FEATURE ROBERT GOBER
how I work. For the past four or five
years I’ve worked closely with a
group of really talented assistants,
and now I’m beginning to sense that
I need to work alone again”
Is that how your work usually comes together?
Sometimes an image comes whole, it only needs to be made. And Sure. I recently made a sculpture of a folded packing blanket placed
sometimes I discover that it’s only a fragment of that image or, better on a stool. The blanket was bulky and the larger of the two objects
yet, a quality of that image or thing that I might need. I’ve probably said and was cast from life into a gypsum/resin mix that weighed well
it too often – because I’ve said it more than once – but I’m working best over 100 pounds. The stool, which was actually the bottom half of a
when I’m working blind. I don’t intend to encourage anti-intellectualism spindly wooden chair with its back broken off, was cast into plaster,
with that remark, but to stress instinct. If an image is a conundrum to me, which is fragile. So if someone was interested in puzzling through those
then work is going well, even though it’s essentially frustrating. I could contradictory materials – and God knows not everyone is – then I
almost, but not quite, compare the experience of making a sculpture think, or hope, that you could arrive at a more metaphorically complex
to the experience of losing something important that you very much understanding of the work than if you just viewed it as an imaging of a
need, that you know that you have, but that you cannot find. thing that exists in the world. That phrase, the ‘swinging door between
doubt and faith’, is a beautiful one, and one that I don’t think that I’ve
The critic Libby Lumpkin wrote in a review of that MOCA show ever read or thought about, although I’ve certainly felt it, to describe
that ‘throughout his career, it seems, Gober has been allegorizing the the material/image dilemma – which is, I think, an issue that can seem
everyday travails of his life as a gay man in straight culture’. How do you overly formal or devoid of a reflection of a life lived.
feel about such a reading of your work?
I think it’ s fine: I respect her writing. It’s a valid window. But, you know, One last question, in connection with that intersection of your life and
that was written ten years ago, and it kind of shows. That approach your art: do you feel that this summation of your work so far at the
to my work has changed over the years, thank God. I read reviews of Schaulager might affect your future productions in any way?
my work now that don’t need to mention that by-now-obvious fact, A t this point all I know is that I don’t have any plans to exhibit again until
don’t need to see my work through that particular lens. It’s a refreshing about 2012. I want to leave plenty of space and time to fool around
change, even when the reviews are bad. and change and make mistakes. I also know that I need to reinvent
the structure of how I work. For the past four or five years I’ve worked
I get the impr ession that when the image or quality you’ve focused on closely with a group of really talented assistants, and now I’m beginning
gains ‘metaphorical force’, you’re in the closing stages of the artwork to sense that I need to work alone again. We’ll see.
– prior to production, at least. Do you then experience a sense of
certainty about the work’s parameters, effect and import, or does the And is that a natur al progression, or have you reached an impasse?
work ever remain a conundrum, in whole or in part, to you? Or do you And how does working with assistants factor into it?
always associate that feeling of not-knowing with frustration? I’m not self -consciously creating exile, as I’ll most likely take part in
It’s all of the above, except the first. I don’t know what I’m doing until some exhibitions during this time; but I want those occasions to arrive
I start production, whether that produced thing ends up being used spontaneously, based on the work and my mood and what feels right. I
or incorporated or not. Some things get put on the shelf for years, haven’t reached an impasse, far from it. I just have a hunch that working
waiting. I think I understand your tenacity in trying to pry out how I alone and in private could be interesting again. Perhaps I’ll find I’m
might approach meaning and form, but it is a little like asking someone wrong. Working with my assistants can be extremely gratifying for all
how he thinks. kinds of reasons. Some people have worked with me off and on for 17
years, and thus we have a rare rapport, for better or worse. One of my
OK. You’ve said in the past that there are often metaphors inherent in favourite experiences is to hear laughter coming up the stairs from the
what your objects are made of. Now, I have a strong impression of how main studio. I enjoy being an employer, but change is essential.
the dissimulation functions to create a kind of swinging door between
doubt and faith, but am not sure how the material specificity involved Robert Gober: Work 1976-2007 is on show at Schaulager, Basel,
nuances the experience. Could you give an example? until 14 October
p056-063 Robert Gober AR Jun07.i62 62 9/5/07 01:58:13
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