Interview with Linda Frye Burnham and Steven Durland, Co-Founders, High Performance Magazine

Posted August 05, 2010 by admin
Jenni Sorkin, PhD Candidate, Yale
Interview Date: 
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Person Interviewed: 
Linda Frye Burnham and Steven Durland, Co-Founders, High Performance Magazine
Place of Interview: 
Saxapahaw, North Carolina

Interview with Linda Frye Burnham and Steven Durland, conducted by Jenni Sorkin in Saxapahaw, North Carolina, September 16, 2007.This transcript is in the public domain and may be used without permission. Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Linda Frye Burnham and Steven Durland, 2007 Sept.16, Art Spaces Archives Project (AS-AP).

The following oral history transcript is the result of a tape-recorded interview with Linda Frye Burnham and Steven Durland on September 16, 2007. The interview took place in Saxapahaw, North Carolina, and was conducted by Jenni Sorkin. This interview was funded by Art Spaces Archives Project (AS-AP).

The reader should bear in mind that he or she is reading a transcript of spoken, rather than written, prose.

Jenni Sorkin: This is Jenni Sorkin, doing an interview with Steve Durland and Linda Frye Burnham in Saxapahaw, North Carolina. And we’re talking about High Performance magazine. It’s September 16th, 2007. So Linda, can you tell me how High Performance magazine started?

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, it started on a $2,000 loan from the California State Employees Federal Credit Union at UC Irvine, where I was employed at the time. And I got really interested in performance art. And a lot of the performance artists that I saw early on were people who graduated from UC Irvine: Richard Newton, Nancy Buchanan, Barbara Smith, Chris Burden. And I started seeing their performances and became really interested in it as an art form. And so I started telling people stories everywhere, about what I was seeing. And then I realized that there are a lot of people like me who would be interested in these stories, so I decided to start a magazine. So I began doing it in 1977.

Jenni Sorkin: And had, prior, been a student at UC Irvine.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yes, I got my MFA in creative writing there. And I knew how to do a publication because I was doing a publication for the administration of the university. So I had all these materials in my office, so I would go in there on the weekends and type up the copy on my IBM typewriter, and put wax on the back of it and paste it up in a magazine. And this was the first issue.

Jenni Sorkin: With Suzanne Lacy on the cover.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, with Suzanne Lacy on the cover, and it came out in I think it was February of 1978. And so it was all made by hand in those days and…

Jenni Sorkin: And prior to— Your impetus for starting High Performance, I remember you telling me this moving, sad story about being on a beach and crying and reading something about Chris Burden. Can you talk a little bit about— I mean, you had met everybody while you were at Irvine, but your vested interest in performance art came from feeling trapped, sort of, in your own life?

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, actually, it was because of television. [laughs] I was a housewife at the time, with three tiny, little kids, living in Laguna Beach. And I was watching TV one day and I saw Chris Burden get interviewed by Regis Philbin. And he was talking about doing his piece that he did early in the seventies called Shoot, where he had someone shoot him in the arm with a rifle, and he called it a one-second sculpture. And this just blew my mind. I couldn’t believe it. I thought, Wow, what an amazing way to look at the world! Because we were in Vietnam at that time, there was a lot of fighting in the streets at home. And it seemed to me to really comment on what was going on. And it was different from any art form I had ever seen before. And he explained that he and his colleagues were all trained as visual artists, but they were adding the element of time and doing the work in a performance setting. And I thought, This is really great. Because I remember reading— I think it was Kurt Vonnegut, but it might’ve been John Irving, talked about being a one-legged man in a three-leg-at-a-time culture. And I thought, You know, I’m trained as a writer, but that’s really not enough to approach all the complex influences that are making our country and our culture implode right now. So I listened to him talk about all his pieces, like the one where he was crucified to a Volkswagen, and it just got more and more amazing.

And then, not much long after that, I saw a movie on television called Womanhouse. And it was by an artist named Johanna Demetrakas. And it was about an installation piece in Los Angeles, on Bunker Hill, where MOCA is now. There was an old Victorian house there. It was going to get torn down, because that’s when the gentrification of downtown LA was just starting. And all these feminist artists from CalArts had gotten ahold of the house and they had filled it with installations about a woman’s life. And then the audience could come and walk through the house and see all these installation pieces. And I’ll just describe one of them. The kitchen was painted a flesh color. And across the ceiling were these fried eggs. And as the fried eggs proceeded down the wall, they turned into female breasts. And I thought, Oh, my God, somebody’s making art about my life. This is something that has to do with me and the stuff that I do every day.

Jenni Sorkin: So you found it moving, even though it had occurred five years earlier and you didn’t actually get to see Womanhouse in the flesh.

Linda Frye Burnham: No, I didn’t get to see Womanhouse. But that was the time of the debut of Ms. Magazine. And the part about sitting on the beach crying was every time an issue of— I lived on a cliff over the beach with my kids and we’d go to the beach all the time. And I would take Ms. Magazine down there. And I just remember sitting there, you know, discovering the world domination of women and weeping into the pages of the magazine. And so that was one of the— Feminism was awakening in me at the time, and that’s why I responded to Womanhouse. And there were several performances in Womanhouse.

So eventually, I went to Los Angeles and got fairly involved with the artists at the Woman's Building. And they were all using performance because that was an art form that they didn’t need anybody’s permission to do and it could be done anywhere. And they were dealing with women’s issues, they were dealing with lesbianism, with incest, with all kinds of almost forbidden topics in those days. So I was drawn both to the form and to the content of the work that was being done at that time in the seventies.

I decided that the magazine should be mostly documentary. I’d actually seen a publication that I liked very much. And I can’t remember the name of it, but a lot of the people I knew were in it. And in the magazine, there would just be one picture from a performance and a description of what had happened in the performance. And I thought, What a great way to document this field. And so I got the artists then to write about what they had done. And I said, “I don’t need you to write a critical piece, I need you to tell me what happened in the performance, what the date was, and where it happened.”

Jenni Sorkin: And this was originally called— this was what became known as the Artist’s Chronicle.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. So most of the early issues were called the Artist’s Chronicle. And the first issue had a couple of interviews in it. There was an interview with Suzanne Lacy. But most of the issue was taken up with the Artist’s Chronicle. So this is what it looked like. The artists would send me pictures and a description of what happened. Sometimes it was only a couple of sentences, sometimes it was a whole page.

Jenni Sorkin: And this is what really became a kind of radical format, because nobody had, prior, been writing about their own work…

Linda Frye Burnham: Right.

Jenni Sorkin: …in a completely new medium of performance art, which was time based and which, if you weren’t the three people in the room watching the performance, this was the only way you were going to get a sense of what the performance was.

Linda Frye Burnham: And this is a Paul McCarthy performance right here.

Jenni Sorkin: Called Grand Pop, from July 23rd, 1977. And can you talk about who was helping you with the magazine? Or were you doing this all by yourself?

Linda Frye Burnham: I was the editor and I made the decisions about the form of the magazine and the editorial approach; but an artist named Richard Newton was helping me with it. He helped me design it and produce it. And then we’d go to openings and we would collar people and make them subscribe. [laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: And can you talk about Steve being one of your original subscribers?

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, actually, I was going to say that the way that the people who were in the first issues wound up in those issues is that I used a mailing list to get in contact with artists all over the country. Richard and I had taken a car trip around the country and visited a lot of art spaces that were just starting up in all the big cities. And it eventually wound up being called the alternative art space network. So I saw that performance was going on all over the country.

Jenni Sorkin: And you went to New York and you went to Boston and you went to San Diego—

Linda Frye Burnham: New Orleans, Chicago—

Jenni Sorkin: [over Burnham] [Unintelligible.]

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. And—

Jenni Sorkin: And you found that this was actually happening in all places across the country…

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: …it wasn’t just confined to the big cities? Or it was? Linda Frye Burnham: There was a little bit in rural places, but mostly it was an urban art form [laughs] at the time. And mostly young people doing it. But so when I decided to do the magazine, I knew that I had to get the word out so that artists would be able to send me their stuff. And I decided to just use as much as I could afford to publish. So I just took the material as it came in and put it in the magazine. And the artists that I let know about it were on a mailing list that I obtained from an artist named Ken Friedman, who was teaching down at UC San Diego at the time. And he was in contact with a whole bunch of artists all over the country who used to send art to each other through the mail. And they called it the mail art network or the correspondence art network. And Steve happened to be one of those artists. So he received some of the initial mailings. And I sent out a copy of the first cover. “This is what the first cover’s going to look like.” And it was Suzanne Lacy. And Steve was in— Were you in graduate school at that time, in Massachusetts? And he saw that cover and became intrigued. And he can talk a little more about that. But we started corresponding through the mail and that’s how we first met. He was one of the charter subscribers to the magazine.

Jenni Sorkin: Steve, do you want to comment on seeing Suzanne Lacy—

Steven Durland: Well, when I was in graduate school, I was very interested in conceptual art and performance and Fluxus and Avalanche, that whole group that Willoughby Sharp was writing about, Acconci and Oppenheim and stuff. But I was also very interested in the feminists, because they seemed to really be exploring new forms and new genres. I kind of liked the way they were adding content to work, as well. So—

Jenni Sorkin: Had you heard about the Woman's Building or Womanhouse or any of that activity?

Steven Durland: No, I knew about more the East Coast version. I mean, I had artist books by Suzanne Lacy that I found at Printed Matter, and I knew about—

Jenni Sorkin: Martha Rosler, maybe?

Steven Durland: Yeah, yeah, that crowd. Miriam Schapiro, stuff like that. But you know, being interested in all of that stuff in Massachusetts, you know— I mean, it was very intellectually isolated. I’d go to New York a lot, but there was nobody there [Mass.] to talk about it to— So when I got this brochure for the magazine, I immediately subscribed. And it was a lifeline for me, the way we discovered over the years it was a lifeline for a lot of people who, you know, really were exploring this way of thinking but doing it in a local vacuum. And it kind of helped create this sense of I’m not the only person doing this, you know? I mean, you had something to bounce your ideas off of. [inaudible] critical[?].

Jenni Sorkin: [over Durland] And were you making performances at the time?

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: So you were making performances and you were involved with Franklin Furnace a bit.

Steven Durland: Well, all I was doing with Franklin Furnace then was I was doing multiples and artist books and stuff like that, and I was taking it to their archive and stuff like that. When I got out of graduate school I moved to New York, and that’s when I started— you know, got more actively involved in a number of areas in New York. But also…

Jenni Sorkin: Do you remember your response to the first couple of issues at all?

Steven Durland: Well, like I say, first of all, it was like a lifeline. I was very intrigued. I think one of the first issues, I’ve got a letter to the editor saying, you know, Why don’t you write more about blah-blah, which I always call the classic letter to the editor [laughs] that we always get. You know, it’s like, I love your magazine, but why don’t you write more about blah-blah? You know. I was probably complaining that there was too much California writing or something like that.

Jenni Sorkin: And you were in one of the first few issues.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Yeah, I sent documentation in on one of my performances and it was in there, so—

Jenni Sorkin: And this was part of the beauty of the Artist’s Chronicle, was that other than dance and theater, which you mandated, Linda, in the first issue that you would not accept, anybody could send in anything. It was a completely open submission process. It wasn’t closed. You allowed any artists in; there was no hierarchy involved. And so this was the really radical thing about documenting performance art in High Performance, was that it wasn’t like trying to get yourself into ArtForum at that time.

Linda Frye Burnham: Right.

Jenni Sorkin: Which was considered a fairly prestigious venue, I would imagine, because people were reading it in 1977. Right? And all the artists that you knew of had MFAs in California. And Steve, you were around a kind of educated, MFA, post-MFA crowd…

Steven Durland: Right.

Jenni Sorkin: …I’m assuming. So people were reading art magazines. And this was an art magazine that was actually open to younger artists, that you could insert yourself into a kind of dialog and have people, if not respond to your work, at least read about it and know that you weren’t making performance art in a vacuum in some room. Or locker. [Burnham laughs]

Steven Durland: Right.

Jenni Sorkin: So do you want to take us through one of those issues or talk about one of the issues you have, or talk about a story from one of the issues that you recall?

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, this is number 2. No, this is number 3. Let me show you number 2. This is Paul McCarthy, who has gone on to fame and fortune. [laughs] And he was doing some very interesting performances in very odd situations. And he designed this cover. We asked him for a picture and he wrote, “You are so pleased. You are so pleased.” I have no idea what that means.

Jenni Sorkin: It’s kind of like a weird autograph, like a [Burnham laughs] hot, shirt-off shot.

Steven Durland: [inaudible]

Jenni Sorkin: Beefcake.

Linda Frye Burnham: We did an interview with him. Well, one of the things that we did in these early issues, in the both the first and second, and I forget how many, was to try to write a story about one alternative art space in each issue. In the first one, we covered LAICA, the Los Angeles Institute of Contemporary Art, which was in LA.

Jenni Sorkin: And it folded sometime around, like, what? In ’91, ’89, something like that.

Steven Durland: Well, they grew much bigger. They moved to the west side and became a very upscale [chuckles] artists space.

Linda Frye Burnham: [inaudible]

Steven Durland: And then they went through this period where I believe they tried to buy their own building or something, and they were just crushed by the burden and it closed in the late eighties, I think.

Jenni Sorkin: [over Durland] But part of knowing anything about these spaces is that they only— I mean, they’re spaces that I had never heard of until I opened up High Performance magazine [Burnham laughs] in trying to do research. And I had never known something like Sushi existed in San Diego.

Linda Frye Burnham: And it still does.

Jenni Sorkin: It does? It’s still there?

Linda Frye Burnham: It’s still there, yeah.

Steven Durland: And it’s ironic, in a way, because LAICA was very big in its time, Sushi was very big in its time.

Jenni Sorkin: Like Mobius in Boston.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yes.

Steven Durland: Yeah, yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: It’s called Mobius.

Steven Durland: Yeah, I mean, these—

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, PS 122 in New York.

Jenni Sorkin: That’s still there.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. Place like— Franklin Furnace

Steven Durland: But I mean, these other places existed at that scale in these other towns and the fact that…

Linda Frye Burnham: Randoph Street in Chicago.

Jenni Sorkin: Randoph Street, N.A.M.E Gallery in Chicago.

Steven Durland: …they didn’t have the media in these towns that New York had. You know, the very fact that they have been gone a generation and people don’t know they ever existed is—

Jenni Sorkin: Right. Although Chicago got a copycat publication at one time, called P-Form.

Steven Durland: Right. [chuckles]

Jenni Sorkin: Which we can talk about later.

Linda Frye Burnham: But performance was often an add-on in a lot of these places, too. It wasn’t that these were performance art spaces. I think when PS 122 started out, which was probably around 1979 or ’80, I think it started as a performance space. But most of them started as galleries and then performance would happen. In issue number 2, we covered La Mamelle in San Francisco.

Jenni Sorkin: Which was run by Carl— What was his—?

Linda Frye Burnham: Carl Loeffler, now deceased.

Jenni Sorkin: And he had a magazine very briefly.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: For a while, there was a La Mamelle publication that was— and then there was—

Linda Frye Burnham: I can’t remember. [laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: He later did this weird digital magazine because his interests went technological.

Steven Durland: Well, he could actually did a…

Linda Frye Burnham: A book.

Steven Durland: …pretty important book at the time, too…

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Steven Durland: …that was kind of a history of West Coast performance.

Linda Frye Burnham: That’s right. Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: What was the name of that, do you remember?

Steven Durland: [Performance anthology: source book of California performance art]

Linda Frye Burnham: I think maybe, yeah. We probably have it over in the office.

Jenni Sorkin: And it was an anthology, wasn’t it?

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. And then Moira Roth interviewed a San Francisco artist named Darryl Sapien for this issue. And then this was an interview that Richard and I did with Paul McCarthy. It was called “Performance Interruptus.” And his performances were so outrageous that they often got interrupted by, you know, the cops or the audience or somebody. So actually, this is a great page right here. You can see three pictures of Eleanor Antin responding to a Paul McCarthy performance. He was covered with ketchup and mustard. And the smell was so strong it almost made you gag. So… And then the Artist’s Chronicle starts and the whole rest of this issue is—

Jenni Sorkin: And let me just mention that the Artist’s Chronicle, you— There was a huge open submission policy, but there was also a huge amount of time in which you could submit your work, right? It ran, like, a whole year. You could’ve performed the performance in the prior year.

Linda Frye Burnham: That’s right, yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: Like, the entire year. It wasn’t like a—

Linda Frye Burnham: I totally forgot about that. [they laugh] Yeah, so that in the front of each issue it would say, “For the next issue, you can submit performances that happened between X and X.” It would’ve been the previous year.

Jenni Sorkin: [over Burnham] January 1st and December 31st or something.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. So it stayed current. It wasn’t about art history, it was about what was happening right now. And I think that—

Jenni Sorkin: And you actually had really international artists, like Gina Pane on that page that you have…

Linda Frye Burnham: Yes. Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: …A Hot Afternoon, from 1977. And it was kind of amazing to have an international dialog happening from the second issue on.

Linda Frye Burnham: Now, this performance happened at Documenta 6 in Kassel, Germany. And Jürgen Klauke was one of those early people. So some of these people, you know, people had heard of, some of them no one had ever heard of before.

Jenni Sorkin: This is Leslie Labowitz on—

Linda Frye Burnham: This is a Leslie Labowitz performance. And she was part of a group, at that time, called Women Against Violence Against Women, WAVAW. So the Artist’s Chronicle goes on and on.

Jenni Sorkin: Martha Rosler was on the next page after that, but we can’t see it from here.

Linda Frye Burnham: Martha Rosler.

Jenni Sorkin: So I mean, the early years are really a kind of who’s who of performance art.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, let me just— I’ll just read you the names in this one. They’re in the table of contents. Rachel Rosenthal, Richard Newton, Gina Pane, Leslie Labowitz, Martha Rosler, Cheri Gaulke, Theresa Cha, Martha Wilson, Peter Wiehl, Nancy Buchanan, Bob & Bob, Kim Jones, Lowell Darling, and John Duncan. So the third issue was this— Now, I have to say that it’s really important to know what the atmosphere and the environment was in Los Angeles at that moment. Feminism was extremely active. There was a lot of activism in the art world against violence against women. The Hillside Strangler case had happened right about that time. So there was a lot of political demonstration that was involved in performance around feminist issues. But also the LA punk scene had just started up and there were a lot of little punk clubs and there was a kind of punk attitude. And when this issue came out, number 3, a lot of people thought it was a punk magazine. Because there were a lot of little zines that were done just like High Performance, except I used glossy paper, they didn’t. But this is a Hermann Nitsch performance. He was a German artist who worked with a lot of blood and corpses of animals. And he came and did a very important performance that year in Santa Monica.

Jenni Sorkin: And he was a Viennese Actionist and he had worked…

Linda Frye Burnham: Yes.

Jenni Sorkin: …very closely with Rudolph Schwarzkogler.

Linda Frye Burnham: [different pronunciation] Schwarzkogler, right. But the feminists in town—

Jenni Sorkin: He must’ve been a little bit older than you guys, right? I mean, he couldn’t have been— He’d been working a while, all through the sixties.

Linda Frye Burnham: I’m sorry, I can’t remember. [laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: I don’t know. How did you get in touch with him? Or how did he end up coming— Was it through High Performance that he came to LA, or no?

Linda Frye Burnham: No, it wasn’t. I think LAICA sponsored him.

Jenni Sorkin: Invited him.

Linda Frye Burnham: Because everybody knew he was coming and everybody was talking about it. And Paul McCarthy was a really good friend of the magazine, so we knew it was happening so we all went down and saw it. But a lot of the feminists really objected to this kind of work. It looked violent, it looked abusive. It really objectified the human body and—

Jenni Sorkin: And part of the performance, that didn’t get done, was a chorus of young eunuch boys or something. That was something written—

Linda Frye Burnham: That was Hermann’s dream, was to do a performance with a bunch of sort of pubescent boys. And you know, he— Well, I see what you were getting at about his age. He grew up in Austria during the Second World War. And that really impacted his sensibilities. So that’s why his pieces looked like this. And they also had a lot of religious iconography in them, too. So I really wanted to document it. So I actually assigned a prominent feminist artist, Nancy Buchanan, to do a review of the piece and interview Hermann. So…

Jenni Sorkin: And that might’ve been, like, one of the really earliest kind of reviews. I don’t know if it was— was it an actual review of the—

Linda Frye Burnham: I think she wrote about it, as well as interviewing him.

Jenni Sorkin: There was a kind of critique in a box, that I remember.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yes, that’s right. She did a critique, as well. Oh, we also covered the Kipper Kids in this issue.

Jenni Sorkin: And what’s important to mention, also is that the back of the magazine was never given over to advertising. It was unlike any other magazine at the time, in which there was a picture on the front and the back cover, just as an aside.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. So this is the article. And he called his genre [phone rings] Orgies Mysteries Theater[?].

Jenni Sorkin: Do you want me to take this? What should I do? [comments between them; he takes the call] Now we’re on.

Linda Frye Burnham: So Hermann Nitsch called his genre Orgies Mysteries Theater. There he is with Nancy. And we had her interview him. And she asked him a lot of questions from a feminist point of view. Then we had somebody else named Jim Moisan actually write about what happened in the performance, so that people would know, so that it was documented. And then we did a small sidebar on Vie—

Jenni Sorkin: Viennese Actionism?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. Wiener Aktionismus, as it was called at the time. And so there was a small profile of that group and then a profile of Rudolph Schwarzkogler and Günter Brus and Otto Muehl. So that little package combined some art history, some documentation, some point of view, and some interview.

Jenni Sorkin: And did you feel that the sort of European aesthetic was very different than the LA aesthetic that was— I mean, was this a sort of instance of it on a wide scale?

Linda Frye Burnham: I would say that…

Jenni Sorkin: Given the sort of war background that you talked about Hermann Nitsch, that maybe the responses that were coming up for somebody like Nancy Buchanan, being opposed to this kind of performance, was that it was a completely different aesthetic with a different point of view?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, I think that the feminists were so careful about everything they did. And they felt that Nitsch’s work was sort of sensational and unexamined by him. And it was approached on a sort of unconscious level. And the feminists would never have done anything like that. They were almost dogmatic in their approach to issues. And also I think the big difference between performance in the United States and performance in Europe—and I think this is still true—is that the European audience wouldn’t all be speaking the same language and a performance might tour to different countries. And so often there was no language in the work. It was more towards image theater, more imagistic. And so it was just a completely different sensibility. You know, while he was doing this, the women over at the Woman’s Building were doing the Oral Herstory of Lesbianism, where you had ten or twelve women each talking about how they came out, what their coming out experience was like. That’s just like different planets, you know?

Jenni Sorkin: That’s true.

Linda Frye Burnham: So then I’m just going to run through these. This is Linda Montano. And we documented a video performance she did about her husband’s death called Mitchell’s Death. It’s become fairly well known. This is Chris Burden’s front door, with the name of the street misspelled. [phone rings; she laughs; audio file stops and restarts]

Jenni Sorkin: Okay.

Linda Frye Burnham: This was the next issue, and this is Chris Burden’s front door. And we documented a lot of his work in this issue. That’s Richard Newton, who helped me start the magazine. That’s one of his performances. This was the [phone rings] oral herstory of— Oh, my God! [laughs; audio file stops and restarts] This documents the Oral Herstory of Lesbianism that I was talking about before, that happened at the Woman’s Building.

Jenni Sorkin: And that Arlene Raven and Catherine Stifter on the cover.

Linda Frye Burnham: That’s right, that is Arlene Raven right there. And when Arlene found out I was going to document that performance in High Performance, she insisted that I come over to her house and talk to her about it. Because after the Hermann Nitsch issue, et cetera, the women at the Woman’s Building were afraid that we were going to sensationalize this. And of course, they didn’t think it was sensational at all to do what they were doing. But I just want to show you some of this. So this is kind of the beginning of it. There’s Terry Wolverton. And there was a lot of interview and documentation.

Jenni Sorkin: It was a narrative piece and there were lots of sort of skits.

Linda Frye Burnham: But this spread, so to speak, this spread right here—

Jenni Sorkin: Yeah. Maybe I should it put it right up to the camera.

Linda Frye Burnham: Our printer refused to print these two pages. And they referred to it as the lunchbox special. [laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: And this is a picture of oral sex, and it was a picture, a solarized image by Tee Corinne, who passed away last year.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. And it was something from the performance itself. And so we had to take it and get it printed someplace else, those two pages.

Jenni Sorkin: And then Huttner Litho, that was the company—

Linda Frye Burnham: It was Huttner Lithography in Burbank, was the printer.

Jenni Sorkin: And then they ended up printing all of the magazines, right?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. They went on printing everything, you know, for years. They just refused to print those two pages. It was a bunch of elderly men. Here’s Stephen Seemayer carrying his video cross [Pope Video], walking all the way from Los Angeles to San Diego with it. He was a Los Angeles artist. I was invited to bring some artists to Italy, to a performance festival. And so this is the documentation of that. I invited Chris Burden and Richard Newton and Paul McCarthy and Laurie Anderson and a few other people. And this issue is a double issue. And it says LA, And it’s the documentation of a performance festival called Public Spirit. There was a little ad hoc group of us that put together this festival. It was myself and Paul McCarthy and Nancy Buchanan and John Duncan and Barbara Smith and a couple of other people. And we called ourselves the Highland Art— [laughs] Highland Art Agents, right.

Jenni Sorkin: And this was the first double issue, right?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. And that’s because both Nancy and Paul lived in Highland Park. So they called it Highland Art Agents. So what we did was just get everybody involved that we could, that was in Los Angeles, and then we documented every single piece in the Artist’s Chronicle. So this documents all the performances that happened. They happened all over town, at LACE and in lots of other galleries.

Jenni Sorkin: And the whole issue was devoted to the Artist’s Chronicle.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, right, right. And I commissioned somebody to write about the LA performance scene in the back. But there was one piece that didn’t get documented, and this turned out to be quite the scandal. An artist named John Duncan—

Jenni Sorkin: Who helped organize the festival with you.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, he helped organize the festival. And he did a performance that caused so much trouble, especially with the feminist art community, that I decided not to include it in the magazine. I decided the buck stopped with me. And I was later accused of censorship on the radio and it was a whole big thing. And people still remember it today. What he did was he presented— it was some little downtown hole-in-the-wall space called DTLA, I believe. And it was an audiotape. And John said that it was an audiotape of him having sex with a female corpse in Tijuana. And people got very upset with the idea.

Jenni Sorkin: So it wasn’t actually a video or—

Linda Frye Burnham: No. We don’t even know if it was true that he did that. You know, it could’ve just been a concept piece. But the content of it was just unacceptable, to especially the women. And so I decided—

Jenni Sorkin: Did you feel personally appalled by this piece, as well? Or were you doing it to pacify them?

Linda Frye Burnham: No, I didn’t even go to the performance. I knew what it was going to be and I didn’t even go. And I didn’t want to expose myself to it and I didn’t want to expose my readers to it. And so later there was a radio program on KPFK, some little panel of people discussing the great censorship issue because censorship was a very important issue in those days. And it still goes on today. Actually, John and Paul and I and Nancy also did a radio show on KPFK called Close Radio. So we had a relationship with the station. And that was actually recently the subject of an exhibition and a panel discussion at the Getty in Los Angeles, Close Radio was. And they invited me to be on the panel but I didn’t want to.

Jenni Sorkin: Why didn’t you want to?

Linda Frye Burnham: Because I had to sit next to John Duncan. [laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: Oh. So they found him.

Steven Durland: But all the episodes are on the web now.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, all the episodes of Close Radio are on the web.

Jenni Sorkin: That’s cool. And so he’s still an artist working in LA. He didn’t get run out of town?

Linda Frye Burnham: No, he did get run out of town. [laughs] He moved to Japan, and now he lives in Italy. But they brought him back for this panel.

Jenni Sorkin: And did they ask him about fucking the corpse or no?

Linda Frye Burnham: I imagine they did. I don’t know. It wasn’t a Close Radio event, so maybe they didn’t, but— I just have no interest in being involved with it, so… So you know, that kind of takes us up through— I believe that was 11-12, issue 11-12, which would’ve been, what? 19—

Jenni Sorkin: ’80?

Steven Durland: [inaudible]

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, right. Number 6 had Carolee Schneeman on the cover, but we can’t find it at the moment, so—

Jenni Sorkin: And that was the first— you guys were the first magazine to ever— I remember her telling me she was very grateful that you were the first magazine to ever publish her at all and accept any kind of documentation of her performance.

Linda Frye Burnham: God, she was just notorious by the time we had her on the cover. Everybody knew who she was.

Jenni Sorkin: But nobody would…

Linda Frye Burnham: Right.

Jenni Sorkin: …write about her at all.

Linda Frye Burnham: Right, right.

Jenni Sorkin: Her work was just completely absent from…

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: …the magazine world.

Linda Frye Burnham: Famously female and messy. [laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: Yes.

Linda Frye Burnham: One of the performances that she did that was so well known was— What was the—? Interior Scroll.

Jenni Sorkin: Interior Scroll.

Linda Frye Burnham: Where she performed nude and she pulled a scroll out of her vagina and read it. And it was a screed about being invited or not being invited to be in a film festival. It had to do with being a woman and… So it was a feminist manifesto, basically. But that kind of stuff was very hard for the art world to swallow. But not the alternative art world, so— She was hero of ours, so we were very glad to have her.

Jenni Sorkin: And was your subscription base, would you say, mostly other performance artists who were being documented in the magazine? Or were there also magazine subscribe— Like, did Willoughby Sharp ever see your magazine or people from ArtForum? Or what was the sort of larger acceptance or non-acceptance?

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, Ingrid Sischy invited me to be a staff writer for ArtForum because of High Performance. So I covered the performance scene in Artforum from LA. And Deborah Kerr was an early subscriber. The movie star. [laughs]

Steven Durland: Well, one of the things that I discovered when I first got there and we started doing reader surveys, which is, you know, maybe a year and a half after this, any artist who was in the Artist’s Chronicle got two copies of the magazine. And so we had very few subscribers out of the people who were in the magazine. We would quiz them. And the answer I always remember getting from several artists is, Why subscribe? If I’m in it I get it for free; and if I’m not in it, I don’t care. [laughs] So you know, the bulk of the subscriptions, even early on, were from libraries and institutions and arts professionals, people who needed to know, that sort of thing.

Jenni Sorkin: Like curators and—

Steven Durland: You know, alternative space directors, people who were booking performance. And then people like me, you know, who were out in the sticks someplace and needed that as a lifeline. But your typical performance artist in Los Angeles or New York was not a subscriber.

Linda Frye Burnham: Because they’d see it on somebody’s table or something. But we used to just really be thrilled when we’d get subscriptions from Puerto Rico and Wyoming and Alaska and, you know, these— Because we loved trying to describe the field as it was growing all over the country and all over the world, as far as we could afford to.

Jenni Sorkin: And were people in Europe, European artists subscribing, as well?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yes, they were, and it was very expensive for them to do that. They would either have to have it be sent the equivalent of parcel post, which would take months, or they’d have to pay for an airmail subscription. So various galleries would subscribe, but individuals would subscribe, too.

