Deprecated: Function set_magic_quotes_runtime() is deprecated in /home/mosconi/ on line 14
Area Sneaks: Stephanie Taylor

Stephanie Taylor

In Conversation

September 24, 2006
with Kathryn Andrews and Michael Ned Holte

Kathryn Andrews: When I see your work, one of the first things that comes to mind is miscommunication. I seriously question if I’m getting what you intend when you’re making it.

Stephanie Taylor: Yeah, probably not. This idea––how people perceive things differently––is a major component of my work. When someone walks into a show I’ve made, at first they might see a kind of story, and then, in trying to make sense of it, they might determine that it’s a story about something really specific such as peas. If they were interested, and wanted to learn more about the process of how the work was made, they would discover a second story––that the show is also about sound and putting pieces of sound together. If they looked longer, they would find a discrepancy between the story of the peas and the story of how the sounds were put together and why.

Stephanie Taylor, Vexed Gaper Knawing, 2002
Pencil on paper, 18×18 inches
Image courtesy of Galerie Christian Nagel

Michael Ned Holte: But, I could imagine someone who’s completely uninformed about what you’re doing not immediately understanding there is a story.

Stephanie Taylor: Yeah, that could happen.

Michael Ned Holte: I mean, they’re going to confront a very diverse group of works––sculpture, sound, different photographic media––and they may make thematic connections. But, the narrative…

Stephanie Taylor: It’s not a clear narrative.

Michael Ned Holte: Right. And, it may sound obvious, but someone only becomes aware of a narrative over time, essentially. In that sense, time is really crucial to your work.

Stephanie Taylor: Yeah, in time, the viewer may uncover other stories too, in addition to the two I mentioned.

Michael Ned Holte: Well, each work, I think, has its own circuit of reference and meaning. But, an array of discrete works put in proximity opens exponentially more circuits of reference and meaning, many of which may evade any overriding narrative.

Stephanie Taylor: There are so many ways my shows can be interpreted. The idea is to have at least two seemingly contradictory readings.

Kathryn Andrews: Stephanie, can you elaborate more on how narrative relates to your first point, that you are interested in making work that explores the difference between an artist’s intended meaning and the viewer’s experience of it?

Stephanie Taylor: I’m interested in that experience of the world where you see something and you don’t know what it is. And so, you make up a story about it, to make sense of it. I’m interested in how different the made up story is from what you understand once you know more about the thing in question. Basically, I’m interested in the deception of first impressions.

Kathryn Andrews: Can you describe the stories about the characters?

Stephanie Taylor: These are abstract and not exactly clear, to say the least. But my central intention is to make them appear like fictional stories with a main character and a plot. They’re not really stories. They’re just fragments of stories that I’m trying to pull together; I want to make these bits seem like they are naturally connected when, in fact, they’re just there because of a variety of unrelated decision-making methods I’ve used to create them. For instance, I’ll decide that I’m making a show about a sailor.

Kathryn Andrews: Is that a common practice for you? To start with a subject and to use that to generate a body of work?

Stephanie Taylor: Yeah. My main material is sound, so a lot of times, I’ll pick a subject based on a sound that relates the name of the space where I’ll be doing a show. Then, I’ll think of works to make to tell, or to pretend to tell, the story of the subject. So, I’ll think of what rhymes with what. Once I did a show about a sailor because it rhymed with my own name, Taylor. In the same show there was a leopard. I made a silhouette of a leopard from cardboard. I actually called it a pard, which is what leopard experts call leopards for short. Made of cardboard, it was a “pard lord.” Pard Lord was the title.

Next, my job was to prove that the leopard could be a part of the story about the sailor, though they shared no connection other than I chose to put them together. So, I commissioned a drawing where they were hanging out on a beach. That way, together they made sense. Illustration is proof enough for fiction.

Kathryn Andrews: I’m not following.

