AS-AP

Interview with Martha Wilson, Founding Director, Franklin Furnace

Posted September 13, 2010 by Anonymous
Interviewer: 
Lydia Brawner, PhD Candidate, Department of Performance Studies, New York University
Interview Date: 
Friday, June 4, 2010
Person Interviewed: 
Martha Wilson, Founding Director, Franklin Furnace
Place of Interview: 
Brooklyn, NY

 

Preface

The following oral history transcript is the result of a recorded interview with Martha Wilson on June 4, 2010. The interview took place in New York, NY and was conducted by Lydia Brawner. This interview was funded by the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA).

Martha Wilson and Lydia Brawner have reviewed the transcript and have made corrections and emendations. The reader should bear in mind that he or she is reading a transcript of spoken, rather than written, prose.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.

 

Interview

LYDIA BRAWNER:  The following interview is being conducted with Martha Wilson, on behalf of Art Spaces Archives Project, for the CCS Bard archives. The interview is taking place on June 4th, 2010, at Martha Wilson’s home in Brooklyn. I’m conducting the interview, and my name is Lydia Brawner.

Alright. So one thing that I would like to start with is how you first came to live in New York.

 

Screen Shot of Martha Wilson

MARTHA WILSON:  Okay. Okay. I was a hesitant artist, not sure that I could be an artist or was good enough to be an artist, in Halifax, Nova Scotia. And then my boyfriend dumped my ass, and so I thought, Okay, maybe I’ll move to Montreal or New York and see if I can really make a go of this idea of being an artist. And if I can’t be an artist, I can always be a secretary again, because I know how to do that. So Nova Scotia College of Art and Design was where my boyfriend, the one who looked like Marcel Duchamp and dumped my ass, had gotten his MFA. That was across the street from Dalhousie University, which is the university where I was getting my MA in English literature, and then I started working on a PhD. And then they rejected my PhD as visual art, so I thought that was a sign. So I walked across the street and got a job teaching grammar at the art college, till Richards dumped my ass. Then I called Simone Forti, who had been one of the visiting artists at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. She had said, perhaps rashly, “Oh, if you ever decide to move to New York, you can crash on me. [Interviewer laughs] Oh. So I called her, and she said, “Okay, fine.” So I crashed on her for— I moved in May of 1974, and lived in her loft for thirty days, and then subleased Jacki Apple’s husband Billy Apple’s loft on 23rd Street. Jacki Apple, I had met through— Again, this is back at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Lucy Lippard had come up and had seen my work and said, “Oh. Yes, you’re an artist. This is art. And there are other women around doing this kind of stuff.” And she put me in a show. c. 7500 was the title of the show, and the catalog was note cards. You were given the space as visual art space, these note cards. So anyway, I met Jacki Apple, Rita Myers, Alice Aycock, Jackie Winsor, through this catalog. Jacki apple and I collaborated in 1973. And then when I moved in 1974, I lived in her husband’s loft.

 

BRAWNER:  On 23rd.

 

WILSON:  On 23rd.

 

BRAWNER:  And then how did you come to Franklin Street? How did that—

 

WILSON:  Okay. So I had a job. My first job in New York was working for Harry N. Abrams, Inc., because I wanted to combine my interest in literature and art. There was none of that going on at Harry N. Abrams, Inc. It’s a business. And I was the assistant to the managing editor, whose name was Margaret Kaplan. A benevolent tyrant, let’s call her. I think that’s— If she heard this interview, she would agree. [Interviewer laughs] Benevolent Tyrant. So I worked at Abrams for a year, and then I got a job applying— I applied to Brooklyn College. Brooklyn College had an opening for an art teacher, so I applied there and got this job at Brooklyn College. Then the City of New York ran out of money. That was December of 1975, — Spring of 1975, yeah. So the first thing the city did was fire all the art teachers to balance the budget. And so I was fired. I was hired in September and fired in December. And I’m living in Billy Apple’s studio on 23rd Street. But I had this idea that I wanted to start an art space—

 

Okay, backing up. My boyfriend, the beautiful artist boyfriend who looked like Marcel Duchamp, getting his MFA at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design had been in the Information show in 1970. So he’d been to New York. I went up to the bookstore of the Museum of Modern Art, after I moved to the city and said, “Look, I’m making these little ephemeral publications. And you did the Information show here; why don’t you sell them in the bookstore?” And the manager said, “You’re selling this for five dollars, but it will cost me five dollars to do the bookkeeping. So no, we’re not going to sell your stuff in the bookstore.” So none of the major institutions were willing to take on the ephemeral stuff that was being produced by me and my friends, the downtown scene. Fine. So I’m going to start a not-for-profit organization to collect and exhibit and distribute and proselytize on behalf of this stuff, which has value. It doesn’t have value by virtue of the materials from which it is made; it has value by virtue of the ideas that it contains. Okay. So my roommate— Well, let’s see. How did this work? A friend of my parents’ son, from Philadelphia, was also looking for a place to live in New York, so we found a place together. And then later, years later, I found out that Virginia Piersol had been stalking me to get me to rent the ground floor loft, which turned out to be Franklin Furnace. Willoughby Sharp wanted this building at 112 Franklin Street to be the Franklin Street Art Center, with art activities on every floor. There’d be a bookstore, that’s me, on the ground floor; there’d be video editing on the second floor; film showing on the third floor, so on and so forth. So we signed a net lease for the building and we started having building meetings. And Willoughby could yell louder than everybody else, so I realized I will not be able to incorporate my not-for-profit organization with him on the board, or in charge in any way, because I won’t be able to do anything that I want to do; he’s just much louder than I am. But Willoughby, nevertheless— I wanted to call this not-for-profit organization the Franklin Stove. We’re on Franklin Street in Lower Manhattan. He said, “No, no, no. You have to call it Franklin Furnace.” And that was exactly right. He coined the name of the organization, Franklin Furnace.

 

And the word archive, I misused. I thought archive was the singular form; and archives is the proper form, or was at the time. And actually, now that Franklin Furnace is called Franklin Furnace Archive, Inc., the Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry was named without the S, and other groups have been formed without the S. And now the proper— My archivist, who was educated at NYU, informed me the last time we applied for an NEH grant, that actually, you’re supposed to drop the S; that’s considered proper now. [laughs] So we were just trendsetting thirty years ago.

 

BRAWNER:  So were you also living in the Franklin space?

 

WILSON:  Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. Well, everybody who was supposed to be starting activities at the Franklin Street Art Center—and this includes Willoughby, ironically—bought a hot water heater and started living, and never once did any video editing evenings or any of that shit. No. It just didn’t happen. I was the only fool who went, took my incorporation papers down to the Department of Law and got them notarized and whatever. The court— I mean, luckily for me, I had a volunteer lawyer help me with the corporate outfit. And then the courthouse and everything that I needed to go to the Internal Revenue Service, everything was downtown, so I could just walk around and get all my business done. Nowadays, I think it’s a little more complicated, but— So I incorporated as a not-for-profit organization, but we had no income of any kind. So I had my roommate, Haviland Wright, and then got another roommate, Michael Barry. And then Michael left, so we had another roommate. Then Haviland left. And then finally I left, in 1981, when the organization was robust enough to take over the whole space. Franklin Furnace was kind of a clearing in the front; then it occupied the belly of the loft and my kitchen was in the back; then we finally put the archives in the back, where the kitchen was, also. We took out the sink in the end; left the bathroom in. Then we got the lease on the basement, so we put the performance space in the basement. Because we were trying to do installation and performance in the same space on the ground floor, which meant de-installing every single week and then re-installing, which was driving us out of our minds. So I continued to live up on the mezzanine, however. The office was on the mezzanine, and I was living in the back of the mezzanine, till— So I bought this place, the place we’re sitting in now. I bought it in 1980, but it wasn’t habitable in 1980. So there were some years of sweat equity and then renovation going on. So I really moved here, I would say ’83 or something like that.

 

BRAWNER:  Okay. So within the Franklin Furnace space, it was conceived as first being artist books, or was it always artist books and performance?

 

WILSON:  It was first artist books. Well, what we now call artist books. At the time, they didn’t have that name; they didn’t have any name. They’re pieces, works of art that happened to be in a published form. And really at the time, artists were doing all kinds of stuff. They hadn’t categorized themselves, certainly, into performance artists and installation artists and artist book makers. No. Everybody was doing everything. And as Marvin Taylor famously said, everybody was in three bands, everybody was doing everything all the time. And some of the stuff was published and some of the stuff street work. Some other stuff was films that were projected on the sides of buildings. It was a totally wild time. So of course, the artists who were publishing their stuff wanted to read from what they had published. So the performance program grew out of this impulse to read, to embody the text; to not only write it down on a piece of paper, but also to embody the text. And then the installation program started as one-of-a-kind books. But immediately, again, the artists were not content to confine themselves to what we consider to be a book. The book would crawl down the side of the stand and then crawl up the wall and across the ceiling, and it became an installation work, also, immediately. So for the first two years, I was trying to persuade artists that what they were doing was artists reading. We called our performance program Artists Reading. None of them— some of them were actually reading, but even in the simplest case— Like Man Ray accompanied William Wegman at the reading. And so it’s like a co-performance, Man Ray and William Wegman. And all the artists manipulated all the various things they could—the relationship to the audience; they brought in props; sometimes they had plants in the audience; sometimes they barricaded the door and wouldn’t let the audience leave. [laughs] Even though the performances were very simple, they were thinking broadly about what could be done in real time and space.

 

BRAWNER:  So when did the sort of performance aspect of that start?