Jenni Sorkin: And how much was an actual subscription in the States?

Linda Frye Burnham: In the early days, the first couple years, it was only eight dollars.

Jenni Sorkin: And it was quarterly, so it was $2 an issue.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yes, $2 an issue. And there you can see $2. And there was a subscription card sewn right in. So there you see it. I don’t think we had figured out overseas subscriptions by then.

Steven Durland: You should tell her about the logo.

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, yeah. This logo—

Steven Durland: That we carried throughout the entire history of the magazine.

Linda Frye Burnham: Did we give it to the Getty? I can’t remember.

Steven Durland: I don’t know.

Linda Frye Burnham: But it was just a rubber stamp that we made. And the first issue, it was like this. But for every single issue afterwards, it ran across the top of the magazine like that. And finally, when we got into electronic typesetting, we had a font made so that we could actually, you know, publish an article.

Steven Durland: Typeset with the broken rubberstamp on it. [laughs]

Linda Frye Burnham: [over Durland] Typeset. But I was going to say that—

Jenni Sorkin: Who designed it?

Steven Durland: What?

Jenni Sorkin: Who actually designed it?

Linda Frye Burnham: Richard.

Jenni Sorkin: Richard?

Linda Frye Burnham: Newton.

Steven Durland: Now, this was just your typical go to the office supply store and get a rubber stamp. But then by reproducing that rubber stamp quality, was what became, you know, the identifiable logo font. And that’s what we then— I then took that and turned it into a digital font for the computer.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, we went to typeset fairly early on. Like this is issue 4, and it was typeset. I would take the copy to a regular typesetter and they would set it. And then it would come back to me and I would paste it up.

Jenni Sorkin: And this is what you started doing when you got involved with the magazine, Steve, right?

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, I was going to say this was 1980. And the following year, I went to New York for six months. And that’s when I physically met Steve. He had moved to New York from Massachusetts at that point, and he was working as a computer typesetter. So here I met this handsome young man, incredibly bright and friendly, a performance artist who knew how to set type. [laughs] Take it away!

Jenni Sorkin: But you weren’t actually doing computer typesetting.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: Oh, you were doing it on a computer?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yes.

Jenni Sorkin: Already?

Steven Durland: Yeah, I was one of the first people who knew how to do— You know, I mean then, they were big machines as opposed to like— This is not desktop stuff, this is big machines. They were called Compugraphics and High-techs[sp?] and stuff like that. And when I was still living in Massachusetts, I was doing a lot of ephemera, artist books, stuff like that. And so I went to a print shop and I said, “Look, I’ll work cheap if I can learn how to do stuff.” And he said— You know, I wanted to learn how to run the printing press. He said, “Well, do you know how to type?” And I said yeah, and he said, “We’re getting in these newfangled machines.” And it was like the first generation of computer typesetters. So I learned that and I was one of the first people. So I moved to New York—

Jenni Sorkin: And you were union, too, right?

Steven Durland: What?

Jenni Sorkin: You were union.

Steven Durland: Well, what happened is I moved to New York and it was— You know, I was instantly making tons of money. I was working on Madison Avenue, I was working at Wall Street. You know, just freelancing all over and just cleaning up. And then I got a union job because— working for a union. The union had to hire a union typesetter. They’d got this new equipment and there was nobody in the union who knew how to do it. They were all doing—

Linda Frye Burnham: Hot.

Steven Durland: Hot type people. So I was living in New York and making a lot of money, but it wasn’t much fun. I mean, New York was fun, but being a typesetter for a union wasn’t. But anyway, when— You know, we’re skipping some history here. But when I got to LA, that was one of the first things I did was I suggested to High Performance that they take their typesetting in house and that I could set that up.

Jenni Sorkin: And that would save money.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Well, the original arrangement, my original involvement with High Performance was talking to them and saying, “Look, if you lease the equipment, then I will do all of your typesetting and production for free, basically, as payment.” And then I will be able to use the equipment to run a typesetting business on the side, was basically the deal we made. But then what happened is as soon as they got me in the office—you know, I was sharing that same space—Linda got a position at the San Francisco Art Institute as a visiting lecturer for a semester. And Sue—her business partner—and Linda came to me and said, “Look, while Linda’s gone, would you be willing to basically be the general manager and oversee things?” I think we had— Your sister was working there and you had one other person, who I don’t know if we want to mention, who was working there who was good, but they didn’t trust him to [they laugh] be doing what he was supposed to be doing. So my job was basically to keep an eye on him. And he ended up getting fired about halfway through this, which gave me even more responsibility. So when Linda came back, they asked me to just take the job as general manager full-time. And I said I didn’t want to, because it looked like it was going to be too involved and—

Jenni Sorkin: And what was the circulation at this point?

Steven Durland: A thousand, maybe?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: Is that what you were print— What was the print run?

Steven Durland: Well, they always printed [laughs] about 3,000. There were so many magazines lying around. Stacks and stacks and boxes and boxes.

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, they went out to bookstores.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: You know, they were being distributed into bookstores, which was really hard and involved. So…

Steven Durland: Yeah, but then—

Linda Frye Burnham: …we wanted to be sure we had enough.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: But at one point, when we had to move our office, we had to literally take pounds and pounds and pounds…

Steven Durland: Tons.

Linda Frye Burnham: …tons of magazines to the dump.

Steven Durland: Into a landfill.

Linda Frye Burnham: And away they went…

Jenni Sorkin: That’s terrible.

Linda Frye Burnham: …into the landfill.

Steven Durland: Well, you’d print them all up and then they’d go out to distributors, and then whatever didn’t sell would come back, you know.

Jenni Sorkin: Right.

Steven Durland: And it was just—

Linda Frye Burnham: And half the time, they’d rip the covers off, too.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: Was there a problem finding a distributor to begin with, or no?

Linda Frye Burnham: No. No, we had quite a few. And also we had these library agents that would go out and sell to libraries. So we really got into libraries early on. We had about 300 libraries all over the world.

Jenni Sorkin: That’s a lot.

Steven Durland: Yeah, even though the circulation was never huge, just talking in terms of distribution, you know, we used to be in all fifty states and twenty-five, thirty countries, where people had access.

Linda Frye Burnham: Museums.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Museum bookstores. And we did an estimate one time and found that the average issue was read by— the average magazine was read by eight people. So we could take our print run and multiply it by eight and say that that was our readership.

Steven Durland: And because it was artists and students, it had a huge pass-around rate.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Steven Durland: I mean, a huge, you know[?] school library rate. And a huge theft rate. [Burnham laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: People were stealing from the bookstores?

Steven Durland: Yeah, yeah. Years after I had been working as an editor, they invited me to come and speak at the ARLIS, the art librarians association conference. And the first thing is, I got up there and I started chewing them all out because they all claimed— all the claims we always got that High Performance magazine never arrived. You know, every year— At the end of the year, librarians all bind their issues, you know. And they always send you all these claims. “We never got this issue, this issue and this issue.” And I said, “You know and I know [they laugh] you got those issues and that art students stole them. You’re making us replace them for free, and that’s expensive.”

Linda Frye Burnham: And also university mail rooms, they would steal them.

Jenni Sorkin: So it was extremely popular and well received, in that sense, that there was the kind of— People really wanted these issues, they just didn’t have the money or spend the money. Like, tell the Xerox story, because that was great.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Well, it’s kind of underground hip, you know. An underground hip with an antiestablishment, antiauthoritarian kind of clientele. So you know, it was anathema to pay for it.

Linda Frye Burnham: [laughs] Steal This Book.

Steven Durland: Right, exactly. Yeah, I mean, we’re talking the Abbie Hoffman generation. And I got invited to Albuquerque to do something at— was it—? Either New Mexico State or University of New Mexico, whatever’s in Albuquerque. And there was this graduate student who was in charge of shepherding me around. And so after she picked me up, she took me over to her place for lunch. And there on her shelf, she had the entire collection of High Performance to date, Xeroxed. [Burnham laughs] Back to back, each page. She Xeroxed the covers and bound them, and then [laughs] had them all up there. And it’s like, you know, Never spend a penny. [inaudible]

Linda Frye Burnham: They wouldn’t spend two dollars. [laughs]

Steven Durland: Yeah, just basically using your student— Must [have a] free student Xerox or something, you know, and had like ten years of High Performance there on the shelf.

Jenni Sorkin: Wow. And were you annoyed, or did you think it was kind of great?

Steven Durland: Oh, I thought it was— You know, it’s like we were never going to get rich, so it was always flattering to see people cared that much, you know? That’s what was always interesting about going out away from the major metropolitan areas, is when you went out to these places, people treated it like a bible. Way more than we— [laughs] We never published it like a bible, people read it like a bible. And you would show up and these young people would come up to you and they’d quote you something verbatim that you’d written five years ago and say, “This changed my life,” or “I disagree with this,” or—

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, in Chicago, the students would call it the bible. [laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: And there was a pretty active dialog, in terms of letters to the editor. You guys published a lot of them, it seemed like you received a lot of them.

Linda Frye Burnham: Not a lot. What? Maybe five or six.

Steven Durland: Yeah, we never felt like we were getting very much— Because we got so much feedback over the phone. We got our ears burned so much other places. And we always tried to turn them into letters to the editor, you know? That was always the goal. It’s like, You’re not going to make your point yelling at us. It’s like, Write it. [laughs] And so sometimes you’d get people to write. But more often than not, we struggled with the fact that people would rather suffer in silence that actually complain out loud and put their name on it.

Jenni Sorkin: And how did the LA scene stay— Like all the early people that you had mentioned—Nancy Buchanan and John Duncan— Well, not John Duncan, but Paul McCarthy and Chris Burden and some of what are now more well known artists from that era, did they remain involved in the magazine?

Linda Frye Burnham: Not involved in it. Paul did. Paul curated a whole issue for us. Richard departed the magazine in 1979. We had a few artists who worked for us. Jerri Allyn[sp?], one of the artists from the Woman’s Building, worked in our office. Paul McCarthy’s wife Karen worked in our office, my sister worked in our office. But you’re never famous in your own hometown. And our magazine was not an academic journal. And that was the major criticism that came its way, that— First of all, people demanded reviews. And so we finally started doing reviews.

Jenni Sorkin: And this occurred around issue 22, I think?

Steven Durland: 22 is the last issue that had Artist’s Chronicles, but I think 21 was the first issue that had reviews. We did a handful of reviews in 21, then we did 22 and said, “This is the last Artist’s Chronicle issue.” And then it was reviews after that. But it had gotten tough, too because in the early days it was everybody who sent in. But towards the end, I mean, you were limited by space.

Jenni Sorkin: And so were there people you were turning down at the end?

Steven Durland: Oh, yeah. I mean, it became a curating job every issue. We’d just keep putting them up on the wall as they’d come in. And you’d get like 150, 200 submissions and you’d have to winnow it down to fifty.

Jenni Sorkin: And did it just get decided based on— Was it aesthetic value? Was it, This seems really interesting? Or, This is from Wyoming; it’s not so interesting, but we haven’t had one from Wyoming, let’s put it in here?

Steven Durland: Well, a lot of people were trying to scam, turn the Artist’s Chronicle into an artwork. You know, I’m going to sit here, I’m going to make up something, I’m going to fake up a picture, make up a description, send it in, you know.

Jenni Sorkin: And so part of your job became like sleuthing which were real and not?

Steven Durland: Well, yeah, trying to sort the wheat from the chaff, trying to figure out— Sometimes it was just, Okay, this person’s been in the last three Artist’s Chronicles. We’ll let somebody else in. And over time, too, one of the things that we tried to stay committed to was always being a venue for new and unrecognized work. And so we kind of had this attitude that there were people who graduated from High Performance, you know? I mean, like a Laurie Anderson. She didn’t need High Performance. [laughs] You know, to help her career.

Jenni Sorkin: And there was an early letter that you had written to Yoko Ono soliciting— I found it in the archive a long time ago. But it was soliciting work from her. And I think she responded very nicely but she didn’t send work. But somebody of her stature clearly didn’t need High Performance, either. But there were a number of New York artists who did need High Performance and High Performance also helped their careers quite a bit, like Eric Bogosian and Ann Magnuson.

Linda Frye Burnham: Pat Oleszko.

Jenni Sorkin: Pat Oleszko.

Steven Durland: And I don’t know that High Performance had a lot to do with their careers, though.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, they were [inaudible].

Steven Durland: New York was the one place in the country that had its own infrastructure. There was a place to start, there was a place to graduate to, there was a place— You know, I mean, there was entry level places, there was midlevel places, there’s places where you could earn money. And no other place in the country had that. Everybody else had to basically tour.

Jenni Sorkin: Did LA feel provincial or amateur, in that sense, in moving there from New York?

Steven Durland: No, LA always held out this hope that, you know, they were just slightly behind the New York curve, that they were getting there. And they were for a long time. I mean, when I first moved to LA, everybody in downtown LA was talking about how it was turning into SoHo. I’m thinking, Well, okay. [they laugh]

Jenni Sorkin: And the magazine was based downtown. Can you talk a little bit about that? It was based in your loft downtown?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. Richard and I lived in Orange County when we met, and I was still working at UC Irvine. And then we decided to move to LA in 1976. And we were literally the second and third artists to move to downtown LA. Before us, there was a guy named Dan Citron. I think he was a painter. But the scene had not happened when we moved there. We moved into the Victor Clothing Building at 240 South Broadway, which was down the street from the LA Times and across the street from the Grand Central Market. And it was a Mexican wedding district. Everything was very Mexican. And they sold clothing—

Steven Durland: [inaudible]

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, they sold clothing on the front, on the first floor, and then we moved into the fifth floor. And here’s a picture of the side of the building. That’s a Mexican wedding mural by an artist named Kent Twitchell, who went on to do a lot of murals similar to that all over town.

Steven Durland: It’s five stories tall.

Linda Frye Burnham: And we were up there in the top floor. And I have to say that we got 8,000 square feet for $500 a month, and shared it with two other people. And after that, the deluge. [chuckles] It’s now completely gentrified downtown. Main Street was two streets behind me. And it was so rough down there. Actually, Chris Burden did a performance on Main Street called Through the Night Darkly.

Jenni Sorkin: Softly.

Linda Frye Burnham: Softly. And it was him crawling naked in broken glass. Not crawling, like squirming on his stomach, on Main Street. So it was really slummy down there when I moved there. And I just heard that there’s a loft for sale downtown now for $4 million and Main Street is the hippest street in LA. [laughs] But it was really dangerous when we lived there. And then I think what we should do is talk about the chronology a bit.

Jenni Sorkin: Okay.

Linda Frye Burnham: Just so that we can talk about High Performance’s status vis-à-vis the nonprofit world and grants, and then also about our editorships and how they followed each other.

Jenni Sorkin: Okay, that sounds great.

Linda Frye Burnham: So I was the editor for the first eight years—this is how I remember it—and then Steve was the editor for the second eight years.

Jenni Sorkin: Okay, so from 1970, would you say ’77 or ’78 technically? Because the first issue is ’78. ’78 through ’86?

Steven Durland: ’85.

Jenni Sorkin: ’85.

Linda Frye Burnham: Mm-hm. And then I quit as editor and decided that I was going to devote myself to writing rather than building the field of performance art, and Steve took over then as editor. And we had started— we committed to each other as boyfriend and girlfriend in about 1982, and were living together. So the whole time that he was editor, I was living with him. And I would do odd jobs like proofreading and I also had a column in the magazine. But the magazine changed quite a bit when he took over as editor. And we can go into that next, but I just want to talk about the legal status of the magazine because it’s a little bit hard to remember. [laughs] I’m going to read this. Let’s see. I founded it in 1978. And then it became publishing partnership called Astro Artz—A-S-T-R-O, A-R-T-Z—in 1980. And Astro Artz was a little publishing company that was started by an artist named Sue Dakin. So she took High Performance under her wing. And we did a few books out of Astro Artz at that time.

Jenni Sorkin: That we should probably show.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. We can go into the books in a minute.

Jenni Sorkin: Okay.

Linda Frye Burnham: Then Astro Artz became a nonprofit organization in 1983, because we felt we could start getting grants. And actually, the first grant we got, we got it from the NEA. The NEA actually called me up in New York, in about 1982, and asked me to apply. And I said, “Well, gee, great, but we’re not a nonprofit.” And they said, “Well, you can do it by using a conduit.” So we used LACE, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, which had moved onto the floor beneath us in the Victor Building in LA. So the money passed through LACE, because LACE was a nonprofit. But then we realized that we needed to form a nonprofit so we could get grants. So when Steve came on as general manager, that was one of his first jobs. So 1983, we got our tax exempt status. And then Astro Artz expanded its mission to become a multi-program organization in 1990, when we moved to Santa Monica and started the 18th Street Arts Complex. Then in 1994, the magazine separated from the 18th Street Arts Complex. Steve and I moved to North Carolina and we stared our own nonprofit called Art in the Public Interest. And we started publishing High Performance here in North Carolina. And then all grants dried up for almost everything in 1998, and that was when the magazine folded.

Jenni Sorkin: This tape is actually going to run out in thirty seconds so we have to change it anyway, so I think I’ll just—

Linda Frye Burnham: [makes sounds like a rewinding tape]

Jenni Sorkin: [laughs] Exactly.

Steven Durland: Try to transcribe that. [audio file stops and restarts]

Jenni Sorkin: We’re recording. Tape two.

Linda Frye Burnham: So another person extremely important in the history of High Performance is Susanna Dakin. She had a small publishing company, Astro Artz. And I met her in 1980. And I was ready to fold the magazine at that time. I figured it would only last about three years. And there was hardly any support for it and there[?] was only two dollars an issue. And so I was ready to quit at that point. I saw my—

Jenni Sorkin: Because financially it wasn’t viable anymore?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, yeah. Well, it never was viable; I just ran out of money. And I had figured that’s what would happen. I had explored the little magazine world, which is a literary world, and I’d seen them come and go and I could tell without support, you just couldn’t last very long. But Sue was a really good friend of Barbara Smith’s, and that’s how I met her. And she came from a wealthy family in San Francisco. And she had some discretionary money, and so she had started a tiny publishing company. I told her I was getting ready to fold and she said, “Oh, no, you’re not. This magazine is way too important. It’s very transformational.” That was important to her, that it was transforming the way people saw the world. So she said, “I will keep your nose above water and we’ll try to make this a new going[?] concern.” And I said, “Great.” So that was when I first started to get a salary. And so we became a publishing company, a co-venture, and we were partners. And let’s see, that was 1980. And then I explained how grants began to come my way, so we decided that we needed to turn it into a nonprofit. So that’s what we did. But Sue continued to support the magazine all the way up to the very end, in 1998. And we got a lot of grants. We got grants from the city level, the county level, the state level, the national level; we got foundation grants, we got government grants, we got donations. But Sue was the one who always kept us going. We never were able to turn it into a profit making situation. It’s very, very difficult to publish a magazine and realize any profit from it. So none of this would have happened if it hadn’t have been for Sue Dakin. She also had a lot of other philanthropic interests, but she wanted very much to be known as an artist. She is and was an artist. And so for a long time, nobody knew that she was backing the magazine. But eventually, people found out. And in 1988, Sue decided that she wanted to start a complex of live/work spaces for artists. So we moved to Santa Monica and she hired me to fill this property, this acre of land, fill this property with artists. And that was called the 18th Street Arts Complex. And she bought that land. And then the complex became a nonprofit, and now they are buying the land from Sue. But she has supported a lot of artists in Los Angeles and the scene certainly wouldn’t have existed the way it is without her help.

Jenni Sorkin: So that’s the story of Sue.

Steven Durland: Well, actually, one of the things that Linda left out is when Sue and Linda formed a partnership, Sue’s part of that partnership was she wanted to publish books. And so they started publishing a series of— They did a book by Linda Montano, a book by—

Jenni Sorkin: Stephen Seemayer.

Steven Durland: Stephen Seemayer. Linda did a book on Bob & Bob, Pauline Oliveros—

Linda Frye Burnham: [inaudible]

Jenni Sorkin: And Becky Cohen.

Steven Durland: I’m sorry, what?

Jenni Sorkin: Becky Cohen, I think is the other person that she did it with, Pauline.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Right.

Linda Frye Burnham: Pauline Oliveros and Becky Cohen did a book together. And did you say Eleanor Antin?

Steven Durland: Well, we haven’t got— what I wanted to get to is then when I came— I actually starting working at High Performance in ’82, and at the beginning of ’83 was when Sue and Linda asked me to be the general manager. And they gave me several mandates. One was to figure out how to make the book business work, and one was to turn the organization into a nonprofit. When I got there, they had two books in the pipeline. One was the Amazing Decade, which was Moira Roth’s book about feminist art. And that was just getting completed.

Jenni Sorkin: And this was actually a really important book.

Steven Durland: It was one of the most successful. It was certainly the most successful of the books that Astro Artz put out.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. It sold out.

Steven Durland: Yeah. And you know, was a textbook in a lot of places. And we would like to reprint it, but Moira has declined.

Jenni Sorkin: Right. And actually, I think she was very open about why she declined.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: She declined— She’s actually kind of embarrassed about this book, in the sense that— Even though she shouldn’t be, because it’s quite an achievement at that time to have put together a book on Southern California performance art, and women in performance art in particular.

Linda Frye Burnham: It’s women in performance.

Steven Durland: Right.

Jenni Sorkin: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: It’s art in America, it’s not just California.

Jenni Sorkin: Oh, okay, it’s not just California.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Well, it came out of a show that Mary Jane Jacob curated in New Orleans, right?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: But I think she did this book before the show happened. Was it—

Linda Frye Burnham: No.

Jenni Sorkin: No, it was the other way around?

Steven Durland: No, this is illustrated with the book stuff, and it…

Jenni Sorkin: Oh, okay.

Steven Durland: …has the show history and stuff. I mean, this is a bit more elaboration than the show had.

Jenni Sorkin: But she felt that there weren’t enough multicultural people represented, there weren’t enough African American and Asian American voices in that book, and that’s why she refuses to reprint it now without rewriting it. So—

Steven Durland: Which isn’t[?]— I mean, it is what it is. And the other book that was in the pipeline was a book on Eleanor Antin. And so we finished those and did our best with them, but what we discovered, or what I discovered, was even though they seem similar, publishing a magazine and publishing books are two radically different propositions. You need to work with different accounting systems, different distribution systems, different promotional— Everything worked different. And we were stretching ourselves way too thin—we had a staff of two and a half—trying to do both of those. So we kind of let the book end wind down gracefully with the Eleanor Antin book and stopped publishing books at that point.

Jenni Sorkin: And that was Being Antinova?

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: That was that book.

Steven Durland: Yeah. And I mean, it wasn’t the very last publishing venture we did, but after that, anything we published tended to be a co-production with somebody else or had some special angle of its own. We did not consider ourselves a book publisher at that point anymore. We did form the nonprofit at that point. We put together a small board. And I think I was doing production for the magazine at the same time. We had a secretary and—

Linda Frye Burnham: Louder[?].

Jenni Sorkin: And who was the board? Was the board composed of artists, or was it people in the community, or what kind of a board?

Steven Durland: Mainly, we had— The very early board, I remember, had Sue on it, I think one of Sue’s daughters was on it. I remember Lin Hixson being on the board early on.

Linda Frye Burnham: Rachel.

Steven Durland: Well, that was later. She was on the board later, as it was[?] [inaudible]. But I remember it was a small board, like five people, maybe. I think maybe we had an accountant on that board.

Jenni Sorkin: So a financial person.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Roger Thornhill[?].

Steven Durland: Yeah. And that was probably it.

Jenni Sorkin: And this was after the books.

Steven Durland: Well, like I say, the Amazing Decade and the Eleanor Antin book were already in the pipeline, and so we did those projects, completed those projects. But that was after that—

Jenni Sorkin: And was the reception for those— I mean, it was actually pretty well received, because Moira Roth’s book sold out, right?

Steven Durland: Over time. Well, it’s one of those kinds of books that— I mean, you never publish a best seller at that level, but you publish something that has some momentum. You know, you just keep selling some and keep selling some. It has less to do, really, with bookstore sales, often, than it does to do with academic sales. And, you know, every school year, you get a lot of orders from school bookstores and then things will quiet down again for six months. And you could always tell when somebody’d assigned the book, because suddenly [chuckles] you’d get fifteen orders for it or something like that. But over time, it sold out. We probably lost a lot on the distributors who just ripped the covers off when they didn’t sell them, unfortunately.

Jenni Sorkin: And so you put together this small board and you became a not for profit. And you took over eventually. Do you want to talk about how you took over as editor?

Steven Durland: Well, I mean, during that period before I took over as editor, there were some interesting experimental— There was an all photo issue.

Jenni Sorkin: Oh, okay. We should talk about that.

Steven Durland: You know, which I remember being fun, just because everybody sent photos. And then[?] there was the record album.

Linda Frye Burnham: Shouldn’t we be holding these up?

Jenni Sorkin: Yeah, we should. I’m going to—

Linda Frye Burnham: Again, [inaudible; audio file may stop and restart]

Steven Durland: So with issue number 20, we did an all photo issue. Just sort of like the Artist’s Chronicle, in that everybody was invited to send stuff, but all we published was images from performance and—

Jenni Sorkin: No descriptions.

Steven Durland: No descriptions. And then with issue number—what was this?—23, we did a record album. There was a lot of artists who were doing music. And featured people like Terry Allen, Jo Harvey Allen, Jacki Apple, Bob & Bob; Linda Burnham was on it, Philip Galas, who was what’s-her-name’s brother.

Linda Frye Burnham: Diamanda Galas’s brother.

Steven Durland: Diamanda Galas’s brother, yeah. Citizen Kafka, The Kipper Kids were on it, Paul McCarthy, Bill Talen, Johanna Went, Martha Wilson. New York and LA artists, double album. And the distributors hated it. You know, it was terrible because they just— You know, it’s like, You can’t sell this as a magazine.

Linda Frye Burnham: [inaudible]

Jenni Sorkin: But it was quite radical to do [Durland laughs] an album as a magazine, which was really cool. I mean, it’s an amazing piece of work. And you sold it for ten dollars.

Steven Durland: Right. [laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: Which was more than other issues. And it’s called Artists Doing Songs. And do you want to talk about how this came about, then? Whose idea was this?

Linda Frye Burnham: I don’t know.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Probably Dark Bob.

Steven Durland: I lost the history. Oh, certainly, he must have had an influence there because they were doing songs. But all those people on the album were doing songs. I mean, Terry Allen was pretty well known as an artist who also did music. I mean, he was a recording artist, as well.

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, I was writing songs.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: That’s probably it, I was writing songs at that time.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: And it mentions on the back, Linda, you wrote something about— a sort of introduction to it, about recording sound and music and all of the people like Yoko Ono, David Bowie, Brian Eno, Talking Heads, Laurie Anderson and her single O, Superman. And then talking about how Laurie Anderson is actually kind of a crossover success and that, “artists are beginning to look into”—I’m quoting—“are beginning to look into this market to see if there is gold to be mined there, as in the case of Bob & Bob’s [inaudible]. From talking to each of these artists, I have found that commercial success is among their goals, but not at the cost of compromise. It is clear that they will continue to do music as long as their creative drive demands it, and under their own conditions.” Do you want to respond to that? [laughs]

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, that was a huge— commercialism was a huge issue at that point. Laurie Anderson was a financial success in the world and—

Steven Durland: Boy, was everybody pissed. [laughs]

Linda Frye Burnham: And everybody was really angry that she was still regarded as an artist.

Jenni Sorkin: A visual artist or a performance artist.

Linda Frye Burnham: A performance artist. And she would be able to perform at The Kitchen and so on. And Eric Bogosian also seemed to many people much more like theater. And this was a period when many people were entering performance art not through visual art, but coming in through dance and theater. And there, of course, had always been a lot of collaboration, since the sixties.

Jenni Sorkin: And what year was this, around? This was like ’82, ’82?

Steven Durland: Yeah, well, even back in—

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, what’s the date on the record?

Steven Durland: Back in the late seventies, you know, when I was…

Jenni Sorkin: It’s issue 23.

Steven Durland: …going to graduate school, a lot of this stuff was coming out of— Yeah, this was ’83. No.

Jenni Sorkin: ’82.

Steven Durland: ’83.

Jenni Sorkin: ’83?

Steven Durland: ’83. Probably fall ’82[?]. But when I was going to graduate school and interested in all this stuff, a lot of the rhetoric was coming out of this sort of Marxist idea of anti-capitalism. You know, getting art out of the gallery and art for the masses. And so you had, you know, performance— You know, in the early performance, of course, there was no admission and there were no venues. It’s like, it happened and you did it for the world.

Jenni Sorkin: And this is also the relationship, I think it’s important to say, between performance art and artist books.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: That they’re both alternative means of reaching larger audiences for cheap—

Steven Durland: Right. Yeah, well, what I think happened is we got what we wanted. We just didn’t realize, when we thought about performing for the masses, that it was going to look like Laurie Anderson in the Hollywood Bowl. [they laugh] You know? I mean, I don’t know what we thought was really going to happen, but I mean, that’s in essence what we got was Laurie Anderson doing some pretty involved art, you know, for the masses. [chuckles] And we just couldn’t stand that. I mean, I’m using some sort of universal we because…

Linda Frye Burnham: I could stand it.

Steven Durland: …I like Laurie Anderson’s work, [laughs] but a lot of people were like— you know, they just, you know, God, if somebody will pay you for it, you must be doing something wrong, you know? [they laugh] Tended to be that attitude towards it at that time.

Jenni Sorkin: So would you say performance art became a victim of its own success, in a way?

Steven Durland: Well, you can see what happened with the magazine, right? That’s issue 23. Well, like we said, in 21, we started doing reviews. What had happened was we really started losing interest in the magazine right about that time, and people started seeing the Artist’s Chronicle as vanity publishing. You know, because— well, there was this transition from artists going into art galleries and basically announcing, “I’m going to do a performance”—whether it’s I’m going to get shot in the arm or I’m going to crawl through mustard or whatever—to the alternative space movement, where people were saying, “Okay, five bucks and you can sit on that pillow over there for the next hour and a half.” You know, it was no longer like, open-ended. And so there were careers to be made, there was money to be made. I mean, there were things at stake.

Jenni Sorkin: But the other thing that was at stake was this moment of professionalization and…

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: …also academic professionalization and grants, and that now that— Somehow High Performance had contributed to performance art becoming a legitimate medium.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: And there was a kind of legitimization process that this previously unidentifiable genre was now solidifying into a whole movement, and High Performance was partially responsible for capturing this movement in a very specific way, because there were no other performance art magazines at the time.

Steven Durland: And what people were finding is they couldn’t Xerox an Artist’s Chronicle page and put it in with their grant application or their performance proposal or anything like that because it was just them writing about themselves. So if you look at the first issue that ever had reviews in it, the big headline Linda put there was, “You wanted reviews, here they are,” you know?

Jenni Sorkin: So people had asked you repeatedly, then, for reviews.

Steven Durland: Repeatedly, yeah. I mean, people were becoming very scornful of the Artist’s Chronicle.

Jenni Sorkin: And was this something that was discussed in board meetings or amongst the two of you together?

