Richard Tuttle
Richard Tuttle


Good evening. Good evening, and welcome. Thank you all so very much
for being here tonight. I feel this is a really
wonderful and special occasion. We had an amazing weekend
here of a conference called Black in Design. And to have that be
followed now on the Tuesday night, the first night of
the lectures of this week, with Richard Tuttle is
actually an incredible thing for the school. It’s a great opportunity. So I’m very happy that
you are here with us. And I’m of course very delighted
that Richard Tuttle is with us. I want to also take
this moment to thank Craig Robins, my friend,
for helping us be introduced to Richard and
use his friendship to try and entice Richard to
come and join us here tonight. So thank you also to Craig. Craig will be joining
me later on to open up also a conversation
with Richard, which I think will be
extremely exciting. So I’m looking
forward to it, and I hope that you will also really
engage and participate and ask lots of questions,
because I think there’s a lot of wonderful work. I’ll be very brief. I think that the work
of Richard Tuttle is actually
something very unique and something very unusual. Unlike many other artists,
many other sculptors, he’s really dealing with often
very small scale of things. He is a maker of
things in the sense that a lot of people who
work in this building understand what I mean by
he’s a maker of things. And he is someone who
draws and believes very strongly in drawing. And so he’s also very
much the drawer of things, the person who draws
out of things, really their kind of contents,
things that would often not be expected. And he does that
with material that is also not the normal material
often of artistic practice. In the sense that the question
of the value of things is something that’s
very important to him, he uses a lot of
the time probably material that doesn’t
have significant value. But he produces,
he constructs value from the way in which
he handles that material and what he makes
of the material. I think Richard also
experienced working in the context of a gallery at
the beginning of his career. And that’s also
something that’s very evident in terms of the way
in which his work relates to space. He’s very careful about the
way that the positioning of the work, the
locating of the work, becomes part and parcel of our
participation in that work. So it’s not really the making
of objects on a pedestal that are viewed in
terms of the singularity of their own qualities. But also I think in many
works, the positioning of the work in terms of
its specific location– high, low, where it
is– becomes part of the way in which the
work is actually framed. In the context of
the GSD, also we’re very fortunate because
I think in, at least in a significant
way, Richard is going to touch not only on the
question of his art, which we will see, but also the way that
he is thinking through issues related to design. So I think we’re very lucky
and fortunate that he will speak to us also about design. This is something that we
are always thinking about and struggling what it is. What are the parameters? What are the conditions? What are the situations? So I think it’s a very
interesting and exciting situation to have an artist
who is coming to the school to really talk about design. So without any further
delay, I would like you to welcome Richard Tuttle. Thank you. [applause] I guess we should be over here. Thank you for that
introduction, and we were just in our dean’s office. And it became clear
that Craig Robins, who is kind of a figure
behind this event, and I are unusual in
that we each can– we have a response to art, and
we have a response to design. And I think that’s
actually fairly rare, but it’s very good. And in fact, to understand
the complementarity or how the
complementarity exists, so in terms of not making a
mistake between the two or how using the one
in the right place and using the other in the
right places is the case. So even though I have
a very formal talk, I’m going to begin sort
of informally telling this story where I
flew into the airport here this summer from Maine
and was sort of half asleep. And I had this idea about
what design means to me. And I saw in my head
something like an egg poacher, but it was ceramic. And I saw that each egg
took its own shape that had nothing to do with who
cracked it in or the size. And each egg would take a
kind of independent shape. And I thought, oh, that’s an
interesting idea of design. And so the rest of the summer I
just spent buying egg poachers and wondering if I should get
ceramics and make them myself and so on. And finally I did
find this egg poacher, and I cooked an egg
in it, and I saw that it wasn’t the edge of
the egg that interested me. It was actually the
space between that edge of the egg and the poacher. And being lazy, I
quickly accepted the word that that was infinity. I mean, that’s a
kind of infinity. And I think that’s the basis of
this talk, where it commences, where I’m really thinking
that design in terms of that infinity. And then it actually