Stephanie Taylor: Well, do you know when you encounter something unfamiliar, how you might look at its context to figure out what it is? In trying to make sense of it, you may entertain the possibility that it shares a story with what’s around it? Basically, I am trying to point out how we do this and how we favor certain kinds of connections over others. So, I’ll take two distinct characters and I’ll put them in a drawing that seems to be proof that they share a story. When the viewer first encounters the work, I want them to take this kind of thing for granted. If the viewer keeps looking they will see other reasons why I’ve combined the leopard and the sailor, in part to do with sound and rhyme, which will reveal the illustrated story of the leopard and the sailor as a kind of charade.

Stephanie Taylor, Pard Lord, 2002
Cardboard, 38×30 inches
Image courtesy of Galerie Christian Nagel

Michael Ned Holte: But part of a viewer’s understanding of the story is going to be a result of having a spatialized experience of that narrative––unlike a book, for example, where a story is told in a linear, temporal way. So, the parts might come together in a completely different order depending on the viewer and how they enter the show and where they decide to begin.

In my experience of walking into your shows, there is always a question of where to start––even though I may have some foreknowledge going in. I imagine it would be even more difficult for the unprepared viewer to find a point of entry when confronting such a disparate set of objects.

Stephanie Taylor: Yeah, you can walk through an installation in any order. And depending on how you go, the story will be different. I try to make it so the story of the characters is the first thing you see no matter where you start. The pieces aren’t organized in any particular sequence. It’s like a book you can open to any page.

Kathryn Andrews: How do we begin to break the works apart? What cues indicate the presence of systems of cross-referentiality, systems that overtly link all the works together in a Stephanie Taylor show, systems that depend upon sounds and in particular those that rhyme? What’s the moment when we recognize the artist is fascinated by how sounds embed in words, how words are suggested by materials, and that the use of narrative is in service of this?

Stephanie Taylor: There may not be a moment when you recognize that, and part of the reason is because the exhibition is made to intentionally delay legibility. The idea is to create a discrepancy between what you see and what you learn later if you read supplemental material or if you hear me talk about how the show is made.

Kathryn Andrews: When I saw the show you debuted at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE) in 2004, East Yard, I noticed you adopted a variety of aesthetic approaches as part of your exploration of the specific set of words in that body of work. I found that really curious. You seemed to casually couple, say, an abstract sculpture with other modes of representation––other mediums––that were partaking in different languages of referentiality. Take the O-ring sculpture from that show. What was its name?

Kathryn Andrews: In it there were a series of O forms that you had strung together and hung between two walls. The fictional narrative of the show, visible in other works, somehow supported O-Fence’s identity as a fence. But, when I encountered it, I first thought of non-contemporary sculptures, such as Minimalist and Post-Minimalist works––simple in form and made from a limited set of materials––largely exploring questions about that.

In that same show, you installed works with less simple appearances; these used a variety of materials and forms that brought to mind a greater number of references. These kinds of works, for me, suggested other movements, including those that overtly dealt with referentiality, such as Post-Modernism.

I remember enjoying the liberalness with which you allowed yourself to sample different aesthetic modes. But, I wondered, what kind of friction were you trying to create with this? Or, was my sense of that a misreading?

Stephanie Taylor, O-fence, 2003
Metal O rings and wire, 11×6 feet
Image courtesy of Galerie Christian Nagel

Stephanie Taylor: There’s a possibility for a misreading there. In fact there’s an intention for a misreading. Often my works appear to be doing one thing while they’re doing something else.

Michael Ned Holte: In some ways, that you allow yourself a lot of fluidity to move from one medium to another fits what Rosalind Krauss would call the “post-medium condition.” But then, in other ways, you’re very focused on the specific medium that you’re using. For example, a sculpture that you made for your exhibition about car thieves at the University of California, Irvine––the can of gas made out of brass––follows your usual rhyming structure, but then you push that because it’s cast. Cast sounds like gas and brass, but it’s also a sculptural technique. This piece’s linguistic operations fit its medium.

Stephanie Taylor: I do work in a lot of mediums, but I connect what I’m making to the medium I’m using. For example, if I make a sculpture out of copper, the sound of the word “copper” is part of the material I’m working with.

