Interview with Pat Oleszko, Artist

Posted June 10, 2011 by Anonymous
Sandra Q. Firmin, Curator, UB Art Gallery
Interview Date: 
Friday, December 11, 2009
Person Interviewed: 
Pat Oleszko, Artist
Place of Interview: 
Loft and residence in New York City



The following oral history transcript is the result of a recorded interview with Pat Oleszko on November 12, 2009. This interview was donated by the UB Art Galleries to be presented online by AS-AP in June 2011.





Pat Oleszko and Sandra Q. Firmin 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.



SANDRA FIRMIN:  This is an interview with Pat Oleszko, being conducted on November 12, 2009 by Sandra Firmin. Could you start by just talking about the back story to the project?  How did you become involved in Artpark?


PAT OLESZKO:  Okay. These are set questions, probably, right?


FIRMIN:  Yeah. But I can go off script, too.


OLESZKO:  I got involved with Artpark when I saw some of my friends coming back with really good tans, [laughs] after having done a project there, so I said, “I need to go to summer camp.” And so I wrote a project that they couldn’t refuse, the first one of which was Clothe Artpark, which involved putting costumes on the trees and then doing a performance, in which they were singing and dancing alongside the human elements. So that was how I got invited the first time. And then the second time, I was asked back to do something for a celebration, a celebratory event for the fifth anniversary of Artpark. And that was in ’78. So for that piece, it was (Planting) the Polish Cornfield, which involved planting rows of scarecrows rather than corn. I was seeing that, of which we burned everything down. I was kind of seeing the platform, the Spoils Pile, which was the upper part of Artpark, as a giant birthday cake, and the scarecrows were like candles on it. And anyhow, both performances— both projects spiraled wildly, not out of control—in one sense, yes—but into directions that I could not have predicted.

FIRMIN:  Well, that was one of the questions, further, further down. Did you find anything surprising about the project as it developed? And what were the spirals?


OLESZKO:  Well, the first project was putting the costumes on the trees. The nature of that was that the costumes we put on the trees were all of man-made fiber and the costumes that the people wore were all of natural fiber. And so I went up there with one or two people as assistants, and was going to transform the forest, the lower forest there, as this kind of walkthrough performative piece. And because of the nature of my work and because of the way Artpark was at the time, I was working outside and my place attracted [the] fallen artists and friends of artists like flies to shit. Eventually, I think I had about twenty-five people working on my piece, because it was a burgeoning aspect that anybody could add to, because it was going to be a performance and the forest was filled with all of these things. So I had all this incredible input and— You know, there’s a picture of us all standing there. And you know, people like Buster Simpson, I brought up there to help me do my piece at the end, and then he got a gig going up there later. And Alan Klein was a glass blower that had done some stuff that was part of more of the craft aspect of— And so he stayed— I mean, these were people that did performances. And then of course, there was the input of the prepubescent bicycle terrorists who used to terrorize the park and vandalize indiscriminately. We were literally on their playground, and so it wasn’t as if it would be unexpected. They were hanging out in the forest, and so I sort of tamed them. I could talk—


FIRMIN:  Enlisted them?


OLESZKO:  I could talk dirtier than they could and I knew what they were up to, and so they started helping me make art. And so for the duration of my stay, all of the vandalism stopped.

I think actually, that was my major contribution to Artpark [they laugh]. Because in the early days, nobody knew what to do about vandalism, and my stuff was certainly very temporal. I mean, it was really kind of flimsy and I— You know, you get the bullies and put them on your side. I think later on, they went on to disorganized crime. As I recall when I ran into them later that when people would come up for a performance in the theater, they would go and loot the cars.


FIRMIN:  Wow. This is news to me. Well, not totally news. I know a couple of pieces were vandalized early on, and later on, too, I think. So it’s not— But maybe the extent of it is news to me.


OLESZKO:  Yeah, well, maybe.