turns around and becomes something
quite the opposite. So this is a forward. A handful of dust
released into the wind, I’ve always thought
the oneness of looking at human beings more important. At best coming to the GSD
with my thoughts about design is cheeky and
arrogant, and at worst a serious misreading of oneself. Indeed the invitation
was accepted as an opportunity toward
goals probably not apparent superficially–
an effort to raise the respect
for art and artists, a chance to learn a
subject in greater focus, to pursue my theory about
the unity of language and selfhood coming
from my exhibition in London one year
ago, et cetera. It does seem one accepts
to speak on things one knows nothing
about more readily than on what one really
knows something about. If conversation is about
ideas and text about words, a talk must be in the middle. Ideas can get in the
way of words and words in the way of ideas. It is a horror to think
neither may have value. Hence we try. In my case, I try to push
words and ideas past a hiatus of conventional wisdom. Objectors may not see how
desperate and hopeless I feel. Though, being non-textural, I
cannot hide my immodest love of words. How exciting the word design
demanded three different ways of spelling in my text. Is this an indication the
subject may be diffuse? Then there is the
special condition of using words to
make sculpture, not poems, a sculptural
experience out of and in words. Our ideas, like fantasies,
little white fairies, Tinkerbells just there
to get you into trouble. An eminent art
historian contemptuously labeled me to my face
one of the smart artists, even though he invited me there
for that reason, I assume. At the same time, I
am extremely honored and grateful having
been asked here. I had always hoped to be
able to have this kind of educational faculty. So without a leg to
stand on, let’s begin. Either having done our best
or knowing how fool-hearted, they are the same inside
great humiliation. The use of the question
is meant to contribute among contributions while
absolute in its aspirations. Hopefully a strict subject
will prevent the solipsistic. An open door. Why do I, an artist,
like art and design too? When I pick up T Magazine, why
do I abandon all restraint? And when put down
feel impoverished? Lacking interest, exhausted
from its poor quality. Who speaks, Athena or Zeus? Both is singular. Athena, goddess of opposites,
no way singular or multiple. Why is design in nature? Why is art against nature? How much is nature
a human concept? Is the concept in the design? Is there any issue
free of design? If that things grow up defines
design that art knocks down, why is art design? Is the variety of
any real given thing defines design without making
the thing real, the reason the designed thing, which comes
close to stating the thing, why the thing is so welcome? In itself is design like
letters and art like numbers? Is the singular
plural in design? Is the design
singular in plural? Is there no telling
design from plural, plural from singular in design? How does a singular? Lost arriving at
the train terminus. Is Athena a true
goddess because she is neither singular nor multiple? Is Athena therefore a
true goddess of design? If Athena were to
control design, would design be infinity? Could infinity come within
grasp, have a color? Could one know where
this color came from? Could it challenge apprehension? Could it grow in place
of apprehensions? Has Athena been arguing
for different apprehensions for centuries anyway? Would her apprehension
change design as we know it? Would Zeus know of it? As opposites, would design
be their unity then? When someone says design, does
one excite for this unity, whether it be fashion, in
cars, architecture, typography, computer programming? Is art, on the other
hand, different? Recording yes or no. Qualities of yes. Is design the power of unity,
simply the largest unity possible? Infinity? What happens when
you choose design? Does one look for
design as above? Is design consciousness,
raised consciousness? Can one talk about design? Can designers talk about design,
themselves as pure designers? Why do others have no
respect or appreciation for the concept of design? Why do some judge it
a negative, preferring the non-individualist
sources for form? Why is it thought to be
non-essential, luxurious? If one held it at
the point where it enters the world from an
undefined and indefinable origin as Anaximander,
what would it look like? Before it has qualities, what
defines if not qualities? Can something be something
with no qualities or exist in indefinability
unless we care too greatly for the indefinable as a thing? Could one call this
entire state design? Then, and in essence, can
pushing the indefinable toward greater
indefinability lead to a greater
apprehension of design? Is this what our great designers
did when their powers allowed? Christopher Dresser,
for example. Is it like a gift
mathematicians have often given with the strength of youth? Could everything be design,
