can you make serious money as a performance artist these days? I mean, it looks easy, is it lucrative?

Q#5: Are things getting better or are they getting worse?


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