Kathryn Andrews: I wonder how, in addition to your fictional stories, you employ rhyme as a kind of joining device to justify the character elements in a work. Take the Pard Lord piece we were talking about earlier. “Here’s a leopard and it’s a lord.” Together those things do not necessitate one another. But if you say, “Here’s a pard and it’s a lord made of cardboard,” the relationship between the leopard and lord still doesn’t make sense, but because the characters rhyme with what they’re made of, there’s a kind of sense added in. The piece now has a logic unto itself, and this somehow allows the lack of logic elsewhere to pass.

Stephanie Taylor: A lot of decisions that I make are based on finding a justification for using something, finding a way to defend it, almost. That it has to be this because of that. It has to be X because of Y. As an artist how do you make a decision? Nowadays, when you have every choice in the world, what determines the decision you make? I think making work about the “becauses” somehow stems from these questions. I’m playing with the way we force sense upon the world, and I’m examining that operation with a bit of humor. If I start out with two things that have no inherent relationship it makes me laugh to think about all the absurd decisions I could make to connect them.

Michael Ned Holte: We could talk about how each of your individual works has its own circuit of meaning, and an entire show has a circuit of meaning, and then, there’s a larger circuit, which is all of language, for example, or phonetics, and all the objects in the world. But, maybe, there’s a fourth circuit, which is smaller than that, and it’s art history, along with your ability or willingness to access and use it. I’m interested in how, specifically, you see a responsibility to art history.

Stephanie Taylor: Yeah. Throw art history in the pot too. When I’m making decisions, I’m thinking of works that I know of. Sometimes the structure of a work will be based on another work, sometimes the way something looks is based on something I’ve seen. Sometimes I’ll use these precedents as justifications in the same way I use rhyme.

Stephanie Taylor, Bass, 2002
Brass-plated bronze, 25×10×5 inches
Edition of 3
Image courtesy of Galerie Christian Nagel

Kathryn Andrews: Can you give an example?

Stephanie Taylor: Well, one of the main things I use is quotation. Raymond Roussel put the idea in my head that it’s possible to quote something by making a rhyme of it, essentially making another version of it, quoting the sound sequence but not the meaning. Often I’ll use a piece of language that already exists in the world, like a pop song or a poem, to generate a rhyme sound sequence. The sounds of the words from the original source spawn the subjects that I’ll use. For example, once I used a nursery rhyme to generate the line “a gutter foal” and I thought, “What’s a gutter foal? That could be the subject of a story––maybe it could be a baby horse born in a gutter.” The sounds of the names of the subjects relate to language that already exists in the world. In my mind, this makes them legitimate as part of the machine.

Michael Ned Holte: Do you see a lot of those influences coming from the field of literature rather than visual arts?

Stephanie Taylor: A lot do come from literature, like Gertrude Stein––someone who I find inspiring for reorganizing language to find a different way of saying something. My influences are not limited to art, but I am thinking about art whenever I’m making an object that will be in the gallery. I’m thinking about things that I’ve seen that relate to what I’m making. You know, that’s material for me.

Michael Ned Holte: The individuals you’ve mentioned––Roussel and Stein, and I would assume, the Oulipo group as well, which was obviously influenced by Roussel––all of them were using language as a material and were thinking about it very consciously not just as a thing that signifies, but as a thing that looks a certain way, sounds a certain way. In short, they were thinking about language in its materiality.

Stephanie Taylor: Yeah, exactly.

Michael Ned Holte: So, it’s interesting that you’ve taken that language rather literally to three dimensions, for example, or into other media and given it a real physical existence in the world.

Stephanie Taylor: Yeah, I like the idea that you could make language into objects, because when you look at objects, language is sometimes the last thing you think about.

Kathryn Andrews: Last night, on the Web, I came upon some images of illuminated manuscripts. References to some, where letters were used as pictorial elements to structurally support a figure, went as far back as the sixth century. A man’s head might peer through the negative space of a “P,” or sit atop an “H.” Already there, letters were implicated as narrative characters of sorts while functioning within words.

When I saw these, I was a bit taken aback. I had overlooked them in my desire to locate your practice in relation to works from the early 1900s, some of which we’ve mentioned, where there are full-on explorations of how language can be more than text. I mean, when I think of your work, I see it as so indebted to the kind of thing that can be seen right now at the Getty Museum…

Michael Ned Holte: ...poems by Italian Futurists.