even nature a subsidiary? Is plastic surgery
really a question respecting design,
challenging nature? Is respecting not
so much a question of how much but of design? Why does it make
me so happy to see I share the same
designer with the bone of the pigs on my plate
I have just eaten from? If this happiness
comes from respect, should I trust these
appreciations to grow? Should I see they grow endlessly
any time I want to be happy? Is that why I have a memory? You can tell who designed
the memory, but why? What is the why of design? How do you feel when
it is in a dish? Why are some dishes better
designed than others? Are we surprised to see
design in the world? What is the image of design? Can one photograph real design? Does the photograph reduce
a real design to fake? Do we live in a
world of fake design? Does fake design co-exist
with real indiscernibly? What is fake design? Fake design, disrespectful to
designers trying to design, morally corrupting, like when
a designer tries to make art. Do we have to know the
exact location of design so that art is free to imitate
art and itself, art heritage, as well as design? How do they complement? How does true design emerge? Or is there no absolute,
just better or worse? What kind of person wants
to live with the best design, better than yours? Does choosing make
you a designer, or are you already
one finding yourself? Do we admire those as those who
enjoy learning about themselves too? Does art seem to direct toward
the definable and design toward the indefinable? Do I seem able to have
heroes among many designers who must be strong enough to
face the infinite indefinable? Can the artists and art lovers
reach a beautiful conclusion on a never-ending
infinite journey? If one sees Athena
as non-singular, non-dual, non-multiple,
does she unify or create unsolvable problems? Is the opposite of
infinity the infinity also? An open door? Thank you. [applause] Yeah. So we’re going to
now open this up, and we are going to [inaudible]. So I hope you are
all praying for me. [laughter] [blowing into microphone] First of all, thank you so much. You really have to participate. So you can’t just
leave this thing to me. But Richard, one
of the things that is very unusual about
tonight is that it’s one of the very few
nights that I can ever think when people have
this kind of running slide. There is a tendency
to get distracted. People look at the images,
and they forget about words. They just look at
what’s going on. With you, it seems it
was the reverse for me. I almost saw
nothing of your art. I mean, very little. And partly because of your
concentration, partly because of the slowness, I was
only looking at your mouth and your utterances. So it was actually, I
was focused completely on what you were saying. Plus the fact that
what you were saying wasn’t so easy to decipher
because you are reading really something between
a kind of narrative and a piece of poetry. And so it requires constant
opening up of the material, because everything is
about layering of layers. And so I am busy
trying to unravel, un-layer the layers
of all the things. So it was wonderful. It’s very enjoyable. I don’t know how much of
it I got and how much of it is just my sort
of my own fiction. But I think it would be good to
be specific with a few things just before we
kind of open it up. One thing was that you said
in the reading of the text– now you’re going to need
that in one second now, one. [laughter] I’m not going to go on forever. I wanted to show off my shirt. Very nice. Very good. We like the new take on
a vest, yes, very good. This is a designer when he
was young, and this is now. There’s about 10
years difference. This is my point
where, look at this. She’s even [inaudible]. You need to speak to the mic. Oh yeah. Also. OK, OK. While you are doing
that– now I’ve forgotten what I
was going to say. No, but one of the things was
at the beginning, you said, I am writing design in
three different ways. And so I think it would
be good if you say what those three different ways are. But– Oh, there, there. I’m supposed to do that. Yeah, well, very simply,
it was design lowercase, and then design certain
times needed a capital, and then other times
it needed a italics– needed to be italicized. And I tried to keep it
down to those three. But I feel this, like,
the parameters– I mean, it’s a diffuse subject. And actually that’s
one of the things I was– because, I think
just because a subject is diffuse by nature,
if you agree, or you don’t have to
agree– but there’s a good side and a bad side. And that to not sneak out
the side door and say, well, you know, which
I must say I certainly thought of because
it’s easy just to say, oh, well, it’s not a subject. You can’t really do a talk. You have to have a
subject for a talk. And in trying to speak about
design– and I know if you’re focused on a branch
of design, you might not look at
design historically and in terms of how the
philosophers talk about it. But I found one– I guess I just
like– I’d be very happy to– I believe it’s a subject. I believe that you can