 

WILSON:  The opening, the store opened on April 3rd, 1976. The first performance was by Martina Aballea reading out of her dream journals in June of 1976. And then the calendar was printed, and the program started, really with gusto, in the fall of 1976. So it was all within the first year. We figured out that we were doing installation, performance and we had exhibition and the archive program. Oh. Oh, wait, there’s something very important I forgot to mention. Printed Matter was being formed at the same by, by a collective of— I think there were twelve founders. So it took them a little bit longer to get their incorporation papers done because they were working collectively. It just takes longer. So Printed Matter and Franklin Furnace had some meetings to figure out how we could avoid reinventing the wheel here. Let’s take this area of concern and divide it up a little differently so that we’re not doing the same thing. We didn’t want to do the same thing. Also, they wanted to be a for-profit corporation, so that they could publish works by artists that might not pass muster with the Internal Revenue Service; they might be considered egregious in some way, or politically challenging, whatever. So they started as a for-profit corporation. They took the distribution—I gave them the distribution gladly, because I found out standing in line at the post office was what distribution was all about—distribution and publication; and I took exhibition and archival work.

 

BRAWNER:  What do you mean by archival work?

 

WILSON:  We preserved this stuff. I asked the artists for multiple copies. And most of the copies would be sold to the public, but I would keep three copies for the permanent collection.

 

BRAWNER:  Okay. And then where is the permanent collection now?

 

WILSON:  It is now in the arms of the Museum of Modern Art. It became— The loft is, continues to be, made of wood. [laughs] It’s a nineteenth century Italianate cast-iron loft on Franklin Street. The floors are wood, the walls are brick. And we, over the course of from 1976 to 1993, gathered 13,500, roughly, titles; the largest collection in the United States of  this thing that we then started to call artist books, because everybody was calling them artist books. Okay. So the board and I had this discussion about how, Gosh, we have the largest collection of artist books in the United States, and the loft is made of wood. [they laugh] Gee, maybe that’s not a good thing for the long term. So one of our board members— one of my previous board members, Clive Phillpot, Librarian of the Museum of Modern Art, had wanted us to do something with our collection. You know, he saw early on that we were maybe not the best guardians for the largest collection of artist books in the country. Maybe we should put the second copy uptown at the Museum of Modern Art or some— He wanted to have some kind of agreement with us. And the board just pooh-poohed him, and then we didn’t speak for a number of years because, you know, his idea had been pooh-poohed. So then more years went by and the board changed its tune. So I, hat in hand, called Clive Phillpot on the phone. And he said, “Actually, I would really, really like the Museum of Modern Art to acquire your collection. And it’s going to be the last thing I do before I retire and move back to England.” So he got it done and we sold our collection to the Museum of Modern Art, technically in 1993, although they didn’t come and get the books till 1994, which I think is— I mean, we’re having a discussion here about art spaces. Art spaces are small, kind of low to the ground; if you buy something, if you buy a new copy machine, you know pretty much where it’s going to go. The Museum of Modern Art, giant institution, they buy stuff all the time; they have no idea where they’re going to put it. So they didn’t know where to put it and we kept it. We kept it for them for a year, and then they came downtown and wrapped the collection in shrink-wrap and rolled it onto trucks, and then it was taken uptown. But let me finish telling you about the deal with MoMA, because it’s an interesting one. I had asked the artists for three copies, and most of the time I got three copies. They kept all of the number one copies, and then they sold all the number two copies, and then they gave us back all the number three copies. So although we don’t have a complete set of everything that we got—because the artist sometimes gave us one copy—we have yet to compare our database with what we actually have on the shelves. But the point is that we have a collection of artist books that could get coffee spilled on it and it wouldn’t be the end of the world, because there’s a wonderful pristine set uptown at the Museum of Modern Art. That’s one thing. Another thing is it’s an open collection, so you can still donate to it today. And it’s the only open collection at MoMA. We’re pretty happy about that. We’re kind of unhappy about the fact that MoMA stamped all the books with their stamp. And then the last thing that I think is great about the— It’s now called the Museum of Modern Art/Franklin Furnace/ Artist Book Collection. And the great thing about it is that MoMA had collected in depth; for example, everything that Vito Acconci ever published, they had it. We had collected in breadth. So we had stuff from Latin America—every country in Latin America, actually, because we’d had an exhibition and the curator had made sure to get works from all those countries, and so all those countries were giving us stuff far after the show; Central and South America; Japan; not too much from China, but Malaysia; Australia. We had stuff from literally all over the planet. So putting those two collections together makes it pretty good.

 

BRAWNER:  So MoMA sold the second copy?

 

WILSON:  Yes.

 

BRAWNER:  And then that money went to you guys? 

 

WILSON:  Yes. I’m just going to tell you how much it went for; I think it’s okay. It was $350,000 over five years. And I recently met the man who bought the second copies. I thought it was a museum, but it’s a bookseller, a person who sells rare books, especially art books. I can’t remember his name right now, so I can’t tell you who that is. And I also thought that when I did this sale— Well, I’ll go into the reasons for that later, but I was afraid that the artists would be steamed, that we had sold out somehow by selling the collection to the Museum of Modern Art. And precisely the opposite happened; everybody was so happy to put MoMA on their resume that nobody complained at all.

 

BRAWNER:  [laughs] So going back to the earlier days of Franklin Furnace, when you were starting this collection of artist books, what was your role? How did you conceptualize your role?

 

WILSON:  Well, I took a very un-curatorial perspective. Basically, if an artist said, this is a book, we would accept, even if it’s a block of concrete. There was a wonderful work called Concrete Poetry, and it was a cement block about yea big, six inches on a side— I’ve always liked that as an example of— You know, the artist says it’s a book, so who are we to say that just because it doesn’t have pages, it’s not a book? So we tried not to exercise personal judgment in— Or, I felt that the democratic impulse of the field was such that it was not my job to be saying, Oh, I like this and I don’t like that. That’s not even interesting. It’s more interesting to see what is out there than to say what I like and what I don’t like.

 

BRAWNER:  Early on, were there other people on staff?

 

WILSON:  Staff? [chuckles]

 

BRAWNER:  Or, you know—

 

WILSON:  My friend Tom Hut was perhaps the first— No, there were other volunteers who helped me. Mimi Wheeler, for example, helped me fold and stuff envelopes. I think it’s late enough for me to say that Jackie Ochs stole the mailing list from the Clocktower so that I could have a list of people to send my letter to saying, I bet you have these works under your bed; you don’t know exactly what to do with them; but we’re in business to sell them and to archive them. So I had a lot of help. I mean, a lot of people were helping me, but there weren’t any paid staff. We had interns. Oh, God, we would’ve died without the interns, in the early days. But I think they were getting six dollars an hour. Jacki Apple worked as my first curator, from 1976 to 1980. And she would get a split of the gate. She got nothing, basically, but she would get half of fifteen dollars or whatever it is that came in for a performance event. I had unemployment insurance; that’s really how I could afford to do this. Because I’d been fired from Brooklyn College, so I had— And it was a recession, so they extended unemployment insurance for, I think, a year. I never looked for a job for one minute. I figured, I’m going to do this. If this works, then I have a job. And if it doesn’t work, I have to find a job. [laughs]

 

BRAWNER:  I’m interested in the way that the space worked as both performance space and exhibition space. Can you describe the layout and—

 

WILSON:  Sure. It’s a roughly 100-foot long, twenty-five-foot wide loft. The front of it is a little bit more narrow because there’s a stairwell that goes upstairs. So the front is about fifteen feet. So the original exhibition space was this initial fifteen- by twenty-foot area. Then we moved— Oh. Oh. Why did I think it was a bookstore? It had these beautiful cases, these nineteenth century display cases in it, because it had been a ship chandlery before it became a loft. And so the bookcases—well, we called them bookcases; they were display cases: glass shelving and really crappy wood, but all stained to look like walnut cases—first we had them demarcating, you know, the front of the institution from the living space. Then we made the performance space behind that first set of cases. Then we put another set of cases next to the bathroom, so the kitchen was behind that. And then the mezzanine went, on the east half, from almost all the way back above the bathroom, to where the stairwell came in at the front; and then it went across at the stairwell. So the stairway upstairs moved a couple of times. It was originally at the back of the part of the mezzanine that went across; and then later, it moved over to midway down the wall, on the east side of the wall. So I mean, it was a loft; it was really funky. And so that was good because artists could plaster stuff into the wall or use a Sawzall and cut the stairs out and move the stairs, if we decided to move the stairs, you know? It was a pretty— Oh, my father had gotten a— He was a building inspector. He was retired as an architect and became a building inspector in Rancocas, New Jersey. Somebody had a greenhouse, and Mom wanted the greenhouse. And so I think he did a job and traded for the greenhouse, instead of accepting money. Had all these beautiful doors—like these, kind of like these doors—next to the houseboat where he and Mom were living. But then he never built the greenhouse, so I got the greenhouse doors. And they were separating the mezzanine. So you wouldn’t fall off the mezzanine, there were these glass doors like this, pretty much exactly like this, with glass up here and wood down there.

 

BRAWNER:  And so the performances were in the mezzanine?

 

WILSON:  No, no, no. The performances were on the ground floor, kind of in the belly of the loft. And then they moved to the basement, in ’81, when we got the lease. The lease on the basement— First there were people living there illegally. Then the Franklin Street Art Center—that means Willoughby Sharp and the guy who was living on the second floor at the time, Paul Shavelson—were making video down there. Then they ran out of money, and then we leased it from the— It wasn’t a co-op yet, it was a net lease with a bunch of artists. We had signed a net lease.

 

BRAWNER:  How would you go about finding these performers?

WILSON:  Oh. Oh. Okay. So in the early days, Jacki Apple was the curator. And I should say in the early days, Barbara Quinn was the director of development. She—

 

BRAWNER:  What does that mean?