Linda Frye Burnham: [inaudible]

Steven Durland: Yeah, I mean, we’d discuss it as staff with whoever was around, I suppose. You know, the tricky part was— I mean, it made us have to totally change the way we work, because we had to find people to do all the writing. You know, people who would go out and see this stuff.

Jenni Sorkin: And how did you feel about becoming a reviewer yourself, making this transition from editor to commentator or critiquer or taste maker?

Steven Durland: Well, for me personally, I was kind of young and naïve; I just thought it was kind of fun at first, you know? I mean, I had no— it didn’t bother me to be doing that. I had the energy to do it. And you know, Linda was always a good editor, so [laughs] you know, she could make the words sound better if I wasn’t doing the job.

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, I remember writing a review of Suzanne Lacy’s Dark Madonna performance. And I had to remove myself from the persona that I had previously, where I would have sat down with Suzanne and asked her a lot of questions and interviewed her about it and documented her whole process. And instead, I had to just make myself a member of the audience and try to perceive it the way everybody else was perceiving it, without knowing anything more. And I remember writing that having experienced it, I still had no idea who the dark madonna was, or where that whole mythology, that iconography came from, and I couldn’t discern what Suzanne was shooting at. And also I remember calling it dowdy and dated. [laughs] And I think that distanced me a bit from the artist for a while.

Jenni Sorkin: So did she get pissed off when this got printed? I mean, was it difficult to make— I can imagine it must’ve been terribly difficult to make a transition from being among peers and having an open peer process, where everybody is on the same level, everybody’s sending everything in, you’re publishing the magazine, it’s all great fun, everybody’s attending performances; and all of a sudden people want reviews, and they actually want commentary—or they think that they want commentary—they want feedback or critique of something so that they can get their artist grants and they can get teaching jobs and they can get into galleries.

Steven Durland: Well, they weren’t really thinking because when they told us they wanted reviews, what they wanted was they wanted good reviews.

Linda Frye Burnham: Positive reviews.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: And this is a really important point.

Steven Durland: It is. I mean, a lot of people got very mad when we started publishing reviews and we didn’t— I mean, it wasn’t us now because we were just hiring people to go to these things and write about them.

Jenni Sorkin: And where did you find writers? Was that a difficult process?

Steven Durland: Well, early on it was— I mean, you basically hired artists to write about other artists, because those are the only people who understood the form enough to have any kind of critical vocabulary.

Jenni Sorkin: So there weren’t curators who were writing yet.

Steven Durland: Very, very few. There was a few—

Jenni Sorkin: No graduate students?

Steven Durland: You know, one of the best writers we had for a long time was a guy in Chicago. I think his name was Pollock[sp?] or something, Pollock? [Burnham laughs] And he was just cranking out these reviews. And he wasn’t an artist himself, he was a writer. And after several years of—

Jenni Sorkin: Michael Pollock, was that his name?

Steven Durland: I think so. I went to Chicago for something and ended up meeting him and discovered that he was this guy— I don’t know what he had. He couldn’t speak at all. He was wheelchair bound. But he would go to every performance and sit in the front row. And he could only communicate with some, like, little type machine that would put out these long strips of scrolls of type.

Jenni Sorkin: That’s amazing, though, that he was able to—

Steven Durland: Yeah, right. But then he—

Linda Frye Burnham: And he never told us.

Steven Durland: We didn’t have a clue.

Linda Frye Burnham: Nobody ever told us.

Steven Durland: You know, because everything was done through the mail at that time.

Jenni Sorkin: Did anybody know who he was, in those performances?

Steven Durland: No, they all knew him. He was like a local celebrity in the field, but nobody ever told on him or whatever. I mean, he’s one of the few instances of what I would call a dedicated art critic that we had at the time, you know, as opposed to people who sooner or later, are going to do their own art.

Jenni Sorkin: And did you offer payment for the reviews?

Steven Durland: Yeah, I think we paid thirty-five dollars for years for reviews and a $100 to $150 for features.

Jenni Sorkin: And what about the problem of, I don’t know, mutualism or people writing about other people’s work and then being reviewed by the same person?

Steven Durland: [laughs] Well, we had one famous issue where Lewis MacAdams reviewed a performance by Marina LaPalma in the same issue that Marina LaPalma reviewed a performance by Lewis MacAdams. Neither of them knew that this was happening. It was— [Burnham laughs] We felt like it was all above board, but [laughs] I’d hate to try to go to court with that one.

Linda Frye Burnham: But we’d try to determine— You know, somebody wanted to review a performance, we’d ask about their relationship with the artist. You know, Is this your husband? Was this your roommate? Is this your sister? You know, Do you know this person? And they would always come clean if they did. And we didn’t want to go— you know, we didn’t want to cross that line.

Jenni Sorkin: So what happened when there started to be not good reviews? Or what happened with the reviews when they started happening? I mean, could you describe that, the non—

Steven Durland: [chuckles] You should tell them— remember Michael Peppe’s two famous pieces[?]?

Jenni Sorkin: I’m going to just pause this for one second. [audio file stops and restarts] We’ve moved outside.

Steven Durland: [laughs] Well, we’ve been talking— You know, you asked about criticism. And kind of the precursor in the magazine to criticism was two articles that— I think it was a precur— I can’t remember exactly what issues they were in. But Michael Peppe wrote two articles that I think appeared a few issues apart. One was called “Why Performance Art is So Boring,” and the other one called “Why Performance Art is So Bad.” And it was the first time that somebody had actually had the temerity to be critical of performance art in High Performance. Jenni Sorkin: There were other irreverent articles.

Steven Durland: [laughs] But you know, less about the form than Michael’s was. And you know, Michael, he was a hard core performer. You know, I mean, he was somebody who came up with ideas and rehearsed them for six months for eight hours a day, before he showed up on stage with them. And he had so little patience for the kind of high concept throwaway performance, the performance artist who gets an idea and that’s, you know— says, “Okay, well, this is what I’m going to do,” and that’s the last they think about it till they get onstage and actually do it.

Linda Frye Burnham: [inaudible]

Steven Durland: Yeah, he just had no patience for that because he was such a skills guy. [laughs] And so he wrote these—

Linda Frye Burnham: And his were all replicable. [laughs]

Steven Durland: Yeah. Yeah, exactly, you know? So he wrote these two pieces that—

Jenni Sorkin: Was he theatrical in his performances?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yes.

Steven Durland: Well, he considered himself a musician. What he did was, he would basically write a— How would you—? He would score, like, a forty-five minute sound performance, and it was all sound that he just made with his body. So it might be: [slapping sounds]. But it would just be intense. And you know, he ended up kind of transitioning into the new music world because it really was sound pieces. But they were scored, they were replicable. And they were amazing to watch. You know, we can show you videotape of them[?]. I think we probably still have some around.

Jenni Sorkin: So was he pretty— I mean, he was a well received, well respected performance artist in the community.

Steven Durland: Yeah, well, you know…

Jenni Sorkin: From San Francisco.

Steven Durland: …except for his ego. [laughs] He was—

Linda Frye Burnham: Unbelievably— [laughs]

Steven Durland: He was just one of those artists who just said what he felt and so he was always irritating somebody, but we got along with him real well.

Jenni Sorkin: What happened to him? Is he still working?

Linda Frye Burnham: He’s still out there. I ask about him once in a while and people say, you know, “He still performs in San Francisco from time to time.” But we haven’t talked to him in a long time, so—

Steven Durland: And he was one of the early reviewers then, too. Writing critical reviews.

Jenni Sorkin: Yeah.

Steven Durland: Obviously.

Jenni Sorkin: And so we were talking about the critic— So he was critical, and how were these articles received? Did anybody write in and talk about them, do we remember?

Steven Durland: Oh, I’m sure. I would have to research that to remember, but— You know, I just remember a lot of people being very angry at Michael and frustrated at us for publishing it. Because they wanted the form to be above reproach. But the point being, you know, when we start talking about this move from Artist’s Chronicle to criticism, I mean, the artists were crying out for it in some ways and the form was crying out for— It needed some critical feedback, you know? Some people had to start saying, Okay, these [things] work, these things don’t work. Some people had to just start saying, you know, Sorry, that’s already been done, you know? Or, I’m sorry, that’s already been done better.

Linda Frye Burnham: Or, I couldn’t figure out what was going on. [laughs]

Steven Durland: Yeah, you know? And then you had these kinds of struggles with people like— This is actually a review that appeared in P-Form, but I could never forget it, where a Chicago artist did a piece and another artist wrote a review about how incredibly boring it was. And the reviewer, “Because it was supposed to be boring.” [they laugh] You know? And it was like, hey, you got your wish, you know? Just don’t make me pay for it next time, was kind of the response. You know? And so I mean, that’s where they tensions started coming in, because up until that point, performance art could be a one second sculpture—

Jenni Sorkin: Oh, the dog wants in.

Steven Durland: No, he’ll just get in our way. It could be a one second performance. It also could be Marina and Ulay, you know, sitting in a table quietly for twenty-four hours, staring at each other. And neither of those forms works for a Friday evening at LACE or PS 122 or Randoph Street Gallery. It had to have that form. [inaudible]

Jenni Sorkin: Should I pause it?

Steven Durland: Yeah. [audio file stops and restarts] —the dog in[?]

Jenni Sorkin: It’s recording. It’s fine.

Steven Durland: Where were we?

Jenni Sorkin: We were talking about in P-Form, somebody had written an article.

Steven Durland: Oh, just that idea that— You know, it’s like to do a performance that’s intentionally boring, when this world is changing into a situation where people are expecting something, you’ve got audience expectations, you’re charging money, stuff like that—it was a conflict. And you needed people— There were times when we were writing stuff from our point of view that said, you know, This idea that you’re charging admission and making people sit in chairs and something’s an hour long is a flaw. You know, that’s a problem, too. Because it was creating this world where it was about entertainment instead of a certain kind of art intellect.

Jenni Sorkin: Almost like a nightclub aesthetic.

Steven Durland: Very much so.

Jenni Sorkin: And there was even an article about nightclubbing in LA.

Linda Frye Burnham: Right. That was the point where Laurie Anderson and the poet John Giorno and the writer William Burroughs put together a nightclub act and went all around the country performing in nightclubs.

Jenni Sorkin: The William Burroughs or a different William Burroughs.

Linda Frye Burnham: The William Burroughs.

Jenni Sorkin: The William Burroughs.

Linda Frye Burnham: And so we, you know— I think we had Lewis MacAdams write about it, but— The whole point was, This is happening, you know? This is what’s happening and we’re not going to, like, not talk about it. [laughs]

Steven Durland: Well, and you had publications coming out, like Research in San Francisco was coming out then, which was calling itself a magazine, but it was almost more like a giant book that would come out whenever they could get the next issue. And they were taking that whole culture of everything from Burroughs and Giorno to Survival Research Labs to, you know, the edgier stuff they could find, and kind of turning it into a scene that didn’t care about art or [chuckles] that critique or anything else. It was about a certain subculture, you know, that also was about tattoos and body piercings.

Linda Frye Burnham: And robots.

Steven Durland: Yeah. [laughs] You know?

Jenni Sorkin: And how much of LA was actually divorced from, or aspired to Hollywood, in terms of the performance scene? Like, how many people scorned it but were really auditioning on the side? Were any of these artists who were participating—

Linda Frye Burnham: Those worlds were sort of parallel, but completely unrelated to each other. You would think there would be a lot of funding[?] out of the Hollywood scene, out of the commercial art scene. But they just would have nothing to do with the nonprofit scene. If you’re so lame that you can’t make a profit, then you don’t deserve our help. And every once in a while— This happened more in the later years, in the nineties, that somebody that wanted to break into the movies or get noticed would put together a show. John Fleck was an example of that. He worked in both— He was one of the NEA 4. And he worked in both performance art and movies and crossed back and forth. But he knew the aesthetics of both scenes quite well and knew what he was doing. But every once in a while, somebody with a name that you would recognize from entertainment would want to burst on the scene, you know. And people would just scornfully walk away from that. [laughs]

Steven Durland: It’s actually much more common coming out of New York. I mean, when Whoopi Goldberg left San Francisco, where she was kind of in the performance art scene, she didn’t come to LA, she went to New York. You know, Eric Bogosian and Laurie Anderson and Spalding Gray and all those people. Because like I was saying earlier, New York had the entire infrastructure where you could work your way up. And eventually, you’re doing a solo show that the New York Times is writing about. You know. The LA Times would not write about any of this stuff. We spent years lobbying them. They just would not. We were literally across the street from them. And I would go over there and talk to them and they would say—

Jenni Sorkin: Who was the art critic at the time?

Linda Frye Burnham: Wilson?

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: William?

Steven Durland: William Wilson, yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: William Wilson.

Linda Frye Burnham: [inaudible]… (Probably) “He hated performance art…

Steven Durland: Yeah, he was the head guy.

Linda Frye Burnham: …with a passion.

Steven Durland: And they would say things like, “Well, we’re not writing about it because we don’t have anybody who knows how to write about this stuff.” And we went, HELLO? You know, Look out the window. [laughs] But—

Linda Frye Burnham: [over Durland; inaudible] Well, originally, they said it wasn’t art. And there was a lot of that. You know, This is not art. And all of the things that we are now saying, right now, can be applied to the field that we’re currently focusing on, [Durland laughs] which is community based art. All the stuff about criticism, about it not being art. And I think what was going on with performance is what’s going on now. It was a new form that no one knew how to— They didn’t have—

Jenni Sorkin: The critical vocabulary for?

Linda Frye Burnham: The critical vocabulary, that’s exactly what I was going to say.

Steven Durland: And people were scared that it was too fragile and that it would start being internally critical, that we would kill the form before it had a chance to survive.

Jenni Sorkin: Would take the floor out from under it.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: And The Drama Review was another magazine in the field that was looking at performance art. And Richard Schechner, the editor, is one of the people who founded the whole field of performance studies. And eventually, a language did emerge for being able to talk about performance in all kinds of ways. But you know, early on when we were doing reviews, people would say, “Well, it was too long.” And then, Well, what does that mean? [laughs] Barbara Smith sits in a field for twelve hours; how could that be too long? It’s like, what is the structure of your critical ideas here, you know?

Jenni Sorkin: Well, and endurance originally was a kind of championed and well received idea. A conceptual project from which to make a piece of work was, How long could Chris Burden endure being on the shelf?

Linda Frye Burnham: Right.

Jenni Sorkin: How long could he endure being in the locker? Who was it who— Ulay and Marina Abramović, they would always do those kind of endurance pieces. How long could they sit there with their heads tied together with their hair? And so endurance was a real aesthetic that stopped being useful at some point, because people could simply no longer endure the form. Because how many people were out watching Barbara Smith? Nobody came out to the field with her for twelve hours; she was by herself.

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, I was a very big fan of endurance work. And I would be very happy to sit in a piece for twenty-four hours. But I think it just became passé. It’s like, Okay, I get it, you know?

Steven Durland: Well, also, too…

Linda Frye Burnham: Let’s move on. [laughs]

Steven Durland: …it was totally coming out of visual art. There’s a structural vocabulary in visual art that could encompass time as a dimension.

Jenni Sorkin: And structural film…

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: …was quite an influence on a lot of these people.

Steven Durland: Right. But there was— there is no language— Once performance art starts to get performative, then you lose a vocabulary that can incorporate time, because—

Jenni Sorkin: I’m going to go get my notes. It’s okay if you talk to each other.

Linda Frye Burnham: She had some questions she wanted to ask.

Jenni Sorkin: We’ll talk for a second, till I get my bearings.

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, we were just looking at— Here we have a postcard [Durland laughs] that has all of the covers of High Performance on it. And we got this far so far. [laughs]

Steven Durland: And we’ve been using it as a cheat sheet.

Linda Frye Burnham: So we’re using it as a cheat sheet for what happened and what changed and what eras came and folded in on each other. And we just got through the record album, and now we’re looking at the issue with Stelarc and his robotic arm on the cover. So at that point, people were getting interested in science and technology again.

Jenni Sorkin: And what issue are we, around? Because Steve took over in January ’83 as the general— you took over as the general manager.

Steven Durland: General manager, yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: And then you took over the editorship in ’86.

Steven Durland: ’86.

Linda Frye Burnham: Now, which was your first issue?

Steven Durland: That was just—

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, way over there.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: So we’re still talking about me.

Steven Durland: Yeah.
Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. And we’re ’83 [inaudible].
Jenni Sorkin: Do you want to talk about the intermedia and the idea of this intermedia— As performance art was getting legitimated, there was actually an intermedia category by the NEA?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. Well, actually, it’s sort of interesting to go chronologically here.

Jenni Sorkin: Okay.

Linda Frye Burnham: Stelarc was an Australian artist who was working with robotics. And so that was kind of out of left field for a lot of the artists that had been in the magazine.

Jenni Sorkin: Although he did those body art pieces. Maybe that was later. Where he would hang himself—

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Steven Durland: Well, he was doing that, too.

Linda Frye Burnham: He was doing that, too, but this was brand new Stelarc stuff with robotics. And then the following issue after that had Nancy Buchanan wrapped in a flag. It was a video still. It said, “It’s all I can think about.” And that was during the Iran-Contra scandals and the whole war in Nicaragua. And she was going down there and doing a lot of activist stuff. And so that was the first issue where we actually talked about politics existing outside of the arts, and artists responding to it.

Steven Durland: Yeah, it was the first arts activism, beyond feminist protest. You know, artists who were going out and using performance as a form for political protest on a broader scale.

Jenni Sorkin: And so social protest became sort of the shift, in terms of the criteria for the magazine, as well, at the same time? Or later?

Steven Durland: Oh, no, later. I mean, if you were to look at the field, basically what happened is feminists took performance art as a form and figured out how to use it for political ends. And then activist artists took this form that people had turned to political ends and used it— you know, took it in another direction. Okay, you’ve made this kind of political thing; now we’re going to just, you know determine that this is a political form.

Jenni Sorkin: [over Durland] Well, how aware were people of activist theater, like Bread and Puppet Theater or different kinds of theatrical—

Linda Frye Burnham: There was a big difference between performance art and theater in Los Angeles. I don’t think so much in New York. Everything was always so diverse in New York. But in LA, among the people that showed up in the magazine, you wouldn’t find a preponderance of those people who would go to see plays or see theater, or even know about experimental theater. That was like a different world to them. So they might’ve heard of Bread and Puppet, but it wouldn’t be in their conversation in the same way that visual art was. Same thing with film, same thing with dance.

Steven Durland: Yeah, experimenting with the form was still important. And Bread and Puppet was—

Linda Frye Burnham: Too theatrical. [laughs]

Steven Durland: Well, and also very formally uninventive, you know what I mean?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Steven Durland: It came up with a form and just kept using it for the next couple[?] years.

Jenni Sorkin: [over Durland] Right. Although I do remember an article at some point about Indonesian hand puppets. Somebody wrote something about—

Steven Durland: Well, that was later on. We’re talking about…

Jenni Sorkin: Okay.

Steven Durland: …this time. You know, I mean, we learned over time.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. The magazine began to spread out. And it was because the artists were spreading out. The issue after that is a Lin Hixson piece. And that was kind of going into the era of intermedia. But NEA was having a really hard time dealing with performance art and knowing which category to put it in, because artists were mixing it up with all different media and different disciplines. And so they created a category called intermedia, where people who were collaborating from different disciplines could apply together for a grant. And the theory was that their strategies— the strategy of a dancer could be applied to film and the strategy of a poet could be applied to sculpture. And so there was this whole philosophical frame around it. But it really fostered a lot of theatrical looking work, where you get— For instance, the piece that was on this cover was a musical. And it was—

Steven Durland: Well, Lin Hixson. I mean, if you think about that piece and the fact that it followed after the Politicized[?] issue, Jacki Apple wrote us this thing that was like, you know— “Art in Hollywood,” was, I think the title of it or something, that was the subtitle. And it focused on Lin’s piece, which was done in downtown LA using loading docks. And the audience was outside and these loading docks would come up and people on motorcycles coming and going. But at the same time, it was like a kind of a punk reworking of Hello Dolly!.

Jenni Sorkin: No, it was Bye Bye Birdie. [laughs]

Steven Durland: Bye Bye Birdie, yeah. Hello Dolly! Jenni Sorkin: So they were riffing off a genre that was well known.

Steven Durland: Yeah. And she was a choreographer, basically, creating an experimental theater piece, incorporating all of these performance artists and stuff. But it was scripted, it was reproducible. Although it was so site-specific that it was only reproducible there, probably. But—

Linda Frye Burnham: It ran. Didn’t it ever run?

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, see, that was another thing.

Jenni Sorkin: It started to have a run.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: People would come back night after night.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: And then I think that theater critics began to be drawn to that. So did dance critics, music critics. And it was also, Lin’s generation was the generation that started making art about television [laughs] and making performance about the TV shows they used to watch when they were little kids.

Jenni Sorkin: So there was a kind of nostalgia happening.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yes. Yeah, yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: For early [inaudible]

Steven Durland: Yeah, part of the meta-context of her performance— And this guy on the cover was Lance Loud. I don’t know if you’re…

Jenni Sorkin: I have no idea who he is.

Steven Durland: …old enough to remember. The first reality show was this reality show called the Loud Family.

Linda Frye Burnham: No, the American Family.

Steven Durland: The American Family. And the cameras followed this family for an entire year, called the Loud family. And Lance Loud, about halfway through that year, came out of the closet. It was like, [they chuckle] you know, this national thing.

Jenni Sorkin: Was this in the seventies?

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: In the sixties?

Linda Frye Burnham: No, this is eighties, eighties.

Steven Durland: Well, I mean, but the show…

Jenni Sorkin: But the show.

Steven Durland: …must have been late seventies or early eighties, somewhere in there. I mean—

Linda Frye Burnham: No, we’re already into ’83.

Steven Durland: We’re talking about the American family.

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, the American Family.

Steven Durland: I mean, Lance Loud was— that made him famous, but he was like Kato Kaelin or something, [laughs] you know?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, exactly. [laughs]

Steven Durland: In the scene, you know? And so, you know—

Linda Frye Burnham: And he hung out with artists and stuff.

Steven Durland: Yeah. And so Lin basically uses that meta-context by making him, you know, like the bad boy of her musical. You know, it’s a—

Linda Frye Burnham: And that show was about celebrity.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: I mean, we were already into that era of working on celebrity, at that point.

Steven Durland: So it was very postmodern, you know? That work.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: Well, and it became a whole discourse around celebrity…

Steven Durland: Right.

Jenni Sorkin: …and the sort of self-conscious nature of…

Linda Frye Burnham: Yes.

Jenni Sorkin: …the artist as performer. And what did it mean to be a performer and not sort of, quote/unquote, “hide behind your work,” as a painter, where your personality wasn’t necessary to the product.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: Or the product that you were creating. And even though performance wasn’t meant to be a product, in a sense it became one.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: And the personality became exported.

Linda Frye Burnham: Brilliant.

Steven Durland: Yeah. [they laugh]

Linda Frye Burnham: Thank you very much. I’m so glad we have her.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: An informed interviewer. [laughs]

Steven Durland: Yeah. And interestingly, you know, I’ll say something here I never really thought about before. But it was right at that moment, I think, when Linda and I started feeling that slight bit of self-consciousness. Like, you know, This work is starting to turn into something that we don’t have the vocabulary…

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Steven Durland: …to deal with. You know? When these people started bringing a theater education and a music education and a dance education, you know, out on the pub— You know, our expertise, if we had any, was coming out of, you know, a visual art, performance art sort of thing. And even though we weren’t trying to draw that line and say this is what it was— You know, we were trying to follow the field. And you know, we started talking about this being a magazine about the new arts, you know, the experimental arts, as opposed to just about performance art. We started having to rely a lot more on, you know, other people to help us figure out what was—

Linda Frye Burnham: What the artists were talking about.

Steven Durland: Yeah, yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: Well, there was a—

Linda Frye Burnham: Because they were making theater references and so forth, you know.

Jenni Sorkin: Well, and you had talked yesterday about ’84 to ’86 as being a kind of definitional, transitional phase for performance art…

Linda Frye Burnham: [over Sorkin] Right, that’s where we are right now.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: …itself. Right. Which is that— basically, what you’re saying is, is that the nature of performance was changing and it became a question of definition and where it was stemming from. Was it a visual arts tradition? Or was it now a theatrical tradition? And was there room for both kinds of work to be produced? Or was the conceptual work being squeezed out by the theatrical, dramatic, music-, dance-based kinds of work? And was there a way that the reviewers then could pick up this kind of— what you thought was your— You were at the end of your expertise with the theatrical stuff, but were there reviewers who were able to step in and talk about this kind of work? Like, you did— I mean, part of what was so important to me to see in High Performance was that you nurtured so many young writers and you allowed— Just like you nurtured artists, you nurtured writers, as well. And you sort of took them by the hand and you ended up with a whole host of writers who became really crucial spokespeople in their own generation. So you had Mary Ellen Sanford, who was the Drama Review editor now, right?

Linda Frye Burnham: Mm-hm, mm-hm.

Jenni Sorkin: And she was an early reviewer for you. And she must come out of some sort of theater…

Linda Frye Burnham: Theater, yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: …background. So was somebody like Mary Ellen helpful, in terms of writing reviews or—?

Steven Durland: Oh, we were totally reliant on— especially, you know, to deal with New York. A lot of writers came out of that Drama Review graduate [chuckles] world. You know, the—

Jenni Sorkin: The NYU Performance Studies program.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yes, exactly.

Steven Durland: Yeah, and Schechner always had these people, you know, these performance students running TDR. And we were able— you know, they got to test their— do a lot of writing for us, get a lot more writing out for us than they did [inaudible].

Jenni Sorkin: Did Peggy Phelan ever write for you, early on?

Steven Durland: No, not her in particular, but…

Linda Frye Burnham: I think she might’ve.

Steven Durland: …Ann Daly did a lot and Mary Ellen wrote a lot.

Linda Frye Burnham: Marina LaPalma came out of new music. So if a piece lent itself in that direction, she was excellent, you know.

Jenni Sorkin: And was Ann Daly the one who ran Dance magazine? Or wasn’t somebody from Dance magazine—

Linda Frye Burnham: She’s a dance critic.

Jenni Sorkin: Okay, dance critic.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: She’s a dance critic.

Jenni Sorkin: Sarah Vowell wrote for you for a while.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, she had a column, a music column. So she wrote about music. And often, it veered into popular music.

Steven Durland: And popular culture in general. [chuckles]

Linda Frye Burnham: Popular culture, yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: And speaking of columns, Steve, you had a column for a very long time. [he laughs] Would you like to talk about Tacit, because I think it’s a really interesting—

Steven Durland: Well, it wasn’t really a column. I mean, it was an art object [Burnham laughs] that I’d started doing when I first started typesetting, which was— And I started doing a postcard that looked like, basically, a sarcastic newspaper. I would make up news stories and—

Jenni Sorkin: It was like a phony journalistic style. And there was a whole—

Steven Durland: Right.

Jenni Sorkin: I mean, it was dripping with irony.

Steven Durland: Yeah, it was—

Linda Frye Burnham: And God had a column in Tacit.

Steven Durland: Yeah. [they laugh] It was very much like The Onion is today on the internet. Except I would— it started out as a postcard and I would just mail it out to friends. It’d be one side of a post card and every story was continued on page seventeen. And then later it was open; it was like a three page postcard. And then when I first met Linda, she started reproducing them.

Linda Frye Burnham: In the magazine.

Steven Durland: In High Performance.

Jenni Sorkin: And it was always like the back page, or right around the back page, right?

Steven Durland: Yeah, after— I mean, if you look back, there’s an issue or two where she just featured it somewhere in the magazine, and then we gave the back page over to it. And then after a while, I reformatted it to basically be eight and a half by eleven and fit the back page. And then it got bigger. And then the LA Weekly hired me to do a page for them, do Tacit for them on, you know, like a tabloid size thing. And that was kind of the halcyon days of Tacit, and then it gradually— You know, it was all— So much of this feels like it’s pre-internet energy. It’s kind of the thing that happens on the internet now, too, with young people. But then it was pre-internet, so it all had a different time scale.

Jenni Sorkin: But you also prefigured all of the kind of things like The Onion. I mean, Tacit was around long before The Onion, so how does it feel when you see something like The Onion now, which is an ironic publication very similar, if not the same format of what you were doing, where you were writing fake stories and coming up with fake stock market reports, where you would actually— I mean, the one that I think is brilliant is where you have a column of stock market— you have blue chip artists standing in for stock prices, and you see them going up and down. [they laugh]

Steven Durland: Well, that’s what I would do is I would just— you know, I’d sit there and look at the newspaper and just find— you know, I can do— Because I was a typesetter, number one, and I had access to all this graphics equipment, too. You know, I could fudge up just about anything, which back then, most people couldn’t do. So it had a lot more— the idea of a fake newspaper was much more charming [laughs] to people, because everybody couldn’t go home and sit at their computer and do it themselves, which everybody can now. You know, I mean, the high concept part of it is long gone. I’ve played around a little bit with kind of like sarcastic websites, [laughs] in that regard, which would be the modern version of that. You know, do a fake Onion or something, I don’t know. [they laugh]

Linda Frye Burnham: Fake Onion.

Jenni Sorkin: Well, and even the idea of the fake, though. When you were talking earlier, it’s striking to think about— I have no idea if people were trying to fake performances. I mean, that’s a really strange thing to me, that they would want to— You know, they wouldn’t really want to do it, but they’d somehow— the impetus to be in the magazine was so strong that you would fake the performance.

Linda Frye Burnham: No, no, they were playing with us.

Jenni Sorkin: Oh, okay.

Linda Frye Burnham: They were trying to— That was an antiestablishment move. It’s like, Will they be able to figure me out, that I didn’t actually do this? And that was the concept of it.

Steven Durland: Right, and all— Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: It was, I’m saying I did but I didn’t do it, so isn’t that brilliant?

Steven Durland: Yeah. The end result would obviously be some documentation of, you know, In January 1978, I faked up this performance and sent it to High Performance and they printed it and, you know—

Linda Frye Burnham: And that would be the documentation.

Steven Durland: Yeah. [laughs] You know, it’s like the real piece is getting High Performance to publish a fake…

Jenni Sorkin: Right.

Steven Durland: …write-up or something.

Linda Frye Burnham: The one I remember was Kim Jones trying to get us to publish documentation of him setting rats on fire in Tijuana. And— Well, I’m going to get in trouble here because I can’t remember if we published it or not. But I do remember finding out that it didn’t happen.

Jenni Sorkin: No, but he did get in trouble for setting rats on fire at Cal State LA.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, but this was…

Jenni Sorkin: Yeah, right.

Linda Frye Burnham: …after Cal State LA. But there’s— I’m giving us an opportunity to pause here if we want to, but Steve has an incredibly great story about what happened when he was doing Tacit, that you have to tell. The John Lennon story.

Jenni Sorkin: There’s ten more minutes on this tape, if you want to—

Steven Durland: Well, it’s totally extraneous to High Performance, though. I mean, it’s a personal story, so we should tell it later, just—

Jenni Sorkin: Why? We should tell it now. We should also have that Bob Dylan came to performance [inaudible].

