Out of the Past: Lucy Lippard talks about Eva Hesse with Robert Smithson and Nancy Holt
6/5/1973- Artforum, February 2008
This month's Artforum features a fascinating interview that Lucy Lippard held with Nancy Holt and Robert Smithson in 1973. For Robert Smithson and Eva Hesse fans (are there any art lovers over the age of 50 who aren't?) this is a definite must-read. I couldn't resist copying out some sections to post. Of course it led me to remembering my own brief meeting with Smithson at Max's Kansas City in the early 70's. I was introduced to him by a friend, the artist Wayne Timm who I had met in Provincetown in 1962. Reading this interview also led me to thinking about the fact that by the early 1980's I had lost five heroes as a result of untimely deaths: Buddy Holly (I was at a Crickets concert in 1957), Robert Smithson, John Lennon, Ted Berrigan and Phillip K. Dick. All of these heroes were prophets who typified and emcompassed their eras in their work and who also very accurately anticipated the future by means of their astounding innovative creations. In this interview Smithson shows the impressive scope of his insights.
"Robert Smithson: I think all perception is tainted with a kind of psychoanalytic reading. In other words, somebody who's having Oedipal problems, it's going to come out in the perception, or it's going to come out in the making, the kind of work they choose to do. I got into a sort of psychoanalyzing of landscape perception in that [Frederick Law] Olmstead piece."
"Lucy Lippard: Yeah, true, You go back in, in order to come back out- the labyrinth."
"Robert Smithson: But my high school art teacher said to me that the only people that become artists are women and cripples."
"Robert Smithson: Society at large has a kind of flattening effect in terms of its rationality, the kind of rationality that more or less keeps things going. It's very totalitarian, because it flattens everything out. We're sort of witnessing that with the Watergate situation, or that's breaking down. There's a kind of real artlessness about these people; they're really people without art. They control. The artist is in some other realm. The artist is involved with some kind of enchantment. In the other world, that whole enchantment is crushed with some kind of efficiency, and that efficiency is now catching up with itself."
"Nancy Holt: I think the more awareness you have, the more difficult it gets. Part of the motivation for smoking dope or drinking is to dull what can be seen, felt, and perceived, and I'm sure that that extends into other areas of life. I'm sure that we're all blocking off large segments that we can't deal with in any given moment. It might be like dimming in and dimming out."
"Robert Smithson: There's a kind of terrorism involved in the whole situation. How much can you take? I thought it would be very interesting if tornadoes came into New York and ripped it up. But I think the art world is a sort of tribal society with its totems and taboos. No human can withstand too much emotional stress. Taling about Eva [Hesse] that stress is sort of objectified into this totem."