GP/HK: Do you think that virtual reality may be a solution? How might art compete with virtual reality’s potential?
JD: Virtual reality technology is like the introduction of video technology in the late ’60s. Virtual reality technology is itself not necessarily artistically interesting, but it of course presents tremendous new opportunities for the artist. I suspect that numerous
artists will begin to make virtual reality works that are not particularly inspiring as happened when video was first introduced to the art world. But a few artists who have special insight into how to exploit this new medium will, I am sure, make extraordinary things.When the new medium of film was being developed, there were critics who wondered how art could possibly compete with this powerful new medium. In fact art has competed, coexisted, and contributed to film with remarkable strength. Ultimately, virtual reality will enhance the importance of artists rather than trivializing them. These
powerful new communications technologies will more than ever need powerful creative minds to create the imagery that they will be carrying.
GP/HK: It seemed to us that the first installation of the show in Lausanne was much more intense and dramatic than the version in Turin. The rooms in Turin, which already have such character to them, somehow softened the impact of the show
with respect to the neutral spaces in Switzerland. What did you think?
JD: It is extraordinary how a different architectural or cultural context can change the way a work of art is perceived. I was quite pleased with both versions of the exhibition even though they were quite different. I actually prefer the Turin version because the dramatic spaces of the Castello di Rivoli give the artworks an aura that they did not have in the more conventional contemporary spaces in Lausanne. I also appreciated the juxtaposition of the 18th century and contemporary sensibilities in the Castello di Rivoli’s galleries. The juxtaposition between the Paul McCarthy sculpture and the grand neoclassical architecture of the room was amazing. Even really aggressive works of art like the McCarthy can have a kind of poetry and I like to see how a special space can bring that out. The exhibition will also travel to Greece and Germany, and it will be very interesting to see how the different spaces and cultural contexts will again change how the exhibition is perceived.
GP/HK: Do you think of “Post Human” as a major return to figurative art? What is the difference between this type of figuration and Pop art or hyperrealism?
JD: Yes, I do think we are seeing a significant movement toward figurative art. I see it as more of a reinvention of figurative art, however, rather than a return to figuration. I feel that we are seeing a rebirth of figurative art that is coinciding with these changes in the social and technological environment. This new figurative art is coming from
someplace very different from the figurative tradition of Picasso and Matisse. A new type of figurative art is developing that instead is heir to the conceptual tradition of Duchamp and Warhol. Through the “Post Human” exhibition and its accompanying
book, I wanted to examine this new approach to figurative art, and begin to get people
thinking about the role of artists in interpreting and perhaps even shaping our coming “Post Human” world. The new figurative art of Charles Ray or Jeff Koons, for example, owes something to Pop and to hyperrealism, but its conception is very different. The new figurative art is very much in the tradition of Conceptual art. It is more in the tradition of Vito Acconci and Bruce Nauman than Duane Hanson or Roy Lichtenstein. The heritage of performance art is particularly strong in this new work. Andy Warhol, who was as much a conceptual artist as a pop artist, is certainly one of the strongest influences on this new direction, as is Jasper Johns. The best new art usually encompasses a broad historical tradition, redefining it in the context of contemporary thought. Pop art and hyperrealism are two of the recent figurative traditions that
have been assimilated into the new work.
“Post Human,” curated by Jeffrey Deitch, opened in June, 1992 at the FAE Musée d’Art Contemporain in Pully/Lausanne (Switzerland) and later at Castello di Rivoli, Italy (through November, 1992); at Deste Foundation for Contemporary Art in Athens
(December 3, 1992-February 14, 1993); and at Deichtorhallen Hamburg (March 12-May 9, 1993). Artists in this landmark exhibition were: Dennis Adams, Janine Antoni, John M Armleder, Stephan Balkenhol, Matthew Barney, Ashley Bickerton, Taro Chiezo, Clegg & Guttmann, Wim Delvoye, Suzan Etkin, Fischli/Weiss, Sylvie Fleury, Robert Gober, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Damien Hirst, Martin Honert, Mike Kelley, Karen Kilimnik, Martin Kippenberger, Jeff Koons, George Lappas, Annette Lemieux, Christian Marclay, Paul McCarthy, Yasumasa Morimura, Kodai Nakahara, Cady
Noland, Daniel Oates, Pruitt•Early, Charles Ray, Thomas Ruff, Cindy Sherman, Kiki Smith, Pia Stadtbäumer, Meyer Vaisman, and Jeff Wall.
Giancarlo Politi and Helena Kontova are the editors of Flash Art.