 

WILSON:  Well, Tommy Hut helped me find the Jerome Foundation. And I read the purposes of the Jerome Foundation; they want to support emerging artists and risky work. And I thought, Hey, that’s me. So I wrote them a letter and they said no. [Interviewer laughs] They declined the grant. And I thought, Oh, well, that’s it. And Barbara said, “No. You wait six months and you write to them again.” [laughs] Oh. You know, she taught me how to raise money. She was a painter and sculptor—actually, I’ll show you her work, which I have here in the house—who— she knew that I needed help. She wanted to be helpful to this venture. And she came in one day and said, “You need help here. I know how to help you, and I will charge you $45 a day for my time.” At the time that she said that, I was getting $75 a week from unemployment. So I thought, I’m going to die either way. If I do hire here, it’s going to cost me $45 out of my $75 a week; but if I don’t hire her, I’m going to expire. So I hired her anyway.

 

BRAWNER:  So for her, what sort of advice or fundraising or—

 

WILSON:  She would make appointments. We would go visit foundations. She would write the proposals; we would write them together. She wanted me to write a proposal to not only collect, but also catalog the artist books. And I said, “Uh, I don’t want to catalog. I might just— You know, it’s so tedious to catalog this stuff.” And she said, “You have to write this grant. You know, you hire people to catalog it; that’s what the grant is for.” So we got the grant, and we start— You know, we would have these huge arguments [laughs] about what the right thing was to do. And that’s a good thing, in the end, to have other brains around to work it out with.

 

BRAWNER:  So initially, with that financial picture — how much of this money is coming from grants and how much of it is coming from people going there…

 

WILSON:  Oh, okay.

 

BRAWNER:  …donations andthings like that?

 

WILSON:  Well, in the very earliest year—year one, year two—I was on unemployment insurance and I was giving $45 a day to Barbara Quinn, once a week. And Jacki was getting half the gate. Then—and this is unheard of today, but at that time—the New York State Council on the Arts sent somebody downtown to visit me and say, Oh, you know, we approve of what you’re doing here and we want you to apply to us for money. And then the same thing happened at the NEA. Brian O’Doherty, who was the chair at the time of the visual arts program, invited me to lunch. And it was me and Richard Kostelanetz. And he said, “I like what you’re doing and there are these various grants that you can apply for. And the deadline is in April, and you should apply.” I mean, [chuckles] I tell young artists this today and they just go— [they laugh] What? So it was a different time. The avant-garde was considered to be America’s most important product. It was a time of great experimentation. The culture wars hadn’t hit yet.

 

BRAWNER:  So with Brian O’Doherty, I know that at some point, there’s an NEA Advancement Grant that came through. Was that—

 

WILSON:  Yeah, we applied for that, too. We got one of those. That was a good thing. The advancement program— well, the entire effort was to institutionalize the art space movement. What does that mean? It means we should have professional staff: people who are paid, they show up; and they’re not necessarily artists, they’re people who are paid to run the place and run it well. And if you’re an artist and you’re running the place, then you have to learn how to be a professional person to run the place and run it well. So with the Advancement Grant, I hired Elizabeth Devolder Scarlottos. She worked for the YWCA, I think, and somebody through the Y, a young person through the YW, let her know that we were a downtown organization and we were okay, and asked if it would be okay if I sent her a letter. So she tried to install uptown strategies on my downtown organization. For example, if you have people on the board of directors and you have people among your donors, you want to know how much money will they give you, and will they give you money for a capital campaign? That’s the kind of question she wanted to ask. So this was 1983. And 1984 was the year— Oh. So Jacki Apple moved to California in 1980. And after that, we installed a peer review panel, which is meeting Saturday, Sunday, Monday. So from 1980 to the present. I didn’t want to be the curator, either, of the program. As I wasn’t the curator of the artist book collection— I wanted to let the program go where the artist community wanted to go, rather than where Martha wanted it to go. So the peer review panel selected Carnival Knowledge. Carnival Knowledge is a collective of women and activists who wanted to know if there could be such a thing as feminist pornography. Elizabeth told me not to do the show. She said, “You’ll regret it. It’s sex. Sex is always a problem.” I said, “What do you know? And we, of course, did the show. And the opening was so crowded that Franklin Street was impassable. It was just filled with people. There were, I guess, three- or four-hundred people in the show. If you include all the video artists and all the performance artists and all the installation works that were there, some hundreds of artists were in the show. And they all brought their ten friends, so the place was completely packed. Then as soon as the show came down, the people listed on my brochure, my handy brochure at the front desk, all the supporters of Franklin Furnace started getting letters saying that we had shown pornography to 500 children per day and that we were, you know, an obscene organization. So this was the beginning of the culture wars, 1984, for us. I mean, the culture wars had started a little earlier: Dennis Barrie at Cincinnati Arts Center; and the Corcoran canceling the Mapplethorpe show is earlier still. I don’t remember exactly what the years were, but— So Elizabeth was right. But we weren’t about to tell artists what they couldn’t do. So the next thing that happened was that the director of the visual arts program of the NEA, Benny Andrews, and deputy director, Hugh Southern—came up to New York to meet with me and my board. So I got Coosje van Bruggen, who’s European; and Frederieke Taylor, who’s also European; and me. We met with Hugh Southern, who’s English, actually. And they were clucking. They were laughing about how puritanical the Americans are. But would we please not credit the NEA unless the NEA had given the money specifically for that project? It was the beginning of the time when the grants were no longer seasonally based, but project based. So the whole idea that we should be free to select the program that was going to happen the following year came into question at that point. And when we submitted our grant applications, one of the things they would do, I think, is check to see how many times Annie Sprinkle was in the exhibition program or that kind of thing. Then so more years went by. I’m talking about the culture wars now; did you want to talk about the culture wars now?

 

BRAWNER:  It’s definitely on my list; keep going.

 

WILSON:  Okay. So that was ’84. And we kind of got slapped on the wrist. Then 1990 came. But in between ’84 and 1990, Karen Finley had come to New York and done her first performance in New York, in the basement of Franklin Furnace, with  Brian Routh, her husband, one of the Kipper Kids. And he was wearing nothing but whiteface, a jock strap, and an Indian bonnet. And she was wearing a dress, which she eventually took off. Oh, no. She was making— What was she doing? Making love to a chair using Wesson cooking oil. And then she took a bath in a suitcase. She opened the suitcase and it’s full of water, and she takes a bath in the suitcase. This was 1983, completely standard downtown fare. No problem at all. The audience that was in there was other artists, other avant-garde artists, and this was like no problem. Then 1984 comes along, Carnival Knowledge. By 1990, she had been branded as the chocolate-smeared young woman, because she had done a performance at The Kitchen, I think—or was it PS122?—Constant State of Desire, in which she smears chocolate frosting on her breasts and then she sprinkles herself with bean sprouts and then glitter. And the newspaper columnists Evans and Novak called her the chocolate-smeared young woman. Then Karen applied to Franklin Furnace. By this point, she’s established; she’s not really an emerging artist anymore, but—

 

BRAWNER:  Applied for?

 

WILSON:  She wanted to do an installation. She said, “Oh, you know, I’m established now as a performance artist, but I want to do visual art now. I want to do installation work. So I want to apply to your emerging artist program to do an installation.” And so the panel selected her installation proposal called A Woman’s Life Isn’t Worth Much. She drew on the wall, she wrote on the wall, she had quotes that she altered, she did the Black Sheep. No, it wasn’t the Black Sheep. It was a piece of granite, though. It was on the front radiator. Okay, so this is now May of 1990. By this point, there’s a group in Washington called People for the American Way. And they called me on the phone and said, “Something’s going to happen. You should maybe invite your whole board to be there, because we don’t know what’s going to happen, but something’s going to happen around Karen’s opening in New York.” So I invited the whole board. The opening went off without a hitch, and then I went off to dinner with one of my board members. And that was the night that somebody went to Diane Torr’s performance, which followed the opening, and claimed— Left early, found the exit locked, because we had to use the buzzer. They got out anyway, called the New York City Fire Department, called us an illegal social club. Fire Marshal comes the next day. I said, “Yes, come. See what we’re doing here. You’ll see there are never more than seventy-five people sitting. And there are folding chairs.” But they go down the stairs and they go past the boiler room; the boiler room, which had been there already for seventeen years. You’re not allowed to exit past a boiler room. That’s a rule that’s on the books. So they closed the performance space. We’re not an illegal social club, but we have this violation. We had a violation anyway. We can’t exit past a boiler room. So suddenly we didn’t have a performance space anymore. And so the next season—it was right at the end of the season—we put up— The last artist in the season went up at The Kitchen. And then we looked for a partner for the following season. And we put up the following season, 1991, with Judson, Judson Memorial Church. And the one after that was at Cooper Union. And then the one after that, ’92-93, was in partnership with the New School. And by that point, we had been in exile. We called it Franklin Furnace in exile for a while. It was difficult to not— The thing is that when we were in our own performance space, we would give the artist the keys. They could come on in Monday and prepare an installation Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday; and then Friday do their performance, Saturday do their performance; Sunday strike the set. The next artist comes in the following Monday. So they really had a substantial amount of time to modify the space. Charles Dennis put up a chain-link fence, and William Pope. L. and Jim Calder came in from the airshaft in the back with a chainsaw. Diane Torr, as I said, plastered stuff into the wall. They really got to use the space. And we didn’t do that in other people’s spaces. So the performance program got to be more— What’s the word I should use? Theatrical, I guess would be the word to use. We had to load in at five and be out again by ten p.m. That kind of thing. So it’s a completely different spirit.

 

BRAWNER:  So when you were having these shows in this space, you mentioned that there’s the sort of peer review that selects them. Can you take me through the process of an artist applying?