make a talk out of it. But it has to be allowed to
be bigger and engage in– I find in my artwork I have to
think about things like, well, why do you have a front,
and why do you have a back? And, well, probably because
there’s a sun and there’s a moon. And the sun came and
created our fronts for us, and the moon is for the back. I mean, one has to– I mean, I
think especially at this moment where the contextual is so
important, so even exaggerated, it’s an excellent time
to really get it on. And As far as context, I
mean– and that there is an analogy between what
a designer, the strength a designer uses to go right
head on into the indefinable and being fearless
with contextual issues. I mean, I saw that anyway. And I think that
makes design bigger. You know, it makes it more
like what it is, its two sides. I want to ask Craig to
join us in a second. But can you explain this? I don’t know if you got this
emphasis that Richard is always making about the strength
that the designer needs. And even before this talk, you
were talking about the fact that you felt this
was also something to do with the youth,
the kind of strength that you needed to face design. And why do you think that is? What is the necessity
of that strength? Why do designers need strength? And what’s the
difference between that, and why don’t artists need
the same kind of strength that you’re emphasizing
in your talk and you did with
us before upstairs? Well, I do think that my
idea’s coming a little bit from intellectual work. that I think we’re all
capable to some extent to physical work and
intellectual work and creative work. And that the
intellectual work is when– and I’m sure everybody
knows much better than I do, but when you put in
a real hard day’s work of doing intellectual
work, you feel so tired. And you also know
that when– if you’re feeling well, or
at a certain time, or where you’re
younger– I mean, just the application of that
kind of strength– head out, straight forward– is more
possible than when– I mean, I try to do my language
studies in the morning. And I’m thrilled to do
it, but I can’t do– OK, so then you get the creative
work, which in a way, because like design– and, you
know, so much time as water’s gone under the bridge. But there was a moment
when everyone of the design community were happy
about this notion that a designer has to know
everything about everything, but an artist doesn’t have to
know anything about anything. And that’s a distinction. But in that going– so
there’s– in design, there is an application
of intellect. And what I’m being bad
about is suggesting that that, because intellect
isn’t necessarily 100% good. But in terms of design, and what
great designers do when they’re young is to take that
intellect and turn it into force, and absolute
straight power, full speed ahead, and they avoid–
they both get good design, and they avoid the
bad side of intellect. And they’re creative. That’s a pretty
good deal, I think. Well, we’ll have to ask
people whether they agree with this specific depiction. I do know that
when we have people who start teaching for the first
time, especially when people have just graduated and they
might be in career discovery or something like that
teaching, that they always say this thing, that
they never realized how physically
exhausting teaching is because the kind of intellectual
concentration that it requires. People think it’s
a mental activity, and you’re very relaxed. But actually at
the end of the day, you feel completely
physically exhausted. So I think there is
some truth to that. But I think it would be
interesting to discuss the connections, then,
between this forceful activity of design and, because
we haven’t really talked about your art
that’s been also up there. So on the one hand,
there’s been Richard Tuttle in a way talking about design. On the other hand,
we have on the screen Richard Tuttle the artist. And so we now also
need to negotiate that space between your
art and your articulations of the design position. And so we need to find a
way of reconciling that. But maybe some of you will
come in with questions. I want to ask
Craig to maybe talk a little bit about your
own sort of encounter with Richard’s work
as a kind of segue of touching also on the art. Those of you who
don’t know, Craig has been very important
and influential figure really in
terms of focusing on the space between urban
design, architecture, and art in all his work, especially the
kind of creation of the design district in Miami, which has
been his sort of brainchild. And so you’ve worked
with a lot of artists, but I know you also have
a longstanding friendship with Richard. So maybe you can help us link
to the images in some way. Well, first most, and
I want to thank you, because as I was sitting
there, I was thinking, well, had I gone to Harvard or
been able to teach at Harvard, I would understand what
Richard was saying. And so I was relieved
to know that you struggled a little bit as well. So, one of my early encounters
with Richard’s incredible mind and approach to things was