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, we haven’t gotten to 1984.

Steven Durland: Yeah, yeah, we’ll work our way down[?].

Linda Frye Burnham: We’ve got a whole thing we’re going to do about 1984.

Jenni Sorkin: Okay.

Steven Durland: The next chapter is 1984. [Burnham laughs] But I’ll give you the short version for the tape. I was living in New York. And it was…

Linda Frye Burnham: 1980.

Steven Durland: …late 1980. Ronald Reagan had just gotten elected, but he hadn’t taken office yet. And I got up one morning and I came downstairs from my seventh floor walk-up on Canal Street and got out in the street and looked up, and there was a guy walking down the street with a newspaper that says, “John Lennon Shot.” It was a Post. I actually found a copy. I’ve saved a copy of it. And it just shook me to the core. And I remember I had just broken up with my wife at the time, so I was living by myself. It was, like, Christmastime. I was just a mean, angry guy. And so I did an issue of Tacit that wasn’t really funny. It was just an angry screed about guns and stuff. And then after John Lennon got shot, somebody’d interviewed Nancy Reagan about gun control. And she said, “I’m not for gun control. In fact, I keep a tiny, little gun under my pillow.” So in this copy in Tacit, at one point I say, “Somebody should take Nancy Reagan’s tiny, little gun and blow her tits off.” And then, like I always did with Tacit, I just put stamps on it and mailed it to all my friends and correspondence people. And some postmaster in Denton, Texas, saw it, read the small type—you know, it was in teeny, like five point type, you know? I mean, you’ve got to want to read Tacit to read it—and sent it to the Secret Service. And I got…

Jenni Sorkin: Holy shit.

Steven Durland: …investigated by— You know, it’s like one day I’m up in my loft and I hear this knock at the door. And I open it and there’s, you know, like two men in black, you know? [they laugh] And it went on for— you know, they spent a whole day with me, busting my chops about X, Y and Z. And I had to, like, give them dictionary definitions of satire. I had to show them previous versions of this, you know. And literally, they laughed at the Jimmy Carter jokes, you know? [they laugh] But the Ronald Reagan jokes weren’t funny.

Linda Frye Burnham: [laughs] The Ronald Reagan jokes.

Steven Durland: And to their credit, you know, to the Secret Service’s credit, once they decided I wasn’t a threat to kill Nancy Reagan, they let up. But they monitored me for about two weeks. And I had a performance coming up the next week at a space called A’s in New York. And it had a whole bunch of stuff about Nancy Reagan and stuff like that. And everybody— You know, it’s like it’s your classic New York performance art audience of circa 19—

Linda Frye Burnham: Audience in black. [laughs]

Steven Durland: Well, it probably January ’81 by then. January, February. But I mean, he’d taken office by then. And everybody’s there [laughs] dressed in black. Walk into the performance, here’s two guys against the back wall in, like, Bermuda shorts— I don’t know— What—?

Linda Frye Burnham: Hawaiian shirts?

Steven Durland: Hawaiian shirts and Bermuda shorts. And it’s these two Secret Service agents trying to be undercover. [they laugh]

Jenni Sorkin: And they totally stuck out like a sore thumb.

Steven Durland: Like a sore thumb. But then they disappeared after that. And I mean, I should write and get my file from them. That’s the last—

Linda Frye Burnham: My favorite— I remember this as a headline, with the story continued on page seventeen. But “Linda Burnham says, ‘I made it all up.’” [they laugh] And the best picture in Tacit, that I like the best, was— This was after Linda Montano and Tehching Hsieh had done a performance where they were tied together for a whole year at the waist. And Steve found a picture—it was at some president’s funeral—of the four living ex-presidents standing next to each other, and he tied them all together at the waist. [they laugh]

Jenni Sorkin: That’s funny.

Linda Frye Burnham: So— Yeah, we did have funny stuff. We had the Church of the SubGenius was also in High Performance. It’s a bunch of sort of maniac a cartoon artists that formed a church. And we gave them a center spread for a number of issues.

Steven Durland: [inaudible]

Jenni Sorkin: Well, there were a lot of spoof political campaigns. I mean, multiple ones. Like Sue Dakin ran for president.

Linda Frye Burnham: Sue Dakin ran for president.

Steven Durland: Right. Lowell Darling was always running for something.

Jenni Sorkin: Lowell Darling ran for president and for governor, I think.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: You have that spoof picture of Ronald Reagan on, like, the third or fourth issue, arm wrestling Wolfgang Storrel or—

Steven Durland: Stoerchle , yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Stoerchle, yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: I mean, there was a kind of political humor to certain pieces in the magazine. And most people— I mean, performance art at that time isn’t remembered as especially funny. It’s remembered as really dour and…

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: …serious and endurance work. And I mean, it’s funny. It’s interesting to go back and actually see that there is this— there’s a strain of humor coursing through.

Steven Durland: Well, we almost forced it at times. You know, we wrote about—

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, yeah. We both have very strong senses of humor. And in fact, the reason I fell in love with Steve was I sat down and read all of his Tacits in his studio and just fell on the floor laughing. So you know, how could you not love a girl that laughs at your work that hard. So we were always noticing work that was funny. So that’s why you see it in High Performance, because we noticed it. It was funny on purpose. [laughs]

Steven Durland: Yeah. We wrote about the Doo Dah Parade.

Linda Frye Burnham: The Doo Dah Parade, right.

Steven Durland: That was before that was an institution.

Jenni Sorkin: The Doo Dah Parade, which was the alternative—just for the tape—was the alternative…

Steven Durland: Yeah, to the Rose Bowl Parade.

Jenni Sorkin: …Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, where crazy people performed.

Steven Durland: Yeah. No—

Linda Frye Burnham: No, they were just Pasadena citizens. It was the—

Steven Durland: Yeah. No powered vehicles.

Linda Frye Burnham: No powered vehicles. But there was the brief case drill team of men dressed in suits. Because Pasadena’s a very conservative community. So this was their idea of, I guess, community art.

Steven Durland: Right, the—

Linda Frye Burnham: You know, men in suits with ties, doing drills with their briefcases and—

Jenni Sorkin: And it wasn’t meant as satire at all?

Steven Durland: Oh, yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yes.

Jenni Sorkin: Oh, it was satire, okay.

Steven Durland: Oh, totally. There was Ladies Against Women, who would march down the streets saying, “What do we want? Nothing! When do we want it? Now!”

Linda Frye Burnham: [over Durland] “When do we want it? Now!” [they laugh] And the lawnmower drill team. Everybody out with their electric lawnmowers.

Steven Durland: Yeah. And these guys would practice all year. You know, it’s like they’d be going down with their lawnmowers and they were just like a drill team. They’d break and suddenly they’d all, you know, do incredibly intricate routine, and then head on down—

Linda Frye Burnham: In their Bermuda shorts and their sunglasses. And it’s still happening.

Jenni Sorkin: [over Burnham] The Waitresses marched.

Steven Durland: Right.

Linda Frye Burnham: It’s still happening.

Jenni Sorkin: And it’s spread to other cities, apparently.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Did it?

Jenni Sorkin: My sister went to one in Columbus, Ohio.

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh!

Steven Durland: [inaudible]

Jenni Sorkin: On the Fourth of July.

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, my gosh! Oh, great. I’m so happy.

Jenni Sorkin: And she called me up and said, “Do you know about this thing called the Doo Dah Parade? [Burnham and Durland laugh] This sounds like performance art.” And I said, “Actually, that started in Pasadena.” And she was like, “Really?” And I said, “Yeah.”

Linda Frye Burnham: The Waitresses were in it one year.

Jenni Sorkin: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: I remember Anne Gauldin was dressed as a baton twirler for that event. Not Ann— Was it Ann Galden? No, it was Ann— What’s her name? The one with the speech impediment[?].

Steven Durland: Laurel Klick.

Linda Frye Burnham: No, no.

Jenni Sorkin: No, she was not in that group. She was in a different group, though.

Linda Frye Burnham: But let’s see. Okay, so— it seems like there was one more funny thing about this. I can’t remember. About— No, there wasn’t.

Jenni Sorkin: Okay, we’re actually at the— There’s two minutes left on this tape, so you can keep talking and try to remember the funny thing.

Linda Frye Burnham: No, it was— I guess I was remembering the four ex-presidents.

Steven Durland: Well, the other funny thing about the Secret Service story is the performance they came to, it featured a woman that I went to graduate school with, in ceramics at UMass, named Judith Stiles. And she was kind of a serious ceramic artist, but she came to me—she’d moved to New York same time I [had]—she came to me, she said, “I’m, like, you know, eight and three-quarters months pregnant and I want to be in a performance of yours while I’m pregnant.” You know, basically saying, you know, Here, I want to be your prop. And so I had her sitting out there and she slits open her gown and just exposes her stomach. And I was projecting thought balloons over her stomach as the performance was going on, of this fetus thinking about, you know, air and water and, you know, this hierarchy of needs thing I’m always working on. [laughs] Till eventually, things get totally out of control and it’s about war and Nancy Reagan and all this stuff and blah-blah-blah. The fetus turned out to be Julia Stiles, the actress.

Linda Frye Burnham: [inaudible]

Steven Durland: Yeah. [laughs] I don’t even know if Julia Stiles knows this, but that’s the first time she ever performed, when she was—

Jenni Sorkin: That’s really funny.

Steven Durland: Yeah. [laughs]

Linda Frye Burnham: So we’ve got two hours, is this— How much have we got down so far?

Jenni Sorkin: Yes, we have. [audio file stops and restarts] Okay, tape three.

Steven Durland: One of the— You know, the thing that changed Los Angeles and the art scene indelibly, at least the world we were in, was that the Olympics came to Los Angeles in ’84. And with that, you know in preparation for that, they changed all the artist live/work laws downtown and a lot of artists, like us, were basically forced— We could keep the offices there, but we couldn’t live there anymore without spending tens of thousands of dollars meeting new code requirements. They cleaned out skid row, they pushed lots of people out of downtown. And they brought in the Olympic art— they had the Olympic Arts Festival, along with a big Fringe Festival, which, for the first time, gave Los Angeles an experience of the international art scene. And there was a whole segment of that that was extremely exciting to our audience. Stuff like Sankai Juku. You know, this is when Butoh first showed up in the United States. And Pina Bausch. You know, this kind of dramatic German dance. And Cirque du Soleil, which was brand new and unheard of then, was in town. And then in combination with that, there was a whole Fringe Festival of local and regional acts that were just performing, you know, all day. Twenty-four hours a day there was stuff going on.

Jenni Sorkin: Who did all this programming?

Linda Frye Burnham: The city.

Steven Durland: Well, the Olympic Arts Festival was programmed out of the Olympics…

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, the Olympics, yeah.

Steven Durland: ..and then the city, I think, helped with the Fringe Festival.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Steven Durland: But you know, it just literally changed the complexion of Los Angeles and the art scene. That was about the time that MOCA was opening up, too. The Temporary Contemporary.

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, yeah.

Steven Durland: And so Artforum did a big story about, you know, LA, the new art center. Michael Kelley said the problem with LA is not enough people hate bad painting. [chuckles] Stuff like that. But you know, for the artists, there was all that. Plus you’ve got it was 1984, you know? And now it seems like a long time ago, but back then, most people, most intellectuals had waited their entire lives… [chuckles]

Linda Frye Burnham: For 1984.

Steven Durland: …for 1984, you know, because—

Jenni Sorkin: Just because of Orwell?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Steven Durland: Just because— Yeah, it’s like, you know— just like you waited for 2001, you know? It was just an important year, for some reason.

Linda Frye Burnham: And who was our president?

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: [laughs] Ronald Reagan.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: Second term.

Steven Durland: Right.

Jenni Sorkin: No, first— first term? Second term. Second term.

Steven Durland: ’84, that would’ve been the end of his first term.

Jenni Sorkin: Yeah, second term.

Steven Durland: So one of the things that happened is, like Linda had said earlier, she had 8,000 square feet for pennies a square foot. And you know, with two other people. Well, the live/work people, artists who were living there, got kicked out. We couldn’t have them there anymore. So suddenly we had this huge space in the back of that. Almost, I suppose, a thousand square feet, maybe, that room?

Jenni Sorkin: But you were kicked out, too. You had to find someplace else to live.

Steven Durland: Well, we had the offices there. We had the offices there, but we weren’t living there. But we still had all this space.

Linda Frye Burnham: And see, we were leasing some of the other— The space was in a big horseshoe. And we were in the front part of the horseshoe, and then we had tenants in the back. And that was one of the things that supported the magazine. But all those tenants had to leave. So the back half—it was about 3,000 square feet, actually—was empty.

Jenni Sorkin: That’s huge.

Steven Durland: So we had that huge space and we couldn’t find a tenant for it. So we said, “What are we going to do?” So we got the staff together and we decided we would turn it into a performance space for a year. We’re going to do a one-year project. We called it the Orwell Memorial Art Gallery. And it was…

Jenni Sorkin: That’s funny.

Steven Durland: …Linda and myself, Lin Osterhage[sp?], who was kind of our secretary person, and Karen McCarthy and Paul worked together. And we alternated curatorial [duties]. [chuckles] You know, it’s like each of us got it for a month or six weeks or whatever. You know, Do whatever you want. And some people curated something public, some people just used it kind of— I remember one time when just the four us all went up there and painted for a week, all sorts of stuff.

Jenni Sorkin: So it became public/private dual space, depending—

Steven Durland: Yeah, yeah. You know, and we did some benefit performances up there. There was an evening we mentioned before, with Karen Finley and Harry, one of the Kipper Kids, performed together. Paul McCarthy did a performance there, Linda and I did a performance there. We had several nights of student performances, UCLA student performances. And was it Cal State Long Beach or CalArts? Some other students. You know, a number of those people ended up turning into local performance artists. [chuckles] But the thing that most people remembered from that was the 5-Minute Performance Olympics, which we did kind of just in advance of the Olympics. It kind of overlapped with the beginning of the Olympics a little bit. And it lasted for a month. And every—

Jenni Sorkin: And this was your idea?

Steven Durland: Yeah. And it started because we had this friend who used to have a little dog that she would always take to performances. It would be very quiet until the end of the performance. When people would clap, the dog would bark. And so we set up this official judging panel, which consisted of—

Jenni Sorkin: The dog.

Steven Durland: What was her—

Linda Frye Burnham: Dianne Lawrence was his mistress.

Steven Durland: Dianne Lawrence. Yeah, Dianne Lawrence owned the dog. And she would bring the dog and it would sit on a cushion right here.

Linda Frye Burnham: On a pedestal.

Steven Durland: Pedestal. And Linda was a judge, Dianne was a judge, and there was one other—

Linda Frye Burnham: No, I was the bark counter.

Steven Durland: Oh, okay. But I thought there was—

Linda Frye Burnham: It was just me and Dianne…

Steven Durland: Oh, it was just the two of you.

Linda Frye Burnham: …and I counted the barks.

Steven Durland: Okay, okay. [Burnham laughs] And I was the emcee. And anybody was allowed to register for it, and a lot of people did. We presented ten to fifteen performances an evening.

Jenni Sorkin: Did you charge?

Steven Durland: What? Yeah. Not to perform, but we charged people to get in. And the idea was that people had exactly five minutes. They couldn’t go a sec— You know, it’s like a big hook and a horn and all— It’s like five minutes, you were done. And—

Linda Frye Burnham: But weren’t there some other rules about wearing white jumpsuits and using Steve Reich music and slides? [they laugh]

Steven Durland: I don’t— it’d probably be in the catalog.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. The catalog. [laughs]

Steven Durland: But the point was every time the performance would get done and the audience would clap, the dog would bark; Linda would count the barks, and that would become the person’s score. And the top three performers, I believe, from each of the three preliminary evenings, came back for the finals, with the winner being promised a one-way bus ticket to San Diego and five dollars spending money or something like that; I don’t quite remember was the second part of the prize was, but— It just got hilarious because people were doing—After the first and second week, when people started seeing the dynamic— because sometimes people would do like great stuff, you know? And everybody’d be clapping like crazy and the dog’d just go, “Uh.” [Burnham laughs] You know, just like, Tough luck, you know?

Linda Frye Burnham: Tough luck.

Steven Durland: But ironically—

Linda Frye Burnham: It was the canine applause meter. [laughs]

Steven Durland: Yeah, yeah. All in all, the dog was pretty good, you know? Because the dog tended to bark as long as people applauded; people tended to applaud in proportion to the quality of the work. But people started doing performances with dog food and dog treats and—

Linda Frye Burnham: And bringing their entire family to sit next to the dog and clap like crazy.

Steven Durland: Yeah, yeah. Once they figured out…

Jenni Sorkin: [inaudible]

Steven Durland: …where the dog was going to be, then they would position all their friends there and stuff like that. And it got a lot of attention. You know, what happens with big events like the Olympics is the whole town fills up with press and they run out of stories and stuff like that, so there’s a lot of, like, Europeans and foreigners coming around, like—

Linda Frye Burnham: And don’t forget about Bob Dylan.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Well, that wasn’t at the 5-Minute Performance Olympics.

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, that was our performance.

Steven Durland: Yeah, that was the night where we had the group— You and I performed and then Paul performed, and then there was one other performance [inaudible].

Linda Frye Burnham: And Bob Dylan was in the audience. With his bodyguards.

Steven Durland: With his bodyguards.

Jenni Sorkin: And he didn’t talk to you? Or he did talk to you?

Steven Durland: No, he didn’t talk to anybody. Sat—

Linda Frye Burnham: And nobody talked to him, either.

Steven Durland: He sat against the back wall and any time anybody got near him, the bodyguards politely and quietly directed them away.

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, everybody was too cool to talk to him, anyway.

Steven Durland: Right.

Jenni Sorkin: And who won the 5-Minute Performance Olympics?

Steven Durland: Michael Peppe. [laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: “Why Performance Art is So Boring.”

Steven Durland: [laughs] Yeah, right. Well, Michael Peppe was never boring.

Linda Frye Burnham: One thing we thought we would do when talking about 1984 is just take this Olympic Arts Festival issue and read what else was in it besides the Olympic Arts Festival, just to show sort of the stretch, the reach of stuff that we were covering and trying to describe this incredible multifarious field. So we assigned people to cover one, two, three, four, five, six, seven performances in the Olympic Arts Festival. And then we had an article on Linda Montano and Tehching Hsieh’s One Year Art/Life Performance, where they were tied together at the waist. An article by Mark Dery, who went on to write for…

Steven Durland: Lots of magazines.

Linda Frye Burnham: …lots of magazines, he wrote an article about Jim Carroll, who was a famous poet at the time. I wrote an article—

Jenni Sorkin: Jim Carroll, The Basketball Diaries guy.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, Basketball Diaries. I wrote an article about Elisha Shapiro’s Nihilist Olympics. Lewis MacAdams wrote about Penelope Spheeris’ films about rock and roll. And he also wrote about the Electronic Café, about video artists trying to link four restaurants with a museum electronically. Chris Burden’s Beam Drop was written about by Robert C. Morgan, who went on to write for many magazines. Arlene Raven wrote about Elizabeth Stroud, the famous dancer. Michael Peppe wrote a music quiz called “Are You a Minimalist?”

Jenni Sorkin: That’s funny.

Linda Frye Burnham: Two guys from Seattle wrote about a project up there called Invisible Seattle. Susan Block, who turned out to be a sex writer— She would write about, what, sex therapy or something? Not for us, but—

Steven Durland: Well, she had a cable sex show.

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, right. She became famous for her cable sex show. But she wrote a review— or a story about an intimate theatrical performance in a house, where the audience would come and walk through the house.

Jenni Sorkin: And were they having sex in the performance [inaudible]?

Linda Frye Burnham: No, there was no sex involved in this…

Steven Durland: No. Yeah, it was totally—

Linda Frye Burnham: …but she went on to become famous for sex. And Peter Frank and Ken Friedman both wrote “A Post-Definitive History of Fluxus.” So all that stuff was in the same issue. [they laugh]

Jenni Sorkin: Was Peter Frank writing for the LA Weekly then? Was he reviewing performances?

Linda Frye Burnham: Possibly. He did move to LA, but I can’t remember when.

Steven Durland: I don’t remember Peter ever reviewing performances. He reviewed visual art. You know, art shows and stuff.

Linda Frye Burnham: There you see Linda and Tehching tied together with the rope…

Jenni Sorkin: That’s a good picture[?].

Linda Frye Burnham: …on the back cover. And that was also a landmark time for me, because a performance artist that we knew well, named John Malpede, who had appeared in High Performance, came out from New York. And he was having a fairly successful career in New York and he came out to the Olympics and saw that the city was pushing all the homeless people down against the LA River, behind a fence, to get them out of downtown so that the tourists wouldn’t see them. And they lured them down there with food and they locked them in every night. It was really horrible. It looked like a concentration camp. But there were a number of homeless people setting up a tent city on the lawn of City Hall. And so John went out there and listened to them and watched what was going on, and thought it was great theater. So he went down to skid row, Fifth Street in LA, where all the homeless services are, and he went to the Inner City Law Center and asked them if he could start a performance workshop in their office and run it at night when the office was closed. And he said, “If you’ll let me apply for a state artist in residence grant through your nonprofit, then I’ll work for you as a homeless advocate.” So he worked every day for Inner City Law Center as a homeless advocate, testifying in court, taking testimony on the street about the lives of the homeless, and at night he ran a performance workshop there. And the first night there were about twenty-five people that showed up. And some of those—

Jenni Sorkin: Homeless people, not students, right?

Linda Frye Burnham: No, these were all homeless people.

Jenni Sorkin: Homeless people.

Linda Frye Burnham: It did attract art students later. One or two of those people are still—this was 1985—one or two of those people are still in the company. It still exists. It tours, but the membership fluctuates because of the situation that they have to live in. It’s so insane. But they started doing performance in a little— on the street, and in a little theater on skid row called—

Steven Durland: Wall and Boyd[?]?

Linda Frye Burnham: Wallenboyd, yeah. And run by a guy named Scott Kelman. And so John found it intriguing to figure out how to work with this company, doing works about their lives and about the impact of the situation of poverty and the war on poverty and the war on drugs. On their lives. And many of the people were— That was right after Ronald Reagan had emptied all the mental hospitals, so many of the people had mental and emotional problems, a lot of them were drug addicted. Sometimes half the cast would be in jail or they’d forget to come. And John thought it was interesting to use performance art strategies to create a coherent performance, which often would be extremely different from night to night. And it instantly became famous. It was all over the newspapers.

Jenni Sorkin: Did you cover it in High Performance?

Linda Frye Burnham: We did, yeah. And I wrote about it a lot. I wrote a huge article about it for The Drama Review. So—

Steven Durland: Well, it was on the cover, but it was…

Linda Frye Burnham: It was later.

Steven Durland: …about two years later.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, it was later. Yeah, most of the writing I did about LAPD was in The Drama Review. Los Angeles Poverty Department was the name of the company, and the acronym was LAPD. And I’m mentioning all this because it was right at the moment where I quit the magazine that I started getting interested in what John was doing on skid row. And when I quit the magazine, I decided I was going to write about that kind of work. And I wrote an editorial for High Performance in about 1987, about turning towards artists who were working outside of galleries and with communities, and working on social problems. And that became my interest from then on. So that was a really pivotal moment for me, because I had— [chuckles] I was just looking at a review I had written about a night of cabaret at LACE that was just so frivolous and negligent that I just had to give it a bad review. And I really was hungering to write about something that was, I guess, more authentic. About artists trying to attack social problems with the only skills they had, with their skills as artists. So that’s what was going on at that moment. I was transitioning into that world.

Jenni Sorkin: And you had stopped being interested in sort of the self— I mean, did you start to perceive certain kinds of performances as self-indulgent at that point?

Linda Frye Burnham: I never really understood what the word self-indulgent meant. I just felt like it was just becoming so inconsequential and frivolous and it was just entertainment. It was being done for fun. And nothing wrong with fun. I like fun as much as the other people, but you know, it was bad vaudeville. [laughs] And the ironic thing is that only—let’s see, that would’ve been ’85—four years later, Tim Miller and I started a performance art space called Highways, in Santa Monica, and spent the next five years presenting performance art. So I can’t say that performance art was dead, it’s just that at that moment, I lost interest in it. And once we started the performance space, what I brought to it was people who were working with communities, working with shipbuilders and working with the homeless, working with incest survivors. And they would come— An element of performance might be a part of that project, and I would be able to bring that to the stage in Highways. So it’s not like I didn’t see performance as useful anymore, but I just wanted it to go in a different direction. And I didn’t want to force the magazine that way, so I just took that moment to really invest myself in a different kind of work.

Steven Durland: Well, it was also, too, though[?]— You know, the work had moved to a point where it had no— It had moved away from a critical vocabulary. I mean, you don’t go writing critical pieces about cabaret. You know, people like it and they pay to see it and it’s fun, or they don’t. But it had moved away from having any connection to, like, an art history or even a performance history or something like that. And even the Dark Bob, I know he started billing himself as a weird entertainer at the time. You know, just— Because that’s— It’s all these different people, all these different kinds of people who are all coming to take advantage of the fact that performance art had created venues and audiences—

Linda Frye Burnham: That would sit still for anything. [laughs]

Steven Durland: Yeah, for a variety of outlandish kinds of things.

Jenni Sorkin: But also was there an alternative space drop-off, though, in the mid-eighties? Right? Or early nineties?

Steven Durland: Didn’t start happening until, yeah, the end—

Linda Frye Burnham: End of the nineties.

Steven Durland: Yeah. You know, when you get into the middle of the eighties, I mean, if you’d have told us that this was as good as it ever was going to get, we’d have been shocked, because we thought we were just about—

Jenni Sorkin: To launch?

Steven Durland: Just about to launch. But I mean, back at that time, I used to go to— we used to have conferences just of small magazine editors.

Jenni Sorkin: And I guess we should acknowledge that there were lots and lots of local and state level grants. City grants, state grants, NEA grants. There was a lot of money to fund— I mean, not huge sums of money, but enough that there were lots of these kinds of spaces staying afloat with city and state grants. And that High Performance was also, to some extent, staying afloat on city, state, and national grants. That there was a kind of public support or public money for the arts at this particular time; that through the late seventies up through the late eighties, it was like a kind of decade of— I don’t know, that there was support. And that that’s something that’s very different for my generation, because we’ve never lived in a time when there was that kind of support, where it wasn’t a big deal, in a sense, to go to the city and ask for $2,000 to curate a series of performances and get money for posters and all of that.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Well, and it’s not just the money, but also the economy worked radically differently then, too, you know. I mean, there was space to be had. I mean, the world hadn’t figured out what artists had figured out, which was how to take cheap space and make it work. And these generations— We like to sit around in our wheelchairs and talk about, you know, All these kids want too much money to do this stuff; they’ve just got to get out and do it, like we did. But you know, you don’t get 8,000 for $500 any more. You know, or oftentimes…

Jenni Sorkin: No.

Linda Frye Burnham: Certainly not downtown.

Steven Durland: …space for nothing, or nearly nothing. You know, you could live on a whole lot less back then, too, just because of the way the world worked.

Linda Frye Burnham: Those were the days of Alphabetland in New York…

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: …being developed. Thos were all just sort of empty crack houses down there at the time.

Steven Durland: Yeah, when my loft went from 450 a month to 600, I left because it was too expensive in New York. [Burnham laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: Right, and 600 now would be, I mean, unthinkable.

Steven Durland: Right. [laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: And you can’t even get something in Flatbush for that.

Linda Frye Burnham: Right.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Of course, that was a long time ago, so— But okay, what do you want to talk about next. Do you have a question? [audio file stops and restarts]

Jenni Sorkin: We’re recording.

Steven Durland: Okay. Well, late in ’82 was when Linda decided to step down.

Linda Frye Burnham: ’82?

Jenni Sorkin: ’86.

Steven Durland: ’85.

Jenni Sorkin: ’85.

Steven Durland: What am I talking about? Yeah, late in ’85 Linda stepped down. And you know, I mean, we debated folding the magazine at that point, I remember. But Sue didn’t want to and I didn’t want to. So—

Jenni Sorkin: And if it had been up to you solely, Linda, would you have?

Linda Frye Burnham: I’ve quit a lot of things in my life. [laughs] So I just cut the strings, you know, and— Usually people want me to be in charge of what happens next, but I won’t. So this is one of the times when I did that. And Sue literally— We went out to Sue’s house, sat down with her, and I said, “I’m quitting.” And you know, we talked about that for a little bit. And I guess I thought that it was over, the whole magazine was over. And she just turned to Steve and said, “Would you like to be the editor?” And he said, “Sure.” So on it went.

Jenni Sorkin: And did everybody previous— I mean, were you pretty much thought of as a team, running High Performance up to this point and throughout the whole run of the magazine?

Steven Durland: Well, more and more so. You know, I think it developed over time. I don’t think anybody saw us as any kind of co-editors up to that point, but— You know, if you were look at the last— the issues of the magazine from, say, ’93 to ’95, I was doing a lot of writing, I was doing a lot of interviews, developing a higher and higher profile.

Jenni Sorkin: Are you saying ’83 to ’85?

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: You just said ’93 to ’95.

Steven Durland: Yeah, ’83.

Jenni Sorkin: Okay.

Linda Frye Burnham: And then when we came to North Carolina, we became co-editors again. So the last two years was the two of us officially.

Jenni Sorkin: Right. So going back to where Steve’s era picks up, you started— your first magazine was January 1986.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Spring ’86. And Linda— it moved down to me[?], and then when she— [audio file skips] director. [skip] transition was kind of— [skip] a little bit more interest— [skip] where Linda was a little more people oriented. So she— [skip] and I tended a little bit more on, you know, the theory— [skip] and access[?] of those kinds of things only— you know, and I would never use that kind of language. Interestingly enough, at the moment that I took over is when Joseph Beuys died. And so the first issue was basically a Joseph Beuys cover, which also kind of inspired a sense of— I had this sense as an editor and an artist that— you know, I didn’t have an background in writing, I didn’t have any background as a magazine editor, but I had this background as a conceptual artist. And I kind of saw the magazine as an artwork; that I could use the magazine to kind of like affect this culture that we were working in. And by doing that, not so much make it what I thought it was, but make it what the artists around me were trying to make the world into. And one of the things that worked, I discovered, is if you put a Joseph Beuys on the cover or a John Cage on the cover, then it gives a certain resonance to the other artists you put inside, even if nobody’s ever heard of them before. And up till that point, we hadn’t really done much of that. We’d kind of avoided putting anybody who was famous on the cover, or in the magazine.

Jenni Sorkin: In a deliberate way.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Because we figured they didn’t need it, you know? But by virtue of the fact that Joseph Beuys died and we couldn’t be a performance art magazine and ignore that, I put it on the cover and discovered, well, what happens is suddenly it gives all these people that we really care about more resonance. You know? So in the first year and half, we had Joseph Beuys—

Linda Frye Burnham: Not that we didn’t care about Joseph Beuys.

Steven Durland: Oh, no. But it’s like I was saying earlier, you know, we had the sense of artists graduating out of High Performance.

Jenni Sorkin: And moving on to more mainstream periodicals?

