FEATURE ROBERT GOBER
In light of those difficulties, does the idea of permanent installation
appeal to you? Or is it inimical to a working practice which seems
characterised by forward motion?
That’s a good question. No it’s not inimical, but it’s also not required,
except in a few rare exceptions. The Emanuel Hoffmann Foundation
purchased the installation that was created initially for MOCA in
Los Angeles about ten years ago. [The untitled multipart work, in an
arrangement mimicking the regions of a cathedral, features a sculptural
Madonna pierced through the womb by a culvert pipe; oversize
suitcases; and gallons of water cascading down cedar steps.] That work
had many built-in conservation unknowns, due mostly to the use of
water and newly invented materials. There is a very limited amount of
knowledge about how these new, ever-evolving materials, plastics, etc.,
will behave over time. The installation was created to exist for the usual
three-month period and is now installed for perpetuity – whatever that
is. So those technical or material decisions that I made at the time have
to be readdressed, re-fabricated and sometimes reinvented for this
new longevity, which requires an unusual dedication on both the part
of the institution and myself.
C ould you say something about what you want the Schaulager show
to convey, and your thoughts and feelings upon reaching this point?
No, not really.
One hallmark of your art is its meticulous handmade quality. How
important is it for you yourself to be physically involved in the making?
I t’s been almost 20 years since I made everything myself, which was a
motivation brought on by economics as much as personal unconscious
need. Mostly I work with my assistants, who all have different skills,
and we all work with craftsmen that range from glass-blowers to
Martin Herbert: blacksmiths to a woman who gathers willow branches in upstate New
You appear to have resisted retrospectives. York. Some works – most works, probably – my hand never touches,
Why have one now? although I constantly make changes and reverse direction. I think that
other people might be much more interested or invested in what this
Robert Gober: issue might mean than I am.
Lik e most things in life, that’s both true and not true. There have been
pretty long periods when I’ve just wanted to let myself wander into new Some commentators hav e treated your works as harbouring fixed
work – didn’t want to look back and, maybe more importantly, didn’t meanings that must be deciphered or disinterred. Others, such as Hal
want to spend the organisational time it takes to do those survey-type Foster – who described as a ‘broken allegory’ your Matthew Marks
shows. I have had a few of them over the years, but there are some things Gallery show of 2005, with its decapitated Christ figure, American
I’ve never been able to bring back to life, mostly for logistical reasons, bird, recumbent figures in baths and drawings of embracing couples
which I was able to consider doing at the Schaulager. The installation on newspapers from the day after 9/11 – suggest that meaning-making
that I created in 1992 at Dia in New York, for instance, contains a hand- is more problematic and open in your art. To what extent do you
painted mural of a forest which takes a crew of six to eight scenic endeavour to codify meaning?
painters two months to paint. Very few institutions in the world can It never starts from meaning. The initial impulse might be a colour
take that amount of time with installation. The Schaulager mounts one or an image or an anger or an overheard phrase. Going back to the
exhibition a year and is closed to the public for the remainder, so we installation for MOCA, it could have started – I can’t exactly remember
could consider recreating technically difficult works. – with the image of a city street drain. I have absentmindedly stared
at and into these drains every day for more than 30 years as I wait
for the traffic lights to change so that I can cross the street. But what
would that image by itself made into a sculpture ‘mean’? It only gained “I’m working best when
metaphorical force as I placed it into the context of other images. But
what that context and those other images were, I did not know for quite
a while. >I’m working blind”
p056-063 Robert Gober AR Jun07.i58 58 9/5/07 01:45:01
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