 

WILSON:  Oh, sure. So we got applications from all over the world. And we still do. Africa. I mean, it’s just great. Then I select a peer review panel, comprised usually, of people who might have already presented. So I know them. They’re Franklin Furnace artists. They know my program, I know them. We hopefully can work together. We look at all the proposals. We don’t vet them in advance. Some panels that I’ve been on look at the proposals in advance and say, Well, actually, this is straight music and it’s not appropriate for us. I don’t do that at all. The reason is that I believe Karen Finley applied the first time using toilet paper. She just wrote it— you know, she wrote on a piece of toilet paper. What if some student intern thought, Oh, this is not valuable; it’s written on a piece of toilet paper. I didn’t want to ever be in a position where the panel would not be able to see all the stuff that came in. So tomorrow, Saturday, the first day of our three-day peer review, we’re going to go through all the proposals—this year we got 320—and just say yes or no. Yes, this is something we want to consider; no, this is really not what we want to consider.

There’s a little side story here. In the nineties, we made the decision to go virtual, and we started to support works that were born digital or used technology. And we even had two pockets for a number of years: one pocket called the Future of the Present, which was for works of art which used the internet as an art medium or venue; and then the other pocket is for performance art. But the fateful day came when the panel selected Adrianne Wortzel for a Franklin Furnace Fund For Performance Art grant, even though she had asked for the money to design and build a robot that would provide psychoanalytic sessions over the internet. So here you have a project that is fully— you know, it’s using the body of the internet and the brain of the artist somehow, linking those two things together. We’ve realized that technology is a given; we really shouldn’t have these two pockets. So in 2008, we made the case to Jerome Foundation that we just want to have one fund, have one panel. We’ll put some people on it who are technologically advanced, so that we have people who are capable of making decisions in this direction; but basically, all the proposals go through the same panel. So the first day, we say yes or no. The second day we probably are saying yes or no, also, but we might be bringing back stuff that we thought we didn’t want to look at after— After you’ve looked at everything, then suddenly— and you’ve slept on it overnight, there’s the weird blood guy who looks pretty interesting, and so you bring him back. Then the third day is really when the horse trading starts, where people start to argue passionately for what they think is important work, really. And then at the very end of the process, we have to think about residency requirements. One of the foundations has residency requirements; the other foundation we get money from doesn’t. So we can select this many artists who must be from the five boroughs of New York City, and then these other artists who can be from Peru.

 

BRAWNER:  This is tape number two. So before we stopped on the last tape, we were talking about the process of finding artists for the Franklin Furnace Fund. I was wondering if you could take me through the process of actually starting the Franklin Furnace Fund and

.

 WILSON:  [over interviewer] Okay, okay. This goes back to funding and Jerome Foundation. So we didn’t get money the first year; we applied the second year. I didn’t get money from Jerome Foundation for five years in a row, but Barbara Quinn had told me that you have to just keep asking. And they would come around every year, too, and check me out. They’re a very, very thorough, wonderful, actually, wonderful foundation. The fifth year, they gave me money. And then a few years after that, Cynthia Gehrig, who is still the president of Jerome Foundation, came to New York and we had a meeting about how the board of Jerome wanted to support this field, performance art; they weren’t exactly sure how to do that. But they wanted to know if they gave the money, if I would re-grant it to performance artists. So then the discussion was, how do we determine who is emerging? Should you be disqualified if you’ve had a show at BAM, for example? Can we do it on an institutional litmus test? But then we thought about Tim Miller, who’d had one gig at BAM; he had a bunch of performers all wearing jockey shorts, jockey underwear. That was it. That was the only time he ever appeared at BAM. So does that mean he’s not emerging anymore? I don’t think so. He’s still considered in the emerging camp. So we decided it was not an institutional thing, not an age thing. We couldn’t really figure it out. Finally we decided we’re just going to let the panel look at each proposal and decide for themselves. And we’ve done that every year. One year, for example, we got a proposal from The Yes Men, but The Yes Men were already pretty well established. And although I would’ve loved to have given them support, it was really not appropriate for us to be giving money to The Yes Men. So I’d write PS’s on the letters to explain to the artists what the problem was. Sometimes I can do that.

So the first year or so of the fund, we had four panelists. And then Jerome Foundation said, “We really need you to have five. We want to have one extra vote, so we know that there was— so we don’t have—” Well, if you have two people and two people, you’re at an impasse; but if you if you have three people and two people, then somebody wins and you can keep going. And I have served as the tie-breaking vote in a couple of years, where a panelist couldn’t show up. At the last minute, I’ve served in that role. But I generally do not vote. I just yell. I talk about— They’re all selected because they are performance artists and they go out and they’re on the scene and they see a lot of work. So we want them to voice their opinions and yell and make their biases known. Then by the third day, we’re— Well, another way to make sure that we’re open to proposals from every quarter is to make sure that the panel itself is diverse—old, young, gay, straight, white, of color, technically challenged and technically proficient. Hopefully, all perspectives are somehow embodied on the panel. And then there are fields of expertise, also within the one artist’s body of work. For example, one of the artists who’s serving tomorrow is heavily music oriented. So actually, I mean, this will be a problem that will occur. We always tell the artists who don’t get accepted to try again, because the nature, the composition of the panel changes every year. So one year, your music-oriented proposals are not going to do too well; in other year, they might do very, very well. So you never know.

 

BRAWNER:  So the way that you start giving people money and you start being able to support artists in a certain way, is that part of the process of institutionalizing the Furnace? 

 

WILSON:  Ah. Well, the Advancement Grant was an effort on the part of the government to institutionalize the organization. Then after the Carnival Knowledge show in 1985, we were audited by the NEA audit division for ten years. So that institutionalized us, too. [they laugh] If we didn’t have systems in place, we do now. And actually, it’s good because we were just in the office and our auditor—not an outside auditor but our in-house— you know, the auditor we pay, Franklin Furnace pays to audit our books, is going to be in and out in two days. Which is pretty good. It means that we’re organized enough that we can give him all the stuff he’s asked for and— If a foundation—and Jerome Foundation does this—if a foundation wants to know exactly who did you give the money to, and how much did each of them get paid, and what was the date of the check, I can pull that in a nanosecond; it’s really not a problem. So now we have systems; we didn’t always have them. But institutionalization is also a cast of mind. And I think we have tried really, really hard to avoid the institutional cast of mind. And the way I’ve done that is I hire artists. And everybody who comes in is greeted by somebody else who knows how crazy you are to be an artist, [laughs] and how crazy you get before you show. And I think that’s a strength. I didn’t understand that— I mean, I did it really because I just loved working with other people who are artists. But later I realized, Oh, this is a policy. I should just hire artists, because they’re sympathetic to our business; what we’re doing is showing other artists. And they’re smart, you know? Artists are flexible. They have to be in order to survive. So it’s great to have lots of different kinds of brains running around the place.

 

BRAWNER:  When did you start hiring other people to come in and?

 

WILSON:  [over interviewer] Well, let’s see. Barbara Quinn is an artist, and she was my first director of development. Jacki Apple, artist, first curator. Then we got a panel of artists for peer panel review. The second director of development was an artist, also, Jackie Schiffman. The bookkeepers have not always been artists. The financial managers. And to this day, I can’t think of one who was also an artist. So that’s one institutional thread that goes all the way through. But pretty much, everybody else, including the archivist Matt Hogan, who was also a puppeteer; Michael Katchen, our archivist now, is also a professional photographer and artist. Everybody is in three bands.

 

BRAWNER:  [laughs] Right. Yeah. So you mentioned the archivist. And just from how I know you, I’m very interested in the way in which the Furnace was always conceived as an archive, not only for artists, but also for all kinds of stuff. And I’m interested if you could  characterize that or take me through that process of how you start becoming that kind of archive.

 

WILSON:  Well, I mean, it’s good that we’re here because see on that wall, there’s a chart over there?

 

BRAWNER:  Yeah. I see the chart.

 

WILSON:  It’s my Quaker family tree. The Quakers don’t throw anything away; they save everything. I’m a Quaker; I never throw anything away, I’ve just saved it all. I don’t know, it was an instinctive thing. It wasn’t a training thing, it was just a natural thing for me. Then my first archivist, Matt Hogan, he turned out to be Quaker, as well. He had the idea that we should be collecting, obviously, our own history and keeping track of what artists say about these artist books that they publish; and collecting, if possible, the histories of other art spaces, because they’re not; they’re throwing them in the trash. They don’t realize how important this is. So he started collecting the histories of other art spaces and the ephemera that came from those art spaces, and it’s now in the Fales Library, the Franklin Furnace Ephemera collection, organized by Matt Hogan. You know, I have a box of stuff; [laughs] I should just give it to you. I have a box of stuff that I need to turn over.

 

BRAWNER:  I’ll take it.

