Art in Conversation: Tom Burr

Posted October 9th, 2012 under Conceptual Art, Shows

Tom Burr
Tom Burr‘s show “Now I am quietly waiting for the catastrophe of my personality to seem beautiful again and interesting and modern.” is currently on view at Bortolami Gallery in New York City.

Art in Conversation is a new interview series conducted by Nick Faust with artists, curators, gallerists, theorists, critics and anyone else associated with the art world both in the greater New York/New Jersey area and the global scene.

For this, Nick Faust talked to Tom Burr for WFMU.

Tom, I’m interested in something you said in an interview with Spike Magazine. You talk about how you use the past to rupture and fracture a stabilized notion of the present but you also concede, and this something that I really enjoy, that you have a soft spot and admiration for things that are stubbornly now and that might be opaque to future generations. What is interesting to you about now, specifically New York now? A lot of your works speaks to New York then and its relationship to the now. I’m wondering if there is something that is absolutely of the now that you find interesting.

Tom Burr: Well, I’m not exactly sure. I think for me New York is quite wonderful because it always seems to have a kind of perfect connection between the past and present. There’s simultaneity of those tenses. So it’s always being rebuilt and destroyed, in a constant flux that I suppose every place has, but it is so much more visibly apparent because of the built environment and generational changes that occur. In a way, that was what I was thinking about with this exhibition, how someone looks at the present through certain coordinates. Some of which are from the past, some of which are contemporary, and arriving at a constellation. But what I’m specifically interested in that’s explicitly contemporary, I don’t really know.

NF: One of the things that have been briefly mentioned in some of your past interviews is that there’s this desire, with the tacks and the placement of the objects, of fandom. Placing things up, these are the things I love, these are things I enjoy. What does it mean for you to be a fan?


Image above: Tom Burr Gravity Moves Me, 2011, Installation view, FRAC Champagne-Ardenne

Tom Burr: To me I’ve always had a kind of struggle with how to justify what I do. I think I’ve always had a tendency towards a certain cerebal way of working, that I needed to have a to do list. At the same time, I have a lot of adolescent tendencies of collage based work that has to do with the fandom thing, but often the figures I’m attracted to that end up getting deposited into my work are people that I’m interested in, that I like first and foremost, something about them intrigues me. Often times there’s a kink in the armor, there’s a visible decay in that particular person. I am sort of a fan of that process. A strange thing, I grew up in New Haven, I decided in 1998-1999 when I had a show in Berlin, that a lot of my work was very rigorously coming out of a site specific tradition that I was getting frustrated with. I was trying to think about my own coordinates and how to map myself into my work and my work into myself, and I thought a lot about the architecture of my hometown, through the brutalism of 1960s architects like Paul Rudolph and Kevin Roche. But also Jim Morrison, having been a childhood sweetheart of mine, someone that I was very enamored of, that had a coincidental relationship to New Haven. He had been arrested here. I became very interested in those moments of coincidence. Where something in my work, or something I am interested in, might be over determined. There are five or six different reasons why it is located there. One of them is that I’m always attracted to that person, that figure, that legacy. Another might be that it makes conceptual sense in the work. Another might be formal. I like the notion of it being over determined. Which is to answer none of the reasons at the same time. It just becomes a given.

Read the whole interview here.

Image on top of page: Tom Burr, languidly lingering a little too long, 2009
Plywood, black paint, steel poles, assorted hangers, men’s overcoat 72 1/5 x 155 1/2 x 36 inches 191.8 x 393.7 x 91.4 cm. Courtesy of Borotolami Gallery