Steven Durland: Yeah. You know, once Artforum was writing about you or the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times, our feeling was, We only have a limited amount of space. Congratulations. Go have a great life. We’re going to go write about somebody else now. As opposed to following a Laurie Anderson…

Jenni Sorkin: The whole way up.

Steven Durland: …through the rest of her career. She didn’t need us, was our feeling. And our commitment was to continually find where that—

Jenni Sorkin: What was emerging.

Steven Durland: Yeah, where the tide pools were. [laughs] You know, where stuff was, like, forming and coming out of the ooze of—

Jenni Sorkin: Did you feel that you limited your own career options in a personal way because you were always interested emerging artists; that you were pulling back from, like say writing for Artforum, Linda, or Steve, trying to get Tacit in a larger periodical or something?

Steven Durland: Yeah. I think there’s some of that. You know, I don’t think we had a whole lot of Sturm und Drang about it or anything, but you know, I mean—

Linda Frye Burnham: No, we didn’t realize what we were doing. [laughs] We didn’t realize there would be those kinds of consequences. Which in fact, there were, you know. Nowadays, I think people get very, very busy about their careers in their thirties. If not their thirties, definitely their forties. Because once you turn fifty, you have to have a firm footing on things professionally, or you’re cooked. [laughs]

Steven Durland: And also, too, you can’t discount the fact that maybe the magazine got in the way of my personal art career or something. But it also opened up all kinds of doors, you know, all kinds of opportunities that would I would’ve never had, even if I would’ve become a famous artist, perhaps.

Jenni Sorkin: Such as?

Steven Durland: Oh, the people you got to meet, the people you got to talk to, the places— You know, going to Japan or going to arts festivals in London or—

Linda Frye Burnham: Ireland.

Jenni Sorkin: And you got invited to those places because you were the editors…

Linda Frye Burnham: Yes.

Jenni Sorkin: …of High Performance.

Steven Durland: Yeah, yeah. I mean, you know— It’s like I never in my wildest dreams fantasized that I would be, like, giving lectures at the University of Colorado and the University of Minnesota or that sort of things. Because I never was career tracked academically, to be in those kinds of places. And I kind of— So you know, there’s lots of great things. Back when I was still [chuckles] thirsty for looking at work, you know. I mean, we figured out at one point that we were seeing like 300-and-some performances a year, you know? I mean, we could get free tickets to anything anyplace. You know, whether it was some scruffy thing in Crenshaw or it was Robert Wilson. You know, so I mean, yeah, it affected our careers; but it was also a career of itself, of its own, too.

Jenni Sorkin: Absolutely.

Steven Durland: At least for a while. So there’s no resenting that, you know. And also it’s like at this point, the magazine and the entire— You know, like I say, it was like if the field ever had a mature point, it was somewhere there in those mid-eighties, you know? And the magazine itself, that’s when we started getting regional editors. And it’s because we were fundraising. We’d get grants not just from the California Arts Council, but from the Illinois Arts Council and the New York arts council—

Jenni Sorkin: So let’s talk about some of the changes that you, I guess in a direct way, that you implemented when you took over. You started to move the magazine in a more multicultural issue-oriented direction and sort of pulled back from doing features just on one particular artist.

Steven Durland: Yeah, well, I would say that up till that point, what we’d kind of been doing— Yeah, it’s like curating the best art we’d heard about in the last three months or last six months. And where I kind of changed that was, like, wrapping issues around issues, in a way. I was doing several things. One was creating issues and stories that kind of challenged the assumptions of the art world. So you know, these issues of cabaret that Linda was talking about, where we were both getting frustrated with all this kind of, you know, comedic stuff being passed off as performance art. Arlene Raven did a cover story for us on Lily Tomlin, who was just going out and doing this thing. It was kind of a throw-down [chuckles] to the art comedians. You know, if you’re going to come in and do a comedy routine, then this is what we’re going to hold you to, you know? We’re not going to let—

Jenni Sorkin: A standard, a high standard.

Steven Durland: Yeah. We’re not going to let you compare yourself to Paul McCarthy and say, “I’m funnier than that,” [Burnham laughs] and then get paid ten bucks, you know? It’s like, if you want to be a comic, then this is somebody who’s very good at it. And we put Greenpeace on the cover, kind of as a throw-down to, you know, people who were doing activist work. Try to say, you know, Here’s a group of people who do basically visual activist performance and the hooker, the kicker is that they get results, you know? They change things.

Jenni Sorkin: And they don’t call themselves performance artists.

Steven Durland: Right. And that’s different than, you know, going into an art space and saying, “I’m against war,” or “I’m against AIDS” or— You know, it’s like you can’t always preach to the converted. Sometimes you’ve got to get out there and really make a difference. So it was like seeing what the world was doing and challenging them a little bit more. And then the other thing was not just challenging artists on these various issues, but also celebrating the artists in the issues. And so I did a series of special feature issues. One of the first ones was, what?, Latino art. It’s like this is when the discussion about multiculturalism was really starting to come to the fore in this whole art world that we were in. You know, people were starting to demand a certain kind of multicultural representation, with a lot of different levels. And the fact of the matter was, everybody was, like, paying lip service to it and [laughs] nobody knew any artists of color. Because basically, people were scared to go to East LA, people were scared to go to South Central, people were scared to go to Harlem. And so we were— I found a woman who taught at— not UCLA, USC, who was doing kind of a Chicano studies program. And I said, you know, “Work with me and let’s do a whole issue on the experimental Latino arts community in greater Los Angeles.”

Jenni Sorkin: Do we have it down there, that we could hold it up?

Steven Durland: Here it is.

Jenni Sorkin: Steve’s got it.

Steven Durland: Here it is.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, it was called “Nuevo Latino.” Show the back cover, too.

Jenni Sorkin: [inaudible]

Steven Durland: Oh, John Alvarez. [inaudible] It featured people like Gronk and Harry Gamboa and Asco and—

Linda Frye Burnham: This is a Patssi Valdez piece, this—

Jenni Sorkin: For the front.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: The cover?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. Yeah, it’s not Patssi herself, but she did the outfit.

Jenni Sorkin: She made the dress. And then she went on to work collaboratively in the— or previously, last— Mujeres Muralistas, I think she was in that group. And she was at the Galeria de la Raza in San Francisco. I mean, she had a whole collaborative practice, prior.

Steven Durland: And the thing we started discovering, doing this sort of thing, is that for the first time, we started seeing a little of the leverage we had with the magazine, because everybody was thirsty to be able to program this sort of thing, but scared to find the people. So you know, we were finding the people and then [chuckles] they would start giving them shows and stuff. It’s like, you know, we kind of became a…

Linda Frye Burnham: Even from England, too.

Steven Durland: …catalog, a lot of times, for these things that people were supposed to be doing. Okay, well, let’s see what High Performance has written about. And we would hear this from the artists. You know, “Thanks for that article. [inaudible] ever since you wrote the article, I’ve been to Chicago, New York, San Francisco,” blah-blah-blah.

Jenni Sorkin: Well, do you think that in terms of this idea of discovery, does that become a kind of— I mean, we’ve mentioned the term curating an issue before. And I mean, did you see yourselves as curators? Did you see yourselves as kind of tastemakers at all?

Steven Durland: No. More as a facilitator, is all I ever felt like I was— I was just— Basically, if you look at the arts as an infrastructure, it’s like we were a key component. And we had certain— there’s things we could do that nobody else could do. And if we did them, then the whole system benefited from them.

Jenni Sorkin: But you also gave people a voice. I mean, you gave all these— the “Nuevo Latino” issue was an important first issue of Latino art in a quasi-Caucasian publication or venue. Performance art was mostly Caucasian…

Steven Durland: Right.

Jenni Sorkin: …by academically trained artists, and that the people represented in this issue perhaps were less academically trained, or from a different kind of situation or background, and immigrants.

Steven Durland: Well, and that’s kind of what I was saying a little earlier, though, too, about putting the famous people there as— I mean, I didn’t curate, over time, a lot of didactic writing, a lot of— You know, We need more of this, we need more of that, that sort of thing. I tried to like— you know, if we needed more, I just tried to give people more, you know, as opposed to say we needed more. It’s like more practice and less preaching. And that’s what I mean by facilitating. It’s not so important that they got written about here, but the point is they got— you know, we shined a light on them. We said, “These people are part of the same world that Chris Burden’s a part of, that Joseph Beuys is a part of, that Lily Tomlin’s a part of,” you know?

Jenni Sorkin: But High Performance did launch— I mean, you were the first person to publish Guillermo Gómez-Peña,

Steven Durland: Sure.

Jenni Sorkin: And that’s a big deal.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: He did a major article in the Latino issue.

Jenni Sorkin: And he had started out as a graduate student, is what you told me yesterday, right?

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: So he was writing for you while he was actually quite, you know, early on in his career. He was still a student at CalArts.

Steven Durland: Yeah. And we followed this issue up with an issue on art and AIDS, which— Oh, what is it? This is a—

Jenni Sorkin: Which is a really early, perhaps the first ever AIDS issue to be done in this country, before 1989.

Steven Durland: Yeah. It predates ACT UP. But you know, you look through here and you see what was really happening. I had mentioned Philip-Dimitri Galas earlier, on the album. He had just died of AIDS. There was some incredibly tough theatrical pieces, semi-theatrical pieces had been produced in LA that had the AIDS crisis as a theme. And you know, as our thinking was kind of moving more and more in this issue of, you know, What does art really mean in the world?, it was kind of a— You know, where does art fit in a crisis like this? And it was specific about AIDS; and at the same time, it was also, for me, it was a bit more generic in this idea of, Do the arts have a place in a crisis of this magnitude? And you know, we got some people to talk pretty honestly about that in there, people who kind of said, “Well, when people are dying, art’s not the first thing they’re thinking about.” And other people who were saying, “Well, when people are dying, art is the only thing they’re thinking about.”

Jenni Sorkin: Do you want to talk about any of the people in this issue or how you found them?

Steven Durland: Well, like I say, it was Tim Miller and Doug Sadownick were familiar friends at the time. I think they were still living in New York, but spending more and more time in LA then, right? Or had they moved to LA? No, they were living—

Linda Frye Burnham: They moved somewhere around ’86, ’87.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Yeah. And Doug was real important to this issue because he had been doing some writing for us previous to this. Little short pieces, but kind of— you know, he kind of was the first person to plant the seeds of an issue like this in the magazine itself. And a director named David Schweitzer put together a play called Plato’s Symposium that was very important at the time in LA. It starred— John Fleck was one of the characters in it, and two or three other of the actors were people who also existed in the performance art scene. And it was all about—

Jenni Sorkin: Was this the first time full blown drama was covered, or no, it had already been covered?

Steven Durland: It had been covered off and on. But you know, it’s like even though—

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, there were a lot of performance artists in that piece.

Steven Durland: Yeah, you look back and it looks just like it’s drama, but things had gotten so hybrid at that point, you know. And David Schweitzer was one of those people who was definitely coming out of theater as a director, but also was relying on the performance art audience for his work because it was too testy for typical Los Angeles theater. Theater was tough in LA at that— you know, that kind of smaller theater thing, because basically it gets used for—

Jenni Sorkin: A launching pad for Hollywood.

Steven Durland: Yeah, you know, people just doing one-acts or—

Jenni Sorkin: And the agents show up and it’s just about picking people out.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: Like, it was really funny to go through this issue. Maura Turney who— Tierney, whatever her name is, that woman from ER, she was like in somebody’s performance.

Steven Durland: Oh, really? [laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: Yeah. I found a picture of her.

Linda Frye Burnham: In which issue?

Jenni Sorkin: I’ll find it. I have it written down.

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, my God! That rings a bell! Wow!

Jenni Sorkin: The woman on the air[?]. And she was really young in this picture and it looked just like her, and I know it’s her.

Steven Durland: And so yeah, with this issue— You know, I remember working with Doug a lot on this. We really kind of put out a call all over the United States. I mean, this cover I mentioned, some of this stuff comes from England, artists there.

Jenni Sorkin: And so you were covering a kind of AIDS crisis not just in New York or LA, but how AIDS was being thought about in London, as well.

Steven Durland: Well, I mean, this is pretty much directly talking about AIDS in the gay community, AIDS and the gay art community, was about the only limitations, if there were any. But— You know, it was a tough issue.

Jenni Sorkin: And do you want to talk about how— So it was a tough issue. And how was it received? Was it well received? Did you feel like people responded to it?

Steven Durland: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Did you say it was the first art magazine to do an AIDS issue?

Steven Durland: I didn’t, no.

Jenni Sorkin: Okay, well, we’re going to state that for the record. [Durland laughs] It was the first art—

Linda Frye Burnham: That’s what we believe, it was the first art magazine to do an AIDS issue.

Jenni Sorkin: And it was also an AIDS issue that was done extremely early. Like, in 1986, which is…

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: …phenomenally early in the AIDS crisis. And it wasn’t like people had a cocktail to take, but people were just dying.

Steven Durland: Yeah. But I mean, you know, I need to be straight about saying that I’m responding to an energy that was happening in Los Angeles then, there were people like David Schweitzer and Tim Miller and Doug Sadownick, and people who were getting very urgent about these issues. It wasn’t something I just created out of whole cloth or something like that.

Jenni Sorkin: Right. But you have you pulse on— I mean, you had your finger on the pulse of something.

Steven Durland: Right.

Jenni Sorkin: And High Performance seemed to always sort of— I mean, you were on the ground, always looking at things. And because you were always dealing with emerging, this was so emerging that nobody had covered it. Or certainly, nobody wanted to touch it.

Steven Durland: Well, it’s the advantage of doing something that doesn’t make any money. [Burnham laughs] We always talked about— The philosophy was always to follow the artists. And if you look at the way most magazines are, they don’t— [chuckles] That’s the way you don’t do— you know, you follow the arts presenters.

Linda Frye Burnham: You follow the advertisers. [laughs]

Steven Durland: Right. And you know, it’s like if you’re a visual art magazine, you start with the galleries and work down. Or you start with the theaters and work down, or you start with the opera houses and work down.

Jenni Sorkin: Right, but that stuff is already, in a sense— it’s already been hand picked and it’s already reached a certain level of acclaim, to even be where it is.

Steven Durland: Well, that’s what I mean. And when you’re talking about High Performance is able to find a pulse, it’s because we were looking were the arteries were, [chuckles] instead of someplace else.

Jenni Sorkin: And do you feel like— I mean, did curators always call you asking for recommendations? I mean, how was it— Could you talk a little bit about that, because we—

Steven Durland: Well, especially as these diversity issues increased— I mean, in California, it got to a level of absurdity by the end of the eighties, where the California Arts Council grants would have, like, about twenty different ethnic categories and you would have to put in a number for how many of your board members were each of these things, and how many of your staff were each of these things, how many of the artists you programmed were each of these things, and stuff like that. And it just got overly ridiculous. But because, also we were developing this reputation of going out and finding out who these people were, people were always calling up. You know, and it kind of cheapens the whole scene, but it was like, you know, We’re putting together this kind of festival, and we really, really need a gay Asian performer. Or, We need somebody who addresses this kind of social issue or—

Jenni Sorkin: So they would be slotting people and they would…

Steven Durland: Oh, yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: …look for you to fill the slot for it.

Steven Durland: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Give us some suggestions so we get the quotas right. [inaudible]

Jenni Sorkin: So do you think that multiculturalism actually reached— I mean, it seems like it reached California much earlier than it hit the rest of the country. And that could’ve been because of the politics in the state, also. Steven Durland: I think it’s because the diversity [inaudible]—

Jenni Sorkin: And the diversity.

Steven Durland: You know, you can’t make all those people shut up and listen. It just isn’t going to work.

Linda Frye Burnham: And we used to talk with the people in New York about that issue because it was so important in California. It was just constantly on our minds. And New Yorkers always go, “We’ve always been multicultural,” and just dismiss it. It wasn’t even interesting to them.

Steven Durland: Yeah. But it was also, you know, the idea of multicultural is that, you know, we’re all white. [they laugh] When I was doing the Latino issue, I had a lot of trouble getting any New York participation. Because no Hispanic artist in New York wanted to self-identify as being Latino. They certainly didn’t want to be called Latino. They’d be called Hispanic, if you were going to call them anything, but they would rather just be, you know, New York artist.

Jenni Sorkin: Right.

Steven Durland: Whereas in LA, identity politics was extremely important. It probably came out of the earlier feminist art—one might guess, I don’t know. That’s a theory for somebody else to develop. But regardless, identity politics was extremely important.

Jenni Sorkin: And this way, did you also consciously recruit writers of color for these and other future issues?

Steven Durland: Well, as well as could be done. I mean, the fact of the matter is when you look at that whole art world, there’s more writing by, let’s say—I mean, this is an over-exaggeration—but by white people about people of color than writing by people of color about people of color, for instance.

Jenni Sorkin: Right.

Linda Frye Burnham: There’s only one person of color in this issue, who wrote[?].

Steven Durland: Yeah. The hardest thing, the thing I really wanted, that I had a lot of trouble doing, was getting people of color who would write about white people. You know, which to me, was the— that was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It’s like, Let’s turn the mirror all the way around. But the fact of the matter is, the form itself, whether we’re talking about alternative spaces, the magazine, the alternative magazines, performance art—they’re all white forms in the beginning. And it’s not that any of us didn’t want diverse participation, it’s a lot of times, they didn’t want to do it. You know, it’s like, Yeah, well if I’m going to write, you’re not who I really want to write for…

Jenni Sorkin: Right.

Steven Durland: …and this isn’t really what I want to write about. And nobody really kind of wanted to say that. But it’s true and it’s legitimate, you know. And so we always kept the door wide open and we always spent a lot of time encouraging people to write. But at the same time, I was ornery enough that I wasn’t going to force the issue because of a certain kind of politically correct pressure or something like that.

Jenni Sorkin: Right.

Steven Durland: I mean, earlier on, people used to compliment us because of all the women writers we had. We just let them write. The only thing we’ve done is, you know, we haven’t told them no. [chuckles]

Jenni Sorkin: Well, and there was a lot of— early on, from the very beginning, there was a massive representation of women, and women were pervasive in the field of performance art, and also video art. And places like the Woman’s Building were fueling that in Los Angeles, certainly, but there wasn’t— Women were not part of the commercial gallery scene, by and large. They were not painters and sculptors, and they certainly weren’t showing in commercial venues in New York or LA or anywhere. And there was an extreme amount of sexism.

Steven Durland: Right.

Jenni Sorkin: And I mean, if you go down the rank of Willoughby Sharp’s Avalanche, which was also a, quote/unquote “alternative” periodical, there’s two women written about, in ten issues.

Steven Durland: Right. [Burnham laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: And I think Yvonne Rainer is one of them. And there’s a dancer in[?] another one, but it’s very minimal.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Well, see now, the difference there is you’re talking where the money is. And women were consciously being excluded, as well as people of color. Because the pot wasn’t big enough to share like that.

Jenni Sorkin: Well, and also male gallerists certainly weren’t going to be able to sell the work or market the work of women to where[?[ they were going to effectively turn a profit.

Steven Durland: And I think that when I say that things like this magazine and the alternative art space and stuff were essentially white, I’m basically saying that it came out of a culture that was privileged enough to not have to worry about making money. You know? And a lot of people of color, over time, that I’ve dealt with, they don’t have time to, like, write $35 reviews, you know? If they’re capable of writing and getting paid, they’re going to go someplace where they can make some money, you know?

Jenni Sorkin: Right.

Steven Durland: I mean, that’s basically welfare for us, if I can get somebody to spend a whole night going out to a performance and a whole day writing about what they saw, for thirty-five bucks, you know, they’re doing us a favor. And still, we were paying more than most people, but— You have to have a certain amount of privilege to be able to do that.

Jenni Sorkin: That’s true.

Steven Durland: Anyway[?].

Jenni Sorkin: Do you want to talk about the expansion of the staff at this time, when you took over?

Steven Durland: Yeah, well, when I took over, like I say, we hired Claire Peeps as a director. For years, I’d been doing the typesetting and production, and we hired— was it Judith—?

Linda Frye Burnham: Spiegel.

Steven Durland: Judith Spiegel. God, she was great. Judith Spiegel came in as the typesetter. And later a woman named Rebekah Behrendt came in. We starting bringing in— we had interns come in, like Rica O’Hara and Andrea Beane. Actually, when I was talking about having UCLA student performances, about half of those students ended up being interns for us at one time or another, which brought a lot of great energy to the place. We started getting regional editors. We had Linda Novak in New York, and later Arlene Raven and—

Linda Frye Burnham: Carole Tormollan.

Steven Durland: Carole Tormollan in Chicago and—

Jenni Sorkin: And you got an Illinois Arts Council grant at one point to have a Chicago editor?

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Several [inaudible]

Steven Durland: Yeah. We kind of had this— We started going around looking for state arts council funding from other states to cover regional coverage, but we also didn’t want to get too locked into having to quota-ize. I mean, if you get a grant from Illinois, then X-percentage of your coverage has to be about Illinois.

Linda Frye Burnham: Right, and it couldn’t all be about Chicago, either.

Steven Durland: Yeah, right.

Linda Frye Burnham: So we wound up with reviews of things in Springfield. [laughs]

Steven Durland: Yeah, or Evanston or Evansville.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. Yeah, right.

Steven Durland: Edwardsville, Edwardsville.

Jenni Sorkin: Edwardsville’s in Indiana, I think.

Steven Durland: No, Southern Illinois.

Jenni Sorkin: Oh, I know what you’re talking about. Yeah, Southern Illinois, like Carbondale and stuff.

Steven Durland: Yeah, yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Carbondale. Yes, we covered Carbondale. [laughs]

Steven Durland: So like Pennsylvania, they gave us a grant one year, but there just wasn’t enough going on, you know, in our field to—

Jenni Sorkin: Because state conferences hadn’t happened yet.

Steven Durland: [laughs] Yeah, right. Yeah, I mean, we just weren’t prepared to give that much space over to Pennsylvania. But New York was always a good idea, and NYSCA, the New York State arts council, gave us grants for years, which was wonderful of them. And they understood the value of that. And Chicago understood the value of that—I mean, Illinois arts council—that giving us a grant was good for their artists because it gave them a profile beyond the city. We always tried to get money out of San Francisco, but we never could quite pull it off there.

Jenni Sorkin: I think it’s also why— There was a legitimate performance department very early on at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. And in part, I think it had to do with the fact that there was actually legitimation for performance in Chicago, because of something like High Performance. And High Performance, in turn, kept spaces like— it became mutually— There was a reciprocity, in terms of— Because High Performance was writing about spaces like Randolph Street and N.A.M.E Gallery, people could get reviews and then people could get teaching jobs and there could be a performance art department at a college level, at a university, at an art school. And then later on, something like P-Form could start. So it all became expansive in that way.

Linda Frye Burnham: This is exactly what’s going on now in community based art. It’s exactly what’s going on. It’s just a repeated pattern. It’s amazing.

Steven Durland: Well, it was funny, I mean, if you ever went back and, like, charted it. So much of it was so serendipitous for us, in that writing got done about work where we could get writers. [chuckles] And so there was a time, I remember, where we had some writer in Montana who was gung-ho. And you’d have thought Montana was…

Linda Frye Burnham: A hotbed.

Steven Durland: …if not New York City, at least Brooklyn, [Burnham laughs] you know? Because there was performance happening there every three months in High Performance. But it’s because we had somebody to write about it, you know? And there were places, major ci— like a New Orleans, maybe, or a St. Louis, you know? I mean, stuff happened there.

Linda Frye Burnham: Kansas City.

Steven Durland: Yeah, you know?

Jenni Sorkin: Well, the fact that it’s documented actually makes that scene and a span of years much richer, in going back to the magazine, because all of that stuff would’ve just disappeared and you would never had known about it.

Steven Durland: But that’s why [?]—

Jenni Sorkin: You would never know that a performance was even able to take place in Kansas City, much less get it written into a magazine [inaudible].

Steven Durland: But no, what I’m saying is, those are significant sized cities where oftentimes, we didn’t have writers. We couldn’t find anybody to write about stuff, and so that work didn’t get documented. And I’m saying, you know, a casual reader of the magazine might think that Montana was a much more exciting place to be [Burnham laughs] than New Orleans or Houston or someplace like that, because we just couldn’t find anybody to write in those places. Or sometimes we just couldn’t find anybody capable of writing. You know, they might be willing, but they just—

Linda Frye Burnham: But they’d just turn in slop that you couldn’t do anything with.

Steven Durland: Yeah, right.

Linda Frye Burnham: You know, one thing I think we ought to talk about in the tenth anniversary issue and what we did with that.

Jenni Sorkin: We have two minutes left on this tape.

Steven Durland: This is a[?] [inaudible]. There it is.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, [inaudible].

Steven Durland: I don’t even quite remember what we—

Linda Frye Burnham: Remember, we had people— Well, we better figure out what we did and then we can talk about it. [laughs; audio file stops and restarts]

Jenni Sorkin: Okay. So the tenth anniversary issue.

Steven Durland: Yeah, for the tenth anniversary issue, we put a smaller version of the cover of the first issue on here. And we went through the first ten years of the magazine and put down all the artists who had been in it, and somehow randomly selected a group of I believe it was 100 of those artists, and asked them to send us a statement on what they thought the function of art was in the culture. Because at the time, this was kind of— It was an important question, in direct response to the people who thought this work was self-indulgent; [chuckles] you know, that art had no place in society, except perhaps as a commodity. You know, it was like we kind of— You know, we were in the Reagan years now, and it’s like all that kind of anti-capitalist rhetoric that was going on in the sixties and early seventies was long past, you know? CalArts had hauled the Kaprows and all those people out to CalArts, and now they were cranking out Fischls and all the people who were filling the galleries with very expensive paintings.

Jenni Sorkin: And what year— this was an ’88 issue then?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. It was spring and summer of ’88. And it was also filled with other stories and reviews and stuff, but that was a major— And with each artist, each artist who appeared, we had their statement, but it was preceded by a little chunk of text of something about them from High Performance past.

Jenni Sorkin: So that they were sort of prefaced in some way.

Linda Frye Burnham: Contextualized, yeah.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: And is this the first time that there was a masthead or a kind of subtitle of the magazine, or no?

Steven Durland: No, [inaudible]—

Jenni Sorkin: Okay.

Linda Frye Burnham: 27 was the first one. See? There’s 26. So in 27—

Jenni Sorkin: The 1984 issue.

Steven Durland: A quarterly.

Linda Frye Burnham: ’84, we started calling it a quarterly magazine for the new arts audience.

Steven Durland: And that was kind of our way of acknowledging that we’d expanded beyond performance art into what we called new and unrecognized—

Jenni Sorkin: Arts.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: Which allowed in other kinds of artwork.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Media and stuff, yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: And video, sort of…

Linda Frye Burnham: Video, yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: …made its way into the magazine.

Steven Durland: Certainly.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yes. Installation.

Steven Durland: Computers.

Jenni Sorkin: Robotics. Alright, we’re at— I’m going to— [audio file stops and restarts]

Steven Durland: Okay, yeah, so in ’88 we moved from downtown LA to Santa Monica, moved the magazine down there. And staff expanded some more at that time, we ended— Claire Peeps had been developing an advancement grant for us, for over a year, at that point.

Linda Frye Burnham: That would be an NEA grant.

Steven Durland: Yeah, NEA advancement grant, which was designed to help you, you know, transition into a bigger, more stable organization, meeting with consultants and stuff like that. We eventually got the grant, but because of NEA budget troubles, they gave us a third of what the program called for, so it was actually very inconsequential, other than that it was nice to get the money. But we could never realize the five year plan that we’d put together, which involved a lot of marketing.

Linda Frye Burnham: And a lot of wasted time. [laughs]

Steven Durland: Mm-hm. Well—

Jenni Sorkin: And the grant was $100,000 originally, right? And then—

Steven Durland: Yeah, yeah. I mean, the project we drew up, you know, and the grant they were going to give us was going to be $100,000 and they ended up giving us $30,000. So yeah, that’s when we added Karla Dakin as a staff person to handle circulation and marketing. But we really didn’t have any budget for her to work with. She was kind of very hand to mouth, in terms of that work. Also about that time, we added a new designer named Dylan Tran, who was also a very good, very capable writer. She did some editorial contributing, as well as the design work. And we added Eric Gutierrez as a kind of a managing editor role. And you know, Claire had done well in terms of fundraising. I remember it was in ’88 she got a big grant from the Irvine Foundation for us, for technology. And this is when we really abandoned all of our typesetting equipment and— We still kept the stat camera, but we bought one of the early Macintoshes with the giant, big screen. [dog barks; audio file stops and restarts]
Okay, so Irvine gave us this grant, we acquired this equipment and jumped full bore into desktop publishing, even though it was still early. I mean, you can see a bit of a quality drop, but at the same time, it helped stabilize us financially, [chuckles] and it—

Jenni Sorkin: Quality drop in terms of the color? [inaudible]

Steven Durland: No, in terms of, you know, just the typesetting and— It’s like the early desktop publishing, where there was a drop in quality between that and what you got before. You know, it only lasted for maybe a year, year and a half, but—

Linda Frye Burnham: Are you talking about kerning and—

Steven Durland: Yeah, yeah. Just, you know, the sharpness—

Linda Frye Burnham: The way the type looked.

Steven Durland: Yeah, the sharpness of the way it reproduced, all of that sort of stuff. You know, we had to step back a little bit to almost a little bit of a [inaudible] newspaper quality reproduction, in a way, to pull it off. But you know, in the long run, it proved to be a very…

Jenni Sorkin: Economical decision?

Steven Durland: …economical decision. And you know, a decision with foresight. And even then, as we were transitioning to desktop publishing, I was looking into the future of the internet and that kind of publishing, because I knew that we couldn’t continue to afford the kind of magazine we were doing like that. So Irvine was great in that regard, giving us that funding.

Jenni Sorkin: So you were at the 18th Street Arts Complex.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: And Sue had raised the— had bought the property. And so it became a sort of joint venture and live/work space at around this time, then.

Steven Durland: Yeah, yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: So this was ’88? ’89?

Linda Frye Burnham: ’88 is when the complex started. And then Tim Miller and I started Highways, which was in the complex, in 1989. So that made it a public space and people came there.

Steven Durland: I don’t know if there’s any major stories to tell right in there. I guess it was going into the—

Jenni Sorkin: Was it strange to move to the west side? I mean, did you—

Linda Frye Burnham: It was strange because you could see the sky. It was blue. [laughs]

Steven Durland: Yeah. But also too, downtown had really deteriorated. You know, when I first came there in ’82, you could go to 240 South Broadway. And you know, people would joke about the bum tax because there was winos and they’d be sitting around and you’d give them a quarter, you’d give them fifty cents, they’d ask for stuff. But you could also, if you needed somebody to help you move a piece of furniture, you could go down and get one of these guys and come up and he’d help you move the piece of furniture. By the time we left in ’88, it had gone from winos to crack addicts. And you couldn’t stay after dark, your cars always got broken into, you’d find junkies and prostitutes in the stairwells, and the whole complexion of downtown changed.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, crack just burned its way across LA. It was awful.

