Interview on Interviews



Lytle Shaw: Jimbo, are you awake?  I want to interview you.

Jimbo Blachly: No it’s 4am; how did you get into my apartment?

Shaw: I borrowed your extra set of keys when I was here the other day.  I wanted to be sure to catch you at home.  You see I’m doing some fieldwork on Queens for an upcoming art project and you’re a legitimate resident and can therefore give the piece authenticity, actual dialog, especially if I play this interview instead of showing yet another self-obsessed art object.  (Also, my grant requires that I focus exclusively on the borough.)

Blachly: I don’t identify with Queens—or really know very much about it; it’s just far enough away from Manhattan that I can afford to live here.  Maybe you should find a borough historian, a small shopkeeper, or someone who has a professional stake in giving a shit.

Shaw: However naïve and un-self-reflexive, I like the em-placedness of your observations.  Plus this is a good shot of you looking groggy with the subway map behind your head.  We can edit out whatever I say and just make it seem like you’re caught in a period of spontaneous volubility about your borough.  Please continue.

Blachly: About what?  Queens is huge and completely varied.

Shaw: I’d hate to impose any of my own ideas on these encounters.  I really want what emerges to be a product of actual dialog.

Blachly: Did they teach you that shit at the Whitney ISP?

Shaw: Well, I should confess something, since we’re in an emotionally vulnerable situation: Despite what I’ve told you when I’ve lorded it over you theoretically now and again, I was actually rejected from that program; but I have been trying to follow its more impressive results.

Blachly: You asshole, I thought …

Shaw: I mean interviews insure dialog right?

Blachly: I…

Shaw: Wait, don’t interrupt, I’m not done.  I mean, they take the artist out of his tiresome little cocoon—the studio (which is really just a glorified factory and store all wrapped up in one) where he cobbles his handcrafted goods.  I prefer to put myself in a situation I can’t control, encountering new people and through this, not only finally taking art out of its restricted circuit, but also producing works that, actually right in their very being, are public—I mean literally.  Public in the sense that other voices, including critical ones—even ones critical of me—can speak. This way my analysis of specific places includes the views of people who actually live there, and not, once again, just the fantasies of some carpet-bagging artist.  What do you think?  Can you perform that service for me?  Can you produce a little dialog for me?

Blachly: I like objects, the more moss-covered the better.  I like damp objects.  And ones that are partly decayed.  I like stains and mounds and broken containers.  I purr “Mommy” softly when I pet green felt; I like the primal ooze of Sculpamold.  It takes me back to that great period before the world had been bureaucratically sorted into the elements; I’m inordinately fond of balsa wood and …

Shaw: Keep talking, I’m just going to check my email real quickly while you speak into the camera.  Is that cool?  It’s just been so busy juggling the grant application for this project with my teaching.

Blachly: I get funny feelings in my pants when I look at well-constructed ship models from the 17th century.

Shaw: Can you do the next part in an Indian accent and concentrate a little more on the borough?  Cuz I don’t need all the dialog to accompany head shots. And I want it to seem like I’ve interviewed a little more widely than I’ve had time for—you know.

Blachly: [in a bad Indian accent] When my great-great grandmother, Mukti, left Bombay she booked passage on an over-crowed, filthy cargo ship that had been converted into a passenger liner by the Chadwick Family, who were allowing the passage on credit, in return for seven years of indentured servitude in their new plantations in Jamaica Bay.

Shaw: I’m cutting that part out; the Chadwicks will not appreciate that.

Blachly: It’s not impossible; she could have worked for the family in India and come over that way.

Shaw: Yeah, but the coincidence is just too much.  The Chadwicks would never believe it.

Blachly: You flatter yourself.  Do you really think Chadwick Dalton would look at some low-fi documentary video about people in Queens for more than about four seconds?  He likes the great tradition of art.

Shaw: Maybe so, but could we just not use them all the same?  Maybe do your New Jersey wastoid voice, from your high school friends—but imagine that he’s moved to Queens.

Blachly: I mean all those friends live at the Jersey shore now; they would never move to Queens.

Shaw: You’re an artist, can you imagine a situation?

Blachly: Inheriting the two-story Laundromat?  No, I have no idea.

Shaw: Do you think we could actually find some of these people, do more extensive interviews and just pretend they live in Queens?  This is what I love about collaborative work.

Blachly: No, you’re usually complaining about the collaboration: my lack of organization; my poor personal hygiene; my apartment being so far out in Queens; that I won’t just simply illustrate your austere, lifeless concepts.

Shaw: You just don’t recognize their life—probably because you do live out in Queens and aren’t sophisticated enough.

interviewBarzakh Mag