publ. in Jack Goldstein. Le Magasin, 2001
Interview with Fareed Armaly
Lionel Bovier: Jack Goldstein is, in many ways, an absent figure of the main accounts of recent art history. How did you arrive upon the idea of the exhibition Artist Once-Removed - on the Performance, Films Records and Paintings of Artist Jack Goldstein, held at the Künstlerhaus of Stuttgart, and what have you been through to organize it?
Fareed Armaly: I had been interested in Goldstein's work for some time, and thought it should be set within a contemporary perspective ã one that shed lights on his methodology and terms, not a nostalgia for the 80s, but a way to reflect on how this work was mapping out important shifts in ethos occuring between the 70s and 80s. I often suggested it to curators, but I suppose they may have found a number of factors negative -the fact, for example, that Jack Goldstein has completely dissappeared since ten years, as did his work outside of the '80s paintings (of which the early ones are still impossible to get a hold of). That meant it was difficult or impossible to find film-loops, nor a complete collection of the records, or visual documentation of performance, etc. When I became artistic director for Künstlerhaus and had the chance to consider the project, I felt that for an artist's space program precisely those 'negative factors' should become the project's structuring orientation. Organizing was a lot of research with an emphasis on 'search'.
Goldstein's methodology reflects quite precisely the development of dominance over cultural institutions by the private sphere/commercial market that comes into play in the 1980s America. This shift to private sector was evident in the model of the private gallery, the engine for a new 'art market/world' that did certainly dominate and leave an imprint on cultural institutions programs and critical frameworks, i.e. via magazines. The new more 'intelligent' art system was to support a new critical practice, and of course in relation to media. But as one well-known NYC gallerist and supporter of Goldstein summed up the lack of available material from that time period: "An art collector buying a film or a record?!"
LB: How would you define Jack Goldstein's methodology, the relations of his work to media and the social changes of the period ?
FA: On the apparent visual level, Goldstein's body of work appears precisely divided into different genres ã performance, film, audio / records, paintings. But these have to be seen as the result of one methodology responding to some important radical shifts from the 1970s to 1980s, evidenced in culture. It is these moments of transformation or change that the project orients to - not artworks, but instead following the logic of the artist's methodology. After assembling all the print reviews, I was reminded of how evident was the discussion towards Goldstein's approach as being along the notions of specific 'production lines' that were reconstituted in the forms of artworks.
Goldstein's work doesn't set up a simple fascination with the culture of Hollywood, but targeted it as a new global industry of a radical different nature, and then identified with the audience being addressed by this, as new subject ahead. The role of the works was in part to demarcate a routing through different philosophical instabilities now so associated with that 'postmodern' period, for example, a fixed notion of self or individual with all the attendant beliefs, is suddenly reevaluated in the (then) new ideology embodied by the term 'Spectacle'. Ideologically, it reflected the conditions of the new Reagan/Thatcher era, by joining one set of radical changes in popular culture defined by sampling, punk movement with that of new Hollywood Globalism, as well as the new galleries or private sector art world setting up a new kind of challenge to the very old guard authority of institutions (museums).
I took as one orientation what the critic Craig Owens had noted in the early 80s concerning Goldstein, as a marked transposition from 'author as producer' to 'artist as entrepreneur', specifically the Hollywood model of entrepreneurship. The glimpse to the producer's identity was by way of the character of the distributed result, which reveals their understanding of many various facets of production underway.
Another orientation was Goldstein's position as situated 'in-between', between 'minimalism' and 'Pop' as he put it for example, but also related to him as a Canadian then living in California. Although a project should really be devoted to this topic, I felt it was crucial to underline a significant Canadian postwar artistic heritage of formulating disciplines in relation to media and society. Obviously as it shares a border with the US, Canada is 'once-removed' from the period of postwarAmerican developing global 'capital' - the private, commercial TV consciousness as the new 'melting-pot'- Postwar Canada was offering different societal models, certainly still fresh in the mind of those who were escaping Vietnam in the 60s, but also for issues of identity, multi-culture, or so on. It was a state-centered model offering society a public TV or National Film Board to a large part focused on issues of diverse identity pertaining to nation.
Thus in the 70's for example, that heritage can link to earlier leading media guru Marshall McLuhan, but also many if of the cutting-edge social satirists who became popular on American TV, later Hollywood and all Canadian but assumed to be American. I discussed this point with Canadian artists from Goldstein's generation and after, who agreed. So Goldstein really reflects a complex character that this shift I speak of embodies, but is perhaps even more rich in texture in today's framework.
LB: In the exhibition you have emphasized certain aspects of Goldstein's production, such as the films or the imaging processes, instead of the most well-known side, i. e. the paintings. Can you describe the main articulations of the exhibition? What does it mean regarding Goldstein's reception?
FA: "Artist Once-Removed" began by acknowledging the unresolved dissappearance of the artist Jack Goldstein's since ten years, and then orients by way of the possible narratives produced by this lack. The exhibition is engineered in reverse to some extent: it begins with this one ending, as a 'lack' to formulate the hypothesis of the artwork production, and at the same moment the institutional situation informing the production of the exhibition. This was no exercise, but was intended to reflect Goldstein through his working terms: an investment in removing the romantic individual figure of the artist from the work, and develop contemporary issues via a presence reconstituted by specific sets of production relations.
Doing so also oriented the project towards "haus.0" (the program I initiated in the Künstlerhaus) general goals regarding an artist's space identity. The Künstlerhaus was formed in fact on the shift from the 70s to 80s ethos, and "haus.0" links a sense of future to that of the institution's origins, where the traditional artist's atelier was not selected as an option, but rather offering artists new video, audio and film media technical studios, and an international program as discourse. "haus.0" thus linked the first ever presentation of Goldstein in this decade, in an artist's space, an important statement as well to the radical difference between our role in the artistic practice and enquiry, and that of for examples, corporate spaces wanting to help reclaim older, left artists.
