Lawrence Weiner: Your concern seems to be trying to relate a film that was made in a 1976 video tape with what was recently done with Water in Milk Exists.
A bit of matter and a little bit more was brought about because The Kitchen – a performance space in NY – found that very innocent things were being taken as if they were quoted and called pornographic.
I had skills as a filmmaker, and they asked if I would try to make a film that looked as if it was – in their terms – pornographic, but in fact just made it very clear that these were the interactions of human beings, especially human beings engaged in trying to change their culture.
Surprisingly, it was accepted as such at the time, there was no scandal, and it was at a time when there was a public outcry against what they call pornography being showed publicly, in public spaces. It made its point and I didn’t feel the need to do another tape or film like that.
Noritoshi came to me one day and said: – look Lawrence, there are times outside very close to the times of before, everything is on the Internet, everything is there, but when an artist does something they are calling it pornographic!
The Swiss Institute agreed and we began to make a new “pornographic” film, Water in Milk Exists, which had to do with interpersonal relations in relationship to what we see in the world, and our place in the world. The basis for it was a children’s book called Henry the Navigator, which is about what we are searching for in the world when we go out, something to protect us from things. Well one thing we do not need protection from is during the sexual, carnal interchange between human beings on an equal level, and that sets the tone for what Water in Milk Exists is about.
Noritoshi Hirakawa: We worked on that film project in 2008, but in 1976 film the circumstances in the art world but also in the society werequite different…
LW: You are perfectly correct, society has changed to such an extent that the art world was given credit for being legitimate – and probably well-meaning - and that the role of the artist was accepted as one who can criticize the configuration of things as they were and yet give a dignity to things as they are. Yes, you’re perfectly correct, the times have changed. It was a lot simpler to find people excited to work on a project. In 1976 there were people who were very enthusiastic despite the consequences being extremely difficult, and yet they all participated. I only used – and I did this again with Water in Milk Exists – people who were essentially part of the world that I live in, curators, museum directors, actors, performers, filmmakers… Every single person joining this effort knew exactly what she or he was doing; there was no exploitation. In 1976 everybody was a scholar, a writer, a performer, the director of a space…
NH: Now that five years have passed, what do you think when you see this film now?
LW: There was recently a screening at the Centre Pompidou, and I think that the reaction in any other place will probably be the same: they will see it for what it is – and screened in times with highly critical concepts about pornography – and although the people who were watching it may not have liked it so much, nobody had anything to say about it because in fact sucking, fucking and other things are really quite normal.
NH: That is true. However – especially in the last three years - we did not have much of an opportunity to screen this film…
LW: It has been screened in many, many places! You have the record of where it has been screened, you are the producer!
NH: You are right, it has been screened even at the Nam June Paik art center in Korea…
LW: …and every screening had a lot of interest, but there was not scandal.. There was no need for a scandal, there would have been reverse, a certain kind of cheap-chic to make a scandal.
NH: And what do you think that such absence of scandal means?
LW: They responded by having watched and talked about what the film talked about. The film was not just a group of people on a bed or on the floor. It was the interaction between people trying hard to decipher their place in the world; and at the same time they were eating, drinking, sucking, fucking.
NH: Do you think that the film appeals to large audiences?
LW: Every artist in the world makes films or works to appeal to the larger audiences possible, and I think that – I don’t know about the film from 1976 because it dealt with another kind of political reality – Water in Milk Exists has a validity now in 2013, 14, 15… After that I really can’t say, because the world does turn and I don’t have any control on how the world turns. I see it in the present as a functional thing that I am very proud of, and I am very glad my name is on it.
NH: Do you think that the fact that people accepted the film attests that the world, and its relation to sexuality, has changed?
LW: It shows an emerging group of younger people who want to be able to make cinema and want to be able to deal with the relations and possibilities that are open to them, not having to continuously fight over things. I showed that it was possible to make a film of hardcore sexuality that in fact was not a scandal.
NH: But you are not a young artist…
LW: My age has nothing to do with it. When you look at a painting on a wall, a photograph on the wall, a sculpture on the floor, or you watch a movie, it does not matter much how old the person who made it is. They could be 9, they could be 15, they could 100: it makes no difference!
The beautiful thing about film and art is that once they are made they exist as they are, and you don’t have to know anything about who made it. An artwork exists and it functions for whoever has the need for what it has to say. If they don’t have a need that’s ok, everything is not for everybody.
NH: If some of the people watching Vdrome would like you to make another film, how would you deal with that?
LW: Why don’t they make another one? Let them make it!
But I don’t feel the need to make a film out of the same subject.
Right now my interest is in how gesture changes the relationships between human beings. I am working on a film – that I haven’t even got to the point of making public – called Pending Resolve, which has to do with gesture. Very much as Dirty Eyes was building up with the interaction between human beings, and how those things themselves got up into reality, and how reality does not look like a Hollywood reality because it does not continue. Reality exists for a moment and then another reality comes in, and they overlap each other, and now with the film that I’m thinking about, it’s all in terms of how a gesture almost changes the situation.
NH: Any sort of gesture?
LW: All gestures, everything becomes a gesture, wait until you see the movie!