we did a beautiful project in Miami, a residential
project called Aqua. And there was a whole
team of people that were working on public art. It was John Baldessari,
a great art dealer who’s a friend of ours, Jack
Tilton, a cousin of mine, David Ross, who at the time
was the director of SF MOMA. And we all convened so that
Richard could come and do a presentation for a major
public art project, the largest one that we had
ever done to date. It was a massive wall at Aqua. And so Richard came, and he
appeared before all of us. And he said, yesterday I
was walking on the beach, and I found this shell. And it has red. It has yellow. It also has some black. And he then said, so that’s
going to be my project. We’re going to have an
object that goes and crashes into the pool and
splashes up on the wall. And the colors are going
to be these colors. And it’s also going to–
it had a little gold, so there were four colors
and the rest was white. And it was amazing
because it was that little subtle experience. He was walking on the beach,
connected with nature. He was thinking about
what he was going to do. He hadn’t prepared. He combined a random experience
and then synthesized it into art. And so Richard, I’m
not sure, but as you were giving your talk, what
opened up to me, especially once Moshen started speaking
about it was, in a way your talk seemed to
me like your art. Each line sort of
made a statement. It created a boundary. You explored that boundary. And you also made it go away. Well, you can’t expect
everyone to know who Craig is, but he’s– and, you know,
I think might be a touch exaggerated. But he’s the guy who developed
South Beach in Miami, and he was like
16 when he did it. I mean, I was always the kid
who would hold their hand up and first day of school
and say, could we do this? Could we? And I so admire people
who get up and do stuff. And so Craig is totally a hero. But it’s a positive energy. And I find– positive
attracts negative. Negative attracts positive. But there’s a lot of
negativity in the art world, and it’s in powerful places. And it’s in the universities. And it’s– I don’t get too
upset by it because I know that in the end, the positive is
going to win by just a little bit, or we wouldn’t be here. But still, it’s
pretty annoying to be around that much negativity. But Craig is, why he
does everything he does is on this very pure
channel of positive energy. And he doesn’t look back,
and he doesn’t expect credit or anything like that. But I think he’s– I mean, I’m
delighted that he’s connected with the school. And because it brings– I could
list 10 categories so that he’s bringing his involvement here
with a snap of the fingers. So anyway, I just–
and that you all know there’s somebody out
there in the world who actually loves design. But in all aspects, we can
talk about objects and so on. But the abstract
world as well as the concrete, the abstract world
has to be designed just as much as the concrete. And so Craig has got
it all, my opinion. Richard, thank you so much. You’re very welcome. That was very kind, and
it really helped us all understand your art. Yeah. Well, that’s pretty good,
because he lives with it. [inaudible] But you know, Craig,
when you understand it, you should take it down. Because it’s no more– it’s
lost its reason for being there. And it’s supposed to be
something even different every single day. And it’s not what
art’s supposed to be. One of the things
that’s interesting is that when I
look at the work, I think designers have
the capacity to– well, instrumentalize is
maybe a bit too strong a word– but to actually
create or construct some sort of a purposive
framework for things. So, for example,
in your work, one of the things that’s very
exciting for not artists, for designers, is precisely the
way in which you in your art you are dealing with
the juxtaposition of different materials, the
coloration of different things, the placing of things
next to each other. And while these things
might not be architecture, they are very relevant in
terms of how one really constructs a certain set
of material juxtapositions that are unexpected. So we’re not going to make
buildings necessarily always out of cloth or
fabric or chains. But people do do that, and they
are using unexpected materials to come together in some
form of relationship. And I think that’s
something that is very strong in
your work because it’s very attentive to
the detail of things. They actually, the work
doesn’t look super finished, or it’s not about the
way that it’s made. But it’s very much about the
way that it’s put together. And that resonates very strongly
with designers, I think. And it’s very interesting
that this is not you now talking about design,
but this is you really talking about art. When Richard was upstairs,
he was mentioning the fact that maybe– I don’t
know how this came about, but that we were
thinking or we were sort of constructing
the idea of design as something that you said
was within an eight-inch frame or box or something. And your sense of
design was more like a 12-inch frame or box. I thought that was a