Steven Durland: Yeah. You know, the office— I mean, it’s like we had these heavy steel doors with giant locks, you know. But after five o’clock on Friday, nobody showed up till Monday morning. And you’d come in there on Monday morning, they’d just be battered, like they came in with, like, sledgehammers, trying to break the doors down and stuff.

Jenni Sorkin: Did they?

Steven Durland: Well, they broke in through the skylights once. We never had any— You know, I remember them breaking in once, and all they did was steal, like, portable radios and stuff. We never had anything significant. But we were having a staff meeting one day and I looked at the skylight and there was a guy trying to get through, break in through the skylight.

Linda Frye Burnham: Removing the panes of glass from the skylight.

Jenni Sorkin: That’s scary, though.

Steven Durland: So I ran up on the roof and it was, like, some kid. He couldn’t have been over thirteen, and he pulled a big revolver on me. I jumped out of the way and he runs down the— You know, so it was a huge relief. You know, I mean— it was basically me, and everybody else on the staff was women. And the women were frightened to work there. You know, people were getting ready to quit. And Sue wouldn’t [chuckles] even come downtown anymore. So it was a huge relief to get out of there.

Linda Frye Burnham: And she didn’t want to— you know, the reason she bought this property was she wanted to do something in terms of providing low cost studio space for artists. But she said, “I am not going to buy—” You know, downtown was developing rapidly as an arts center. But she said, “I’m not going to buy a building downtown and encourage more people to come down there and get lung cancer from the smog.” Because it was so smoggy downtown. Eleven freeways converged on downtown LA. And if you could ever see the mountains, you’d run in and call everybody out to the fire escape. “Look! We can see the mountains!” You know, right after it would rain.

Jenni Sorkin: It would rain, yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: You know, once a year, we’d all run out and go, “Look! Look what you can see!” I mean, now you approach downtown LA and you can’t even see it. It’s hidden behind a wall of smog. But down in Santa Monica, we were ten blocks from the beach and the offshore breeze would blow in. So any smog that was there would get blown into town, you know. And we had flowers and vegetables and— It was pleasant. And we lived there. And my daughter came to work there, too, and she lived there. So it was this family atmosphere that we really enjoyed a lot. It was quite beautiful.

Jenni Sorkin: Did it create any kind of polarization or thinking of High Performance as— You know how there’s like a— I mean, at least in the last ten years, there’s like a west side/east side thing in LA, where the west side people are a little flightier and into yoga and like the beach and have more money. I mean, did High Performance— was there any of that around at the time, or no?

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, that’s always existed. And I used to swear to God I’d never move to the west side. And—

Steven Durland: Well, we basically brought our entire culture with us [chuckles] to the complex.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, yeah. All our friends moved into the complex, so—

Steven Durland: [inaudible] friends. [chuckles]

Linda Frye Burnham: You know, and then we rarely went downtown anymore. It was kind of a been there, done that. Plus we were working. We were putting in twenty hour days for five years there, running that place.

Steven Durland: And there wasn’t much left. You know, LACE was pretty much gone from downtown by then, Cam and Wally’s Galleria was gone. Over where, you know, Lin’s[?] building…

Linda Frye Burnham: Gone. Yeah.

Steven Durland: …that was gone. I don’t know if Wallenboyd was still there. All that was left was, you know, the brick and mortar places—Japan America, the Music Center, LA Theater Center.

Linda Frye Burnham: Al’s Bar.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Well, even Al’s Bar had kind of lost its cache by then.

Linda Frye Burnham: Like, the very first thing we showed at Highways was LAPD, which was from, you know, skid row.

Jenni Sorkin: Right.

Linda Frye Burnham: And they came all the way across town to perform at Highways. So we didn’t— we weren’t nostalgic. [laughs] And I don’t think there was any kind of a prejudice against us or the complex. It became a home for so many artists that loved it so much that they were willing to take the bus all the way across LA to work the door at Highways, even people with AIDS, to work for free. So you know, it was a beloved place.

Steven Durland: Plus you had to be slightly amused by the fact that you were getting run out of downtown by a bunch of doctors and lawyers [they laugh] who wanted lofts down there, and you got to move to Santa Monica, you know? It was like, Suckers! [laughs] It’s the one time gentrification kind of backfired on people.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, the artist lofts started going to photographers and interior decorators and architects, who had a lot more money to put into their spaces than artists ever do. So it began to get to expensive. And I understand it now is just way out of reach. I know somebody that’s planning to move downtown. And he’s going to move into what, you know, was essentially a flop house when I lived there, and he’s going to be spending something like $500 a month for one room.

Jenni Sorkin: It’s ridiculous.

Linda Frye Burnham: In a flop house. [laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: Do you know, which was the first issue that you published from Santa Monica? Do we have it?

Steven Durland: I believe it was this issue here. We kind of changed the format. We went—

Linda Frye Burnham: Where’s the postcard?

Steven Durland: For a few issues, we went to, like, a non-glossy cover. We had a relatively new designer there who— You know, you’ve got to give a designer a chance to apply their own design after a while [inaudible].

Jenni Sorkin: [over Durland] Right. And who is this on the cover?

Steven Durland: That’s actually an image from an installation performance piece by an artist named May Sun.

Linda Frye Burnham: But the designer was Dylan Tran. Is that who it was?

Steven Durland: No, that was Rebekah Behrendt.

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, Rebekah, oh.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Yeah, I was actually kind of conflating some stuff because what happened— This was, I think, early ’89. Right? Is that—

Jenni Sorkin: It says summer 1989, issue number 46.

Steven Durland: Okay, yeah. Well, see, by—

Jenni Sorkin: And this is the beginning of what I consider to be— I mean, not the beginning, but this— I mean, this is a crucial year in all visual arts culture, is 1989, because of the culture wars. But also you published a series of articles that looked at— like, intensive articles, that— You wrote one about the NEA, Guillermo Gómez-Peña wrote about multiculturalism; this one had one by Ann Daly called “Are Women Reclaiming or Reinforcing Sexist Imagery?” Like, there was a series of serious articles that went beyond the scope— Like you were talking about issue oriented things that you were actually— Big issues, big art world issues were being sort of chewed over in a much more public way, I think.

Steven Durland: Yeah, well, that generation that I was a part of, I think they’d kind of reached a point where, you know, people had things to say, finally. [Burnham laughs] And the world was changing in a way that they really needed to be said, too. You know, like I say, it was just a year or two before that when we thought we were just at the point where our entire world was going to explode. And instead, you know, you look back and it was like the last of the great years, and suddenly we’re under siege, in a way, with all these kinds of—

Linda Frye Burnham: What do you mean we thought the world was going to explode?

Steven Durland: I mean, our world was going to explode, you know.

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, you mean take off like a rocket.

Steven Durland: Right, yeah. It’s like things—

Jenni Sorkin: Like everything was going to come up from the underground and become mainstream?

Steven Durland: Yeah. I mean, you know, people were giving organizations like us advancement grants and—

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. We were talking about our world being the mainstream.

Steven Durland: Yeah, you know? And funding was improving, and we just— we thought, Okay, we’re just one big grant away from stability, as it were. That sort of fantasy.

Jenni Sorkin: So did ’89 sort of take everybody’s—yours especially—breath away, in terms of sort of the losses that accrued?

Steven Durland: Well, it didn’t really hit, I don’t think, until the nineties, did it?

Linda Frye Burnham: No. No, we knew it was happening, but the money didn’t decay for a while, you know? Like they’d say, “This is the last year we’re going to do X,” you know? At the NEA.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Well, I’m trying to figure out[?]—

Jenni Sorkin: And did you have an NEA grant that year? Was that the advancement grant, was ’88? Or ’89?

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, we would’ve had an NEA grant just for the magazine, in addition to the advancement grant…

Jenni Sorkin: Okay.

Steven Durland: …anyway. Yeah, we had an NEA grant every year. [inaudible]

Jenni Sorkin: And how much was the NEA granting? Like $10,000, or more?

Steven Durland: Oh, we could hope for more than that. We could hope for, you know, back when the money was real good, $25,000; later, 15-, 12-, somewhere in there. When we did books, we used to get a— you know, we’d get like $10,000 a year to do a book, and then 15- to 20,000 for the magazine, so— But it wasn’t nearly as much competition back then, either. Like Linda said, you know, back then the NEA used to call people up and ask them to apply, was kind of the way that world was.

Linda Frye Burnham: And we’re talking about twenty years ago, so you know, $25,000 was worth more twenty years ago.

Jenni Sorkin: And it’s still worth a lot. I mean, it’s still a lot of money to be handed at this point.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: I think the problem with the NEA, of course, the famous incidents were things like David Wojnarowicz and Andres Serrano. Problems with discrimination against homosexuality and body imagery and stuff.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: But there’s also another whole school of thought on this. It’s that the rise of ethnic minorities in the art world and their angry voices really shook the mainstream and shook the establishment, and that they, the mainstream, felt politically attacked by artists. And certainly, the work that was going on at Highways was extremely angry all the time. And so I think there is something of a case to be made. But with the stuff like— High Performance did a cover showing David Wojnarowicz with his mouth sewed shut.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Well, we’ll get to that in a second.

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, okay, we’re not there yet?

Steven Durland: Well, the one— just in terms of, you know, if we’re going to worry about technical stuff, in the fall of ’89 was when I went to Japan. And while I was gone, the LA Festival hired Claire…

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, right.

Steven Durland: …away from us. She just— You know, one week’s notice and she was gone.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. Boom.

Steven Durland: I came back, we did a special issue on art of Japan. But perhaps more importantly, there was no way we could do a search to replace Claire on short notice, so I again took over as executive director and I was executive director and editor. And that’s—

Linda Frye Burnham: What year was that?

Steven Durland: Well, this is late ’89. And that’s when we hired Eric. We decided that what we would do is promote me and then hire Eric to take a lot of the editorial—

Linda Frye Burnham: Magazine work, yeah.

Steven Durland: Yeah. And so for the couple of years that we went through that configuration was really different for me, because that was the first time that I wasn’t intimately involved [chuckles] with every word of the magazine anymore. You know, I mean, it was kind of— We’d have editorial meetings and it was kind of almost like a real magazine. I’d sit there, we’d listen to all the ideas, we’d decide what was going to get—

Linda Frye Burnham: [laughs] Almost like a real magazine.

Steven Durland: Yeah. You know, you’d decide what was going to get written about—

Linda Frye Burnham: What you see in the movies. [laughs]

Steven Durland: Yeah. And then you’d just, you know, “Okay, take care of that, Eric. Dylan, you take care of that,” you know?

Jenni Sorkin: So you were delegating responsibilities in a way that previously hadn’t happened.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, you know, High Performance had always been DYI, [laughs] you know, up till that point.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, Steve would type it and I would proof it, you know?

Steven Durland: Yeah. And paste it up. You know, it’s—

Jenni Sorkin: It’s a mom and pop.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Yeah, very much so. And so you know, we don’t probably talk about those issues in there as much, because they’re a little more distant, you know? I mean, we’d really delegated a lot of— or I’d delegated a lot of authority on this. And it was like, you know, I had staff and contributing editors and stuff. And what was coming in was— you know, I was relying on their judgment.

Jenni Sorkin: Were you happy with the outcome?

Steven Durland: Oh, yeah, you know. I mean, these are important things, when you get Diamanda Galas on the cover, you know, and when you get—

Jenni Sorkin: Let’s show it. Do we have that one to show?

Steven Durland: This was—

Linda Frye Burnham: And at the same time, I was so overwhelmingly busy trying to raise money for the complex and run Highways at night that I didn’t pay any attention to High Performance, either.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Now, there’s an interesting— [chuckles] I mean, we’re talking about the time period of the AIDS issue. This one’s got a cover story on ACT UP. Or a story about ACT UP listed on the cover.

Jenni Sorkin: And this is spring 1990. And that’s also early coverage of ACT UP…

Steven Durland: Yeah. Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: …because nobody was covering ACT UP.

Steven Durland: Right.

Jenni Sorkin: Certainly not in an art periodical.

Linda Frye Burnham: And this was an AIDS work that Diamanda did, remember?

Steven Durland: Yeah. And then she came out and did a wonderful benefit for us, for the magazine.

Jenni Sorkin: At Highways?

Linda Frye Burnham: [inaudible]

Steven Durland: No, we had it at one of the fancy downtown hotels— like the Biltmore.

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, my God, I totally forgot about that.

Steven Durland: It was amazing. But it ended up being—

Jenni Sorkin: She sang?

Steven Durland: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: That sounds great.

Linda Frye Burnham: She was great.

Steven Durland: It was so bizarre. It was like—everybody’s dressed up—a very cocktail sort of place, you know? Fancy dinner sort of thing. Probably the fanciest benefit we ever had. We went through a period where we were doing a benefit after every issue. And I remember having a great one when John Fleck performed, so—

Jenni Sorkin: Was that to raise money, after every issue?

Steven Durland: Yeah. Yeah. A great one that John Fleck performed at. And I think that was after the AIDS issue. It was at a gay club down in Hollywood. And we did one at— What was that club on— [they laugh] Back in the day. [they laugh] So yeah. And they were going out and— You know, Eric was really ambitious. He was getting us stories about people like Todd Haynes and all these sorts of people that I wouldn’t necessarily have thought about, you know.

Jenni Sorkin: And certainly weren’t performance artists.

Steven Durland: Right, yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: I mean, Todd Haynes is a filmmaker.

Steven Durland: Yeah. But it was edgy, it was challenging stuff, it was, you know, highly politicized at that time, and these were— You know, the politics of it all was becoming more and more important. You know, and then right after the Japan issue was when we did the Wojnarowicz issue. Now, this is before the NEA started taking money away, but this is when the churches started screaming, you know? And Wojnarowicz did this image of himself getting his mouth sewn shut.

Jenni Sorkin: And this doesn’t— I don’t know who Reverend Donald Wildmon is anymore, so you’re going to have to explain that.

Steven Durland: He was pre-Jerry Falwell. It was like the American Family Association.

Jenni Sorkin: Okay.

Steven Durland: And he could generate, you know, a $5 million postcard campaign with one phone call. And that’s when they really started hitting congress on this stuff. And you know, it was guys like him [Donald Wildmon] who were sending people out and finding out about people like Annie Sprinkle and David Wojnarowicz and that they were getting NEA grants.

Jenni Sorkin: And there’s a Holly Hughes Exposes the NEA artist [inaudible] story in here. So did that kind of thing affect you? Because you were taking money from the NEA and then publishing a sort of Holly Hughes diatribe against the NEA?

Steven Durland: Well, we kind of took the position that, you know, this was journalism, and we were a magazine and we didn’t have to censor ourselves. That we could talk about and we could editorialize about these subjects. So no, we didn’t censor ourselves at all. And the NEA— Well, it eventually cost us NEA money, but not directly, but because the NEA completely reworked the program, you know, to make sure that not just us but— You know, they ran all the magazines out of business, they ran all the service organizations out of business, they ran all the alternative spaces out of business. They just came out with a way that—

Jenni Sorkin: Did a number on everybody.

Steven Durland: Yeah, yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, they changed all their categories several times and just, you know, completely obscured everything.

Steven Durland: Or[?] those very early issues. But the irony to us— or it’s not an irony, it’s just the truth of it is, you know, it was the gay thing that made this happen. And Jesse Helms getting up and screaming about all this stuff had nothing to do with the art the NEA was funding, it had to do with the gay thing. And we know that because they never said a word about, you know, Paul McCarthy…

Linda Frye Burnham: Right.

Steven Durland: …they never said a word about Chris Burden.

Linda Frye Burnham: [inaudible]

Steven Durland: I mean, we would just sit there and laugh and say, “If they knew what artists were doing ten years ago with their money—” You know? “This ain’t nothing,” you know.

Jenni Sorkin: So it was the fact that it was— When you say, “the gay thing,” it was work made by homosexual men and women that— it was the fact that it was gay themed work? Or that there were gay issues?...

Steven Durland: Yeah, both of those.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, [inaudible].

Jenni Sorkin: …Or that it was gay artists? Or both?

Steven Durland: Well, I mean, that’s a—

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, gay activism.

Steven Durland: Sexuality is actually the issue…

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Steven Durland: …because Karen Finley, technically…

Jenni Sorkin: Is not.

Steven Durland: …was not gay. Annie Sprinkle was not gay.

Linda Frye Burnham: Right.

Steven Durland: But we’re talking—

Jenni Sorkin: She is now, though.

Steven Durland: Well, but I mean—

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, right, I forgot. Yeah.

Steven Durland: But I mean, the work wasn’t gay themed. The point is, is that the work was, in both of those cases, it was sexually transgressive.

Jenni Sorkin: And when did the word queer enter the dominant vocabulary? Was gay being used at this time to describe everything, in the early nineties? Because I don’t think queer…

Linda Frye Burnham: No. No.

Jenni Sorkin: Was it queer?

Steven Durland: Well, I mean, if you were sitting around…

Linda Frye Burnham: [inaudible]

Steven Durland: …with Tim, he used the word queer. I mean, the word queer showed up as soon as we were at Highways, I know. But it was still a little early for me to say queer or Linda to say queer.

Linda Frye Burnham: [chuckles] Yeah.

Steven Durland: You know.

Linda Frye Burnham: And they would say fag, too.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. But one thing that I think really affected High Performance is the atmosphere around the complex. It was as activist as it could possibly be. We were organizing marches across LA to try to get an AIDS ward at County Hospital, because people were dying in the hallways. And we had organizing meetings around defending the NEA at Highways. And so—

Jenni Sorkin: It’s so interesting, because all of this history has just been subsumed by the New York fantasy that there was no AIDS activism outside of New York City.

Linda Frye Burnham: [laughs] Oh, my God, we have pictures! I can prove it!

Jenni Sorkin: No, I believe it, but it’s like all you ever hear about is ACT UP and Gran Fury.

Linda Frye Burnham: And yeah, I remember Tim complaining about that. But Highways lost an NEA grant. We had it taken away, after it was approved by the peer panel—

Jenni Sorkin: And what year was this? In ’90?

Linda Frye Burnham: I wish I knew. [chuckles]

Jenni Sorkin: Was it a big grant?

Linda Frye Burnham: It was right around the same time as the NEA Four. It was just for our gallery. We had a little gallery in the lobby, with people who had died of AIDS, their names written on the floor of the gallery. Probably still are, because we used to go back in every year and refurbish the names. But we had little shows in the gallery. And we had applied for a show by a queer artist who used a lot of commercial queer imagery. And the panel approved it but the council disapproved it. It never made it through the NEA Council on the Arts. And they have to approve everything…

Jenni Sorkin: Rubberstamp everything.

Linda Frye Burnham: …imprimatur, so— And it was only about $10,000. But we immediately sent out a fundraising letter and made about 20-, so— [laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: Because people were so incensed that they were willing to give money.

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, yeah. Yeah. And then people loved Highways so much. Especially the gay community. So you know, Highways— High Performance was sitting in the middle of a cauldron at the moment. And there was no way around covering that stuff, you know? It was just—

Jenni Sorkin: No way around, or you wouldn’t— I mean, you wouldn’t want—

Linda Frye Burnham: No.

Jenni Sorkin: You would want to cover anyway.

Linda Frye Burnham: No, right. I mean, you know, you wouldn’t even have thought of not covering it.

Jenni Sorkin: So then did Highways become known as affiliated with High Performance? Or people didn’t even know that High Performance was at the complex? I guess, could you talk a little bit about the relationship between High Performance and Highways and not— I mean, it was a natural outgrowth to start a space, but Highways is not necessarily High Performance’s space at all.

Linda Frye Burnham: No. This was something that I did completely separate from High Performance. I did this with Tim Miller. And High Performance was not intended to cover everything that happened at Highways, which would’ve been impossible anyway.

Steven Durland: Yeah, well, that was the one— especially after Claire left and I hired Eric and had a full staff, during that period, Linda had almost no involvement with the magazine, you know?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. I didn’t[?] proof it.

Jenni Sorkin: And did you want to be involved with Highways? Or was that never—

Steven Durland: Well, I was never directly— I used to videotape everything there for them, because I had a video camera and I’d sit up there. You know, I’d watch stuff because…

Linda Frye Burnham: It was right across the patio.

Steven Durland: …I went to a lot of performances. And I supported them[?], I helped them build the risers and all of that. But I had nothing to do with the programming or anything like that, you know. They would have get-togethers and discussion groups and stuff and I’d go over and participate, but— Other than just some landlord support sometimes, [chuckles] you know, getting the electricity to work or the toilets flushed. I remember we had to build a wheelchair bathroom to make Highways legitimate. And that [Burnham laughs] it turned out that…

Jenni Sorkin: Linda’s laughing because of the ducks on the pond.

Linda Frye Burnham: The ducks are making a commotion.

Steven Durland: …there was some toxic waste, and the wheelchair bathroom ended up costing $30,000. [laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: There was toxic waste on the property?

Steven Durland: Well, it was because it was an industrial site. I mean, we’re talking Santa Monica interpretations of toxic waste.

Linda Frye Burnham: There was probably some gasoline underground.

Steven Durland: Yeah, or something, you know.

Linda Frye Burnham: And when they went to excavate, they found it. And we had to pay to have it trucked to Idaho or something. The whole thing was— I mean, you could’ve— That bathroom had to be so big that you could’ve had a studio in it. [laughs]

Steven Durland: Yeah. But all of that just happened so quickly, really, once things started rolling downhill, the whole protest thing, that people really felt under siege, I think.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. And then Tim being one of the NEA Four, you know, Highways was like really prominent in that whole controversy.

Jenni Sorkin: Well, I mean, being one of the NEA Four actually didn’t end up being a bad career move, at the end of the day.

Steven Durland: [laughs] Right.

Jenni Sorkin: I mean, it offered an awful lot of prominence to all four of them.

Steven Durland: Well, except for the fact—and I think I made this in writing once—it changed their work. Suddenly their work was about censorship.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Steven Durland: And before that, none of— you know. And it wasn’t a choice they got to make.

Jenni Sorkin: Right.

Steven Durland: There was that great letter. Who—? David Gergen, who used to write—

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, yeah.

Steven Durland: David Gergen used to write for US News & World Report.

Linda Frye Burnham: You know who David Gergen is?

Jenni Sorkin: I don’t know who David Gergen is.

Linda Frye Burnham: He’s a journalist, but also kind of a political operative. He worked for both Clinton and Bush.

Steven Durland: The first Bush.

Linda Frye Burnham: The first Bush, yeah.

Steven Durland: He was a Republican, basically, worked for Bush. But then when Clinton was trying to broaden the appeal, he brought him in as a staff member for a while, too.

Linda Frye Burnham: So he’s a big deal, and he—

Steven Durland: Yeah, very prominent. And he always would write, like, this opinion piece on the back page of US News & World Report. And he wrote a piece on the NEA Four, and got all of his information from the Washington Times.

Jenni Sorkin: The Post or the—

Steven Durland: No, the Times. The Moon paper, the conservative paper the Fox News sort of paper. And in it, he just railed on and on because he said that— It was like that Holly Hughes was masturbating onstage, and that John Fleck was peeing onstage, and that Karen Finley had stuck a yam up her butt, and that Tim Miller was, like, having sex or something like that. And I wrote a letter to the editor. I mean— Yeah, to their editor, signed by me, the editor of High Performance, saying, “I’ve seen all this work. This did not happen and this did not happen and this did not happen and this did not happen. And as near as I can tell, the only thing that people are objecting to is the fact that most of this work is, you know, trying to develop positive images of homosexuality. And it was silenced[?].” And then we started getting these anonymous letters from some intern who worked [chuckles] at US News & World Report, that said it just created a firestorm, because David Gergen was not going to, like, back down and apologize. But everybody was like, you know, so thrilled to see somebody basically challenge, you know, that kind of thing.

Jenni Sorkin: Did they print the letter?

Steven Durland: No. After about a month and a half, there was a one line retraction that said, “In the such-and-such a thing, Holly Hughes did not masturbate on stage,” [chuckles] or whatever it was he said she did. And that was it. But it was really funny for all of us. I never did find out who this person was, because he[?] said he didn’t reveal his identity. But he just kept writing us about once a week with these stories.

Jenni Sorkin: That’s awesome that you had an insider, [Durland laughs] anonymous source.

Steven Durland: Right, right.

Linda Frye Burnham: I totally forgot about that.

Steven Durland: Yeah, that was a fun thing. Yeah, I was just looking in here. This is winter 1990, and we’ve got something called a chronology of actions, protests and lawsuits, trial censorship in[?] the NEA. And it’s not even in years; it’s like, [chuckles] August, September, October, November.

Jenni Sorkin: So censorship became actually a thematic that High Performance never necessarily intended to cover, but it became an issue that cropped up in a big way in the art world and it became actually one of the themes of the nineties.

Steven Durland: Well, you couldn’t escape it, especially when they basically focused it, focused the censorship on our community, you know? Because I mean, if you could go back then, what you’d find is a lot of the art world was very happy to just chop that hand off, get rid of that gangrene right away, you know? Not just the NEA Four, but Mapplethorpe and Wojnarowicz…

Jenni Sorkin: [inaudible]

Steven Durland: …and, you know, Annie Sprinkle and Andres Serrano and the whole nine yards, you know? It’s like, We’re not gonna risk our budgets, our boards, our audiences, our funds, trying to save this kind of thing.

Jenni Sorkin: Although the Cincinnati Contemporary director did.

Steven Durland: Oh, yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: I mean, there were people.

Steven Durland: Well, he was directly being attacked, though.

Jenni Sorkin: Right.

Steven Durland: Yeah, I mean, he was defending his own life. I’m talking about everybody else. You know, the people who weren’t directly affected. In a lot of cases— I won’t say they backed away, but they really stayed tight lipped. Not very many people said very much. And then other places went totally over the top. Like NAAO, you know immediately changed itself overnight from the alternative arts organization to the anti-censorship organization. Which was heroic, but it also killed the organization, pretty much.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, they pretty much turned into a lobbying organization.

Jenni Sorkin: And what did it stand for?

Linda Frye Burnham: National Association of Artists’ Organizations. But they spent— And they raised all our membership dues to this unbelievable level that nobody could afford. And then all the resources went to lobbying Washington and to bird-dogging what was going on in Washington around this censorship issue. And so NAAO pretty much capsized after that. It’s just now begun to revive. And you know, also the other thing that was really important for me during this period is that when we tried to organize support for the NEA and tried to involve all the artists who were showing in our venues, including all these artists of color, it turned out that they didn’t want to participate. They felt like it was a white issue. And also the general public wasn’t so interested in artists, either. We’d run out into the streets with our banners and nobody was behind us. So that was one of the ways we learned how alienated the arts were from sort of…

Jenni Sorkin: Public life?

Linda Frye Burnham: …general American public life.

Jenni Sorkin: And that AIDS, the AIDS crisis actually wasn’t— I mean, it was a broad arts crisis, but then arguably, maybe it wasn’t a broad national issue, in the sense that people cared about it passionately, as passionately as the artists did who were witnessing death on the ground.

Linda Frye Burnham: Right, right.

Jenni Sorkin: Which is actually disheartening to figure out, as an artist.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. Oh, yeah, it was—

Jenni Sorkin: That your community may be dropping off like flies, but…

Linda Frye Burnham: Who cares? [laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: …people in Wyoming don’t give a shit.

Steven Durland: Right.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, yeah. And you know, by and large, the— I mean, so many people in the United States identify themselves as Christians. And for a lot of them, the people who were suffering the most were homosexuals and drug addicts. And so it was, Good riddance, you know? So—

Jenni Sorkin: So could you talk, then, a little bit about the energy at the complex and how— I mean, High Performance was in high gear because you had a lot of staff and there was a lot of— I mean, people were very keyed up over issues and you were dealing with issues head on. And I see the cover of that one, which is…

Steven Durland: Richard Serrano[sic].

Jenni Sorkin: …like a KKK image.

Linda Frye Burnham: Andres Serrano. He photographed— Andres Serrano, who did Piss Christ…

Jenni Sorkin: Right.

Linda Frye Burnham: …which started the whole thing, the whole censorship thing, which was a picture of a crucifix immersed in a jar of urine. And that’s what sort of started the whole censorship crisis. His next work was him photographing people in the KKK in their robes. And he was a person of color.

Jenni Sorkin: Right, he’s a black man.

Linda Frye Burnham: You can see him on the back, doing the photographing. On the back side.

Jenni Sorkin: That’s a great image.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: Did you get that from him? Because I’ve never seen that image of him taking the pictures, like doing the work.

Linda Frye Burnham: We got it from the Atlanta Journal Constitution. The photographer there took it.

Jenni Sorkin: And so I mean, people were very keyed up around issues of activism and people were very activist. And then how was this affecting— I mean, this was clearly affecting the content of the magazine; did you have like a rush in, like people wanting to submit or subscribe or be part of producing an issue? I mean, was there any kind of momentum that it generated? Or did all the energy go into Highways?

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, I mean, everybody felt kind of— When you’re under attack, you know, a community tends to get much tighter. And we were all kind of on the same side at that point, so—
But very soon after, LA almost burned down during the riots around the Rodney King verdict because people in South Central and East LA felt like the LAPD officers who beat Rodney King were getting off easy, because they were acquitted of attacking him. And so the whole city burst into flames for about three days. Literally. It was burning.

Jenni Sorkin: And this was ’92, right?

Linda Frye Burnham: ’92. Spring of ’92. April, I believe. And so talk about what happened then with the magazine.

Steven Durland: Well, you know, artists all over the city were trying to figure out what kind of response to have. And the first thing that started happening was people organizing kind of just large gatherings. Just, Let’s all get together and talk about this. And Beyond Baroque hosted one of them, Highways hosted one of them. There were three or four of them. And increasingly, what came out of this was this sense that people really, really wanted a chance to express themselves about what had happened. And, you know, things were very raw. The racial tension, even inside the art community was potentially at a flashpoint.

Jenni Sorkin: Was it all alternative spaces organizing these kinds of talks? Or did the—

Steven Durland: No, we weren’t organizing. Highways wasn’t, Beyond Baroque wasn’t. I mean, the artists were finding the spaces and calling the meetings.

Linda Frye Burnham: It was calling up and saying, “Can we meet there?”

Steven Durland: Yeah. I mean, there were some people who kind of naturally gravitated towards the top and kind of became leaders, but there was no hierarchy, really. And what I did with High Performance is at a certain point, where people had reached this kind of point where they’d done enough talking and they wanted to do something, is I offered them an issue of High Performance. I said, “Look, here’s what we’ll do. I will facilitate an issue but I won’t edit it. You will be in charge of editing it however you think is best, with a group that you want to put together. You put it together and we will publish it, and it’ll be a special issue that will go out to our subscribers, but mainly to be distributed around Los Angeles as a place to give artists a voice for what had happened.” Then we found— Well, I didn’t find, we didn’t find, one of the group found somebody who donated an additional $10,000 to create a CD of vocal and spoken word work that was included with the magazine. And so it was an incredibly intense kind of community effort that came together, led primarily by Wanda Coleman, a black poet who was a highly respected, and perhaps even feared [chuckles] voice around town, but somebody who could command enough authority in this group of angry people to pull this off. And so that’s what we did. We called the— they called the issue “The Verdict and the Violence.” Is there a copy there? I don’t know if there is.