FIRMIN:  Did you do a site visit first, in order—


OLESZKO:  Yeah. Yeah, I did. And that— you know, I don’t know, just saw that one oak tree which became Ms Black Oak and decided that would be my project.


FIRMIN:  How did you choose your site? What attracted you?


OLESZKO:  The trees. Trees. I mean, that was the original thing and that was it. There was really only one part of the park that had a wooded area; that became a very rich place for me to work with.


FIRMIN:  What were your living arrangements like each time?


OLESZKO:  The first time, I had rented a shack out on— Is it Lake Erie?


FIRMIN:  Mm-hm.


OLESZKO:  Which was about ten miles away. And also James Surls had rented one there, and they were like ramshackle cottages that were on the lake and we rode our bikes back and forth every day. And that was the first year. And then the second time that I went there, we stayed at the park in a tent. I remember one particular night, I was camping out under the stars and Story Mann, who was a kind of a rebel—he had built this pitted fire and he had his pit bull and snakes. The whole thing was about danger, menace, [and] fear. At any rate, I was sleeping outside one night and he came roaring back in from town in his pickup truck and came so close I could feel the breath of the tires. He almost ran over my head. And he was really shocked when he realized that. His stuff wasn’t all about pose but that was pretty close.


FIRMIN:  Did you have an idea of what you wanted to do beforehand? And did it relate to what you were working on?


OLESZKO:  Well, you know, if my stuff is about using the world as a stooge and using the body as an armature, I was trying to expand that idea. And yes, I put costumes on the trees and made a performance that was consecutive— a parade-type thing on both situations. On the second one, it got to be a whole-night event that resulted in some people being thrown into jail, et cetera, et cetera.


FIRMIN:  The second time?


OLESZKO:  Yeah. You know that story.


FIRMIN:  I know about Story Mann and the rope ladder.


OLESZKO:  Well, there’s that one. And then the second, when we set to do the procession that was starting at the lower part of Artpark, that was for my second piece, (Planting)The Polish Cornfield, with everybody in costume and all fired up for the carnage. I lifted my arms and it hadn’t rained in a month and a half, and God took that to be a sign that he was supposed to start a downpour. And it started at that exact moment. So by the time [laughs] we got up to the site, it was completely drenched. So we went to— You know, we fooled around in the mud a little bit, but then we went to the Quonset and all these people, hopped up on the adrenaline and drugs and alcohol just started using the Quonset as a percussion instrument. And we started this cacophony, rhythmic banging and clanging that went on for hours and hours—in addition to the mud fights and the group showers. And then the police came. I’m not sure— you know, I can’t remember, actually. Somebody was hauled off, I think, that night, but they locked the Quonset on us and admonished us like children, because we had pockmarked the whole thing. I mean, it was really like a twenty-hour event, which was just absolutely indescribable, exhilarating, and certainly a much better piece than what I could’ve come up with, in how it created this kind of natural explorations of performance. And then okay, when it dried out a couple days later, we went up to the site and it was still wet, so we had to throw kerosene on the scarecrows and other structures and the whole thing went up in moments. Stunning but nothing like the performance.


FIRMIN:  And other than some people getting thrown into jail was there any resistance on, like the institutional side, to the conflagration or— [laughs]


OLESZKO:  No. No. Not in those days. And certainly, I was working on the Spoils Pile, which the— later on, the two people that did the earthworks on top of there— They have a very common last name. Married couple. They did a ten-year—


FIRMIN:  Helen and Newton Harrison.


OLESZKO:  You know, it was the Spoils Pile, right? And working on it the previous year, I had done A Fire in de Forest, with the burning of the River Styx and stuff like that, with a big pit right before the fallen log Covered Drag’n. I’d picked up some weird rocks that were on the Spoils Pile and thrown them into the fire and it made all these bizarre colors, right? And it smelled funny. So there was obviously some kind of noxious elements that were on the spoils pile, which was after all the Spoils Pile, okay? Then, as my own personal example of that incipient danger, when I came back to do that piece on the pile, I actually had bought a same pair of sandals that I had had the time when I worked in the forest. And within the four weeks that I was working up there, the sandals, which were leather, completely got eaten away and fell apart. Four weeks, new sandals. So the Spoils Pile, right? You’re putting artists to work on something that is Love Canal poisonous. Not that I—


FIRMIN:  So how aware of it were you? Or how much of a concern were the environmental hazards?




