This section comprises taped interviews with artists, architects, musicians, critics and other creative practitioners, recorded in conversation with Video Data Bank staff, colleagues from the School of the Art Institute faculty, and others knowledgeable about the particular interviewees work.
The first interview dates from 1976, the year of VDB’s official inauguration, and VDB continues to add to the collection to this day, recording and producing approximately ten new interviews a year. Many of the interviewees are guests of S AIC departments, such as the Visiting Artists program or Conversations at the Edge screening series, or invitees of the Society for Contemporary Art. The VDB interviews supplement these visits, allowing for an in-depth conversation that underlines the development of an artists’ practice.
Sara Magenheimer earned her MFA at Bard in 2013 and has since shown her work internationally in Canada, Iceland, the Czech Republic, and Denmark. Her cross-disciplinary practice plays with the juxtaposition between the form and content of language, exposing the absurdity of expected meanings.
Born in 1987, Ibrahim Mahama is an artist and author who creates monumental installations out of materials originating from Ghana, Mahama's home. Described in The Guardian as "a junkyard utopian", he investigates the conditions of supply and demand in African markets, often making work with materials like cocoa and jute sacks.
John Malpede is a performance artist and Director of the Los Angeles Poverty Department (LAPD), a performance art and theater group whose members include the city’s homeless. Through LAPD, Malpede provides an opportunity for homeless people to articulate the reality of their lives for themselves and audiences. Malpede was well known for his collaboration with performer Gill Gordh as Dead Dog and Lonely Horse. In one performance he took on the role of a street person, contrasting the wealth and excess of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles with the city’s struggle against homelessness.
In this 1996 interview, African-American sculptor, printmaker and designer Valerie Maynard (b.1937) describes growing up in Harlem in the mid-20th Century and her awareness of the importance of community during her upbringing. Recalling the prominence of the Baptist church in her early life, Maynard discusses how religion brought her into contact with local politicians who impressed upon her the importance of affecting change. The artist notes how an early affiliation with Congressman Adam Clayton Powell and her brother’s incarceration propelled her interest in social justice and the workings of the judicial system.
Laura Mulvey published her seminal essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" in 1975; it has subsequently become one of the most influential work in film theory. Using a psychoanalytic methodology to discuss spectatorship, it was groundbreaking in its feminist critique of the sadistic, misogynistic mode of classical Hollywood cinema in which women were objects of fetishistic display for male viewers’ pleasure. She has also written extensively on melodrama, published three books, and co-directed six films, including Riddles of the Sphinx with Peter Wollen (1974).
In this interview, American writer, artist, performer Eileen Myles (b.1949) discusses the various philosophies that motivate her work, including the language of film, embodied performance, and the alienation evoked by bodily vulgarity. Myles links her wide range of artistic and literary practice with notions of abstraction, improvisation, and the mythology of gender, which she explores in relation to her own identity as a working, middle-class lesbian woman. She reflects on the significance of geographical locations, both New York City and San Diego, on her art, and shares how her past struggles with addiction have shaped her life and practice.
In 1973 Joan Nestle co-founded the Lesbian Herstory Archives, an essential collection of documents, writings, and artifacts of lesbian cultural history. In 1979 she began writing erotic stories and has published two collections of writings: A Restricted Country (1987) and A Fragile Union (1998). She took a controversial stance in opposition to the 1980s feminist anti-pornography movement, thus becoming a fervent pro-sex activist in the “Sex Wars.” Interview by Nina Levitt.
In this 2004 interview, Kori Newkirk (b.1970) describes his lifelong apprehension of being rooted in any one place for too long. Asserting that the School of the Art Institute of Chicago was the fifth school he attended in four years, Newkirk begins by describing the fortuitousness of his relocation to Chicago following his expulsion from Cooper Union. Recounting how he fled from the fiber department in favor of painting, Newkirk details how it was a studio visit from Deborah Kass and an exchange program to England that crystallized his burgeoning ideas about “painting without making paintings.”
In this interview, Kori Newkirk (b.1970) describes his interest in the space that exists between categories. Hailing from the Bronx, earning a BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC), and finally settling on Los Angeles as his base of operations, Newkirk has always been motivated by a desire to eschew provincialism. In this conversation, he discusses the idea of regional identity, his complex relationship with the Los Angeles art community, and how his experience as a student at SAIC helped him move beyond the boundaries of a simple material definition of painting.
Growing up in the early computer age, around machines like the Commodore 64, had a formative effect on Marisa Olson and her subsequent artistic career. Now operating across a diverse spectrum of media including video, performance, and even the internet itself, she creates work that simultaneously comments upon and instrumentalizes the potential of digital machines as well as the global networks they’re linked to. However, her work is not circumscribed within the boundaries of these systems’ technical specificity.
French performance artist Orlan uses her own body as a sculptural medium. Since 1990, she has worked on La Reincarnation de Sainte-Orlan, a process of plastic surgeries that she “performs,” making elaborate spectacles with surgeons dressed in sci-fi costumes and broadcasting the operations live via satellite to galleries worldwide. By exploring a total transformation of self, Orlan delves into issues of identity and the malleability of the flesh. She lives and works in Paris, exhibiting and performing internationally.
Interview by Shay Degrandis, via translator.
Ulrike Ottinger is a prolific German filmmaker whose work includes Madame X (1977), Ticket of No Return (1979), Freak Orlando (1981), Johanna D'Arc of Mongolia (1989), Countdown (1989), and Exile Shanghai (1997). Starting her visual arts career in Munich and Paris in painting, photography, and performance, Ottinger’s commitment to film took off with her move to Berlin.
Media artist Cyrille Phipps has been involved with numerous alternative media and lesbian activist projects, including Dyke TV and the Gay and Lesbian Emergency Media Campaign. Her video projects include Respect Is Due (1991), Black Women, Sexual Politics and the Revolution (with Not Channel Zero, 1992), Our House: Gays and Lesbians in the Hood (with Not Channel Zero, 1992), Sacred Lives, Civil Truths (with Catherine Saalfield, 1993), Dreaming Ourselves...
Ingrid Pollard is a photographer living in London. Her photographic works, generally of people and landscape, serve to provide a human context for issues of transmigration and “fleeting” identity. Combining personal photographs with traditional views of the English countryside, Pollard questions as well as reconstructs the concept of “Britishness.” In doing so, Pollard also scrutinizes the location of the “other,” and contrasts actual physical similarity or material likeness of people and places with perceived or socially constructed difference.