Stephanie Taylor: That makes me think of Futurist performance and how, to me, it’s all about structure. There, a person would come on stage and scream, and then walk off, and then, vegetables would be thrown or something.

Kathryn Andrews: How would that be about structure?

Stephanie Taylor: Isn’t it obvious? [LAUGH]

The units themselves were intentionally unrelated to such an extreme that there couldn’t be a sensible connection between them. If there was any sense there, it would have to come from the structure. It almost didn’t matter what the units were. It mattered more that they were unrelated. The Futurists were using the structure of a performance but were taking the units and making them into nonsense; this was a way of transforming the language of theatre.

Kathryn Andrews: Are you trying to empty words of sense? Or, at least, to divorce them from expected ways of signifying? By using a given word in multiple scenarios, are you pointing to its presence as an independent entity that can be invested with a variety of meanings?

Stephanie Taylor: Are you thinking of a particular piece?

Kathryn Andrews: Take the piece we were talking about before, O-fence. It’s title bears an aural resemblance to the term offense and it’s also self-referential to the work’s form, a fence-like structure constructed out of O rings.

Michael Ned Holte: A fence usually signifies defense too.

Kathryn Andrews: Sure, there may be many possible references with this one example.

Stephanie Taylor: Well, you can take any particular word in several senses. You can take it and run in a variety of directions. That’s actually what Roussel would do. He would use one word with two senses. He would use one sense in the first sentence of his novels and the other in the last sentence. And he would write the story by trying to connect them.

Kathryn Andrews: Can a comparison be made between your use of words and your use of aesthetics? Would you, as one could with a word, appropriate an aesthetic and imbue it with a variety of meanings, thereby freeing it from specific ways of signifying? For example, with O-fence, beyond its linguistic connotations, there are, as I’ve already mentioned, its art historic ones. There, to what degree were you consciously trying to negate the past?

Stephanie Taylor: What you’re saying makes me think of, what are the qualifications of what I can make into a piece? Often, part of that calculation for me is whether or not what I’m making is recognizable as an artwork. Like, does it resemble what I think art looks like? In the same way that I’m trying to make a semblance of a story, when I make a group of works, I’m also trying to a make a semblance of an art show. I want the work to look like art.

Kathryn Andrews: Why is that important?

Stephanie Taylor: It goes back to when I talked about what you see when you walk into a gallery without knowing anything versus what you could learn from supplemental material. I’m interested in the chasm between those two things. To make that chasm exist, to heighten it, the works have to seem like a story and seem like an exhibition of artworks. It has to appear normal, because one way that the show has to be read is as an art show for the whole thing to work.

I think initially I am trying to draw the viewer into the story of the characters. I want my installations to look like the kind where the artist is really into a specific subject. So they make a whole show about it. Photographs relating to it, sculptures relating to it, et cetera. Where one takes for granted that the works in the room are working together to interrogate a certain subject matter. I am trying to create an appearance of this kind of subject-centered installation. It’s the idea of making something that doesn’t look like what it is.

Kathryn Andrews: If the work looked unfamiliar, would the viewer get too hung up in its materials and their meanings?

Stephanie Taylor: I want it to look as different from what it is as possible. If I make a show that looks like it’s about the story of a horse, in my mind, that delays the viewer’s discovery that it’s also a story about sound derived from a quasi-systematic formula of rhyme charts.

Kathryn Andrews: When I attended your LACE show, that was my experience. When I entered the space I first saw a large wall atop which sat an abstract formal sculpture that seemed strongly influenced by works that I think of as particularly Modernist, works such as Giacomo Balla’s Boccioni’s First-Lines of Force [1915] or, say, some of Max Bill from the 1930s. Then I saw the O-Fence sculpture. Basically, there were several pieces that made me think about sculptural eras, not now. As I looked longer, I realized, no, these works weren’t so much trading in the concerns of their historical precedents; through a variety of cross-referencing strategies that you used, they were participating in the show’s overarching fictional narrative. And they were also very much about sound. I found it really surprising that they could do all this while simply looking like old-fashioned art objects.