 

WILSON:  Why is this important? It’s important to— I think, the job of the archivist— We didn’t— In the beginning, Matt Hogan had a more expansive idea of our role. And I think we thought we could not only stay in touch, but pay attention to all the other art spaces in our network; especially in the beginning, other spaces that were collecting and exhibiting artist books. There was Other Books and So; there was a place in Chicago called Bookworks that’s no longer with us; there’s a place in Seattle—I forget the name of that right now. So in the beginning, we were in touch with all those other places that were concerned with books. And then in an ancillary way, also art spaces showing similar work: Hallwalls in Buffalo; And/Or a gallery in Seattle; Portland Center for Visual Arts; and LACE in Los Angeles. Then as time went by, Matt Hogan left. My new archivist became— Michael Katchen, who had started as a student intern; he was cataloguing books. And he came up through the ranks and became the archivist. We started to put the pieces in place to— I mean, the ultimate goals was to make the archives accessible to the world. How are you going to do that? We’re going to publish the stuff that’s in the files on the worldwide web. Well, we didn’t know that yet, but we knew generally what the goal was, what the impulse was, what the desire was. We got a grant in consortium with a bunch of other groups. We met Rick Rinehart through the Museum Computer Network, and Steve Dietz through the Museum Computer Network. He was our first database consultant. And he helped us come up with the concept that the whole thing is based on, which is: what does Franklin Furnace uniquely have that nobody else in the world has? We have the record of the events that we did. So the basic common denominator underlying absolutely everything is the event. So the event record becomes the cog, the kernel, the thing that then you build on. Let’s say Karen Finley’s show, A Woman’s Life Isn’t Worth Much. We have the name of the artist, Karen Finley; but she also did a performance. So we have that event and this event; we have two events. Plus she also got a Fund grant; that’s three events. So the name of the artist can’t be the basic common denominator. It turns out it’s the event that’s the basic common denominator. The job of the institution became to catalog and describe the events that we had actually produced or funded. In the beginning, honestly, I wanted to conquer the world and describe everything that was going on in the avant-garde everywhere. And Michael sat me down one day and said, “If we can do one thing and we can do a good job doing it, that’s probably good enough.” [laughs] So he started developing a database. And that database is the Franklin Furnace database, which now we have given away to  bunches of other art spaces, and we continue to test with other people’s records. And now I think he wants to exchange records with Hallwalls. We haven’t written this grant yet. But the goal would be to— Because Karen Finley showed at Franklin Furnace and also at Hallwalls, it would be great if we could give them our database and they could give us their database and we could compare what happened in the avant-garde, what in the event record was similar.

 

BRAWNER:  So initially, what kinds of documentation were you using?

 

WILSON:  Oh, okay. From the very, very earliest days, I did not understand we were making art history. And sometimes, in two cases I can think of, I forgot to take slides because I was just so mesmerized by what was going on. The performance was so great that I just stood there with a camera in my hand. But luckily for me, Mierle Ukeles Laderman’s performance was documented by a friend of hers in black and white, and we took scans of those slides. And the other artist, I don’t have anything; I just have a couple of slides I took at the end, as the gospel choir was leaving. Candace Hill-Montgomery. So in the earliest days, when Jacki and I were responsible for documenting the program—not only selecting the program and inviting the artists in, documenting the program—we didn’t really have any systems down. But Jacki knew pretty much immediately that we should at least we writing a press release, so that we can let the world know the world can come to our doors and see what’s going on. So she and Howard Goldstein, who was my administrative dude at the time, would write a press release. So we have in the file, usually, slides of the event; usually an announcement card; usually a press release that we published; sometimes the announcement card turned into a poster. We would also have correspondence with the artist. Sometimes we have maps, like layouts, plans, where they’re going to put stuff in an installation. Oh, so we have a proposal, a folder where the proposal material is kept; then we have the event documentation itself, what actually happened; correspondence; and then another file which we keep, called updates, which is once an artist has performed or exhibited and then they do something else, we wanted to know about that, too. So we have an update file where we keep track of things that happen after the event is over.

 

BRAWNER:  So where are all of the elements of all these different archives now?

 

WILSON:  Physically, where are the folders?

 

BRAWNER:  Physically, spiritually. [laughs]

 

WILSON:  They’re on the third floor of 80 Hanson Place. When you went into the office, there was a wall down the right side; and behind that wall is where all the clamshell boxes are. And then across the hall is where all the videotape is, because it’s too fat to stick in the file. And then around the back is all the artist books. I’ll show you this later. And the video collection, we can have more of a discussion about that. We knew we were playing our masters, because we had VHS tapes. The original tapes were— Well, there’re are several generations of original tapes, too. There’s open reel half-inch black and white video; then we have three-quarter-inch U-matics; and then we have VHS tapes that were made actually from High-8. And nowadays we have disks and all kinds of stuff. So the oldest tapes, we got a grant specifically to restore that stuff. But ironically, it’s not really the half-inch open reel stuff that’s most fugitive; it’s the younger stuff, the three-quarter-inch U-matic tapes that are most fugitive. So right now, we’re getting them remastered and restored. And so we argued for some time about how are we going to keep this stuff— And we knew we weren’t going to get around to the VHS collection for a long time, so we made a whole set of mini-DV copies, knowing that’s not the end of the process; but we wanted to have something as backup. So the whole VHS collection of 700 or so tapes was copied in mini-DV. Now the open reel and three-quarter-inch stuff is copied to Beta SP, as an analog master copy. And then there’s our QuickTime movie file on a hard drive. And then there’s another hard drive with a backup, in case the first hard drive crashes. And then there’s a DVD playing copy. So that’s how we ended up preserving the video. So eventually, you have to do that for the half-inch VHS tapes; we just haven’t written that grant yet.

 

BRAWNER:  And the books are at MoMA?

 

WILSON:  The first copies are at MoMA; we have the third copies. And we send them out on shows; they travel the world. And we hope they don’t get destroyed, but it’s not the end of the world.

 

BRAWNER:  And then at Fales is the Franklin Furnace Ephemera Collection and the more…

 

BRAWNER:  …personal papers.

 

WILSON:  Correct. Yes.

 

BRAWNER:  This is a lot of— So is there a way in which that process of archiving or that archival impulse also works into the history of it as a performance space? I’m not sure if that sounds right, but what is the connection between this sort of performance and the archive?

 

WILSON:  There’ve been multiple texts of late about performing the archive. And I never quite understood what they were talking about. However, in the early days, documentation of the event and the event were equally important, somehow. Well, there were evolving attitudes about documentation. The original attitude in the seventies when we were born, when Franklin Furnace was born, was voiced perhaps best by Julia Heyward. She didn’t want to be documented, because she didn’t want the spirit of the camera to be in the room. She didn’t want to be playing to the camera, she wanted to be playing to us.

 

BRAWNER:  Right.

 

WILSON:  So her early work is not documented. And then one day, I don’t know, two decades later, she called me and said, “Do you have any video of my early performances?” [Interviewer laughs] I don’t have any. So by the eighties, the artists had figured out, Oh, I’m not going to be able to get a grant unless I have tape to submit to the New York State Council on the Arts. So then documentation became all the rage and artists started to pay for it, even though it was real expensive and really a hassle to do it. They could see the value of documenting their stuff. And now, interestingly, we have correspondence and communication with artists all the time about formats, because of the fact that formats change so quickly. Should I throw out all my slides and just put them all on DVD? No-o-o-o. And the other issue that has come up of late is intellectual property, which didn’t happen at all in the seventies. You’d ask your friend Daile to take pictures of Disband, and she would hand you the slides at the end. There was no feeling that you, Daile Kaplan, actually owned these photographs; you were doing a favor for Disband and taking the images. So now it’s quite the other way, and artists are— some artists— Carolee Schneemann is kind of famously stuck without access to a videotape that was made by— What’s her name? Anyway. And she’s still going around and videotaping stuff, which now kind of makes me mad because you should at least ask, right?

 

BRAWNER:  Right.

 

WILSON:  I don’t know if I’m answering your question.

 

BRAWNER:  I think that does answer the question.  One other thing that I’m interested in—we were talking about the Franklin Furnace Season in Exile—is how the steps happened from exile to Hanson Place. Just physical location.  What’s the status of the loft while you guys are in exile?

 

WILSON:  Okay. So then the board thought— So we went into exile. This is 1990. And the board thought we should hire an architect and redesign the loft to come up to code. We should have two means of egress from the basement, have handicapped accessible bathrooms. And we interviewed, oh, I don’t know, ten, at least ten different architects, and selected Bernard Tschumi, and then applied to the NEA for a grant to pay for the design. And we got the grant, and he did this totally great design. Basically, he flipped the door for the window of the front of Franklin Furnace, so that you entered at grade. Instead of going up through the steps, you entered at grade and then went down to the performance space, in a long— Because it had to be handicapped accessible. So there’s this long ramp that then curls around, and you get into the basement that way. Then to get to the exhibition space, you go up a ramp to get to the ground floor. And he kept the feeling of the nineteenth century manufacturing district, with this hood. What’s it called? awning outside of our building. That sticks out. It was a brilliant design. And it was only going to cost half a million dollars to do it. So we started making plans for a capital campaign. And then summer came, so I had the habit of going out to Seattle— Well, actually Olympia; my sister lives in Olympia. I took my son and went out there. And sitting in her kitchen—and Mount Rainier is off there in the background—I had this vision—r-r-r-r-r—that nobody was going to care, in a hundred years, if I had the handicapped accessible bathrooms. That was really not important. [laughs] The important thing was that Karen Finley took a bath in a suitcase; that was the important thing. And nothing else really matters. You know, the floor is made of blonde oak or it’s walnut—who the fuck cares? It’s really, really not important. So I was going to be spending the next decade of my life raising money for all the wrong reasons. I just thought, No. This is— So I met with my board. It was September 18th, and I proposed that we should sell the loft— Do just the opposite. Sell the loft, go virtual, go into the ether. We’d already done a whole decade of being in exile, so we already knew how to put up programs in other people’s spaces and all over the city.

 

BRAWNER:  Exile was a decade?

