Unreal Nature

March 2, 2016

Sleeping in Public

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:52 am

… Sleeping in public without fear of your fellow citizens is a gesture about those fellows, and your relationship with them.

This is from ‘At Home and Elsewhere: A Dialogue in Brussels between Jeff Wall and Jean-François Chevrier‘ found in Jeff Wall: Selected Essays and Interviews (2007):

Jeff Wall: … Baudelaire recognized that, with the rise of the everyday, of the actual lived life of individual’s, everything of significance would have to be expressed in terms of that actual moment-to-moment lived experience, and that that experience would be capable of absorbing and reinventing all the previous forms in which significant art had been imagined — religious, mythic, rationalistic, and so on. Everything would be found somewhere “in the street,” where the angel’s halo had fallen.

[ … ]

JW: … one of the ways we escape from the weight of shame, amnesia, and failure is to observe it in a detached, artificial, artistic way. Seeing in that way can change our relation to it. We change our relation to those afflictions in contemplating them, making them objects of contemplation or dramatization, turning them into pictures.

[ … ]

Jeff Wall, Citizen, 1996

JW: … those who are inactive also have rights, among which is the right to be inactive. This is also another way of saying that those with rights are nobody’s property, and so don’t have to do everything expected of them, they are not society’s property, they are not the state’s property. The great thing about these rights is that they apply to everyone, anyone and everyone, including completely undeserving people. That is a very great, very calming, very pacifying thing.

[line break added] The citizen has a responsibility to be active and work at citizenship only if he or she recognizes that responsibility, that opportunity. If they don’t, they are still citizens, exercising their rights as citizens in a different way, maybe an inferior way. Anyway, I think it is very beautiful and gentle to be able to sleep in the public park without fear. Sleeping in public without fear of your fellow citizens is a gesture about those fellows, and your relationship with them.

I went to Los Angeles to make a picture of a man sleeping in a park. I didn’t exactly know why. And in the beginning the picture was not of a “citizen.” But at a certain moment in the process of making the picture, I had the feeling that it was a picture of a citizen. I spent about two weeks shooting the picture, and had to spend pretty much the whole day, from about 8:30 in the morning to around 4:00 in the afternoon, in the park.

[line break added] So I could study what actually happens in a city park during the day. Parks really are what they were originally planned to be — open spaces available for the use and enjoyment of members of society, citizens, refugees, applicants for citizenship, visitors, and undiscovered illegal aliens. People often stop in the park for a quiet rest on the grass, a cigarette, a conversation, a nap.

[line break added] My pictures, especially my “realistic” ones, or my “neorealist” ones, all derive from these actual experiences, and from watching and observing, while daydreaming and thinking. Slowly, while working, I understood something about what I was doing, and why the picture wasn’t titled in a spirit of irony.

My previous post from this interview is found here.




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