Tag Archives: Claude Levi-Strauss

X interviews Y

X – I read a quote by Claude Levi-Strauss. He said: “On the whole, an all things considered, the interview is a detestable genre to which the intellectual poverty of the ages obliges one to submit more often than one would like.” What do you think of the interview?

Y – Like all genres, the interview has its limitations – the subjective experience of the subject – and when one genre dominates a field other stories remain untold. The principle problem with the interview although it is a useful practice, is that it is only a first step in research. There is value in the original documentation but to simply transcribe the interview; to leave all analysis up to the future readers is only doing half the work.

X – Some excellent books written with the interview process; for example, Jean Stein Edie – An American Biography.

Y – Yes, but there the editing of the interviews, by Jean Stein and George Plimpton, was the key to quality. But there are so many now. The endless rambling discussion, sometimes it is not even clear who is interviewing who.

X – The genre of the interview has been a major feature of contemporary art writing for the last couple of decades.

Y – Yes, it seems that every third article in Art & Australia is an interview – actually in vol. 48/2 there were 5 interviews and 9 non-interview articles, not including the reviews and editorial. There are whole books of interviews filling my bookshelves like Pierre Cabanne’s Dialogues with Marcel Duchamp, Fracis Crémieux’s My Galleries and Painters Daniel-Henry Kahnwieler and much of the Re:Search series.

X – Why does the interview feature so much in writing about art when it doesn’t in other areas of writing such as science or sport’s reporting? Is it the ego of the artist, the literary genre of the artist’s biography or the nature of art itself?

Y – But then what is art but this endless discourse about art? Art is a category defined by the discussion of the category. It is, in Arthur Danto’s opinion, just a few people in a few cities endlessly carping on about art. The interview certainly gives that appearance but the conversation about art is larger than a few insiders talking. The interview panders to the idea that the art is only accessible and understandable to insiders, to people who know the artist, if not personally, then through biographies and interviews. Art becomes a game of insiders, and eavesdroppers, rather than something fills a public, or private, desire. The rise of the interview in art reflects the role of the artist from the medium of the muse to a source of inspiration.

X – And what are you going to do next?

Y – Reply to your last question. Goodbye.


Man Style Part 2

“I think men should dress more gaily than they do now. After all, it’s one of the rare occasions in our civilization when a man can dress like a woman.” Claude Lévi-Strauss, 1974 on the occasion of being fitted for the habit vert wore by members of the Académie française. (Boutang and Chevallay, Claude Lévi-Strauss in His Own Words, 1:24:00)

“Man Style” at the NGV International concentrates on waistcoats, ties and casual male fashion. These items are a playful part of male fashion, the decorations that remain when men’s suits are no longer covered in brocade (although the punk leather jacket is decorated with studs, badges and paint). There is an extensive display of waistcoats demonstrating waistcoat lengths getting shorter and plainer then long and decorative with the fringed suede leather US flag vest (made in Mexico). Unfortunately the collection of ties and hats was less than impressive.

The best part of the exhibition was the video interviews with men about their clothes. The men included: musician Dave Graney, GOMA curator Francis Parker and restaurant critic Matt Preston. It was delightful to see Francis Parker tie his bow tie or Dave Graney talk about his leather suit. The personal style of these men is part of their self-expression. These interviews contrasted with the many couture catwalk items in the collection that have never been worn.

Although I enjoyed the outfits, there was too much from Jean Paul Gaultier and Vivian Westwood in the exhibition. Westwood’s cheeky move of the cravat to the crotch or Gaultier’s reference to military uniforms; these references are satisfying for the curator or commentator but don’t reflect fashion as it is worn. Punk was able to bring the street and art couture fashion together but this is an exception. Ultimately the exhibition is confused in its intentions: is it exhibiting a history of male fashion or couture references to the history of fashion?

The exhibition at the NGV International on St. Kilda Road did fill in some of the gaps in the examination of male fashion left by the exhibition of suits at the Ian Potter Centre at Fed Square. (I missed the information at the Ian Potter Centre the first time I saw the exhibition another reason why Melbourne needs a dedicated fashion/clothes museum/gallery – something that I’ve advocated before).


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