 

WILSON:  And you know, it was not as great as having our own space, but it’s a different approach to the audience, really. It’s a different approach to how to meet your public. And so they went for this. They went for this idea that we were going to sell the loft, go virtual. Then there was a backlash, which David—the board member whose house we had been at when I made this pitch in the first place—told me was killing the king. This is kind of a normal institutional thing. The institution gets to be a certain size; then you want to kill the king and get the new generation in there. And he said, “Martha, have you read a book called Getting to Yes?” I said, “No.” He said, “You better read that thing.” [laughs] It’s a book about negotiating, by the Harvard negotiation project. And it deconstructs the process of making a decision and how to navigate through the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation. You know, if one person says no, how you can respond to that. That kind of thing. So a trio of my board decided that I was fifty and I really should not be the person who’s running this institution,  taking them into the virtual realm. The virtual realm is unknown, it’s scary. We don’t even know if the internet is going to be there next year. And you don’t know how to use it so like, what are you doing taking us here? They wanted to fire me. Okay. So at the time, my son was in elementary school, and one of the basketball dads happened to be the assistant attorney general for not-for-profit law for the State of New York. So I asked him, you know, can they fire me? He said, “Oh, absolutely they can fire you. The job of the board of directors is to hire and fire the executive director.” I said, “Well, can I sue them?” And he said, “Sure, you can sue them. They’ll just fire you tomorrow. I mean, that’s not a very smart idea.” “So what is your advice?” And he said, “What you should do is get more people on your side of the table so they keep getting out-voted, until the point where they just get tired and leave.” So the first thing I had to do was find artists who used the internet as an art medium and venue and who were doing outstanding work in that area. And so I did. And I found, actually, multiple artists, who are still on the board today, who didn’t question the fact that there was good art happening on the internet because they were making it. You know, they knew that. So somehow I got through this period where I was going to get my ass fired by the board. And sure enough, the three board members who had wanted to fire me took off. They took off not all at the same time, but in succession. That kind of relates to institutionalization, doesn’t it?

 

BRAWNER:  Yeah.

 

WILSON:  But there’s a subtext here that I think is important to discuss. Another thing that was really going on at the bottom of everything was Franklin Furnace had been dirt poor for two decades. We never had any money. Then the loft was sold. Suddenly we have a half-million dollars. We never had money before. Suddenly these three board members, rightly or wrongly, were really interested in the program. Oh. You know, they hadn’t even been downtown to see shows for the previous ten years, but now suddenly, whatever I was showing was of great importance, and they wanted to have the right to vet what we were showing, too—which is not the board’s job at all, but I couldn’t really tell them that. So how am I going to meet that challenge? So what I did in that case was organize— This kind of folds back into the original problem of the— You know, I really think money was at the bottom, but the cover story was that the internet was too scary and we weren’t really sure there was any good art happening there. So I organized three town meetings [at] other people’s spaces. One was at Exit Art, one was— I forget. There were three different spaces. Michael Steinberg’s Gallery I think was one. Anyway. And I made the protesting board members the chairs of those three meetings, and then got hoards and hoards of artists to come so it wasn’t Martha saying, Oh yeah, there’s good art happening on the internet; it was other people saying this. So they could actually hear this news. They didn’t hear it from me. So that’s really how we got through this. Yeah.

 

BRAWNER:  We started talking a little bit about the Board. How did you come to this process of having a board of directors? How do you find your board of directors? How do you ask your board of directors, like—

 

WILSON:  Okay. Yeah. Well, it’s the law. You have to have at least three. And there are various ways, now with twenty-twenty hindsight, [chuckles] that I could’ve handled this. And Dixon Place, for example, has three board members on its board of directors: Ellie Covan, Ellie Covan’s best friend, and Ellie Covan’s other best friend. [they laugh] I’m on the board of advisors. The stationery looks great, there’re all these wonderful people on it. We have no voting power at all. And she calls us on the phone. If she needs help or something, she’ll talk to be. But I have no ability to hire and fire her; none of that. My board is between three and thirty; that’s what my bylaws say. And in the beginning, I called all the most famous artists I knew and asked them to be on the board. So it was Lawrence Weiner, Frederieke Taylor— Tommy Hut recommended Frederieke Taylor, who was working at the Center for Art over— No. She was working for Peter Eisenman; I can’t remember the name of the organization. Who else? I can’t remember who else was on the— I think Amy Baker was on the original board. Anyway. Ally Anderson, who had showed up at Franklin Furnace in the early days, I put her right on. She was on the Junior Council of the Museum of Modern Art at the time. So anybody who had connections to the art world, whom I knew, was on the board. I think Vito Acconci; he never showed up for a single meeting, but he was ostensibly on the letterhead. Then those people asked their friends. You know, as years went by and they left, they would recommend other people they knew. So the board grew into the community, and they weren’t necessarily friends of Martha. Maybe I knew them, but they were no longer my bosom buddies. And that’s okay, too—until it’s not. [chuckles] And I know that there’ve been people who have founded organizations— Judith Hoffberg famously was fired by her board. They can do that.

 

BRAWNER:  You mentioned earlier your bylaws. Those are the bylaws of the Franklin Furnace?

 

WILSON:  Yes. The bylaws say that the board of directors shall consist of between three and thirty people; the meetings will occur once a month, or it may be once every three months; that this number of people make a quorum; that voting— you know, we’ll have two kinds of membership, a voting membership and then members who just give you money and don’t vote. It just lays out all of the rules for running your corporation.

 

BRAWNER:  Did you write them?

 

WILSON:  No. I had a volunteer lawyer for the arts recommend a template, really, for me. I didn’t know shit. So he talked to me and he said, “Well, how many board members do you think are the max that you would ever want?” I said, “Okay, thirty.” I just pulled it out of my ass. [Interviewer laughs] But he asked me the questions; we figured out what the rules should be based on a template that he already had. And nowadays, I’m sure you can incorporate yourself online.

 

BRAWNER:  Yeah. So we were talking about the board rejecting— or a couple members rejecting the idea of—.

 

WILSON:  Yeah.

 

BRAWNER:  So that happened, though.

 

WILSON:  Yeah. Okay, that was when we—

 

BRAWNER:  [chuckles] Yeah, I’m interested in the process of that move to virtual.

 

WILSON:  Let’s see. So we’ve gone— Alright. We’re performing in exile. Then I start to try to persuade the presenting program of the New York State Council on the Arts that we’re presenting performance art, except we’re presenting it to the internet audience instead of to the live audience. It’s the same thing, but it’s a different means of delivery. And this wonderful program officer came multiple times to see what I was doing. I started doings the rounds at internet start-up companies. One of them was called Thinking Pictures. One of my board members was associated with them, so I started meeting with them. They had a presenting space, which is why I wanted to work with Thinking Pictures. At the end of that negotiation, which took a year, they wanted so much money for their presenting space that I just thought, Okay, I can’t do it.

 

BRAWNER:  I’m not allowed to have it?

 

WILSON:  Would you like a drink of water?

 

BRAWNER:  Yes, please. I’m going to have it anyway. [laughs] Here, I’ll turn off the camera.

 

WILSON:  I started to visit these internet start-up companies that were webcast— netcasting. It was called netcasting at the time. The image was about two inches by an inch and a half, and it was real jerky. And I wasn’t impressed. I just thought, Oh, this is— it’s just awful. Oh, no, they were after me. Now that I think about it, they were kind of sniffing around after me. And one of them was Pseudo.com. And one of the people at Pseudo was an artist named Galinsky. So he came after me; I came and saw his stuff. And then I blew him off because Pseudo had started as an online radio station and they were mainly about audio, not really so much about the visual. So I was not so interested in the audio, I was more interested in visuals. Really, the technology hadn’t gotten there yet. So a year later, I went back to Galinsky and asked him if he would collaborate on putting artists up on the internet with netcasting. And we got the New York State Council to pay us so that we could pay them. It was kind of a lot of money. I think it was like 1100 bucks for each artist, we paid Pseudo. Pseudo, in return for that $1100, would give us seventy hours of work—if the artist wanted to do animation or use some kind of software, randomizing software or anything like that, or studio time, shoot something in the studio. And most of them were shooting stuff in the studio, were shooting straight-ahead video and then rebroadcasting it later on the net. The other thing that Pseudo had, which was not familiar to us, was chat stations, chat jockeys. So the broadcast is five p.m. on a Friday in February. And during the live broadcast, there are these guys who are sitting at computer stations, and people around the world, who are watching the broadcast, are commenting on it. And so that commentary would come back to the chat jockeys, and then they would talk back to the people around the world. So the artists were generally quick studies. They would see the strengths and liabilities of this medium and they would just do work that was exploiting the good and bad aspects of it. For example, Irina Danilova, who is a Russian woman, did a piece with an American guy. And it was in— it looked like it was in outer space, even though they were using ski boots and motorcycle helmets and pieces of plastic tubing. Because of the size of the image and the jerky quality of the broadcast, it— I can’t remember the title of the work, which would help me here. But the point of the story is that they looked at the jerky quality of the image and they just exploited it to make it look like moon landing stuff. Or Nora York got the guys at Pseudo to animate her image with Nancy Spero drawings. [laughs] With Nancy’s permission, of course. Or Kathy Westwater got the guys to install this randomizing software so that each viewer, from wherever they were coming from, would see a different performance of her dance work. I mean, she was doing kind of straight dance, but your experience of that dance and my experience would be completely different, based on the randomizing software that would put together the views in different ways. Oh. And one of my very favorite ones, which is also the simplest one, is an artist Halona Hilbertz. Actually, she did the very first netcast in 1998. And it was called Pseudo Studio Walk. She has hair like yours, beautiful bushy hair. So she walks right up the camera, and then she turns around and her hair fills up the screen. And then she walks deep into the loft. Then she walks up to the camera; she walks deep into the loft. Then she walks up to the camera; deep into the loft. And you’re thinking, What is she doing? You know, it just didn’t make any sense. But the piece is about time and space and the body of the artist and the body of the net. Because the live broadcast happens at a certain time, but the broadcast can be pulled down off the server for six months afterwards. So suddenly the date of the event is irrelevant. The space, is it this space here, this computer space that we’re looking at? Or is it the loft space that she’s walking up and down in? And then, you know, the body of the artist is moving back and forth in real time and space; but the circulatory system of the internet is actually the theater in which that artist is operating. So right out of the gate, the artists started exploiting the strengths and weaknesses of the internet as an art medium and venue. And this went on for two years. We started doing— I mean, it was performance art, but with a technological dimension, I would say.