FIRMIN:  Because this would’ve been just pre-Love Canal.


OLESZKO:  Just like a year before of it. I certainly was aware of it although as an artist, one has a very cavalier attitude towards materials. I work with acetone and I had a friend that died from acetone inhalation. You think that you’re not going to get effected, because you want to do your work. So it was a well-seen blindness.


FIRMIN:  With the second piece, (Planting) the Polish Cornfield, I’m curious where the title comes from. But was it also a response to the Spoils Pile? Were you responding to the landscape in a particular way?


OLESZKO:  No, not really. It was a Spoils Pile landscape. I was in the lowest part, the verdant, beautiful forest, and I want to do something completely opposite, so I went to the Spoils Pile. And the things that I brought up there were spoils of other pieces. How I costumed the cornfield was with shards from my old work. It was a way to have a meaningful transmigration of souls. So it was all about that. It was all about that. It was about a kind of purification or release. And there were other kind of performances that and other people were getting sick. Like, you really just would get nauseous at certain times.


FIRMIN:  You’ve talked a little bit about this, but what were your interactions with the public. Did you have a lot of, like— other than the bicycle gang, [laughs] did you have a lot of adults or other children come up and talk with you and interact?


OLESZKO:  Yeah, with the Clothe Artpark piece. Because my shack was right on the road, and it looked like a slum, you know? [laughs]


FIRMIN:  I’ve seen pictures. [laughs]


OLESZKO:  And so it wasn’t— and it wasn’t austere and frightening, the way other— possibly other works were. And then there were so many people and there were so many bright colors at my site that Sundays, when they had the concerts and [musicals], we were out there. So people would walk down and they would talk to us because it seemed kind of accessible. It was whacky and stupid and there were signs.


FIRMIN:  Colorful?


OLESZKO:  And colorful. And I was happy to have engagement with the public, because it seemed they were curious. They were curious. And whereas other people were building quite muscular and minimal pieces, mine wasn’t. I certainly was happy to engage the public, trying to get them to— Anyhow, it was just more fodder. The more information I got from the locals, the more I could actually deal with it. And then the grounds guys were very fond of us, also.


FIRMIN:  Can you talk a little bit more about that?


OLESZKO:  Yeah, it just— You know, because we were dealing with— We were making the thing, the whole situation more humorous. Or there was a degree of irreverence. I take myself seriously, but it doesn’t look like that. In other words, it’s not naturally off-putting. So it does turn out that most places that I go, I can engage people who don’t have the pedigree in art that allows them to understand what’s going on. And they can see that and they’re not afraid to talk. And so the guys, Hank was one, you know, particularly the two head grounds guys, they really couldn’t go by the site without stopping. It was like a little kind of— a little nation of jesters, of clowns that were there. You know, and they liked the work, also. And I was working in the forest and up a tree and working on the Indian mound and stuff. I don’t know, it just— I guess they saw me and the group of people that I was with, people that were actually interested in engaging in conversation. And if there’s a kind of willingness to do it, then—


FIRMIN:  You talked a little bit about your interactions with the artists, as far as how they were attracted to what you were doing, like the performative element. But was it reciprocal? What other kind of interactions did you have with the artists, as far as their projects?

OLESZKO:  It was whoever needed help or wanted help or sought that kind of thing. For example, when James Surls needed to move his piece, his giant pricker piece, you know, he could easily have gotten a front-loader, a Caterpillar or something to do it. But no, because it’s his nature, he would rather have it low-tech and kind of human.  We did this kind of dance during the installation. He asked me to do that, which was fine. Great. And then everybody at camp picked up this beast and moved it, which was nice because it kind of created a group. There wasn’t— you know, we had parties and stuff that everybody got involved in, but— but it was kind of freewheeling, because of various temperaments. Lynda Benglis was there doing— with Stan—


FIRMIN:  Stanton Kaye?


