Knowledge Held in Suspense: A Conversation with Kerry Tribe

There Will Be _______
Kerry Tribe, There Will Be _______, 2012, Installation view, Courtesy the Power Plant / photo Toni Hafkenscheid

Toronto-based writer Rosemary Heather spoke to Los Angeles-based artist Kerry Tribe during her solo exhibition Speak, Memory at The Power Plant (24 March – 3 June 2012).

This excerpt is part of a longer conversation, most of which took place in a taxi on the way to the Toronto airport. Heather notes, “Setting out to do this interview, I devised a theory of how to understand Tribe’s work. As often happens, however, our conversation overtook any hope I had of getting Tribe to commit to a particular hypothesis about her art practice – it defies easy encapsulation. This made talking to Tribe about her work much like the experience of engaging with it: the process is an end in itself.”

ROSEMARY HEATHER: One way that I thought of talking about your work is through the lens of Here & Elsewhere (2002). You remade a piece by Jean-Luc Godard, in which he interviews children by asking them metaphysical questions. Can I locate that as a framework for your work as a whole?

KERRY TRIBE: The idea of remaking something?

RH: Yes.

KT: I don’t know if I would think of it as remaking so much as returning. At UCLA when I was a graduate student I organized a series of screenings — a 24-hour unofficial film festival — because I discovered a little pocket of money in the graduate program that allowed me to rent some titles.

I had never seen Godard’s television series France/Tour/Détour/Deux/Enfants (1977) and a friend recommended it, so I screened it. I just screened the first two episodes. I was really struck by what happened when this big father of avant-garde film and video (who was a Maoist and tough and rigorous and making images that were often difficult to look at) set out to interrogate this little girl and little boy about heavy political and philosophical issues. The little girl’s responses, which were down-to-earth and sometimes confused, were totally compelling to me. What was it about the presence of this little girl? There’s one point in the video where her face appears — her name is Camille Virolleaud — and over it is the word “Verité” in big letters. And I thought: There’s something accurate about that. We all want to identify with this simple, you might say, Cartesian subject position that says: Yes I know. I’m here. I only exist once. I walk through my life. I understand things or I don’t, even if we know better. I mean, even if feminism, psychoanalysis and critiques of capitalism tell us that this simple belief in one’s own self-identity, agency and autonomy is inadequate, it’s nevertheless compelling. I wasn’t so much interested in specifically remaking that Godard video, or in pointing directly back to it but rather in trying to see what would happen if some of those questions were asked again. At one point, Godard asked Camille about her room. It’s very bright and it’s clean, and who cleans her room? (I’m paraphrasing.) And she says something like either her mother or the housekeeper does it. And he asks, Well who pays your mother to do this? And she thinks probably nobody does. Do you think maybe The State should pay her? And, Is The State a man? Or a woman? And so on. It’s great stuff.

And these are questions that continue to be urgent. And yet in the end, it didn’t seem viable to do that in 2002. When I tried to work the explicitly political questions into the script it just fell flat. It was actually dreadful.

RH: Can you elaborate? What does your piece look like? Read the full interview here.

This interview was commissioned by the Power Plant, Toronto. A longer version will be forthcoming.

More info about Kerry Tribe can be found here.

Jack Pierson: From Here to Eternity

Jack Pierson (Pyramid, pink) 2010 © Jack Pierson Courtesy Regen Projects Los Angeles
If you saw Jack Pierson’s “Some Other Spring” in Los Angeles, you might believe the show to be about that place. On the level of the facts, you’d be wrong. Images in the exhibition were taken in a variety of locations: Egypt, Las Vegas, southern Spain, Yves Saint Laurent’s Paris apartment…the specifics hardly matter. Pierson’s artworks are of a piece in terms of the sensibility that created them. Like the highway billboard advertisements that form one aspect of their provenance, he presents his luscious pigment prints as blown-up posters, unframed and complete with folds typical of far less valuable pieces of paper. Helping to nail down a more exact location for the work are the artist’s trademark text pieces, which consist of words assembled out of letters from commercial signs. Eternity is the relevant time frame here, or, in Pierson’s words, A THOUSAND YEARS, as spelled out in letters on the wall.

Bruce LaBruce in Conversation with Rosemary Heather

Canadian art provocateur Bruce La Bruce
Bruce sees porn as the last radical art form

Well, Googie in Super 8½says “I don’t give a damn about continuity.” And it is kind of a luxury, continuity. Because you have to have a person who is specifically hired to do that job and you really need someone who knows what they’re doing. The person who was doing it on Otto had no clue what she was doing and she’d never done it before and she would come to me and explain all the continuity errors of a scene that I just shot after the fact. And I’d be like, “Oh well, thanks for telling me now”. After everything had been shot…