 

Then the artists started to want to do even more complicated stuff, and Pseudo was getting— We didn’t know, but they were going bankrupt at the time. This was 1991. And from an institutional-managerial perspective, a year or two into it, I thought, Wait a minute; I’m the content provider. Why am I paying them $1100 to show an artist, when they should be paying my ass to bring content to them? So I told them I wanted to curator a show of historical performance artworks that I thought could be a whole show. You know, like a history of performance art, starting in the early days of the seventies and then looking at art and music together, or feminism, or the body as art, or endurance or— you know, different emphases in the history of performance art. So I gathered the tapes; we started editing these shows. This was in the fall of 1999. And we did one, two, three, four—like eleven, I think, out of twenty shows. And then they cancelled the shows and they cancelled the channel, the performance channel; Channel P, it was called. And then we figured out that they were going bankrupt. Okay. But by this point, the artists had already started to ask for stuff that Pseudo couldn’t provide anyway. Pseudo’s highest and best use was as an online television station. That was their goal and that’s what they winded up doing. They didn’t really want to be exploring all the new kinds of software that were coming out. But an artist named Zhang Ga, who was a teacher at Parsons, came around and seduced me over to Parsons—which came at exactly the right time because Pseudo went bankrupt. We started working with Parsons. Parsons had a digital design workshop, and they had like a space that we could use and classrooms in which the artists could find thirty collaborators, if they needed that kind of thing. So it became a kind of pedagogical program for a couple of years. Let’s see.

 

Then I think even that became too limited, in terms of the kinds of audiences the artists wanted to reach. And Andrea Polli, for example, wanted to make music with her eye movements, but in a concert setting; and so she did a performance at The Kitchen. So after a while, we just thought we shouldn’t be partnering with anybody. Nowadays, we can get the technology if we need it, and the artists can use any venue in the city. We can try to find the appropriate— After we’ve accepted their idea, we try to go out and help them find the venue that’s appropriate to that project. So that’s what we do now.

 

BRAWNER:  So what’s the organizational structure of the Furnace now?

 

WILSON:  [chuckles] Okay. Well, we have the board here.

 

BRAWNER:  Right.

 

WILSON:  We have Martha, who’s on the board. Actually, there’s another guy who’s on the staff who’s also on the board, so there’re two of us; but I’m the connection between the board and the staff. And then it’s actually been roughly the same number of people for all these years. There’s an administrator person, an archivist, a financial manager, a program coordinator. At times when we had real physical space, the program coordinator had like a helper, somebody who’d hammer the nails into the wall, an installer. And nowadays, the archivist has a cataloguer, somebody who helps to scan a lot of material. And we just added on more person, who’s the web master. The purpose of the web master is to publish the in-house database on the web. We’ve had an in-house database all these years, but we haven’t actually published it on the web till August, August of 1909. 2009. 1909? That’s a long time. [laughs]

 

BRAWNER:  Alright, I’m going to stop this one, and then there’s one more tape. [end of DVD two of three] —my interview with Martha Wilson. I’m Lydia Brawner; this is the third tape. So we were talking about the current structure of the organization. And one thing that I’m particularly interested in is your current role with the organization, and then what you think happens in the future with the Furnace. Where do you see those things going?

 

WILSON:  I was an at opening just two days ago. I saw my friend Ruby Lerner. Ruby Lerner and I, I took her out to lunch one day and said, “Look, Ruby, I’m going to fold the tent.” She said, “Martha, I really wish you wouldn’t do that.” But there were multiple times when I thought, you know, I just can’t keep going. The cost of health insurance is too— [they laugh] You know, it’s silly. But these things that appear to be insurmountable problems come up. And once I had a vision of the organization as a tree, I thought, Oh, I see; if it’s a tree, then I could chop of a branch here, but I don’t have to chop down the whole tree. It could grow towards the light in another direction than it is now. I don’t really have to fold the tent in times of crisis, I can adapt. And the other thing that came that was very useful to me in the earliest days of the organization was a comment by Anne Focke, who was founder of And/Or Gallery. The And/Or Gallery in Seattle is a little bit older than Franklin Furnace. I think she founded it in 1973. Anyway, I told her how I resented the fact that I was spending all this time doing administrative work, and not so much time doing artistic practice. And she said, “How come we can’t consider the administrative work to be an artistic practice? It requires all the same inventiveness and seat-of-the-pants decisions.” It was such a relief to— That comment had a huge effect on me, because I had been trying to keep— As Marvin Taylor knows, because he got all my notebooks, and as you know because you’ve seen them, I was trying to keep a notebook for my art notebook for my art ideas and another notebook for my dreams, and yet another one for administrative matters. And then Anne Focke made this comment. And then I thought, Oh, I could just have one notebook. [Interviewer laughs] It’s all one big blog, really, when it comes right down to it. You have art ideas on your way to do a lecture or on your way to cut checks or whatever. I mean, it’s all fine. And I kind of viewed the art half of my brain and the administrative half of my brain as two sides of one brain. So in the morning, I read the New York Times, and maybe find out that Nancy Reagan has just bought all new dishes for the White House, which is useful in my art practice; and I find out that Governor Cuomo has cut the New York State Council on the Arts budget in half in 1991, which is valuable for me to know in my art administration life. So I think the way I’ve been able to navigate— We’re going to get to activism in just a second, but the way I’ve been able to navigate between the art and the administrative roles is by just keeping them both in balance somehow, keeping my awareness of both going at the same time. And in the institutional context, as I’ve said, I hire artists. I mean, we routinely have staff meetings where we disagree vehemently about— Well, this past year: Are we going to change the application process, so that artists are required to give us a DVD? Or are we going to continue to accept slides, VHS tape, and scripts from people in Africa? Okay. So you know, basically, is the institution going to be open to the people without resources? Or is it going to require artists to be institutionalized themselves and be able to produce the DVD that we need? So we decided to go for the poor people, and we— Artists can apply with toilet paper; really, it’s okay.

Now, activism we should talk about a little bit because we’re technically, as a not-for-profit arts organization, not-for-profit organization, we’re not allowed to lobby. I’m not quite sure what that word means. I’m not quite sure what lobbying is. You’re not allowed to try to influence the passage of legislation in one way or another. But as a community, we go to Albany all the time and meet with Matt Murphy, the head of arts, tourism and sports committee, and try to make the case that the arts are valuable and should get public support. But the culture wars were difficult and we don’t really want to go through that again. So I have an attorney. [laughs] My advice to the next generation is, have multiple attorneys. [Interviewer laughs] You need a real estate attorney, you need a First Amendment attorney, and nowadays you need an intellectual property attorney. And I have them all. I use them all the time. They’re very valuable to have in your camp.

 

So I don’t know exactly what to say about advocacy. We don’t censor the artists we present; and we back them up, even if we’re going to get in trouble for doing that. I think that’s— It’s not exactly advocacy; it’s more like keeping the boundaries of First Amendment freedoms in place where they are now. But we have figured out that we might need to be a little more careful about planning for trouble. For example, one of our 2010 Fund winners, Dread Scott, who’s gotten into trouble multiple times before anyway, is going to be burning money on Wall Street. So that’s illegal. But if it can be framed in an art context, then we can say he has a First Amendment right to be doing an illegal act. So we got an attorney. One of the people on my stationery, one of my visionaries, is a First Amendment attorney. So we have the First Amendment attorney and Dread Scott talking to each other. He wanted to do these as unannounced things. But that’s to his detriment. If he does not do it within an art context, he loses that protection of the First Amendment. He goes to prison. So…

 

BRAWNER:  He meets with the lawyers.

 

WILSON:  …he has to change the work. I mean, we don’t want to change the work. We don’t want to change the work. But in this case, we want him to know what his legal options are.

 

BRAWNER:  Yeah. And it seems, from my work just looking at your archives, that Dread Scott is someone that you’ve also had a long relationship with as an artist…

 

WILSON:  Right. Right.

 

BRAWNER:  …and you, both as an artist and as a supporter. And I’m interested if there’s anything that you could say towards those kinds of relationships that it seems like you’ve been able to forge with—

 

WILSON:  Well, I would’ve been a hermit if I didn’t [Interviewer laughs] take on an arts organization. I swear. I mean, my friends are people that I know and love through my organization, in large part. And when I had a kid, I thought they would all abandon me. But that’s not what happened at all. I got new friends through my kid. So now I have the art world friends and then I have the kid friends. And some of them overlap anyway. The personality change, I think, has been dramatic, from when I was a solipsistic artist in Halifax Nova Scotia to today, when it made me really happy to be on the mezzanine with my red hair, so people walking by on the street could see if I was in the office; they would come in and say hi. And I miss that. When we closed the physical space, I missed—and I still miss it— The fact that we were the clubhouse in the downtown art scene was worth something, just from a social point of view.

 

BRAWNER:  Can you give me some names? Who was around? What kind of people came?

 

WILSON:  Well, Shirin Neshatfamously, lived in Chinatown. So she had her first solo show at Franklin Furnace, oh, five blocks away from her house. [Interviewer laughs] So she would come over in the morning and tweak her film; and then she’d come back later in the afternoon, tweak her film again. You know, this was normal behavior. The artists would come by all the time and maintain their installations and— Tehching Hsieh lived one block in the other direction. He lived on Hudson Street. So when he was living outside for a year, we were going to do the show Living Outside after he had lived outside for a year. So Bill Gordh, who was writing the press release, had to go outside, of course, to meet with Tehching Hsieh to write the press release. He’s like my son’s uncle. I mean, he’s really become a very close friend.

 

BRAWNER:  Tehching Hsieh?