OLESZKO:  Stanton Kaye. Have you gotten a hold of her or him?


FIRMIN:  I’m in touch with her, I’m not in touch with him. I’m in touch with Rena Small, who also helped—


OLESZKO:  Right, right. Well, you should try— you know, she certainly—


FIRMIN:  I’m trying. [laughs]


OLESZKO:  I think he was— at one time, I thought he was working at DreamWorks. He’s brilliant. And I’m sure that he could give you— if you really wanted to do that kind of effort. But I’m sure he could give you a fairly vivid rendition of what went down, because he was filming that piece. He really is quite a mind.


FIRMIN:  Yeah. He would be able to offer a documentarian perspective looking through the eye of the camera.


OLESZKO:  Yeah, right, right.


FIRMIN:  Might be an interesting perspective.




FIRMIN:  I’ll make a mental note. Thank you. Do you remember the Artpark Rangers?


OLESZKO:  You mean the people that took people around as tours and that kind of thing?


FIRMIN:  Yeah.


OLESZKO:  Vaguely.


FIRMIN:  Okay. I’m fascinated with them as a concept, so I was just wondering. Another question. Were you involved or aware of what was going on in the town of Lewiston and in Buffalo at that time? Did you have much interaction outside of the park?


OLESZKO:  Well, not in terms of Buffalo. Buffalo, we went there to get wings one time. Or we went to go pick up supplies. And the second year that I was there, the contact we had with— Well, I mean, we did go dancing and drinking occasionally. But I put a costume on my old rattletrap Cadillac that we had. And so a costume was on the car and literally every time we went into town to get supplies, the police would stop us. [laughs] Because it was an art car, long before there was a name for it, you know? It was completely covered with striped fabric, so it looked like a big monster. And to get in and out of it, we had to climb out the windows because I hadn’t allowed for doors. So that was the kind of interchange [laughs] that we had with Lewiston. And beyond that, I can’t recall, except they were a little shocked, maybe were taken aback to see us because it seemed like the wild children had taken over, even though, I mean, everybody was working like maniacs to do their pieces. But it was of a different energy than the town had, naturally, and quite an experimental idea, certainly, in those days.


FIRMIN:  Do you have a sense of the difference between the atmosphere the two years you were there— between ’76 and ’78?


OLESZKO:  No, but I will— I mean, not that I recall. [chuckles] You know, I think it was all about location. Because I was downtown in the forest the first time and I was up on the  sun-blasted Spoils Pile the second time. It was far more— it was much more arduous, in a different way. So I can’t attest to the subtleties of that, which go beyond my location.


FIRMIN:  How would you describe Artpark and its goals and what it was trying to accomplish?


OLESZKO:  Well, I think that they were giving you a moment—you know, which is what many organizations try to do—but they’re giving you license to create something in a way, without— literally, without restrictions. You know, to realize dreams. Most artists, myself included, are urban. And this was the early days of land art, as well. So it was the fact that they were sponsoring the idea that you could just go up there and be up there for a month and do whatever the fuck you wanted to do, and to trust you enough to do it, and even give you interns and then this budget and stuff like that— There didn’t seem to be much internecine warfare, because everybody was— most people were kind of early on in their careers and they were just delighted to be able to be given this space, even though everyone knew it was temporary. And even the pieces that everyone thought should stay longer, like George Trakas’ piece, all had to come down so you could have a clean slate for the next group the next year. So you know, it was as high-minded and exhilarating a platform as you could imagine. You think, like how many— Without the thought that, oh, it’s got to be permanent  and people are going to— I mean, there were certainly people that were doing portfolio pieces, but most people were just like, okay, man, if I can get this thing up and working, wouldn’t that be fabulous? And there was a great camaraderie in that; people were really trying to go beyond. You know, here was an opportunity to work on the land. Nobody ever had those opportunities. Possibly to fail, but no one thought about failing, either.


