IAN WILSON, AN INTERVIEW
For over three years. Ian Wilson has made no visual works or objects and has worked only through the media of dialog and discussion. His art form is Oral Communication. Wilson lived in New York and his work was presented by a printed work of another artist, Robert Barry. He met with the public In London and Dusseldorf (Galerie Konrad Fischer). Michel Claura presented him in a Paris café and a Milan hotel. On this latter occasion, the 12th, of December 1970, he was interviewed by Tommaso Trini.
TT: What is your idea of art?
IW: What is my idea of art ... It's that I would want to be an artist and that I prefer to present myself through speech. I prefer to talk about art.
TT: For the last three years you have been making oral communications as an art form. What is the real subject of this oral communication?
IW: The subject is speech itself. Perhaps we could also say the subject is art spoken. The problem is that we have ideas, we have informations, and if we are to communicate... if we are artists it is very important that we communicate ... And if we are to communicate we are required to use modes of communication and these modes influence the information a great deal, so they become quite important. They have a. great effect on the final outcome of the information.
TT: How do you usually organise your artwork? I mean, would you describe the situation in which your work takes place?
IW: I usually try to arrange the situation, as here at the Albergo Rosa, so that I am speaking with artists or people who are a part of the art system, people who are interested and want to support a discussion, as you are doing now. You are questioning my intentions.
TT:What is the main difference between your speech and, say, a happening?
IW: The difference between myself and an artist involved with a happening is probably the difference between a happening and a discussion. I am involved in a discussion and not a happening. We are used to artists who, through their works, try to communicate something which is not in the works themselves, something else ... Oral communication is a medium that does not communicate itself only, does it? So, when you say that your speech is about art, there must be something else that could be not art.
TT: I don't understand ... What is the question?
IW: Let me put it this way: it is through speech that We also make aesthetic judgements; that is, we make culture out of art. Art is what you do, but what happens while we discuss it that probably we just make culture. I don't know whether there is aesthetic judgement in my work, there must be ... Perhaps my decision to use speech instead of print is an aesthetic judgement…. I don't quite understand the reason for this decision.
TT: Maybe you wanted to be more radical than you have been before or more radical that other artists.
IW:Well, perhaps yes, perhaps no. The reason l didn't get involved with print is not so much that I was being radical but that l wanted to ... Oh, in a way it could be regressive... I was just dealing with the problem of presenting my ideas.
TT: Besides we know, or we have been told, that there is an increasing need of or-a/ communication in our electronic age, and this could be another good reason, an important point for our changing In culture.
IW: Even print is important and all the electronic media are important, put all of these electronic media first require that someone says something and then have it interpreted through the medium ... So, finally, speech is unavoidable. It is a prime mover In all of these modes of communication.
TT: As soon as people discussing with you have grasped and accepted your ideas, what could be the following step? What would you be interested in talking about?
IW: There isn't too much to talk about once my intentions are understood. The who.le problem goes around understanding them, and this is never completely understood, so the problem is never really resolved. It is not necessary to go beyond, and perhaps it's not possible to go beyond either. I’ve noticed with some friends who have known me for years now and who have understood my work, we never talk of it anymore, we talk around it; It is implied.
TT: At a certain moment you decided not to carry any more physical obiects, as art objects, why?
IW: I'm very interested in walking. l spend a lot of my time walking in the street. To carry something like a book is cumbersome. I prefer to be free from this and just be able to walk.
TT: Have you never written down your ideas?
IW: I haven't writ1en down my ideas. I don't use print directly ... Perhaps a reason I have. not used print .is that I have never had the feeling that what I have to say is important enough to print.
TT: There is a physical contact With your art in that there is a physical contact with your person and your speech. In a certain way you are the object, even if an object to listen to, and the same occurs with the audience. Yesterday, you were talking with some people and some of them said they felt as though they were the object of your work, or just an object, a rather passive one ... The question is: do you expect a creative role from people involved with your oral communication?
IW: Yes, there is a creative role on their part as well as on my part. But, I think this is the case with all forms. of art. For me it's very interesting to know how people are reacting and how they interpret what I say. It's Interesting to hear their questions and the problems involved tn my work that they are aware of, and to know that perhaps I do not have the same perspective as theirs.
TT: When you talk with people who are very close to you and who have understood your intentions, so that you don't have to refer to them anymore, are you still making your work?
IW: Yes, because I'm aware of friends of mine w'ho associate my idea with me when they are talking with me, and they are continually using it as a reference point.
TT: I wonder how you were able to decide that what you think or you say is not important enough to be printed.
IW: I don't know.
TT: Was it because of an aesthetic judgement?
IW: I suppose it was ... This is a good question, I don't know how to approach it. I think it's probably wrong to have said that it is not important...
TT: Do you teach?
IW: No, I've never taught.
TT: If you were teaching to art students, and you had to talk about art history, tor instance, I wonder if you would be making your art o something else?
IW: That's difficult to say. I think I would probably be more interested in what they would have to say. But it could be interesting, perhaps one day I will try it.
TT: Are you influenced by the audience involved in the discussion?
IW: Oh yes, I'm influenced by people I speak with, and the ideas they present to me, in response to mine, are important... And also they help me to avoid dogmatic or emphatic statements, or, I don't know ... When I am with different people and their preferences, this seems to cancel our differences.
TT: That's true. Having personal contact with different people is a very strong way to cancel/ out prejudice.
IW: Oh yes, I think so ... This is possible. Perhaps there is an association between dogma and print.
This interview by Ian Wilson and Tommaso Trini is in the collection of Jack Wendler, New York.