very interesting thing. We hadn’t really,
genuinely, we hadn’t tried to force him into an
eight-inch box or frame. But the fact that you perceived
of the idea of something that might be limiting
and that you were really trying to kind of
cover that extra four inches between the
eight and the 12 to kind of expand
the horizon of design by actually reading it so
poetically, by pausing, by letting reflection
kind of come in, I thought that was a wonderful,
wonderful thing and very inspiring. But maybe you will have some
very sophisticated, very tough questions to ask about
the ontology of design and its relationship to
contemporary art practice that you can ask Richard. Do you have any questions
from the audience? Otherwise Craig and
I will continue. These, there are one hand
there, one hand there. Maybe we can get a couple
of questions, please, and then we will see what
Richard and Craig have to say. There’s some– oh, is this on? Oh, first of all, thank you
very much for giving that talk. It was great. I noticed– well,
for us as architects, we don’t just make things. We don’t just make
monolithic objects. We form the space
in between as well. And I noticed with
your speech, I found myself living
in the spaces rather than in the words. And so I wonder what this sort
of positive-negative figure ground, solid void– it seems
to be very present in your art, but you didn’t really
touch on that so much. And I wonder what
that means to you. Can we hold that and then
get another question? Sure. There was also a
hand back there. I’m always super moved when
I see your work in person. It’s hard to explain
what it’s like. And like you’re saying,
there’s no words for it. But there’s something almost
like jumping to an elsewhere, like a little
portal, like the way you cut the shape on the wall. And the viewers’
experience of that shape kind of reaches you
to an elsewhere. The only analogy I have is
like when you jump into an e.e. cummings taxonomy of language. It makes language
something else. The shape becomes like
a carrier of something that’s untranslatable, and
it’s always been really moving to see your work. I was just wondering if you have
any anecdotes about re-seeing your work as it gets re-staged
in all the shows you have. New information or new
experiences that you might get once it’s re-hung. Very good question. I think there are
two different things. That would be nice too. I think one thing that
it’s entirely fair– and I’m excited because
I think this is where, now that we’ve– the
complementary-ness of art and design at this interstices
of human history where in this recent past we’ve experienced
a ground, a ground in shifting. And so it might have
started as something you call a psychological ground. And then it shifted to
something you could call an actual ground, like that. And then it actually shifted
to a ground we call love. That’s what I tried to read
to in the audience today. And then the most recent shift
in that ground is language. And a lot of people
find communication difficult at the moment. And I think one of
the reasons for that is you have to be
on the same ground as the person you’re talking to. If they’re on the
psychological ground and you’re on the real
ground, its like– And so I think that’s
also with– in art, that’s the issue that art can
say yes or no, or describe yes. But design has to, just like a
conversation has to– you have to know which ground
you’re sitting on. And it is a historical progress. And I find one of the main
transitions of the moment is going from a
world which was built on a separation between the
mechanical and the human to a world that can
engage a unity that’s more powerful than the
mechanical and the human– I mean, it’s no point in–
I mean, a lot of people feel there wouldn’t
have been the genocides in the 20th century if there
was a unity between the human and the mechanical. And so it’s normal
to think, well, we can just go back somehow
or to revisit that unity. My position is that we have
to find a higher unity. And that’s this– what I’ve
noticed that the individual’s selfhood and their language are
a unity, a powerful unity that already exists. You don’t have to– you
just have to recognize it. And that, in a sense,
begins a new ground, and a ground which
designers– I really, maybe that’s the reason I came. Because I want so much
to live in a world. I love design. Imagine walking down
the street and just being surrounded by
design that is built on the ground of a unity
between the individual self and their language. And so I love this
notion of– but I’m just going to take that and
generalize it that there is– a shape is a tremendously
important part of the post-tribal cultural
experiment of America. And in that sense, it’s entirely
correct for that same shape to have morphology, have
completely– you recognize it, and in a way it’s something
you can’t give to the viewer. And I wish one could. And also there’s I think
something very much important going on in art at the
moment as we want art to come from the demos. We don’t want art to