Stephanie Taylor, East Yard, Installation View, 2004
Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions
Image courtesy of the artist

Stephanie Taylor: Mmm-hmm.

Michael Ned Holte: If your work didn’t take the form of artwork, what form would it take?

Stephanie Taylor: Um… is that a trick question? [LAUGH]

Michael Ned Holte: No, I don’t think so. It’s a little Zen, maybe.

If these things just existed as stories and weren’t transformed into objects that we accept as works of art, then it seems like your practice, which is inherently performative in that it’s an act of translation, wouldn’t have the chance to really do its thing.

Stephanie Taylor: Yeah, that’s true. I can’t tell the story of the sounds of the materials without their presence. I can’t describe how the exhibition was made, without the exhibition’s existence.

I actually think a large part of the work is my gallery talk. I usually give one with each show, and I think of these as performances. In them, I’ll stand in the gallery explaining the elaborate system of rhymes that go into making each piece.

Michael Ned Holte: There’s a curious relationship to Sol LeWitt in your practice. In Paragraphs on Conceptual Art [1967] LeWitt wrote, “The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.” I think you even mentioned machine or machinations earlier.

Stephanie Taylor: I was thinking of Georges Seurat when I used that word.

Kathryn Andrews: Why?

Stephanie Taylor: Because I believe he talked about his paintings as machines.

Michael Ned Holte: It makes sense. With Seurat there’s a strong relationship to photography and a very scientific understanding of paint as a translation of light. I mean, it’s almost pre-Sol Lewitt in terms of the concept of the machine that makes the art, where he’s not really changing his mind mid-stream and responding to something that’s happening in the painting. He’s transcribing something into a different medium and doing that as faithfully as he can, presumably with an understanding that things don’t always transcribe perfectly.

Stephanie Taylor: I think a direct relationship to Sol Lewitt would be my starting out with a sentence, breaking it down into syllables, making lists of syllables, and then writing a sentence from it. But, when I get to that point, I’m making so many decisions and changing directions, and taking things out or putting things in. I may decide to make something, and then I’ll try to find a reason why I should make it. Or, I may make something that fits in so seamlessly with the other things that people assume that I had a good reason to make it, when I didn’t. Like Sol Lewitt, there seems to be a logic as to why I’ve made the decisions I have. But, in my case, often that logic comes after the fact. It’s a pose. In that way, I think my work is more like a masquerade of LeWitt’s structuralism.

Michael Ned Holte: Well, his Paragraphs and Sentences on Conceptual Art are full of weird gulfs where an interpreter could find a lot of work. But it seems like, maybe you’re doing an inversion of Sol Lewitt in some way, where you have point A and point B, and so you’re devising this really perverse machine to get you from A to B – and there’s something Roussel-like about that. But, it’s really about the act of devising that machine.

Stephanie Taylor: The goal is to make it seem as if the story comes before the explanation when, in fact, it’s the other way round.

Kathryn Andrews: Yeah, you’re not throwing things together willy-nilly, without some kind of connecting logic. You’re constructing narratives to be that logic. But their construction isn’t exactly linear. You might start with the beginning of a story, an end and a middle point, and then, your activity as an artist is to shuffle us from A to B to C and to tell us something about that movement. Except it’s more like you take us from A to Q to W and then back to J and the routes in between are windy and bump ridden.

Stephanie Taylor: It’s like, how do you connect a waffle, a rock and a dog?

Michael Ned Holte: With a dictionary. A dictionary sandwich!

Stephanie Taylor: Yes. [LAUGH]

Michael Ned Holte: There’s something Lautréamont-like about that “sandwich,” right? His definition of surrealism is the chance meeting of a sewing machine and an umbrella on the operation table.

Stephanie Taylor: That’s good. You could make a comparison between how my stories operate and the Surrealist dreamscape where any subject can be introduced because it’s a dream. Whatever I bring in has to be justified by the story, the same way the dream gave Salvador Dalí a reason for combining a melting clock and whatever else.

Kathryn Andrews: The story, like the dream, becomes the epidermis, that holds the body’s odds and ends together.