FIRMIN:  Yeah. Well, that kind of leads into one of my last questions. But the original director, who only lasted one year, Dale McConathy, he actually described his vision for the Artpark, which emphasized research, collaboration, participation and experimentation. Allowing the projects to— And I liked the way that David Katzive framed it, I guess two days ago. I asked him, what a successful project was. And he was like, well, if the artist didn’t like it, it was a failure. But other than that, nothing was a failure. [laughs] And I thought that was a nice way [of framing it]. If the artist wasn’t satisfied.


OLESZKO:  Right, right.


FIRMIN:  And it seems like there were very few artists that weren’t satisfied. But I’m just curious, it seems like the way you work, a lot of unexpected things happen. I’m just wondering how the project changed from what you initially thought it would be or if there was anything really unexpected?  Did the project was take a completely different direction each time?


OLESZKO:  Well, yeah.


FIRMIN:  With the rain?


OLESZKO:  The rain and— You know, I go to these things and I, oh, okay, put costumes on the trees. Okay, so that’s the basis of the activity. But then every time you add one more person to the thing, it’s like, synergistically working— you know, logarithmically burbling, burgeoning. And so I had no idea. I had no idea what would happen, how it was going to turnout. And then all of the— You know, there was also the Indians. It was like the burial grounds, and then there are the Five Nations people. And one of those guys was this very young, beautiful Indian that was kind of there. I think he was an intern; I don’t know. But he started working with us and we had talks with the people in the tribe. I mean, I never— What did I know about that? You know, we’re going to Niagara Falls and I said, “Everybody got their passports?” And he says, “I don’t have a passport.” I said, “Well—” It’s just like, hey, we’ve got drugs in the car, blah-blah, you know. We get there and the guy says, “What’s your nationality?” He says, “Five Nations.” And we just passed through. You know, I mean, it was— There are a lot of things that just kind of came up that you don’t— I mean, it’s not four walls, white or black space that most people are used to doing. And certainly, I don’t work that way anyway. And most of the people were trying things that led to far more complicated renditions. But you know. I don’t know. That didn’t really answer the question. [laughs]


FIRMIN:  No, it did. It did. Because it is the narrative and it’s the story. An exhibition like this is not going to be about the final projects that were developed in the end. It’s about the narrative of what went on during the summer, which includes all these stories and all these sorts of surprise exchanges.


OLESZKO:  Right, right. I think that every time someone did something, Like James Benning had a drive-in movie. And just because of the kind of energy of people at the time, we saw that; and then somehow there were marshmallows there we were going to roast; and then it got to be a marshmallow fight. [Interviewer laughs] And then we were, you know, squishing them up and putting them in everybody’s hair. You know, it just sounds like puerile activity, but it was amazing, an amazing bonding experience with all those group of people that I think probably, as you’ve been interviewing people, everybody has a very positive reflection of it. It’s not just the ability to make your work, but it was the— You know, everybody was up there on more or less the same grounds. It seems as if almost every— you know, that might not be true, but almost everybody had the same budget. So pretty democratic.


FIRMIN:  It was pretty much true.


OLESZKO:  Some people probably had more.


FIRMIN:  A little bit more, but it was determined by material costs.


OLESZKO:  Right, right.


FIRMIN:  Yeah. But I know they all got the same living expenses and stipend and that was across the board. It’s more, like the material budget, I think, was a little bit more flexible.




FIRMIN:  To go back, why did you name it The Polish Cornfields?


OLESZKO:  Well, I’m Polish, number one. And it was a time when the Polish joke was rife. And a Polish cornfield, in that you planted rows of scarecrows, rather than corn is the joke.


