David: Doctor, I have trouble sleeping.
Doctor: How long has this been going on?
David: Since I was three.
Doctor: That’s a long time. Was there a traumatic event involved?
David: I guess you could say so.
David: Well, in 1953, Robert Rauschenberg erased a drawing by Willem de Kooning.
Doctor: So something you couldn’t possibly have been aware of, at that time,
has traumatized you for 48 years?
David: Everyone said that was when my problem began. When I studied
Art History in college and found out about this work, eureka, the light bulb went on.
David: You see I loved de Kooning’s work. Every piece I ever saw of his made my heart sing.
David: Well Rauschenberg, I mean I appreciated his work when I studied it, it’s significance, etc., but, I mean, he destroyed a beautiful thing just for the idea of it.
Doctor: So do you think ideas are better or worse than objects? Can’t an idea be beautiful?
David: You know, “cogito, ergo sum,” I think, therefore I am. I certainly believe an idea can change the world, make you soar. But ideas are different than objects, as in traditonal “art.” They both can evoke emotion and knock over your associative dominoes. But they represent different kinds of ‘beauty.”
Doctor: I feel that what you’re saying is not exactly what you mean.
David: Well, on the one hand , you have a beautiful object, say the de Kooning drawing, which is so pleasing and evocative to look at, and on the other hand, you’ve got what was formerly this drawing, put in a frame, after it’s been erased. I get the idea, but do I want to stand there and look at it after my initial astonishment? No. And, in fact, it sort of pisses me off. That of course, is a deep reaction, which “Art” can evoke. But if I want to get pissed off, I can just read the newspaper. I have ideas all the time. Some I’d like to foist on our politicians, some on the whole world, but I don’t put them in a frame and exhibit them.
Doctor: Your ideas about what is art are infantile and bourgeois. Did you have a particular trauma when you were toilet trained?
David: Well, yes, in fact, I did.
Doctor: Go on.
David: Ever since I was a little kid, I liked to pee. I was a bit of a bed wetter. So whenever I saw an image of Ducamp’s urinal, I had to run to the bathroom.
I missed most of the lectures about him because of this Pavlovian response.
David: That’s all. Nothing more. Do you think I’m afraid of it?
Doctor: What do you think?
David: I get the idea that it’s all about context. And that’s interesting for a second. But as far as weighty thought goes, it doesn’t really draw blood. Ideas like freedom, enslavement, joy, transcendence, those really rattle around in your gut and brain. They can hit you were you live. Let me give you an example. Chairs, it’s really all about chairs.
David: Yeah, one in 1965, the other in 1888.
Doctor: Go on.
David; Well you can see in the illustration, One and Three Chairs, by Kosuth. It’s a chair, a photograph of the chair, and a definition of the word, “chair”, and instructions . You see, the piece is different every time it’s displayed. The installer chooses a chair, has a photograph the same size as the chair placed to it’s left. The blown up definiton is placed to the right of the chair and aligned with the top of the photograph. It’s really very clever.
Doctor: You have a problem with clever?
David: Doctor, believe me, I do really enjoy clever. It’s implications engage me for a minute, I chuckle appreciatively to myself, and then I’m ready to move on. But if I really want to know from chairs, I look at Van Gogh’s. It hits me in the gut and stays there.
Doctor: I fear this is really all about the subconscious.
Do you see that?
David: Yes, exactly. It’s a deep itch that needs to bypass the conscious mind to be scratched.
Doctor: So what you’re saying is that for you there’s a difference between engaging your mind on a certain, maybe lower, shorter acting level, and a deeper, multi- level and multi-sensual cascade of mental and emotional reactions and associations.
David: Yea, sort of like Mozart, Beethoven, Cream, The Stones, Michelangelo, etc. It’s about the uplifting, the sublime, the everyday, the awful and tragic, but at a whole other level of response. And listen, I’m not afraid to tell you that I sing along everytime I hear the Monkees’s I’m a Believer.
Doctor: So for you , it’s this quality of aspiration that defines the value, nature, experience, and maybe even, the definition of art?
David: Doctor, you took the words right out of my mouth.