 

WILSON:  Yeah. I think I introduced him to Linda Montano. I think that I’m responsible for the tying together, the rope piece, also. Oh, wait. I wanted to talk about the future; I think that’s important. I don’t know where I’m going. [laughs] At one point, I thought, We can’t continue as a freestanding, in-your-face arts organization. This is not going to be something we can do for the long term. We need to hide in the armpit of NYU or something. You know, get into a larger institution that is going to be there, so we don’t have to worry that we’re not going to be there. But then you lose your flexibility. Your purpose on the planet really is to be on the ground level, in contact with the emerging artists who are coming. They’re moving to New York for the first time and they’re doing their early work, and you’re presenting it. So the funding strategy has evolved— Well, another part of the institutional story is that in the early days, when Barbara Quinn was my director of development, I thought she would help me; we would figure it out and we would have a formula so we could raise money everywhere. We’d know what to do when. No. [Interviewer laughs] Every year, there’s new stuff that comes along. Governor Cuomo cuts the budget of the New York State Council in half. Now David Patterson is probably going to cut the New York State Council on the Arts budget by 40%. So there’s new stuff like this coming all the time. Foundations— The Axe-Houghton Foundation wrote to me a week ago and said, “Well, our money is getting smaller, due to the recession, and the proposals are getting more and more numerous. And so we’re going to now accept proposals by invitation only.” So you know, you just cross them off the list. So the new strategy is— This kind of came out of the fog after— You know, we were in physical space for twenty years; we go virtual; we’re in virtual space for ten years; then— I moved to Brooklyn because 9/11 hit and we were a block and a half away from Ground Zero, and it was depressing. I was dark, depressing, dusty, toxic. It was a few things. And I got this RFP from the BAM Cultural District, and I thought, Yeah! The artists had moved to Brooklyn already, like ages ago. Like, why are we here? We should just be in Brooklyn, too. So the board said, Yeah. Like, why didn’t we move to Brooklyn ten years ago? Anyway. So now we’re in the BAM Cultural District. Oh, damn; I can’t remember where I was going with this.

 

BRAWNER:  Future.

 

WILSON:  What?

 

BRAWNER:  The future.

 

WILSON:  The future.

 

BRAWNER:  Maybe beyond.

 

WILSON:  Let me think. Oh, okay. So we got a grant from the Booth Ferris Foundation, 1997, to re-house our archives. It was a pretty big grant for us—it was like $50,000—to do the right thing and put everything in acid-free folios and have a finding aid for everything.

 

BRAWNER:  A finding aid?

 

WILSON:  It started to dawn on us that if we could publish this stuff on the internet, that the ephemeral practice that we have championed all this time would become embedded in art history. Instead of just cast off like fluff, it would become part of the discourse. Especially as William Pope L. and Shirin Neshat and all these artists start to become world famous and taken seriously—very seriously, indeed. So we’re meeting with Steve Dietz; we figure out that the event is the common denominator. We start to catalog stuff. And we applied for our first NEH grant in 2004, and we were rejected. But then we reapplied in 2005. And this is during the Bush years. The program officer, however, in Washington, had told us to not mention the culture wars. [they laugh]

 

BRAWNER:  Because they just won’t remember.

 

WILSON:  And don’t use the term postmodernism, even though we are a postmodern institution. No. We couldn’t discuss that at all. But I hired a librarian. I knew I couldn’t write this grant myself, so I hired Sunny Yoon. Sunny helped me to write the first draft, and then she helped me rewrite. The difference between the NEH and the NEA is the NEH gives you the panel comments so that you can figure out how to fix your grant to make it better. So we got it in 2005. And the idea was we were going to digitize and publish on the internet, our event records for our first ten years, in the next two years. That was ’06 and ’07, 2007. But we asked for another year because it was way, way, way too much stuff. We had no idea when we started out, how much work was involved. And we didn’t really know much about the standard— We had to develop the— figure out what the standards were going to be used— that we were using, the file naming conventions, all the stuff that— I never knew anything about and now I know way more than I ever thought I would. And I have to credit Michael for being the neatnik who managed to get us through this whole period. So now we have reapplied to the NEH. We applied— We’re in 2010; 2009, ’08. 2008, we applied to digitize the second ten years; we got rejected, which is what happened the first time. And the second time we got the panel comments, fixed a lot, and Obama was elected. And so we’re submitting the grant in July of 2008, and we don’t know whether to mention the culture wars. But finally, what the program officer said to me—and she said this to me like multiple times— [laughs] I think she’s trying to communicate. She said, “What is so valuable about your stuff? You have to tell us why this stuff is valuable.” And you know, Susie and Michael and I were sitting around; we’re thinking, We have the culture wars. That’s what we have. That is why our stuff is valuable. We just have to talk about it. I mean, okay, if we don’t get the money, that’ll be too bad; but this is really what the second decade of the organization was about. So we mention the culture wars and we talk about our role during that time. We got the money! We got the money! [Interviewer laughs] We got the money in May. We got a phone call in May. And it was ten o’clock in the morning and Susie and I decided [laughs] we’re going to start drinking right now. We were just so happy! [laughs] And now we’re buying equipment and getting organized for the next two years, when we digitize the second decade.

 

BRAWNER:  That’s fantastic. So then if you’re digitizing all that stuff, then a lot of that stuff you’re digitizing is that culture wars period, I guess you could call it?

 

WILSON:  Yeah. Yeah, 1986 to ’95. Yeah.

 

BRAWNER:  Was there ever a moment—because I know we’ve talked a little bit about the culture wars—was there ever a moment where you were like, Oh, now that’s done. How did you know?

 

WILSON:  Well, the focus of the religious right was on the avant-garde, during the late eighties and the early nineties. They were looking for pay dirt. They wanted people to go naked so that they could say that taxpayer dollars were being used to fund obscenity. And they found us and [chuckles] they were happy; we were happy. I mean, it was a— But then they moved on. They kind of moved on to the universities, actually. Shelley Rice, who teaches at NYU, told me that now there’s this balance requirement, so that if you have an economics professor who’s a radical leftist, you have to hire another economics professor who’s a rightwing guy, to have balance in your program. So the religious right has not folded the tent, by any means; they’ve just figured out other means to affect their ideas of change. The curriculum wars going on in Texas; abortion is under attack again. I don’t know. I think we were just the first chapter, in the long haul.

 

BRAWNER:  Are there any sort of moments from that period—I know that we talked about this—that really stand out in your mind as being particularly interesting or important?

 

WILSON:  [chuckles] Okay. Cee Brown, who was the director of Creative Time; Philip Yenawine, who was working for the Museum of Modern Art; me; bunches of other art administrator and artist types, at the height of the culture wars, went to the South of France, to the—what’s the name of that? Château de La Napoule, in the South of France—to have an intensive discussion of how we were going to manage in the culture wars, during the culture wars. For example, Philip Yenawine said, “First of all, you never answer their question. The religious right, if you look at what they say, they never answer the question. They just say what they want you to hear, from their perspective. We have to do that. We have to figure out what our sound bites are. We have to not answer the question; we have to say what we want to say. We have to say that of course, contemporary art is going to be disturbing to some people; that is the job of art is to make you see new ways of looking.” Okay. That was not quite as good as taxpayers dollars for obscenity, but we tried to come up with our sound bites. Okay, so we’re in this lovely environment, we’re working intensely; this goes on for days. Finally we’re exhausted; we have to go outside. We go to the beach, we go outside, and there are all these topless women. [they laugh] Nobody’s wearing— I’m serious. Everybody’s out there tanning their nipples. And I just thought, It’s so American, somehow. [Interviewer laughs] We’re Puritans. We just can’t get over this puritanical thing.

 

Now, I want to talk again about the future, because it’s the most problematic thing. I don’t really have a vision for the long term. One of our board members a ways back thought we should decide when we were going to go out of business. You know, we’ve done our job, and twenty-five years later, [snaps fingers] that was good. You know, go out at the top. Well, that didn’t happen because now we’re thirty-four years old. But I mean, there are various models, there are various ways to think about it. Ellen Stewart, founding director of La MaMa, has turned ninety. She’s ninety. She’s still there. She’s living upstairs. She doesn’t get to move around too much, but she’s still there. She’s still running the place. Is that the model? I just don’t know. I really don’t know. There was a time when I wanted to turn it over to younger people, people younger than I am. But then I didn’t know what I was doing, so that didn’t happen either. Now, lately, I’ve been getting teaching gigs, so I have these freelance teaching gigs. I had one at NYU and I had one at Parsons this year; I’m wanting to go back and do that. But I don’t think it’s my job to be a full-time professor. I mean, I’m not really trained; I’m not an academic. I’m an artist who’s running an art space, is really what I am. And so I’m valuable from the academic point of view, for some things. So you just asked the hardest question, and I don’t know the answer to it. And we’ll all find out. [they laugh]

 

BRAWNER:  Cool. I’ll take that. Well, there’s about a half hour left of tape, so I want just to give you the opportunity, in case there’s anything that you felt was interesting that we didn’t cover. I mean, I’m sure that there’s tons of stuff we didn’t cover, but if there was anything [inaudible]—

 

WILSON:  Can I look at your cheat sheet again? I love how it has that yellow stuff.

 

BRAWNER:  Well, I thought we could highlight things that I thought might be totally cool. Here’s some of that. Wait, there should be another cheat sheet. Oh, here’s the institutional genesis and artist books section.

 

WILSON:  Oh, okay.

 

BRAWNER:  And then there’s one for virtual space.

 

WILSON:  Actually, I think we covered everything.

 

BRAWNER:  It seems like it.

 

WILSON:  Yeah. I think it looks— You know, I don’t know if I would be able to be brilliant anymore. [laughs]

 

BRAWNER:  Alright, good. Me neither, then. Let me turn the camera off. [END]