“Ephemeral Evidence” Conversation – Chloe Bass and Andy Horwitz
Rather than subject ourselves to an outside interviewer, Andy and I decided to interview each other, as collaborators. We felt that this was in keeping with the idea of our piece, COME OVER TO OUR PLACE: that conversation is key. We wanted to create a profile in the form of a conversation. This conversation took place via google chat, the best way to create an archived transcript that I know of. – Chloe Bass
Andy: So, Saturday at Exit Art will be our first collaboration. It seems fitting that it should be about food, community and conversation. Tell me a little bit about your practice and how this project intersects with it….
Chloë: I was actually really captivated by something that you said to me earlier this afternoon: that bringing people together to talk is your artistic practice. That’s the work you make. In some ways, I think this has been true of me as well, and food is one of the ways that’s easiest to bring people together. We all eat. We all know what to do in the context of sharing a meal. So it’s a nice place to start: people feel comfortable, not like they’re “doing art.”
Andy: I agree. For me what’s really exciting about this moment is that there seems to be this endless possibility to contextualize every day life as Art and creative practice. It seems like before the idea of “praxis of everyday life” was very academic and self-conscious, but now it is about sacralizing the everyday.
Chloë: Or making it strange.
Andy: or calling attention to it
Chloë: I like to bring people together for something they think they understand, and then turning the tables.
(probably not literally)
Andy: yeah. i love what happens when disparate people come into proximity and engage and I love creating space for open communication and interaction, trying to subvert the frameworks of power and hierarchy food is a great equalizer. so are nametags, too, kind of.
Andy: you know, that feeling of like “we don’t know each other” b/c you’re at some generic networking function? it is very pedestrian but it is also equalizing. it alleviates some of the “don’t you know who I am” or the “you’re not one of the 25 people I see at every opening” vibe…
I’m joking, a little bit.
Chloë: I did a piece last year with my collaborator TJ Hospodar called Boardroom Bed & Breakfast. We “performed” (mostly on the web, at boardroombb.com) as a company hosting retreats for corporations. We did stage one complete photoshoot for a conference that never happened, mostly focusing on capturing conference ephemera. A lot of our design time went into the creation of nametags and programs.
Andy: i love the ephemera of business – it is eloquent and sad.
Chloë: Again, it’s about bringing in what’s familiar. Putting nametags on people makes them familiar in two ways: first, you know the person’s name. Second, it’s a situation where it’s normal for people to wear nametags — we know what to do there.
Andy: yes, the familiar. i think if we start from the familiar and tweak it, we can move more readily into the unfamiliar and theoretical and “meta” – we have this common vocabulary of social interaction that allows us to establish connection and then move outwards
Chloë: absolutely. I hate work that starts with the meta. I think the meta is meaningless without the everyday.
Andy: i agree. i think that is the beauty of the web, to be honest. is that because of hyperlinking it is almost inherently “meta” so you can develop a language, a vernacular, that skews towards the pedestrian and familiar, yet explicitly entwined in that are literal pathways to the meta-conversation, the additional information.
Chloë: it’s also very elitist. hyperlinking is like the ultimate footnote.
Andy: that’s why I always try to find a balance in my writing and, generally, in communication, that is personable and approachable, but provides access to the more esoteric if you want it.
Chloë: but we think of it as totally accessible.
Andy: how so?
Chloë: hyperlinking allows a writer to reference something without explaining it — just “link out” — in the way that we generally use footnotes in text. but heavily footnoted text is deeply coded as academic, inaccessible, etc. yet look at something really lowest common denominator, maybe people.com. every page is full of hyperlinks, assuming and building a body of knowledge.
Andy: i think this kind of raises the issue of “fact-knowledge” vs. comprehension/reflection and modes of cognition. There are probably many people who acquire tons of “information” and raw data that doesn’t necessarily resonate or have implications beyond its facticity (is that a word?) Is it elitist to suggest that some ways of knowing or some information is more valuable than others?
Chloë: not really. i think it depends what you do with your knowledge. i was also trying to think of footnoting as almost a form of hospitality. it’s like an invitation: enter into my world! read deeper! and i think that the depth of things can really vary. for example, the links on people.com often lead you in a kind of circular direction. i would say that’s less useful than linking out and out and out again. if you know what i mean.
