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In Writing

Eli Keszler's Portal: artist Q&As

June 2014

Composer, percussionist and Q&A obsessive Eli Keszler guides us through his favourite artist interviews.

Phillip Guston's Collected Writings, Lectures And Conversations
This is an essential collection of conversations and lectures by the painter Phillip Guston – his looseness, unique perspective and brutal candor are so clear in this anthology. Though they are all great I particularly like the panel discussion with Morton Feldman. They span a wide range of topics including art after the GI bill, the effect that government funded education had on art in America, his connections with European painting and how he sees himself within it. His statements on his movement towards the reintroduction of figurative painting, which polarised his artistic community, is fascinating. As he says: "They called them 'figurative', but I don't really think of them that way – I wanted to get into more of what I call 'tangibility'. I wanted 'touchable' things. I felt all along, with the nonfigurative things, they were simply non recognizable figurative things."

Vito Acconci’s Showstudio interview
In this video Acconci layers questions over the ones proposed to him, focusing on his trajectory from poet to artist to architect, and why that happened. The video has a close up, vivid approach to cinematography, shedding a lot of light on one of the most fascinating thinkers around.

Roscoe Mitchell by Anthony Coleman for Bomb Magazine
Bomb is probably the holy grail of artist interviews and conversations and their huge archive includes much good material. This conversation is one of my favorites. Anthony goes in depth with Roscoe about his connection with composition, improvisation, Chicago, concerts and John Cage. Anthony's range allows the piece to move with Mitchell through jazz, looking into his connections to it, and the way he relates to experimental, avant garde and classical music. Towards the end, they talk about classical saxophone etudes, and you really get a sense of how broad Mitchell's influences are.

Other Minds: Morton Feldman Q&A (which is available through, otherwise on is a great collection of 20th century music radio documentaries, concerts, lectures and interviews. This Feldman conversation is from San Francisco. He touches on his own work, but also on cultural critique in general, taking cheap shots at San Francisco, talking about rug collecting, what he terms as "tribal/regional style" and the avoidance of musical systems and traps, and is very funny throughout.

Mike Kelley and John Welchman in conversation at Walker Art Center
A great conversation about Kelley's works and history, which both contextualise and give some insight into the processes and sources of his projects, covering a wide range of cultural topics both within art and plenty outside of it. Kelley's approach to art is all-encompassing, and you really get to hear him act as both art and cultural historian. He breaks down the symbols in many of his pieces, revealing a whole lot about where they came from and why he uses them on both a global as well as a biographical level.

DJ Premier
This is a rare conversation with a great producer and a chance to really hear his back story, his perspective on the history of hip hop from beginning to end, and how he came to music to do what he does so well.

Music With Roots In The Aether
Robert Ashley's incredible series borders on music or video art itself. It features conversations with many of his colleagues and friends. All of them are worth watching though I find Alvin Lucier's episode to be the most interesting. Lucier said recently about Ashley: "Throughout a long career Robert Ashley did an astonishing thing. He turned speech into music."

Conversations: Ed Ruscha and Dave Hickey
A very loose talk which ends up being more comedic than educational, in a good way. Hickey, a highly debated and 'retired' critic, takes an oppositional stance to the art world and spends much of his time in this conversation joking around with Ruscha on stage. By the end you really get a sense of both their personalities which is pretty rare in public conversation. They talk a lot about coming out of "non centralised" places in terms of the art world (Texas in Hickey's case and Nebraska for Ruscha), which allows them to discuss approaching art from their unique vantage points, eventually leading to working and living in LA. I became aware of Hickey's writing through his various books Air Guitar, The Invisible Dragon and most recently Pirates And Farmers. He does a remarkable job of blending critical art writing, his life experience, living in Las Vegas and country music, connecting it all with fluid and funny language – albeit with a fairly pessimistic attitude.

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