There were two floors for this project. One focused the experience of the practice into one environment of works. It developed his 'production lines' which can be considered either as separate works or related, and was comprised of the three media formats outside of painting: the last film installation (The Jump), the last recording work, a 6 record suite (The Planets), and the early performances, set up through the artist's written descriptions (short paragraphs which were recorded at Künstlerhaus as a reading made available to hear on a CD).
Goldstein's works indexed the subject as revealed through various technological light, so one success of installing the three works is just how the movement between them allows this particular emphasis of experiencing media. Following Goldstein's installation description, the 16mm film image was projected onto a wall within a frame made from the paint for road signs, a fire-orange, and then lit by black-light. The sound section had a normal interior lighting, and the CD performance reading was in an area lit by the Künstlerhaus' theater stage lamps. So one floor was divided by different technologies, from media to the kind of electric light, and moving between was very physically felt.
The other floor was set up to allow experience of the work as more information-based. The correspondences set up were to our audio, print, video and computer media plug-in sections.Thus Goldstein's set of colored vinyl 45 rpm records were presented in a vitrine, as they are now rare commodities loaned from a museum. The sounds were able to be listened to on a CD. The print section introduced his two retrospective catalogs, neither from the US, quite minimal in size, but more significantly perhaps, the complete set of art magazine reviews. This latter printed matter allowed to see how his paintings entered into the American art discourse, and like markers, over the decade chart them out as image and concept.
The "haus.0" website was publishing the English and German translations of the main essays in the catalogs, and other supplementary texts (including for example a long excerpt from the script of the famous Emil d'Antonio film documentary Painters Painting, which in turn is a witness to the shift between the era of the Abstract Expressionists to Warhol, interviewing the collectors, gallerists and artists).
For the video section, Monodramas, the early TV work of Canadian Stan Douglas were introduced as a parallel exhibition. This was also a first presentation in Stuttgart, but more importantly, it reflected an artist from the generation after Goldstein, which echoes certain inquiry. Medium was not just reflected, but also, the issue of the parameters of artist's practice, for another of Douglas's early works was presented, his reintroduction of the Samuel Beckett TV Teleplays (some of which were produced by Stuttgart TV), which can be seen influencing the monodramas. So the logic was not to compare but to note, for example, continuity and change ã the media and public has moved from Goldstein's Hollywood to Douglas's TV, or in other words, from late 70s to early 90s.
LB: Through reassessing such production lines into Goldstein's work, was the exhibition also a way to reformulate your own understanding of the early 80's, to remap the decade?
FA: In the films and performances of Jack Goldstein, there are evident influences of early 70s Minimalism and then transformations of the artist's figure or the authorship issue during the 80s. It develops towards the construction of the subject in the imagery of the power and commercial interests of Hollywood, in a period when Hollywood was justbeginning to assert its domination of imagery and of course a later global economy.
Goldstein's 70s through early 80s sound works took a similar way, specifically using music from film sound-archives. These were not created as installations or objects, but distribution in the commodity format of singles and full-length records. And even the paintings, as a line of production specifically responding to the new market demand for images (and again, much discussed then in print) were semiotic-traps that brought to the foreground what was at stake in Goldstein's image work. This includes what subject was constituted in the history of vast expanses of color fields and abstract expressionist works. An early work such as untitled, 1979, was fields of colors but, upon closer inspection to the triptych, a small astronaut is floating in one frame, and in the next is its spacecraft. As with the film and sound works, Goldstein first invested making the structure perceivable to the public, moving from minimalist references to ideological perception. He found a possibility to frame the scale of global media production by grasping the economic factor of new image and ideological constructs, all pointing to the new spatial narratives ahead as a sense of vexed space.
His last set of records, The Planets from 1983, takes the sound or atmosphere sound from various science-fiction films, mixed, arranged, and set up in a six record suite - resoundingly clear in the 80s American art gallery spaces, with Ronald Reagan's presidency, and 50s nostalgia programs still fresh in our mind. With these works, the contrast to the immersive "spectacle" of the 80s was more evident in the language he employed, no longer structuralist nor minimalist, but a cross between categories, and straight out of the punk era, of samples, mixing, 7"for DJs, where abrupt selections, categories floating outside of any final narrative, are never resolved to any narrative nor any certainty, humor or pathos, but to the instance of the fragment itself, and the meaning made cohesive ultimately by the new frame of the commodity, and the ideological trace contained even in the factor of painting scale. It is interesting today, that of those people who come to haus.0 from fields of music production, whether dance or other, find a sense of kinship to these early audio and film loops.
The research concerning the work of Jack Goldstein tends to become an archaeology of an era constituted by fault lines and uneven developments. If one considers how artistic practices reflect sociopolitical transformations, then, in his era, the last notion of pure positions shifts into the unknown. Take for instance the shift from the mid-60s and the reductive notion of Minimalism to the mid-70s: there's a shift from making structures all perceivable for the public to actually applying that to the definition of a practice, as in post-studio practices, i.e making perceivable the artist's role by leaving the conventions associated with the closed atelier¼s implied alchemical hidden secrets and mystery. Such clear lines of operation are placed in doubt with the discourse and movements leading into the 80s. Certainly, there is a rethinking concerning making something 'perceivable' or 'transparent' when it is set in the new dominant image economy associated with the 80s American art market scene. And concerning Goldstein as well, who specifically stopped in 91, when one associates these issues with the new era ideology of the Spectacle, and its development expressed or oriented by a social imaginary, the routes are soon becoming better handled by works in theory, language, feminist or post-colonial discourses, and new combinatory searches still to come.