Michael Ned Holte: I had a film professor, J.J. Murphy, who was directing a narrative film and realized his crew became rebellious when something in the script didn’t seem to fit its visual logic. He solved this by calling it a dream sequence. He liked to say whenever you want to do something that doesn’t seem logical, you just have to call it that in the script.

Stephanie Taylor: Yeah, I love that.

Kathryn Andrews: What’s the responsibility to logical narrative? Why have that?

Stephanie Taylor: I don’t really have logical narrative. I try to make it seem logical as a kind of cover, but it’s not really. An example might be right now I’m working on a story about a rabbit with a drug problem. He’s a hopper on poppers. That doesn’t make sense anywhere except in the world of fiction. I try to make this seem normal even though it’s completely ridiculous.

Michael Ned Holte: You don’t want seams disrupting the story.

Stephanie Taylor: Yeah, I want it to appear whole.

Michael Ned Holte: Right. Even though the whole might be comprised of vastly different objects that signify in different ways. For example, a song signifies differently than a brass sculpture which signifies differently than a photograph, but you want all these objects to exist as part of a continuous whole––the story, the installation.

Stephanie Taylor: Yeah.

Kathryn Andrews: Can we talk a little bit about your interest in purity of materials, and how it relates to a Modernist exaltation of such? And how you are exploring materiality of all kinds, to make a point about sound as a material that differs from others? Take the piece that Michael brought up earlier, the brass gas piece. Brass refers to both the material of the sculpture and, in its cast form, it represents a can of gas, which as a substance has really different physical properties than brass. So, right there you have brass and gas, two materials, being interrogated.

Stephanie Taylor: And sound.

Kathryn Andrews: Yes, in addition to that, you have the “ass” of brass and gas. That sound…you are emphatically making a point about it, but what is it? I feel like you’re clueing the viewer into both the ability of materials to be pure and impure, to get to some truth about sound.

Stephanie Taylor, Gas, 2006
Brass-plated bronze, 18×16×7 inches
Edition of 3
Image courtesy of Galerie Christian Nagel

Stephanie Taylor: What you’re making me think of is the collapse between form and content––where form is content and content is form. The fact that gas and brass are almost the same word and that you can represent one with the other: brass can be shaped to suggest gas. To me, that is a near perfect relationship between form and content. In my work, when the characters or subjects are inseparable from the materials they’re made from, that justifies a co-existence.

Kathryn Andrews: Perhaps you’re after a question about the absurdity of the malleability of materials to suggest things other than themselves: when brass is cast to represent gas. And how strange it is that specific words are the connectors for things. Like why is the metal, brass, called “brass?” And what does that have to do with another kind of material called “gas?” It’s as if you’re pointing to a truth, but not that of the physical world, but rather to a so-called truth of rhyme. I feel like you’re interrogating the truthfulness of the “ass.” Like, what is the “ass” in “brass” and the “ass” sound in “gas?” Is it trustworthy? Does it actually connect things?

Stephanie Taylor: It’s the underlying structure – the “ass.”

Kathryn Andrews: Yeah, that we have in excess.

Stephanie Taylor: We have the “ass!”

Michael Ned Holte: Well, there are only so many sounds that can be made out of our twenty-six letters. And it’s far fewer than the number of books in Borges’ Library of Babel, but it’s still a lot of sounds.

Stephanie Taylor: And certain objects are related because of a sound that their names share. Certain things are related because of rhyme. They just are.

Kathryn Andrews: You mean, we perceive them as being so.

Stephanie Taylor: Well, when we hear them, they are. If I hear wedge, it makes me think of ledge or hedge. Words which rhyme have a similar physical presence. If you’ve ever misheard something that someone said to you but it made perfect sense anyway, you’ve had this experience.

Kathryn Andrews: Are you skeptical about the truth of physical materials such as brass and gas since they can be used to represent things other than themselves, but you’re less suspicious of sound? Perhaps, by repeating a sound in two alike words, you can point to how though it can get caught in signification, it can also easily be freed, and thus somehow it’s more pure?