FIRMIN:  Okay. [they laugh] Thank you for explaining it to me. [they laugh]

OLESZKO:  Just so you know, that whole thing also, that particular piece, okay, so that’s what I was going to do. But then as things went on, I realized, oh, you can’t see these things at night. So then I said, “Oh, okay. We’re going to burn this thing at night so we can see the pretty fire.” Blah-blah-blah. “So we’re going to have to paint everything white.” So then that became another performance. Okay, make the costumes and then we’re going to paint all these things all white, so the piece was one way and then there was a performance of the painting of the scarecrows and the barn completely white –so it would look just like a ‘gallery’—as if that mess could get anywhere near it. But then everything was white. And then we started the performance piece with the procession and the rain came and it went off into this other whole thing. And then the next night, or two nights after that, then I thought it was going to be kind of a measured— each one was going to be lit sequentially and slowly— but there was another artist there, who has since died, but she just kind of went mad and— I think it might’ve been— I’m not sure. I don’t think it was Suzanne Harris.


FIRMIN:  Yeah, I was wondering.


OLESZKO:  It might’ve been here. I don’t think— No, because she was a sculptor.


FIRMIN:  But she did a performance.


OLESZKO:  This woman that—?


FIRMIN:  Ree Morton did a performance there.

OLESZKO:  With throwing stuff into the water.


FIRMIN:  Mm-hm.


OLESZKO:  Yeah. No, but this was another artist. But she really kind of stole the timing of my piece away from me because she was a sculptor and she just being macho threw kerosene on everything and lit everything all up at once. I was furious, but, well, it was a big conflagration, rather than a ritualistic one.


FIRMIN:  Oh, and that you wanted a consecutive—




FIRMIN:  Okay.


OLESZKO:  Because you know, I wanted to make each one of these— But she kind of went mad. So—


FIRMIN:  Well, that’s one unexpected thing. [laughs]


OLESZKO:  No, totally unexpected. Yeah, so when she died, somebody was telling me and I said— “Oh, really, who got her loft?” [they laugh]


FIRMIN:  Okay, well, do you have anything else to add? Is there anything that I’m not thinking of?


OLESZKO:  No, but I do think that— I think you should ask people, if you can, what did the piece represent? You know, how did they experience— How was it effective?  What did it represent for you? And my thing was the first time that I did something that was outside, that I did an installation, that it could use so many people. And it gave me a kind of credibility. A credibility, maybe, amidst other artists, because my stuff was very much, you know, about performance and walking, pedestrian sculpture. But it really did change my attitude towards what I could accomplish.  Okay, I did these two pieces; they were both great so now I can work with people and I can work with materials and situations. So I could get more different gigs because I had this experience, which demonstrated that I could do that. So it did mark a turning point for me.


FIRMIN:  So it influenced the work that you made after.


OLESZKO:  Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, not in the least bit of which was the kind of confidence to say, I can do anything that I find to be— you know, some situation that I find to be inspirational or whatever. And I think— there were some people that were just taking— This guy from Providence, who I believe just set up a piece from his sketchbook there.


FIRMIN:  Richard Fleischner?




FIRMIN:  Yeah. [they laugh]


OLESZKO:  Even though one of the people he brought up there to work with him was a guy that I hooked up with, so— [laughs]


FIRMIN:  It didn’t seem to engage the site as much as some of the other projects did.


OLESZKO:  No. No, no, and he was totally into, right angles and all that kind of stuff, which just didn’t seem to be appropriate for that situation. And then of course, people were doing this kind of really great stuff. I mean, in the early years, it had fantastic artists, fantastic pieces, you know. Even when they built— it doesn’t exist anymore, right?


FIRMIN:  Yeah. No. Well, no, not really. It still exists as—


OLESZKO:  More of a craft thing?


FIRMIN:  No, more theater.


OLESZKO:  Oh, really?


FIRMIN:  Yeah, music. They have a lot of pop music, they do Joseph and his Technicolor Dreamcoat. So it’s more like theater, dance, and Broadway musicals. The Buffalo Orchestra doing Star Wars or something like that.