Jenni Sorkin: I’m going to pause it so— [audio file stops and restarts] Okay, so “The Verdict and the Violence” is the issue we’re discussing.

Steven Durland: There’s a copy. Everything from the cover design, all the articles, everything was— It was truly a community project. I mean, one would be hesitant to make any claims about the quality of the work inside; it ranges from some of the more profound writers and artists in LA doing great stuff to, you know, street artists doing stuff of little consequence. But you know, it’s one of those seminal events where everybody is so full of emotion.

Jenni Sorkin: And pulls together and produces something.

Steven Durland: Yeah. There’s just— you know, there’s no [inaudible]

Jenni Sorkin: [over Durland] And you allowed them a forum to do that.

Steven Durland: Right. Inside we had a— there’s a CD in here of spoken word stuff, with another— there must be twenty people in there. And that was—

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, right. That was a way to include more people…

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: …through the CD. Right, yeah.

Steven Durland: And a lot of the vocal[?] people, as well. You know, and it was exhausting doing it. I mean, like I say, I just facilitated it, but you know, there were angry confrontations in my office between people getting in each other’s faces. “I want to do this and I want to do this and I want to do this.” And you know, it was probably the hardest [chuckles] issue I ever did, and I didn’t have to do anything with it, than just see that it got printed.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, yeah. Well, you had to sit there and listen to them.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: That’s where they wanted to have that fight.

Steven Durland: Right, right.

Linda Frye Burnham: In front of the Man. [they laugh]

Jenni Sorkin: What fight?

Linda Frye Burnham: In front of the Man. [laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: Oh.

Steven Durland: Yeah, well, in a way, they were kind of fighting for my attention. You know, who was I going to take seriously? I mean, it was— Well, no. [Burnham laughs] We don’t want to go there. But this leads up to the next issue after that. And this is the huge transition that everybody either loved or hated, you know. An incident that ha— I was, some time not long after that— It was a big space after we did “The Verdict and the Violence.” We just had to, like, give it some space.

Linda Frye Burnham: Lay down a while. [laughs]

Steven Durland: And I was out in the back courtyard at the complex one day and I ran into a woman named Suchi Branfman, who was a—

Linda Frye Burnham: Dance.

Steven Durland: Dancer and performer from New York. And we’d written about her work and known about her for a long time. You know, knew her well enough to talk with her when we would see her. And she just had come over to Highways for some reason, to talk to somebody. And I saw her out there and I stopped and talked to her for a while. I said, “Well, what are you doing now?” And she said, “Oh, you wouldn’t be interested.” I said, “How do you know[?], I wouldn’t be interested?” “You just wouldn’t be interested, you know. It’s not the kind of think you write about it.” “Well, tell me what it is.” And she went, “Well, I’m teaching dance to unwed pregnant teens in Harlem.” And I said, “Well, why didn’t you think I’d be interested in that, if you’re doing it?” [chuckles] And she said, “Well, it’s just not the sort of thing you write about.” And we started talking about it. And the longer I talked with her, the more I started seeing that this was edgier than anything else [chuckles] anybody else was doing, you know? I mean, she was totally out there on a limb, all by herself. She said, “You know, every time I try and go and talk to some businessman or some funder to help me with this, it’s like I’m reinventing the wheel. There’s no documentation of this. It’s got no resonance whatsoever. I just have to start from scratch.” And it just really set me to thinking. You know, like, This is a world that really needs what we can do much more than the world we’ve been writing about to that point. Because ironically, the one thing that came out of this censorship and the NEA Four is none of the people we’d been writing about up till that point had [chuckles] any trouble getting any ink after that, you know? [Burnham laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: That’s true.

Steven Durland: And we didn’t abandon them at that point, but that’s when I came back to the staff and I said, “Okay, we’re going to refocus on— Start looking for artists who are socially and culturally engaged with the work they’re doing. No longer is it going to be about just artists with activist content. We want artists who’ve taken the next step. You know, gone out of the studio and said, ‘Okay, we’re going to go out here and actually make a difference, instead of just critiquing.’” You know? It’s like we’re tired of the poststructuralist criticism, with all the people sitting back and doing work that just deconstructs culture, deconstructs other people’s work.

Linda Frye Burnham: Advertising, television.

Steven Durland: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I said, you know, “Let’s start finding people who are actually having an impact with their work, or trying to have an impact with their work.” And try and kind of, in essence, in retrospect, do for these people what we did with the early performance artists. And we started out with an essay by Bill Cleveland, who was a guy I just met then, who ran something called The Center for Art and Community. He’s now on our board in the— He had written a long position piece called “Bridges, Translation and Change: The Arts as Infrastructure in 21st Century America.” Which has got nothing to do with image. This image is about a Guillermo Gómez-Peña story that’s in there. It’s actually not a very exciting cover in a lot of ways, but it was a very kind of transitional[?]—

Jenni Sorkin: [over Durland] I’m getting the sun now, the glare is starting.

Steven Durland: A very transitional issue for the magazine.

Jenni Sorkin: And what issue? What is this?

Steven Durland: This was issue 58/59.

Linda Frye Burnham: What year?

Jenni Sorkin: And what year?

Steven Durland: This was 1992.

Jenni Sorkin: Summer?

Steven Durland: Summer/fall. And Allan Parachini wrote “American Jihad” in here. [chuckles]

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, yeah.

Steven Durland: Which was this sense that the religious right was basically trying to destroy American culture. So we were kind of transitioning from that political anger to, you know— Basically, it’s like you’re doing therapy or something. Like, once you’ve worked through this much anger and stuff, you’ve got to, like, process it and do something, you know? You’ve got to— I mean, as a field, you’ve got to go out there and do something. And it might’ve just been— I mean, I’m probably speaking for my generation that I’m in more than the field, but you know, we kind of worked through all of this stuff and now it was like—

Linda Frye Burnham: Talked about talking about it.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Right. You know, one of the things that we always said— I don’t know if you already said this, but what we found out with the censorship thing that[?] everybody went out and protested is nobody cared, you know? It’s like we all went out in the street and marched and turned around and nobody followed us, you know? It’s like, [chuckles] We don’t care about you guys. You know, it’s because we thought we were more important than Steven Durland (Cont.): everybody else. And it seemed like it was time to work in a way that— You know, it’s like if you’re going to spend fifteen years of your life writing about all these people and they don’t have any resonance, then it’s kind of a waste of time. You’ve got to figure out a way to make the broader culture understand that the arts are important, these artists are important, you know? And so this was one way to do it. Kind of the grand theme for me for the last ten years of the magazine was, What’s the impact of art on culture? Does it have an impact? What is it? How does it manifest itself?

Linda Frye Burnham: I wrote an editorial in High Performance during this period of transition where I said I was tired of art sitting in the driveway of the real world like a stalled car. [laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: That’s a very good simile. [they laugh] What does it mean, then, in terms of having— I guess what I’m really curious about is how you see sort of the transition from many people doing, like, feminist activist performance, through multiculturalism, and then is community based performance or community based projects an actual outgrowth of what started as an alternative practice anyway? Like, I’m thinking of something like you covered Bonnie Sherk really early on, and she did community based art. In, like, 1974, she did The Farm in San Francisco. And then later on, Mierle Laderman Ukeles did her garbage work with the city sanitation department in New York City. And that— Wow, there’s a deer back there. It’s really close. [laughs] Sorry. With, you know, the sanitation department, and she was working as a community artist in the eighties, essentially. Early in the eighties, before community work had taken off. So there’s a sense in which it’s not so far from where you started as where you ended up, isn’t so far of a— I mean, it’s a transition, certainly, but it’s not huge. I mean, there were people—

Steven Durland: Well, [chuckles] there were lots of things to go back and understand in retrospect, and there were also things to recontextualize, too, you know. The one big change between then and this period was that we’d added all these people of color, you know? And suddenly, when we started talking about this stuff, this community stuff, they kind of said, “Where you been, white man?” I mean, the idea of community based art has been a cultural necessity in the black community and the Latino community for generations because they weren’t—it’s the only option they had, you know. So when we started coming up with these grand ideas for cultural community centers, you know, the black communities, for instance, would say, “Well, look at Watts Community Center.” Or they’d show us these community centers all over the country where the artists worked and— The black artists that were talking about in High Performance were going home at night and going over to the Watts Community Center, working with their community; they just never talked about it. You know? So partly what we had to do was shut up and learn for a while, too. And also recontextualize some of the things that we were talking about in the past and look at some of the artists— Suzanne Lacy could be on the cover of the magazine today and she was on the cover of the magazine thirty years ago. There are artists who were a through line through all of this and they were artists who existed with this idea way ahead of time. But you know, so we’re not inventing anything here. But we are trying to give it a cohesion and give it a public face that it hasn’t had. And like I say, this important moment of talking with Suchi Branfman was seeing what she as an artist needed. She needed to know that there were other artists out there doing this. She needed documentation that there were works that she could learn from, but she needed documentation of other people’s successes so she could take it around and show it to people in schools and stuff like that.

Jenni Sorkin: So what did you start doing, then, in the magazine? How did it shift?

Steven Durland: Well, let’s see.

Linda Frye Burnham: Can we stop for just a minute? Let me—

Jenni Sorkin: Yes. [audio file stops and restarts]

Linda Frye Burnham: —if this gets typed.

Jenni Sorkin: It is going to get typed.

Linda Frye Burnham: S-U-C-H-I, B-R-A-N-F-M-A-N. Because I know that it’ll get misspelled. [laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: Thank you.

Steven Durland: And so here, like the next issue, the cover story is “Alternative Histories: Artists Challenge the Official Story.” It’s a variation on identity politics, except it’s not my identity, it’s coming up—

Linda Frye Burnham: My community.

Steven Durland: Yeah, my community’s identity sort of thing. So it’s the same work, but it’s, like, applied differently by the artist, you know, a different intent. And it’s less likely to land the artist in a performance space or a gallery or something like that. So it starts to get lost in the shuffle, as it were. We have a story in here about a graffiti artist, of course. You know, there’s—

Jenni Sorkin: Like does Tim Rollins and K.O.S., did you cover that..

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: …in these kinds of issues…

Linda Frye Burnham: Yes.

Jenni Sorkin: … or earlier? Yes?

Linda Frye Burnham: No, these kinds of issues.

Steven Durland: Yeah. And here’s where we’ve got a story about John Outterbridge, who was a black painter in LA for years, but also ran the Watts Community Center. You know, if you went down to the Watts Community Center, I mean, first of all, you had the Watts Towers, where were a great thing in themselves, but you’d go inside and there would be, like, an educational program for little kids; and over here would be some historical display about some aspect of Watts; and then right in here [chuckles] would be this gallery with this amazing cutting edge contemporary art on the walls, done by artists in that community.

Jenni Sorkin: And they’ve got an amazing collection of memorabilia stuff.

Steven Durland: Right. Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Mm-hm. So then do you want to say more about that, or should we talk about leaving?

Steven Durland: Well, no, you can— Yeah, I mean, it’s more of the same [inaudible].

Jenni Sorkin: Well, how many issues did this go on for? This went on for, like, a couple years. I mean, right around ’93, right? The alternative histories—

Steven Durland: Well, I mean, this might’ve been— let’s see.

Jenni Sorkin: What issue is that?

Steven Durland: This is winter ’92. And then this, spring ’93. Now, this was— it was during this issue was when we left.

Jenni Sorkin: In spring of ’93.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: So you guys moved to…

Linda Frye Burnham: North Carolina.

Jenni Sorkin: … Saxapahaw, North Carolina.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Well, we didn’t move to Saxapahaw, we moved to North Carolina at that point.

Jenni Sorkin: Okay.

Steven Durland: And we got here on Fourth of July, 1993.

Linda Frye Burnham: The hottest day in history, till this summer.

Steven Durland: [laughs] Hottest month in history. But yeah, it had just— you know, we’d been doing it for a long, long time. You know, like I said, not only were we doing the magazine and dealing with things like the riots and “The Verdict and the Violence” and the NEA crisis and all that, but we were also landlords for the complex and— Which was, you know, like thirty-some units, all full of artists and you know, waking up in the middle of the night and fixing people’s plumbing, and you’re having fights with people about their utility bills, and trying to balance the budget and stuff. And it’s— We just felt like we’d done all we could. You know, we were living at the complex. We finally had to get a doormat that said, “Go Away” on it because people just felt like— You know, there were hundreds of people coming through the complex every day, and every one of them felt like they could come over and knock on your door. Because we used to encourage that. And we finally reached the point where we couldn’t anymore.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, we just set no boundaries. We were just permeated with people constantly.

Steven Durland: Yeah. So we announced to the board that we were leaving, you know? And at the time, I was editor of the magazine and executive director of High Performance and the complex. Linda was kind of—

Linda Frye Burnham: Artistic director of the complex—

Steven Durland: Of Highways, right?

Linda Frye Burnham: My title at the complex was artistic director. And then I was co-director of Highways.

Steven Durland: Okay. But you were basically doing fundraising for the complex, too. And so the board panicked, because that was losing too much talent at once. So after some negotiating—you know, this gets back to technology again—I said, “Well, if you want to keep publishing High Performance,” that Linda and I would edit it, but we wouldn’t edit it from Santa Monica. You know, that we were going to move someplace. Part of it was self-preservation. We’d been living that long in Los Angeles and we had nothing to show for it. We’re getting older. It’s not like we owned anything. We didn’t have any savings, we didn’t have any property. We had to move someplace where the cost of living was cheaper, and hopefully, where the cost of land was cheaper, so we could take care of ourselves. And so we said, “Lookit, you know, if we can go someplace else, we can edit the magazine from there.” And they eventually agreed to that. We ended up moving to North Carolina and we were editing the magazine there. Karla Dakin had moved to Boulder, Colorado. She was handling circulation from Boulder. We had a printer in Michigan. Basically, our administration was happening in Santa Monica. [laughs] So you know, we were actually saving money, in a way, because A, we no longer had the overhead of the office; we actually cut back on staff in a lot of ways; you know, we were basically getting paid what amounts to a North Carolina going wage, instead of a Santa Monica going wage. And it tended to work out pretty well for all concerned.

Jenni Sorkin: Wait. We just ran out of time. [audio file stops and restarts] —record.

Steven Durland: Right. I mean, one of the things that worked for us— two things that worked for us. One was this early commitment to technology made it pretty easy for us to move out here. And you know, it was pulling teeth for a while, but I started getting all our writers to submit stuff via email. This is pre-worldwide web but, you know, people could still send stuff via email and stuff like that. I created some space and taught them how to log in and upload stories and stuff like that. So we had that kind of working for us. And the other thing was after all this time, we knew how to do everything. I mean, even though I’d come out of a period where I was basically a real editor in chief and I just sat down and, you know…

Jenni Sorkin: Delegated.

Steven Durland: ...gave pardons to people and stuff, [Burnham laughs] I mean, we’d typeset magazines, we knew how to paste them up, we knew how to produce them, we knew how to work with printers. We knew how to deal with circulation, we knew how to deal with marketing, we knew how to write grants…

Linda Frye Burnham: Funding.

Steven Durland: …we knew how to do the bookkeeping. We knew how to edit and write and— You know, so once we got out here, if that’s all we had to do— It’s like we had all the time in the world, [laughs] it seemed like, compared to being at the complex. We didn’t have to drive anywhere, we didn’t have any overhead.

Linda Frye Burnham: Nobody ever came up the driveway, much less knocked on our door. [laughs]

Steven Durland: Yeah. Yeah, right. The staff meeting’s in bed, you know? [they laugh] It was very great, at a certain level. Where it broke down was having the administration in Santa Monica.

Jenni Sorkin: And the printing, right?

Linda Frye Burnham: No, that happened in Minnesota.

Steven Durland: No, the printing was in Michigan.

Linda Frye Burnham: Michigan.

Steven Durland: Yeah. We had moved to a printer in Michigan at that point, because it was more affordable. But at that point— I mean, we’d created this behemoth before we left, which was the 18th Street Arts Complex, which was all these different programs, of which High Performance was just one. Whereas back in the day, High Performance was the organization. So High Performance was one program. And what tended to happen is we weren’t there to fight for ourselves. [chuckles] I would fly back for board meetings and stuff, but by and large, what happened is we were getting screwed. I mean, the monies for High Performance were getting used to cover deficits in other programs. And we were coming up on the short end of the stick as things started getting worse and worse. And tempers started flaring and— That went on for, what? One, two, three, four, five, six—I guess about a year and a half. Close to two years. And things got more and more difficult and we finally said, “This is not working anymore.” They completely rebuilt the board after we left, and the board didn’t like what we were doing with the magazine and wanted to tell us what to do. And you know, my option to them was, “If you don’t like what we’re doing…

Linda Frye Burnham: Fire us.

Steven Durland: “…we’ll leave and you can hire somebody else.” But they didn’t want to do that. They wanted us to do…

Linda Frye Burnham: What they wanted.

Steven Durland: Basically, they wanted to edit the magazine and have us be the production staff and…

Jenni Sorkin: Right.

Steven Durland: …not going to happen. So finally what Linda and I told them is, “Look, what we want you to do is, we’re going to form our own nonprofit and we want you to give us the magazine assets, give the magazine assets to our new nonprofit and we’ll continue to publish it ourselves, and you can be…

Jenni Sorkin: Free and clear of the magazine.

Steven Durland: “…free and clear of the whole thing.” And we all agreed on that and that’s what happened. And they stored the archive and stuff out there until such time as the Getty took it for us. And you know, in most case, everything was amicable. You know, the people that we were having the biggest fights with at the time didn’t last very long and they’re not there anymore. But that, and then for the last—what was it?—the last year and a half, I guess we did six more issues as Art in the Public Interest.

Jenni Sorkin: [over Durland] After you moved here.

Steven Durland: Well, no, we did…

Jenni Sorkin: A few years worth.

Steven Durland: …two years of issues with the complex.

Jenni Sorkin: And most of the issues dealt with community based activism.

Steven Durland: Yeah, we were— Let’s see. [inaudible]

Jenni Sorkin: Those are the ones we saw.

Steven Durland: [inaudible] back here. [inaudible]

Jenni Sorkin: These are all [inaudible].

Steven Durland: Oh, [inaudible] over here.

Jenni Sorkin: I think they’re over there, on that pile.

Steven Durland: The board was upset because we did a couple of issues that were more rural themed. We did one on storytelling, which of course, when you get down in the South, is the art form, ultimately. Everything comes out of storytelling. I don’t care if it’s music, literature, theater, art—it all comes out of storytelling.

Linda Frye Burnham: Organizing.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Steven Durland: Yeah. So you know, just in terms of learning our new culture here.

Jenni Sorkin: So your sensibility had shifted somewhat since you left LA.

Steven Durland: Well, no. Well, we were learning new stuff, you know. And because we were learning new stuff, [chuckles] we were telling the world about it.

Jenni Sorkin: Right.

Steven Durland: You know, it just was— it was grating to those people because they kind of still wanted us to be a house organ for their issues. And we said, “We were never a house organ [laughs] for your issues. We were—

Linda Frye Burnham: We were a national magazine.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Right. You know.

Linda Frye Burnham: International.

Steven Durland: “You know, we wrote about you, and we’ll write about these people, all the same.” But you know, like in this issue, there’s stuff about South Africa, Puerto Rico, public art in Chicago. And this is a piece in Wyoming. This was actually more of a censorship piece. It was people who got an NEA grant, who did poetry, wrote poetry one word at a time on the side of cows, and then the cows would basically rearrange the poetry out in the pasture. [Burnham laughs] And then it was right next to a big highway, where people would drive by.

Jenni Sorkin: That’s awesome. It’s like those poetry magnets, but come to life.

Steven Durland: Exactly. Exactly. Except for some—

Linda Frye Burnham: They got in trouble. [laughs]

Steven Durland: It’s like everybody was like so sensitized then that, of course, somebody has to say, “Damn it, we gave an NEA grant to a bunch of people out in Wyoming who are out painting on the side of cows!” You know? And it was just— And so this was interesting to us because it was like the censorship crisis was getting much bigger than just, you know, Mapplethorpe at a museum…

Linda Frye Burnham: Gay sex.

Steven Durland: …gay sex. I mean, it was infiltrating everyplace. Here, Art-21. This was covering a big NEA conference that was talking about the future of art. This was when what’s her name, the actress, took over.

Linda Frye Burnham: Jane Alexander.

Steven Durland: Jane Alexander took over and she put together this big Art-21 conference. And it’s like, What is the future of art? And they were starting to talk about the same themes there that we’d been talking about in the magazine. But also, like I said the other night when we were talking, it was starting— you were seeing the shift in funders now, after the crisis, where up until the crisis, state, local and national government funders thought of their constituency as being artists; and after the crisis, they thought of their constituency as being the public, the community.

Jenni Sorkin: Which is a huge shift.

Steven Durland: A huge shift, yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: It’s actually what you would expect of a national art agency. You know, that’s what you would expect the NEA to have been started as…

Steven Durland: Yeah, right.

Linda Frye Burnham: …instead of what it was started as.

Steven Durland: But it further drives home the importance of convincing the public about the importance of art in their lives…

Linda Frye Burnham: Yes.

Steven Durland: …because they’re the ones who are controlling the purse strings now.

Jenni Sorkin: Well, and then it becomes all focused on— And the NEA has since revamped everything to be about community based organizations and community funding.

Steven Durland: Right.

Jenni Sorkin: And it makes it very difficult, then, to get grants to do anything that’s driven by the individual persona.

Steven Durland: Right. This was also the issue that featured “Performance Art is Dead. Long Live Performance Art,” written by Jacki Apple, [laughs] that basically looked at the fact that— This was when people started doing, you know, conferences on performance art and papers on performance art.

Jenni Sorkin: Because it became, like, academicized.

Linda Frye Burnham: History. [laughs]

Steven Durland: Yeah. Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: Yes. It became about how it had made its way fully into the academy enough to be historicized, and to look at the whole range of twenty years worth of performance art.

Steven Durland: Right. Manchester Craftsmens Guild is this amazing place in Pittsburgh that we wrote about. But this was— Santa Fe has this incredible art center there. Has been for years.

Jenni Sorkin: And what issue is this? Could you just read what—

Steven Durland: This is fall ’94, number 67. And they had, like, created this—

Linda Frye Burnham: This is Santa Fe, New Mexico we’re talking about here.

Jenni Sorkin: Right.

Steven Durland: Yeah. And they had come up with this incredible whole youth arts program that was tied right to the museum. So it’s like, you know, they hadn’t sacrificed anything. What they were doing was creating a community project for the youth [chuckles] that were turning the youth into the audience. You know, the next generation audience for the museum, which—

Jenni Sorkin: Right. Like a way to train kids how to look at art.

Steven Durland: To educate, yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. No, but the kids were really driving the program. Lots of museums have kids’ programs.

Steven Durland: Right.

Linda Frye Burnham: This was different. They let the kids run the program.

Jenni Sorkin: But they had their own agency in creating a program for themselves somehow.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Right. But what happened was it empowered the kids to feel like it was their museum, too, you know.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, exactly.

Steven Durland: Because there was a part of it that was theirs. And so what they said was— You know, suddenly these kids, who wouldn’t go anywhere near, like, an abstract art exhibition were showing up at openings and stuff like that, bringing their parents, you know? And these are primarily minority kids, Latino kids, Indian kids, stuff like that. These kinds of— Lily Yeh, who’d basically rebuilt whole neighborhoods in Philadelphia by turning abandoned lots into art parks and developing mural programs and stuff like that.

Linda Frye Burnham: That’s called the Village of Arts & Humanities, in Philadelphia.

Steven Durland: Yeah. You know, after she saved Philadelphia, now she’s down in Rwanda or— [chuckles]

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, now she’s saving Rwanda.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: She’s Chinese.

Steven Durland: And don’t get within 100 feet of her and say the word social work [Burnham laughs] or she will go bers— I mean, she—

Linda Frye Burnham: It’s art.

Steven Durland: She’s a formal sculptor. To her mind, she’s a formal sculptor and she’s part of that tradition that goes back to carving out of stone, that came through Joseph Beuys and, you know, the conceptualists and the systems aesthetics people. And she said, “All of my choices are aesthetic. I’m not a social worker. I don’t know anything about social work.” You know? And she saves communities. Rick Lowe in Houston, Project Row Houses, where he took a bunch of row houses and just started turning them into mini art spaces, you know? So local people started living in the mini art spaces, but they would have resident artists and get— You know, it’s kind of like doing the 18th Street Arts Complex, only filling half of it up with the neighbors, you know?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, they had a whole childcare program for the neighborhood there.

Steven Durland: Yeah, yeah. I mean, whatever you want to say about the complex, we never knew who lived next door to us. [Burnham laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: Did you have— was performance covered in any of these later issues? Or not really?

Steven Durland: Well, yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, like, read the— This is a double issues, but read the table of contents.

Steven Durland: Yeah. But the thing that’s worth noting over time is how much thinner— this is a double issue, but how much thinner the magazine’s getting, which is reflecting the funding.

Jenni Sorkin: Because you didn’t have funding.

Steven Durland: Right, you know, it just went from— used to have, like, a hundred-and-some pages, and then it got down to ninety-six and then ninety-two. And then for a long time, eighty-eight was the standard, and then it was eighty and— you know.

Jenni Sorkin: And so which were the two dry years, the dry spell of not getting grant money?

Steven Durland: Well, that started—

Linda Frye Burnham: It would be at the very end. We’re not there yet.

Steven Durland: Yeah, we’re getting to that, yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: But this is the last—

Steven Durland: This is the last issue we did with the complex.

Linda Frye Burnham: Right, right, right.

Steven Durland: And it had Blondell Cummings, performance choreographer. So that’s partly performance, but she was talking about— In her case, she develops work that’s rooted in— She’s a community oriented person. You know, she lives in her community, she develops her content through there. She still performs in a more traditional format.

Linda Frye Burnham: And that story was called “Living With The Doors Open.” Because when she was a little girl, they lived with the doors open, so the whole neighborhood could come and go, you know? And that’s how she does her work. She’s an African American.

Steven Durland: The Selma Project, which was— You can probably tell them about that. [inaudible]

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, I can’t remember.

Steven Durland: Bob Leonard’s—

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, but I can’t remember anything about it. Something about Selma, Alabama, but I can’t remember.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Concentric Circles, an interview with Mary Jane Jacob. I mean, she’s somebody who…

Jenni Sorkin: You know her.

Jenni Sorkin: Yeah.

Steven Durland: …really went that full circle. I mean, she started with the Amazing Decade and then she was curating at MOCA, and now she’s back out doing Spoleto and—

Jenni Sorkin: She was the director at MOCA for a while.

Steven Durland: Yeah. And doing all this community art stuff again. You know, and she’s very much out of the visual arts and very much, you know, just one of the people that, like, I can talk to who understands what I’m saying a little more than all these people coming out of theater and performance and stuff— I mean theater and dance and things, who don’t have that vocabulary. An interesting piece on public art, the public art process, that was looking at programs that have succeeded and programs that haven’t succeeded. And by succeeded, [chuckles] we mean artists able to put up quality, intelligent work, without having the community, you know, lynch them.

Jenni Sorkin: Right.

Steven Durland: You know, what kind of process you have to go through to make that happen, to make that work. So— A perspective called “The NEA at the Brink.” An email missive called “Long Live Performance Art.” Sarah Vowell, “Art Historian Descending a Staircase.” [chuckles]

Jenni Sorkin: That’s funny.

Steven Durland: “Keeping the Arts and Kids in School,” by Linda Frye Burnham. “Finding Art on the Internet.” [Burnham laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: That’s early, isn’t it?

Steven Durland: Started a cyber— Yeah, cyber—

Linda Frye Burnham: What year is that?

Steven Durland: This is ’95. Cyberarts column. I think it was ’96 when I first started the High Performance website.

Jenni Sorkin: That was still really early for the internet.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. Oh, yeah.

Steven Durland: Sherman Alexie’s “Year of the Indian.”

Jenni Sorkin: And Sherman Alexie has since gotten really famous.

Linda Frye Burnham: He has?

Steven Durland: Well, I think he kind of was there.

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, right, Sherman Alexie.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Right. I was thinking of somebody else. [laughs] Yeah, he has. Yeah, you hear him on NPR and stuff.

Jenni Sorkin: He wrote a great book, Ten Little Indians.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. Yeah, he’s very funny, too. And movies.

Steven Durland: Yeah. So then we were kind of down for almost a year, while we got API together, worked out getting all the assets out here. You know, when I said I wanted all their assets, I made it[?] giving like the API— I mean, the High Performance computers. [laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: Right.

Steven Durland: You know, because they weren’t giving us any money, so we took it all.

Linda Frye Burnham: But you have to point out that at that… [airplane noise] No. Pardon. Erase that. Don’t put—

Jenni Sorkin: But you might want to wait for this plane to stop because it’s going to block us out anyway.

Linda Frye Burnham: [inaudible; audio file stops and restarts]

Steven Durland: Okay.

Jenni Sorkin: It’s recording.

Steven Durland: So anyway, after that issue, we finished our relationship with the complex and took about a year getting retooled to doing[?]—

Linda Frye Burnham: But Sue gave us some kick-off money for API. So we had some money to deal with. And you know, we forgot to talk about the ROOTS issue, but I guess that’s not— One of the things—

Jenni Sorkin: Well, but—

Steven Durland: Lots of[?] things

Linda Frye Burnham: One of the things we did that [chuckles] really, the complex didn’t care for very much, was that we did a whole issue about Alternate ROOTS. And they were very influential in us choosing this place to come, because they brought— It’s a regional arts organization of artists who work in communities all over the Southeast. And they come together once a year to have an annual meeting up in the mountains of North Carolina. And they were having a performance festival in 1987. And their artists were starting to do performance art, and they wanted to have critiques after the performances in the festival, so they invited me. They asked me to come out and be one of those responding critics. And it was amazing because I was there with Jim O’Quinn from American Theater, and Lucy Lippard, and— I can’t remember. Somebody [Alisa Solomon] from the Voice. I can’t remember her name. You’d recognize it, though. Anyway, we had a ball talking about—

Steven Durland: [inaudible]

Jenni Sorkin: Kim Levin? Not Kim Levin.

Steven Durland: No, she was doing dance and performance writing.

Jenni Sorkin: I don’t know.

Linda Frye Burnham: It started with an A. But anyway, we just stayed up all night talking about the artist’s place in the community, because these artists in Alternate ROOTS had written this wonderful manifesto about the artist being as important in any town as the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker. So we were inspired by all that. So anyway, I said to the artists, I said, “Well, I really want to come to your annual meeting up in the mountains. It sounds like fun. A whole week of performing and singing and eating together and talking about issues and stuff.” And they said, “Great,” you know. So I came the next year, 1988, and I wrote a big story about it in High Performance. But anyway, once we— That’s one of the reasons we picked North Carolina to move to, because I knew 300 artists out here. Because I had really spent a lot of time with Alternate ROOTS. So in— I think it was the year we moved here, ninety— It was— Yeah, it was ’94.

Steven Durland: ’3. ’93, in winter.