Andy: i do. i like the idea that a link is an invitation to explore and share. and sometimes a link is a question, like “I found this but want to know more!” – breadcrumbs on the trail of the quest for wisdom
Chloë: “come into my world” is a nice invitation. “come into my labyrinth” is a scary one.
Andy: well that’s a psychology question, i think. some people’s worlds are labyrinthine, some people’s are more Edenic. it is not the invitation so much as it is who is inviting….
Chloë: so when we say “come over to our place,” what are we asking?
Andy: well, it is a physical place as much as anything…
Chloë: I had originally conceived of it as drawing the line between the hospitality of a bar or restaurant and the hospitality of a house. What different kinds of conversations are enabled, what do we expect to do, how do we expect to feel in each of those spaces.
Andy: I think for me, there are a couple of things at work. One is the idea of the Temporary Autonomous Zone, for a few hours we are creating a place this is “ours” but is also shared – it is definitely more of a house than a restaurant. It is a space given over to conversations about art and life and, in keeping with the themes of the show, ephemerality. I hope we can bring people together to consciously engage with each other and model a certain kind of interaction and thoughtfulness.
Chloë: sure. and perhaps another important delineation here is what we can ask of people. in a space that’s “ours,” we can set the ground rules. whereas in a space that’s “public,” in the way that a bar is public, there’s an assumption that we all just try to get along. the rules are a little more abstract and just have to do with basic good behavior, not depth of interaction. to do this within a gallery space is interesting, though. i think galleries usually ask for about the same kind of conduct as bars, in terms of people speaking to each other.
Andy: yes, I think galleries tend to enforce, by their nature, a kind of formality and distance. I’d like to break that a bit.
Chloë: and there’s a kind of safety, a kind of knowing what’s going on. if you’re of a certain cultural demographic, you go into a gallery and you know what to do. just like going to the bank. (this is a pretty elitist position.)
Andy: yeah. but from hanging at Exit Art I actually have been getting a much different, much more welcoming vibe. I feel – and maybe this is partly due to the 30 year retrospective show that is hanging next to our space – that we’re in the company of some great voices and spirits that historically rejected that attitude. I feel like we’re part of a conversation that has become harder to maintain in NYC but all the more important for it – art as place for community, communion and communication, not commerce.
Chloë: definitely important. I don’t want that conversation to become some kind of ghost, in the way that Exit Art as a space will become a ghost not so long from now. i mean there’s a difference between the ephemeral and the ghostly. it’s small but important.
Andy: true… but ghosts are the persistence of the past into the presence in some ways.
i don’t know
I saw the Merce Cunningham Company show at the Armory in December and I had this flash that (and yes I’ve taken hallucinogens) the dance is always there, the movement, the sound, the rhythm…. and that it manifests in space/time for a moment, coalesces and vanishes again. I feel that way about a lot of art, music, etc. Ghosts are just momentary manifestations of things that persist and are waiting to be embodied again at the right moment by the right people.
Chloë: that sounds kind of buddhist. But the buddhists are also big into hospitality of a certain ephemeral yet rooted nature, to my understanding. the body is important. feeding the body. speaking to the body.
Andy: yes well I don’t know a lot about buddhism, but i believe in treating the body well, in this life, now.
Chloë: i’m actually making a cake right now. is that weird?
Andy: mmm. that sounds good. what are we having Saturday?
Chloë: does it change the way you feel about the conversation, knowing that i’m making a cake?
Andy: not at all.
Chloë: we’re not having cake on Saturday.
Andy: darn. well i’m excited. i’m looking forward to it. I was telling you today that I never cook for myself so I kind of feel like this is a rare opportunity for me to participate in a group effort that involves cooking. and beer. Kind of a like Passover but, you know, without the really long story and family drama.
Chloë: you never know! we are inviting a number of people who i’m sure could tell some excellent long stories . . .
Andy: that’s true! I would love to hear a long story. Or a good-tempered but heated disagreement.
Chloë: i think actually all of this does build on the family drama idea in a good way: bringing together people with a sense of a connected and ongoing lineage, and discussing that lineage, even in its problematic elements. performative, but non-theatrical. everyone has roles. i’m looking forward to it!
Andy: me too!