OLESZKO:  Right, right, right.


FIRMIN:  So it’s just very different.


OLESZKO:  Yeah. But it was a brainchild of a Congressman, wasn’t it?


FIRMIN:  Earl Brydges.




FIRMIN:  Yeah. But I think it became something that he wasn’t anticipating.




FIRMIN:  But he supported it, in the end. I mean, he was completely behind the idea that they ended up with watching artists at work and this sort of—


OLESZKO:  Right, yeah. Which is a great idea. It’s a great idea. I mean, the entertainment first. They come to see something and they walk around and see artists doing stuff and theoretically, talk to them.


FIRMIN:  Do you think something like this could actually occur now?


OLESZKO:  Why not? The competition is increasingly fierce, but I never understood why it shouldn’t happen again except for the paucity of public funding for these kinds of ideas. But you know, it’s— The only similarity that I can think is,  I do a lot of residencies like MacDowell or Djerassi. And it’s the same kind of thing, but it’s not as if the public is necessarily a part of it. But there’s a lot of land out there, and people that have—  I was just thinking, okay, why don’t you just get someone who’s got land and who is moneyed? But then they want to have something permanent. So it’s not the experiment.


FIRMIN:  I also think about the liability issues. I think at some point, Artpark began to lose a little bit of courage, as far as— I mean, George Trakas’ piece would never be allowed now. Maybe some of the, even lighting the pieces on fire…


OLESZKO:  Right.


FIRMIN:  …probably wouldn’t be allowed now, as far as, would you burn down everything? Or would somebody get hurt? Or you’d need railings.


OLESZKO:  No, well, what are you burning, also, going into the atmosphere?


FIRMIN:  Exactly. So I think there’s a lot more consciousness of — And I don’t know if it’s a good thing that everything needs a railing. [laughs]


OLESZKO:  Oh, I don’t think so. Okay. So if we’re talking about the— whether it could happen today, for whatever it is— and it is one of the children of that idea, which is Burning Man. And you know, I mean, people go there in the desert, they have to bring everything with them, they create this stuff. And you know, a lot of the stuff is shit. If you have time, you should go out to Sculpture Space. You know that place?


FIRMIN:  Yeah.


OLESZKO:  Because Mike Kelley and Mike Smith collaborated on a piece. And he dressed up as this— he has this character named Baby Ikki. And he goes to Burning Man as this infantile character. [interviewer laughs] And you know, I’ve never been to Burning Man, but I know a lot of people on the West Coast that go, and they do some fantastic structures. You know, it’s just amazing stuff. For nothing. For themselves. I mean, if they do a fantastic thing, then there are corporations that come in, they look at it and they give them money. You know, after the thing’s finished. There’s this whole other thing going on. You know, a lot of it’s just a wild party in the desert. And that’s kind of what you’re getting at, from the video. But if you look at still pictures of the thing, there are some really amazing, artful— I mean, totally fantastic things. I know great brains in Seattle that are working on that stuff. So that does exist. It does exist, and it has that same kind of—


FIRMIN:  Energy?


OLESZKO:  Energy, yeah. I mean, different because it’s— But nobody goes there that doesn’t contribute to it. So you know, the levels of contribution are from going naked to— You know, it could be a Halloween parade with greater aspirations, more technical.


FIRMIN:  So it’s sort of a collective, but in the same spirit of Artpark, but it didn’t have, the public encouragement of…




FIRMIN:  …trying to bring two sort of disparate groups together, artists and the general public.


OLESZKO:  Exactly. Exactly. It’s just going to be a place that is not bounded by money, by commerce. So maybe that idea, as we get farther and farther from the sixties, that idea gets—


FIRMIN:  Like a model?




FIRMIN:  It could be a model.




FIRMIN:  Thank you for mentioning that. I think that’s something I should probably look into, as far as that history.




FIRMIN:  Okay. Well, thank you.


OLESZKO:  Well, you’re welcome. [END]