Linda Frye Burnham: It was winter ’94 that we came out. Remember? It was when they had the thing in Durham. They had a community—

Steven Durland: Well, we already lived here when they had the thing in Durham.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. Alright, I’m saying that’s when the ROOTS issue came out. In any rate, we did a whole issue about Alternate ROOTS, and we got all the artists to write, and we managed to profile every single artist that was prominent as a member. And so that’s been a very popular issue, and is shown around a lot. So I just wanted to get that in, in that we wanted to relate to our local region when we got here, so— But skipping forward now to the Art in the Public Interest era, API being the fourth nonprofit we have produced, because you’re talking about Astro Artz, 18th Street Arts Complex, Highways, and API. Four nonprofits.

Steven Durland: Not counting Highways?

Jenni Sorkin: High Performance.

Linda Frye Burnham: I mean— [Durland laughs] Wait. No. Astro Artz was a nonprofit; High Performance was never a nonprofit. The 18th Street Arts Complex, Highways…

Steven Durland: Okay, yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: …and API. So we changed the format. We began starting the story on the front page. And this cover story is about teaching dance in prison in Florida, written by the artist who started the program.

Steven Durland: Just one structural change, too. One of the reasons we started doing this is, when we took over ourselves, we discontinued newsstand sales.

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, yeah.

Steven Durland: We basically turned it into a membership publication. We converted subscribers into members, and the only way you got the magazine is if you were a member.

Jenni Sorkin: Of API.

Steven Durland: Of API. So it freed us up to be a little more focused editorially, which— I mean, you can tell because the magazine’s thinner, we have so little money that we couldn’t be generous enough to try and cover the world anymore.

Linda Frye Burnham: This one’s only thirty— [inaudible]

Steven Durland: Thirty-two pages.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. On the back you can see all the membership information and so— We also had— I wrote a big article about artists and teachers working together for school reform. So it was like the cutting edge of education— art educational theory. And I got to spend a whole week in the seventh grade in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and write about it. So I’m really proud of that article. I love that story.

Steven Durland: She got terrible grades. [Burnham laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: You got what?

Steven Durland: She got terrible grades. [laughs]

Linda Frye Burnham: Terrible grades. This cover is about an artist named John O’Neal, who’s working on the issue of environmental racism in Louisiana, and about the fact that there’s a section of Louisiana that’s called Cancer Alley, along the Mississippi, where more people have—

Jenni Sorkin: Yeah. Where all those textile— DuPont plants and stuff, and everybody dies.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. Yeah, chemical plants, where more people have cancer than anyplace else in the country. And he organi— He worked with a bunch of community organizers and artists to create a festival around these issues, on site. So that was really interesting.

Jenni Sorkin: I guess it wasn’t funded by DuPont.

Linda Frye Burnham: No. [laughs]

Steven Durland: And we also had a big article in this one about Augusto Boal.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, we had an interview with Augusto Boal.

Steven Durland: He’s kind of the theater equivalent of Joseph Beuys.

Jenni Sorkin: You might want to spell that.

Linda Frye Burnham: A-U-G-U-S-T-O—

Jenni Sorkin: No, we know how to spell Augusto. The last name.

Steven Durland: B-O-A-L.

Linda Frye Burnham: B-O-A-L. And everybody across the world who’s interested in art for social change knows about Augusto Boal. He wrote a book called Theater of the Oppressed. And he worked in Brazil. He was actually a politician, as well as an artist.

Jenni Sorkin: That’s Paulo Freire, right? No? That’s not—

Linda Frye Burnham: They work together.

Steven Durland: They’re peers and contemporaries.

Linda Frye Burnham: And it might be that Freire was the politician and Boal was the— I’m not sure. But we got an interview with him. And that really attracted a lot of attention. There’s just so many people all over the world that are focused on it.

Steven Durland: It’s still one of the most, you know, primary Google searches that send people to our website is people looking for Augusto Boal stuff, because it’s— It’s like a Muhammad Ali thing. He’s, like, globally famous. He’s supposed to be[?] globally famous.

Linda Frye Burnham: And he sort of codified a way to involve the community in the creation of a play about an issue that actually impacts their lives. And also for them to be critical of how the play is going, for them to revise it as it goes along and actually come up with solutions to real issues. And it just— it seems to work quite well, all across the world. This issue, the cover was about an artist in Philadelphia named Homer Jackson. One of the most popular artists I’ve ever met. And he worked in the prison there. And he also did a teen magazine with a bunch of teen kids that edited their own magazine and illustrated it.

Steven Durland: [chuckles] He has that great quote in here that’s always worth repeating. [inaudible] kicking the door open.

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, yeah.

Steven Durland: He’s holding[?] a door open. Something to the effect of, My job is to kick the door— hold the door open so other people can get in. [laughs]

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. Yeah, he was very much about trying to insert this work in his community, into the mainstream. Plus when he was working in the Holmesburg Prison in Philadelphia, he actually was working with people who were in prison that he knew, that had killed people he knew. So he was doing a theater program in the prison with some of his worst enemies and some of his best friends. They were all in prison.

Steven Durland: This issue also had a great story by an artist named Richard Posner, who’s a very big, very good sculptor from Los Angeles, who went into the public art sphere. [chuckles] And he talks about that process. The difference between just trying to do art in the studio and trying to do art—

Jenni Sorkin: Just read me the title because it’s a good title.

Steven Durland: “Professional Jaywalker: Richard Posner on Crossing From the Studio to Public Art.” And the pull quote here is, “The public art administrative process requires the eye of a journalist, the ear of a poet, the hide of an armadillo, the serenity of an airline pilot, and the ability to swim,” [laughs] Richard Posner.

Jenni Sorkin: Did Arlene Raven write for any of these later issues, because she was very interested in this issue and she wrote that book Crossing Over: Art in the Public—

Linda Frye Burnham: She wrote a book called Art in the Public Interest…

Jenni Sorkin: Yes.

Linda Frye Burnham: …that’s where we got the title of our nonprofit. She’s the one who thought of that.

Jenni Sorkin: Oh.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: I didn’t realize that that was the direct connection.

Steven Durland: Yeah. [Burnham laughs] No, she was—

Linda Frye Burnham: I forgot to say— [laughs]

Steven Durland: Yeah, she wrote the anthology. And when we formed Art in the Public Interest, we, you know, credited her. I mean, we called her up and talked to her and said, “Is it alright if we use this title?” And she was flattered that we chose it, you know? We gave her all due credit. Because I mean, Art in the Public Interest, her book, has four or five essays in it that were written by Linda or me, that were in the magazine.

Linda Frye Burnham: I’m just going through these, just to show you how we covered community based art. This whole issue specialized on arts and healthcare. And what you see here is the Stuart—

Steven Durland: Pimsler.

Linda Frye Burnham: Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater Company, which—

Jenni Sorkin: Wait.

Linda Frye Burnham: You’re talking lower and lower.

Jenni Sorkin: You have to speak up.

Steven Durland: Oh, okay, sorry. Okay.

Linda Frye Burnham: Stuart Pimsler Dance and Theater Company, which at the time, was in Columbus, Ohio. They were creating dances about death and dying. And these care givers had these enormous wells of emotion and intellectual opinion about the state of dying, and nowhere to put it. So they created these wonderfull dance and theater pieces with these people. And it was just unbelievably therapeutic for the participants, and the audiences totally loved it. Because the doctors and the nurses had such inside information about dying and what it’s really about, what it’s really like. And this also was an issue where we went into arts programs with elders and what was cutting edge about those. And that has turned out to become a real booming field. The government has sunk a lot of money into that field since this came out. And this is the last color cover. This is Marty Pottenger, a performance artist who created something called City Water Tunnel #3. And it was a huge multidisciplinary project with and about the people who built this huge tunnel under the East River.

Jenni Sorkin: The East River in New York, yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, in New York. Bringing more water to Manhattan. And so she met with all the workers from the—

Jenni Sorkin: Public Works and the Sanitation Department.

Linda Frye Burnham: Wait a minute, I’m trying to think of what— dirt hogs or something like that? Sandhogs.

Steven Durland: [laughs] Sandhogs.

Linda Frye Burnham: The guys that actually dug, all the way up to the secretaries. And she did interviews with them, she did video, she did visual art, and she did a wonderful performance that took on the personas of a whole lot of these people. And they all came to all the performances and the exhibitions and the videos she—

Steven Durland: But didn’t she do like individ— like little things in their communities, and also do things in the tunnel itself?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yes, in the tunnel, too. Yeah, yeah. She did as much as she could, everywhere she could. And so we really, really loved that story so we put it in the magazine. And we also did a story in this issue about a call— the citizen— No. The artist is— No, wait. “The Citizen Artist.” That was “The Citizen Artist,” by Aida Mancillas, about living as an artist in San Diego and being part of the City Council and helping to come up with the aesthetics around signage and around parks, et cetera, and actually inserting herself into the development of her own neighborhood. And she called it “planning to stay.” You know, you just decide you’re not going to leave, you’re going to commit the rest of your life to your own neighborhood. So that was the last issue that we published before we realized we were going to have to close the magazine.

Steven Durland: I think one of the really interesting subtexts of this piece, given what we’ve talked about, about things earlier in the magazine, and the censorship thing, too, and what I was talking about reasons for transitioning where we went, is that Marty was a very out and outspoken lesbian. And she walked right into the heart of the beast, in essence, going and working with these people.

Linda Frye Burnham: And she was a professional carpenter, as well.

Steven Durland: Right, you know. And it’s like she— There’s a subtext there, where she taught these people not to be afraid of her, you know? You know, that—

Jenni Sorkin: So she was teaching tolerance, in a way.

Steven Durland: She was teaching tolerance while she was doing all— You know, by going in and saying, “I am who I am and I’m championing who you are. You don’t have to fear me.” You know, I mean, “We’re on the same side.”

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, that’s a great[?]— Yeah.

Steven Durland: You know, which is a step beyond the work that was happening in the late eighties and early nineties, which was challenging, which was, you know, I’m going to stay here, but I’m going to tell— You know, You better like me, you know? [chuckles]

Linda Frye Burnham: You have to like everything I do. [laughs]

Steven Durland: There was a place for that, but there was a point where somebody had to go beyond that and say, “Okay, not only am I going to stand there and tell you’ve got to like me, I’m going to come over there and sit in your lap.” You know, “And we’re going to deal with this, and I’m going to stay here until we’re done dealing with this.”

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Steven Durland: And Marty is that kind of person. She’s just— you know, you just can’t get away from her. [chuckles] She is going to do whatever it takes to conquer whatever adversity is in her way.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, totally. So—

Jenni Sorkin: Do you want to show the last issue?

Linda Frye Burnham: I don’t think it’s out here, is it? Isn’t it in the house?

Steven Durland: Well, we brought it.

Jenni Sorkin: I’ll go get it. Is it not out?

Steven Durland: We must’ve— [audio file stops and restarts]

Linda Frye Burnham: Okay, we on?

Jenni Sorkin: Yeah, we’re on.

Linda Frye Burnham: The last two years of High Performance were the worst funding years in the history of the alternative arts. The arts in general, I guess.

Jenni Sorkin: Which was ’96 and ’97?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, ninety— Yeah.

Steven Durland: Yeah, basically, yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: ’96 and ’97.

Linda Frye Burnham: And there were no art magazines being published except for the big ones like Art in America, who could command a lot of advertising.

Jenni Sorkin: Well, they also have a big conglomerate corporation backing them anyway.

Steven Durland: Yeah, well, the government agencies were all like— you know, they’d sworn off all of this work and now they were just— You know, the NEA had restructured and they were still kind of figuring out what they were funding. And they’d created a whole— You know, gone from the days when they would call you up and tell you to apply for a grant to, you know, where they’d put up this, like, barrier you had to fight your way through to even find out if you were eligible sort of thing. The foundations were going through this incredibly bizarre period where they perceived that there was a funding crisis, and so all they were funding was conferences on what to do about it. [Burnham laughs] You know?

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, they all kind of went underground. “What are we going to do? What are we going to do?”

Steven Durland: Yeah, they were funding studies and they were funding gatherings and stuff like that, [laughs] but they weren’t funding the arts. It was this incredibly frustrating time.

Linda Frye Burnham: And so we went for two years without getting any grants. And that was partly because were weren’t in California anymore, so we weren’t able to get the city, county, state grants that we were getting there. And North Carolina, the Arts Council was only interested in funding local stuff. Even though the Arts Council staff were greatly impressed that we were living in North Carolina, and invited us over there, and we met with the whole staff to talk about what we were doing, the funding panels never gave us a cent because they didn’t see any reason to fund a national project. So—

Steven Durland: Yeah, well, one of the— And also, too, I mean, just as we were leaving LA, or about the time we left LA was when I met with that woman from the Los Angeles Arts Council, who told me to my face, “From now on, we expect High Performance to survive on earned income and we’re going to start giving money to other people instead.” [laughs] It was like, Huh? You know, What are you thinking[?]?

Jenni Sorkin: You have to speak up a little.

Steven Durland: Well, there’s always this perception with a magazine that because you charge for it and because it has a semblance of advertising income, that eventually it should pay for itself. And everybody in the arts knows that’s never going to happen, you know.

Jenni Sorkin: Everybody in the magazine business…

Steven Durland: Yeah, right. [laughs]

Linda Frye Burnham: …knows that’s not going to happen.

Jenni Sorkin: Right. And even The New Yorker doesn’t turn a profit.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Steven Durland: Right. So we just had this moment. We’ve had it with more than one funder who, after funding us for a few years said, “Okay, now we expect you to generate enough earned income to pay your bills.” You know. And what we’ve always argued with funders is, You’re not funding us, you’re funding the people we’re writing— We’re basically a service organization, filling a hole in a larger arts infrastructure that needs to be filled. And if you don’t fund us, it’s not going to destroy us, because this isn’t our art, this is— We’re doing this for these people and you’re funding the performance artists, the community artists, the performers, the activists, the people we’re writing about, when you fund this.

Linda Frye Burnham: So I remember to this day driving to the post office and picking up our rejection letter from the NEA, and stopping out there at the corner of Austin Quarter Road and Saxapahaw Road and just bursting into tears because I knew it was the end. And we called Sue and said, “We’re not going to ask you for any more money, because we always said that if we didn’t have any other contributors, that that would be the last we would ever ask you for money.” And so we closed the magazine. And well, this is the last issue. And it’s just on plain paper. It’s not glossy.

Jenni Sorkin: No, and the starkness of it is— I mean, it’s stark.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yes, and I had a t-shirt made from it, as well. Or you did. [laughs]

Jenni Sorkin: It’s like a ghostly presence.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Steven Durland: Well, we didn’t have any money, but you know, we wanted to send out something more than just a letter. You know, we had to have some way to sign off.

Linda Frye Burnham: So we wrote an editorial about the fact that we were folding, and we hoped that it wasn’t going to impact the field or reflect, like, a lack of value in the field, but just that publishing is really, really expensive. And we tried— One of the things we did was called “Listening to the Past.” And what we did was take a voice, one voice of an artist from each year that we published. So just the first four years, there’s a quote from Suzanne Lacy, a quote from Chris Burden, a quote from Alan Kaprow, and a quote from Rachel Rosenthal. And it goes all the way through all the issues that we did. And then we did a section called “Imagining the Future.” And these were a paragraph on all the stories we were working on at the time that we closed the magazine. If only we could go on, this is what we would do. So this goes on for pages and pages and pages.

Jenni Sorkin: And it’s like a wish list of everything that you didn’t get to do.

Steven Durland: Right.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah, right. And special reports that we would like to do if we could. These were the issues that we felt were important, like— Well, we don’t need to go into that, but— And then we gave a list of all the resources on the web that we had. We put a lot of our articles on the web, so we listed them all here so people would know that they could go there and find articles from High Performance. And so that was the end. That was the end of the magazine and it was all over. And we had to try to go out and get real jobs in the world. So we did not die, however; we live on to this day, [Durland laughs] because the artists in the community, in the national community, came to us and said, “We really need this magazine.” And we said, “Great. Go out and raise a half-million dollars.” And we finally came to the place where—

Steven Durland: We said it sarcastically because [inaudible]

Linda Frye Burnham: Right, sarcastically. But we finally came to the realization that we could do what we were doing, but we could do it on the internet way cheaper than doing it on paper and trying to get these objects out into the world. And we felt that we could really reach a lot more people that way. So do you want to say any more about that? Talk about what happened then?

Steven Durland: Well, I mean, we kept API alive, in the sense that we kept a website up. It was static and it featured some of the stories, it featured the table of contents of the magazine. But other than— You know, the organizational expenses were a few thousand dollars a year, [chuckles] you know. And that was it. And that was because we generated some earned income from sales and back issue sales and stuff like that.

Linda Frye Burnham: [inaudible]

Steven Durland: Yeah. You know, and then after a year and a half or so, when people started coming to us, eventually people from Virginia Tech came and said, “We want— What can we do to get you to do the magazine again?” And we said, “Well, we can edit it, but we can’t make it work. You know, we can’t raise enough money. Funders are not going to give us, two people out in the middle of the country, enough money to do this.” And I said, “If you want to use the institution of Virginia Tech to raise money, then we can talk about it.” But the thing I really proposed to them was that we’d come up with a new vision for what the magazine is, and that was coming up with a website that put all this information here, made it much more flexible, to print out, to put together. You know, so much of what we’ve written about in the last twenty years is not time sensitive. A lot of it is only a little time sensitive. So there’s no reason that it has to disappear, like what tends to happen with a magazine. So there’s no reason to not have it all available at once.

Jenni Sorkin: Not time sensitive in the sense that— I guess I’m not sure how you mean that.

Steven Durland: I mean, if you’re interested in—

Jenni Sorkin: Because so much of it was of its time.

Steven Durland: Yeah, but especially— I mean, when we’re talking about what the website’s about now, this issue of working with community and stuff like that, things haven’t changed so much that what artists were struggling with in 1992, what Marty Pottenger was doing in 1995, is just as relevant in 2007 as it was then.

Linda Frye Burnham: So her strategies, her challenges, those are still important to people.

Steven Durland: Yeah, yeah. There’s no reason that that shouldn’t be instantly accessible to anybody who wants to go to our website and look up art and urban communities, you know. How are artists working in urban communities? That’s still totally valuable information. And so the internet gave us this whole new way of working, which was basically, we could just put all this information in and people could sort it out in ways that were most valuable to them. I mean, if they just want to know what happened in the last year, that’s one of the ways they can look at it. But if they want to look at everything that performance artists in Czechoslovakia have done, they can search on that, too, you know, and put together their own— Because of the fact of— The magazine, from the beginning of time, was so broad, that we were multidisciplinary, and we were…

Linda Frye Burnham: International.

Steven Durland: …international and dealing with all these different issues and all these different subcultures, we were never the primary vehicle for anybody. [chuckles] And so people always wanted to know— People got more and more specific on us as it became more and more codified, all these different things. And people call up and say, “Tell me everything you’ve ever written about artists teaching dance in prisons.” So, “Okay.” You know, “There’s a story in this issue, a story in this issue, a story in this issue.” Well, you know, that’s not very useful to them. I mean, it wasn’t—

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, then they’d want us to Xerox all these articles and mail them to them.

Steven Durland: Yeah. Now it’s— All they have to—

Linda Frye Burnham: It’s all on the web.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: Right.

Steven Durland: And our readership is, like, you know, incredible, compared to what it was then. We used to get out to 3- or 4,000 people a quarter, maybe. Now we get 50,000 people a month. And they can all get all the information they need in whatever context they want it, without having to call us. [laughs] You know, without having to bother us, they can—

Jenni Sorkin: Do you feel like you get more feedback now, with the internet because people dash off an email more quickly than they might have written a letter?

Steven Durland: No. No, we just did a reader— not reader— Well, yeah, we did do a reader survey, actually. I guess you could call it that. To learn more, you know.

Linda Frye Burnham: Americans for the Arts did it.

Steven Durland: I mean, the nice thing about the internet is you have all this statistical information to fall back on. You can see how many people visit the site, you can see where they go, that sort of thing. You can tell what’s working better than what isn’t working. But like I said, because our work often isn’t time sensitive, it’s like we don’t have to treat those statistics the way a more hardcore business would. It doesn’t matter that somebody doesn’t look at a story for six months because the important thing is that it’s there when the person who needs it goes looking for it, you know? And whereas before, we were basically a vehicle for and of the field, now we’re much broader than that because of what Google— It’s like people find us every day who never knew we existed, who never knew this information existed. But they got curious about something and they typed in a set of words, and suddenly it’s like they found this whole new world that they didn’t know about. So it’s— And people [chuckles] always use this— We get used a lot in Wikipedia as a reference for things like Andres Serrano, for things like Linda Montano, for—

Jenni Sorkin: And so how much of High Performance now is up on the web?

Steven Durland: I couldn’t give you a percentage.

Jenni Sorkin: I mean, would you want to archive the whole thing on the web?

Steven Durland: Oh, I would, but I think it’s a thing— somebody’s got to come and give us some money for it. That’s a lot—

Jenni Sorkin: Well, absolutely. I mean, you can’t do it yourselves, but—

Steven Durland: Yeah. I mean, after like about issue 48, most of High Performance is digital. And so what we’ve done is we’ve gone through a lot of that and cherry picked it and made that available online. But I mean, that means there’s still like ten years of High Performance that would need to be, you know…

Jenni Sorkin: Scanned.

Steven Durland: …scanned or typed or proofed, all of that, to go in. And—

Jenni Sorkin: Well, it’s an amazing resource, and it’s still in so many libraries, which is the great part.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: And the archive is at the Getty, which is even better.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: I think that there really is an opportunity to put all that material in, in terms of performance art. I think that could be done. I don’t know that we will ever be [laughs] involved in it, but it could be done. But I think we should close by talking about the book that we did, the anthology that we did out of High Performance in 1998, right after the magazine closed. It was published by Critical Press, in Gardiner, New York. So we didn’t have to publish it ourselves. And we tried to look at the— It was called “The Citizen Artist, Art in The Public—” Wait. “Twenty Years of Art in The Public Arena.”

Steven Durland: “An Anthology of High Performance magazine…

Linda Frye Burnham: “An Anthology of High Performance magazine.”

Steven Durland: “…1978 to 1997.”

Jenni Sorkin: ’97.

Linda Frye Burnham: And what we tried to do was figure out if there was a thread through all that we had done, from the very first issue to the very last issue. And one of the things that we found that it all had in common was that it happened outside the mainstream and that we had gathered the voices of the artists who were creating this material. And we separated it into three sort of eras that kind of overlapped. The first was art and life?

Steven Durland: Well, art and life, yeah.

Linda Frye Burnham: The art and life movement. And then—

Steven Durland: Art and activism.

Linda Frye Burnham: Art and activism, and then community art.

Steven Durland: Art and community.

Linda Frye Burnham: Art and community. Right, yeah.

Steven Durland: And that they all came from the same place and that if you look at it that way, it’s a very logical art historical progression. It’s because we come out of visual art and [chuckles] visual art kind of demands that—

Jenni Sorkin: Continuity?

Linda Frye Burnham: The chart. [laughs]

Steven Durland: That continuity. You know, one of the things that’s funny for us, because we work in this world that’s sometimes dance now, theater, music, all these things, is each of these disciplines has a different vocabulary. And so there are things, [chuckles] parts of this kind of— There’s a whole bunch of deer.

Linda Frye Burnham: [gasps] Oh!

Steven Durland: Parts— [inaudible]

Jenni Sorkin: I’m recording.

Linda Frye Burnham: One of the things that I think is sort of important about High Performance is that right from the beginning, I wanted the magazine to be able to be read by people who didn’t have an art education. I was trying to push this information out into the wider community so that people’s imaginations would be spurred, that there was more they could do with their lives than just watch TV. And so because of that, we tried to keep the language at a level that most people could read. And we told our writers, “Please, if you’re going to use academic references, all you have to do is explain them a little bit, you know? We’d love for you to refer to books and articles and schools of thought. But if you could just give the reader a way into that, so that you’re not just using a buzz word.”

Steven Durland: And we wouldn’t let them use, like, Baudrillardian or [Burnham laughs] turn people into adjectives, unless— I used to tell writers, “If I can’t look it up in the dictionary, you can’t use it without defining it.”

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah. And so sometimes we got labeled as being anti-academic or anti-intellectual because of that. And it still remains a hallmark of the work that we’re publishing today. We want very much for people to be able to understand it without having gone to grad school. But the funny part is that we have always gotten criticism from both sides. Either we’re too in-language or we’re too anti-intellectual. So there’s people in both camps that want us to be something else. But that’s kind of the difference between our editorship and people who do magazines like October. We really don’t want to put our energy into something that can’t be read by lots of people, as opposed to a handful.

Steven Durland: And the important thing since day one is this recognition that we’re not historians and we’re not critics and we’re not theorists. But we’re documenting this so that the information is out there when these people finally need it.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Steven Durland: You know, so that this work still exists when people finally get around to…

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Steven Durland: …figuring out what it all means.

Linda Frye Burnham: And I just want to point out that Jenni Sorkin, our interviewer, really appreciated that documentary aspect of High Performance and created a whole gallery exhibition that traveled, out of the first five years, and included the Artist’s Chronicle, because it was really important to her to point out that we had actually recorded history, not just opinion. But there was stuff that art historians could use. So—

Jenni Sorkin: Thank you. And thank you, Steve.

Linda Frye Burnham: [chuckles] And it made a big difference to me to be able to know that somebody understood what we were trying to do was describe a field and get things down on record, because nobody else was doing it and it was going to be lost. It was so ephemeral it was going to be lost.

Jenni Sorkin: Well, the beauty of the ephemera of all twenty— you know, almost twenty years of this publication is, is that you really are still recording things that just go completely under the radar. And you’ve managed to document in multiple fields, in multiple genres, and across a broad spectrum and swath of the public, all these different kinds of projects—whether they’re performance projects, whether they’re healthcare projects, whether— They take on various different areas of society, and artists charge right in and embroil themselves into issues in different ways, whether in a controversial way, in a let’s-all-work-together way. But it’s—

Linda Frye Burnham: Or just a formal way.

Jenni Sorkin: Yeah. Or a formal way. You’ve managed to create a forum for artists for years and years and years, and I think that it’s— you know, you’ve done this huge service. And I thank you for [chuckles] what you’ve done and contributed.

Linda Frye Burnham: Well, I want to ask you. I mean, I’m sixty-six, he’s fifty-six, and you’re—

Jenni Sorkin: Thirty.

Linda Frye Burnham: Thirty. I want to ask you how you became aware that High Performance existed.

Jenni Sorkin: I became aware of High Performance when I was an undergraduate at the School of the Art Institute. And it was—

Linda Frye Burnham: Was that because the students were reading it or the teachers were—

Jenni Sorkin: It’s because there were people in the performance department who would constantly reference High Performance, and I didn’t know what High Performance was. And I kept hearing that as a term, and I finally asked a fellow student, because I felt stupid that I didn’t know what High Performance was. [they laugh] And I thought that this was a term or a vocabulary, it was a genre.

Linda Frye Burnham: [over Sorkin; laughs] A genre.

Jenni Sorkin: Yes. I had no idea what it was. [laughs] And I—

Steven Durland: It was a drug. [they laugh]

Jenni Sorkin: And I finally said to somebody, “What the hell is High Performance? Is that like something that I should know how to do?” [they laugh] And somebody said, “I don’t know, it was some magazine a long time ago.” [Durland laughs] And this was like, I think, ’98. It was right the year after it had stopped. And I went to the library and I found all of these back issues.

Linda Frye Burnham: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: And I started reading them, and then my graduating class in 1999, the person who came and gave the inaugural— you know, the graduation address, the commencement address was actually Rachel Rosenthal. [laughs]

Linda Frye Burnham: Oh, my God!!

Jenni Sorkin: So it was very full circle.

Steven Durland: Yeah.

Jenni Sorkin: And she got onstage and shocked the shit out of my parents, [laughs] who to this day, my mom says to me, “Do you remember that strange bald woman who’s Jewish, who got up and screamed at your graduation? And said, “Yowza! You’ve now left the womb and gone through the vagina [they laugh] of school.”

Linda Frye Burnham: Wow! Oh, I can just see it. “Yowza!”

Jenni Sorkin: [laughs] And there were all of these parents in the audience. It was great.

Linda Frye Burnham: That’s hysterical. So she gave a performance [Durland laughs] keynote speech.

Jenni Sorkin: And then three years later, I found myself in LA, talking to her. So that was even more full circle. [Durland laughs] It was great.

Linda Frye Burnham: Cool.

Steven Durland: I remember not long after taking over as editor, you know, a learning experience for me was, I got this request from an academic journal and said, “We would like you to review this article by this—” It was some professor, some academic somewhere. And it was called, “The Difference Between Performance Art and Theater.” And the guy— I can’t remember quite what the gist was, if he was saying anything, necessarily, that I liked or didn’t like. But what I always remember is he used three pieces of performance art as his examples. One of them was Richard Wilson[sic]. But—

Linda Frye Burnham: Robert Wilson.

Steven Durland: Robert Wilson. But what impressed me is he didn’t see any of it. He was citing references, you know? He was citing other people’s writing about the work to make his case about the difference. And you know, this wasn’t like something from 100 years ago. This was stuff that if he wanted to…

Linda Frye Burnham: He could’ve seen.

Steven Durland: …he could’ve gotten off his butt and gone and seen. But you know, that’s…

Linda Frye Burnham: But it was more important to—

Steven Durland: …when I realized that these people whose theory I was studying were basing it on what they were reading, and not what they were seeing. And that suddenly drove home the importance of, like, writing this stuff down. You know, because if people don’t know what happened, then it has no influence whatsoever. You know, and we can’t control the influence it has, but we can control the fact that it has influence by putting it out there.

Jenni Sorkin: Well, and the fact that people had not seen it, but that you had seen all of it…

Steven Durland: Right.

Jenni Sorkin: …and that at some level, the experience that you had offered people was more authentic than what the academics could offer in a twice removed way.

Steven Durland: Right.

Jenni Sorkin: That the artists themselves were documenting what they had seen and done, what they had experienced, and what they were, you know, doing out in the world; that you could provide a forum for that; and that anything else that was going to get written was going to be second hand from that. And that they were going to rely on High Performance as a first hand source because it had writing by artists, because it had writing by critics or people like yourselves, who—you don’t consider yourself critics, but I do, in some capacity—that you were on the ground writing about this while it was happening. And so that’s a first hand source.

Linda Frye Burnham: Because otherwise all we’d be left with was even people who saw it, but wanted to make a critical point, you know? And that’s fine. I mean, but criticism as we’ve learned, as I learned to study it in college— I studied literary criticism, but at least those critics were writing about books that existed in the world, that everybody was reading. And here we were talking about performances that were often just a one off performance that— In the case of Chris Burden, only about four people saw Shoot. And so there had to be some kind of base of documentation of what had actually happened, before you started riffing off it theoretically.

Jenni Sorkin: Right.

Linda Frye Burnham: So. Okay, we done?

Jenni Sorkin: We’ve come to the end of the tape.

Linda Frye Burnham: Alright! Yay!


This transcript is in the public domain and may be used without permission. Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Linda Frye Burnham and Steven Durland, 2007 Sept.16, Art Spaces Archives Project (AS-AP).