Stephanie Taylor: What that’s making me think of is that two things may share something because they share a sound, but what is it that they share? Is it something important? Is it something deep? Sometimes. But sometimes, it’s nothing. Nothing that I’ll make into something.

Kathryn Andrews: I do think in that, for you, there is a pursuit of something substantive. There’s a desire for some kind of meaning there.

Michael Ned Holte: I think there’s this little bit of a suspension of disbelief in your practice. It’s about being dead serious about something seemingly frivolous. But that something underlies the entirety of how the world is signified––and how we communicate.

Stephanie Taylor: Yeah. It’s the conceit of the work that this is important.

Michael Ned Holte: You are dead serious about your absurdity. [LAUGH]

Stephanie Taylor: Yeah.

Michael Ned Holte: I’m looking forward to seeing the little brackets with laughter. “All laugh.” [LAUGH]

Kathryn Andrews: “Half laugh.” [LAUGH]

Stephanie Taylor: Yeah. See, that’s so great. There are so many things like that.

Michael Ned Holte: I want to return to the question of teleology. We’ve talked about some of your influences, but the trick is to have your work operate differently, right? If you’re thinking about an art historical past that you’ve inherited, are you also consciously thinking about a future––a trajectory?

Stephanie Taylor: Well, Hollis Frampton said that the really good teachers can teach students to do something that isn’t imitative of them. I think about trying to do something different.

Michael Ned Holte: From…?

Stephanie Taylor: I don’t literally mean it in terms of my teachers. I just mean it in terms of a general goal, for a reason to proceed into the future.

Michael Ned Holte: How often do you think about questions like that, questions of imperative?

Kathryn Andrews: Questions like the necessity to make work that looks different than what’s come before?

Stephanie Taylor: But, see, I don’t want it to look different. I just want it to be different.

Kathryn Andrews: It may look the same, but it must produce other kinds of meaning?

Stephanie Taylor: Yeah.

Michael Ned Holte: I always wonder how much artists, my peers in particular, think about teleology, or what came before, or what point they envision their past beginning and where they see their work, or the trajectory of their work ending. Those are impossible questions, but…

Stephanie Taylor: Yeah, those are big questions. Generally, I’m thinking about the artists and filmmakers who have tried to make a material work in a different way. That could include Jackson Pollock, or…there are so many artists that have done that.

My interest in Pollock isn’t so much to look at his paintings. Or, if you take Roussel, I’m much more interested in reading a book about him than reading his books. That may be my main interest in my own work––its story. Like, what I say about it is, to me, more interesting than the work itself.

Michael Ned Holte: Pollock is an interesting example to the issue of teleology. He obviously made tremendous discoveries in painting, but these didn’t offer much to other painters that came after him, except something to fight against, perhaps. But they gave people working in other media a lot to work with––for example, Post-Minimalist sculpture, or in the dance work of Yvonne Rainer or Trisha Brown.

Stephanie Taylor: Yeah, what I appreciate about his work isn’t painting specific. It’s materials specific. It’s not so much the splatter.

Kathryn Andrews: Was it that he called for other ways of thinking about painting besides just as an image? That its materiality now had to be considered in terms of the way it was made?

Michael Ned Holte: Adding gravity to the idea of painting?

Stephanie Taylor: Yeah, it’s more how after a minute or two you might have a thought about how what you’re looking at on the wall once was on the floor. The splatter leads you to a thought about how the work was made.

I’m just as interested in what Andy Warhol did with Pollock, how he made literal dance diagrams and displayed them on the floor, in reaction to the discussion of Pollock’s process as performance. The viewer was tempted to actually step on them to learn how to dance. It was an ironic literalization, and in that sense a critique, of Pollock’s work.

I appreciate all those things that people did which involved using a medium in a way it hadn’t previously been used. Things that suggested an alternate route.

For me, it’s how can you make sculpture with sound? How can you make visual things suggest something not visual? Most people don’t walk into an exhibition and start thinking, “What does this material rhyme with?” You know, that’s not how people look at work. It’s not the first thing that comes to mind.

Stephanie Taylor, Chop Shop Installation View, 2006
Galerie Christian Nagel
Image courtesy of Galerie Christian Nagel