Artsy: Writing is an integral part of your practice, and you’ve consistently experimented with forms we might more typically associate with the literary avant-garde. It seems like the visual-art world is increasingly the only place in which it’s possible to cross these disciplinary boundaries.
FS: I think we’re at this amazing crossroads, of history, philosophy, linguistics, the liberal arts. In terms of my writing, this project is something like a more controlled extension of one aspect of My Best Thing—in that I discovered a new, collaborative way of writing even as I was trying to escape the responsibility of writing. I’d like this collaboration to function in a similar way, albeit that it is a conversation with an accomplished writer and artist rather than someone “off the street.”
I also want to explore the discomfort with treating rap as writing. I do think that there are similarities with what I do, that in a very far-fetched way I fit into that tradition. The self-reflexivity, the self-consciousness about status, the wordplay—I felt like there was some kind of affinity there. It’s something I want to draw out in this collaboration.
Artsy: In your proposal you cite as a motivating principle your recent resignation of tenure at the University of Southern California in protest of the “corporatization of higher education.”
I mentioned leaving the institution because I wanted to underscore that sense of being at the edge of a kind of a paradigm shift. I don’t want to make my giving up tenure into any kind of heroic gesture, but it is something like a refusal.
You know, Nicolaus Schafhausen [the artistic director of Kunsthalle Wien] was talking last night about
’s work [in the Biennale], and more broadly about how contemporary culture functions to obscure, or distract from, things like the [Edward] Snowden revelations. And I feel like that in Los Angeles. As an accomplished, middle-aged female, I feel totally invisible in my culture. I don’t fucking matter. That hurts. And it’s particularly hard for that to happen in a university, which is precisely the place in which you’re supposed to be prized for your intelligence, your ability as an educator. What seems to matter instead is the act,
When I worked on the Bobby Jesus project
, I could see myself coming into focus as a figure for Bobby, who is a real street kid. In My Best Thing
I came into focus for those men I talked to. I wasn’t invisible to them. I want to take those challenges head on. I want people to listen to me.