NEIL’S INTERVIEW OF PAUL
THE BEARD INTERVIEWS #2
NEIL: What role does collaboration or control play in the way you make your work?
PAUL: Control is a funny thing, I want to have it, but I’m also open to giving it up. In collaboration you have to give up some control, when necessary, to fit the means of the idea of the concept. In a collaboration you have to make a sacrifice, you give up control and you have to give into something you may not agree with. I’ve never been completely comfortable with control in my work, I have issues with manipulation. I don’t like liars, I like pranksters.
NEIL: By interacting with people through your art, does your art become more real? Would you call your work realist?
PAUL: Yes and no, I’m full of contradictions. Cause I usually fit in the middle ground?
NEIL: What about your work isn’t real?
PAUL: The conversations I have with people are real; the work I’ve made from my conversations is not real. Yet I consider the whole project a work of art, I’m not sure I define it as real or not real. You have to keep in mind, the problem I have with “social practice” is that I interact with the community on my own terms. I still have an element of control in my artwork, because I can chose when I want to. Not control over the conversations, but how much I time I put in to it is my decision. I’ve tried to remain completely transparent In the Seeking good conversation project. But I keep slipping in my narrative of loneliness.
NEIL: Your recent work has focused on alienation and loneliness. What is your relation to the people you’ve worked with in its difficult to meet guys and I have one real friend?
PAUL: I took the line for I have one real friend out of context; I used it to create a narrative I wanted to tell. With Its difficult to meet guys a friendship was formed through the project.
NEIL: Who is that? Tell me about her.
PAUL: Tara is 29, she does graphic design work, she lives alone, and she has cats. With the I have on real friend piece, I only interacted with that person a couple of times through text messages. She was less willing, she was less aware of it, or what I might do with it. Tara became the voice from another piece; I‘ve lived in the same small town.
NEIL? You’ve expressed concern that you worry about your work being too friendly?
PAUL: I think social practice art doesn’t address the darker abstract, underpinnings of the society we live in. Sexual desire, immorality. I don’t like the idea that a lot of social practice art has a moral underpinning. It doesn’t need to help people. Did I help the person in I have one real friend? Probably not. I guess that’s where I start to doubt the ideas of social practice, there seems to be this “lets come together and save the world” mindset. Sure I have utopian ideals, but they’re more individual, one on one. I like ideas about community, and coming together to do things for a purpose, at the same time I doubt groups and being in the inner circle, I don’t want to join the circle, or group, because I doubt the control and the individual voice that gets lost in the group.
NEIL: You showed my photographs of you, when you were younger and into metal, raves and other counter-culture activities. Is your dislike of the group what led you away from that?
PAUL: I don’t know it’s the dislike of the group, but when your 14 to 22 you have desperate desire to fit in and belong. I think that notion of belonging never leaves you, that sense is adjusted by how you chose to play or fit a role in society. Whether an artist, father, politician etc. In some ways that’s what makes me hesitant about the social practice program. I know I have the capacity to lead in a group situation, I have the capacity to fall back and listen and go with the flow when necessary. In some ways all the reasons I should be in social practice programs are all the reasons I shouldn’t be.
NEIL: People have called some of your videos annoying. Why are repetition and looping important to your work? How is a film on loop different from a film that ends?
PAUL: Because it’s on going, it’s a trapped idea. It fits to extract generic phone messages, and make it never end. I don’t necessarily want to make people happy. I want some kind of reaction; annoyance is an honest reaction, that’s a feeling. If there annoyed, they have to feel something; I’m interrupting their lives. I’ve hit something in them that made them react in that way. Maybe it hit a truth in their life, maybe its just annoying. Indifference is bad.
NEIL: Do you see your work as helping people?
PAUL: No, If someone… yeah no. Maybe? I don’t want to make art that helps people?
NEIL: What does it do then?
PAUL: Id like it to ask questions, start discussions.
NEIL: So you don’t want to ask questions to cause a change?
PAUL: If it causes change, that’s fine, but I’m not so blindly idealistic to think it has to change the world. But maybe individuals.
NEIL: What it is about social technologies, cell phones and text messaging, that you find interesting?
PAUL: the way the technology has changed the way we communicate. That technology is a tool, it’s taken over in away, that more and more technology makes things impersonal. It takes direct interaction and human experience, out of daily life. I’m interested in physical interactions, I don’t want cyber-sex I want real sex. I want to physically hear, touch and see things. I’m interested in people; I want to know about people, what makes them do things. I see technology as over taking culture. I both use it and chose to mock it. I personally embrace things to mock them.
NEIL: Don’t you think that devalues others peoples experience?
PAUL: In relation to what?
NEIL: for instance, cyber-sex might be the only kind of sex someone has.
Paul: that’s just sad, I’d rather deal in physical realities, instead fictitious ones.
NEIL: So the Internet isn’t real
PAUL: No, it’s a glowing box, when the power goes out its nothing. It’s an organism, but most people just use it for pornography and narcissisms that aren’t even that great. I’m one of them though, I’m no different.
Neil: So your work is a kind of realism then?
PAUL: Sure, but I know its inherently a retelling, it’s a story. Documentation is everything. I use the Internet to display that, and share my work. But I don’t believe the Internet is real, but it can have real life repercussions. You define your own reality, my reality isn’t the Internet. That’s the tricky loophole. Our cultures use of technology has become apart of our lives. In my work I’m trying to address some of that, to address what’s physically and artificially important to me. I’m just exploring communication, both through physical interaction and digital. I’d rather people turn off the box and go outside of their safety zones and experience. I come from performance art, theirs certain physicality and experience with that. But I also came from comic books, making them in public and distributing in another public place. I’ve benefited from both. The vary media I critique becomes the media I use to present it. I work with in systems, the way a comic book panel restricts or defines the progression or space.
NEIL: Do you want your work to communicate to the “everyday person”?
PAUL: Yeah, I do not want to talk to a selected audience that needs a certain education to understand. I’m not interested in art for art sake. At the same time I’m not interested in dumbing things down to make them accessible. I like buying and consuming, I don’t feel guilty about that, and objects make people feel things. You can feel things in Facebook, but it changes things. Like breaking up with someone through a text message. It opens up certain fakeness, or shadiness of conducting life. I’m not against technology; I’m against how people use it.
I’m into narcissism; I think most people’s narcissism are mediocre. They don’t challenge themselves enough to really tap into who they are and what makes them great.
NEIL: and you do?
Paul: Yes, I try to. To get deeper, to that essence, to understand what my real motivations are, what the scary truth is. If it’s vain, I want to know, the same things I want from people I want from myself. I’m saying that I should be better, and they should be too.
Neil: So it does have a helping, de-alienating purpose?
PAUL: The work doesn’t have to do that, doesn’t mean that I can’t think that. I would hope that in my internal moralistic practice, I try to have my materials embody ideas. Whether everything is evident or visibly readable isn’t for me to decide. I make things, and see how people interact with it, and I think about it, and maybe that pushes me in a different direction. At the same time I have to understand my own motivations behind what I’m doing and why, and I guess that’s where my value system comes in, does my work represent what I want to put out there. Sometimes I cringe at what I do, but it’s about taking a risks and not being comfortable