come from the individual. But nobody’s figured out
how to make that happen. And so if I, like I
have seen just what you said, where a same piece in
another exhibition, and times– I mean, it’s unaccountable. But it just– my gosh, that
line is so highlighted, in like a socio-contextual way. And it’s just because it’s
been out there in the world. And oh my gosh, if we could
just capture that energy, it would be so great. I find, well, it’s back to
the positive energy thing, like if that’s– I think our
job is to send as much positive energy out. But my only claim is that
the real positive energy, the real great source of
positive energy at the moment is the unity between the
individual and their language. That make sense? Oh my god. OK. Kind of partly related to
that question about the idea of redoing things, like
rehanging or in many instances reinstalling is the degree
to which your work also relies on the idea
of installation, because it has this kind
of three-dimensional thing where I imagine that
sometimes when you remove the thing from the gallery and
you’ve got that piece of work now. It’s in this state
of transition. It’s different than when
it’s actually in the gallery and it’s been located. It’s been installed, because
of its three-dimensionality. And that I think that’s a
kind of interesting state of affairs, because if
I remember correctly, you were talking at some point. You said design in nature
and art against nature? And the idea that design
in nature is partly– I mean, partly some
of the material is also a kind of recollections
of those natural elements that stand in a way for the world. But I’m curious just in response
to that question, the degree to which in your work there is
that interrelationship going on between the thing and
its installation, which makes the design of
the thing an artistic or an artistic activity. There seems to be a
lot of that going on, where you are
situating the work. You have the eye
of the designer. You have the materials. But actually the
process in its fullness then also becomes in a
way a kind of art project that, when it’s outside of the
gallery, it’s something else. It’s those props. They’re kind of props for
making art in some way. That seems like– I don’t know
whether that resonates with you or it’s complete nonsense. No. This part where the room
that has an artwork in it is a different room than the
room without an artwork in it. And partly, when we
mentioned a little bit before that the art is in–
all the arts is in relation to human suffering, grief. And that we– even small
children experience grief. And that’s– human beings have
figured out how in certain set orders, like words, putting
words in a certain pattern, in a certain way, you can
go– you can start with most horrendous grief. And by the end of two
short lines, it’s gone. So I think going back
to the room with art in it, the room with art in it
means it’s a room potentially without grief. And a room without art in it
is– grief is– and, you know, it’s– I– but the–
actually I think here was one of my heroes. I think it’s in the philosophy
department with, hm. Andy [inaudible]? Stanley chose her
as his replacement, and she wrote a book
called The Body in Pain. Elaine Scarry. Oh, Elaine Scarry, yeah, sorry. But she– we were
actually on a panel– She’s actually in the
English department. English. But I think Craig and I–
she was on that panel with us at the drawings center, I think. Anyway, she has this
marvelous idea that way when you see flowers
in a room, you know that there’s imagination
in that room, which is absolutely true. And anyway, the issue
of the imagination didn’t even touch on that. And that’s why, for example,
art is against nature. Because nature has
imagination in it. And we have our relation
to, like the flowers. Like if you have flowers
in the room, you might– but that doesn’t deal
with– I mean, OK, you all, smarter than I am, so– One thing that occurred
to me, Richard, on the question of
installation is, it’s so much a part
of your work sometime, and sometimes you
leave so much freedom. Like with the cloth pieces,
there’s no top or bottom. You can take these
shapes, and you can hang them however you want. And so the installation becomes
part of actually determining the ultimate art, in a way. And then there’s other pieces
where you’ll instruct a line to be drawn down the wall,
and then at a certain height there will be the
actual art piece. And so it’s actually
something that you seem to investigate and play
with and constrain and then leave freedom for,
depending on what you’re doing at a specific moment. Well, I take this
approach that art, which can be a mirror to the
world, and that’s important, and people maybe need that
tremendously or something. But on the other
hand, the art can fill the gap between the world
we have and a perfect world. And one of the things we might
need in that gap is freedom. So how– and then
what ways can they– I mean– most people
don’t want freedom. They’d rather be told
what to do or something. But I find, like,
yeah, this– you know, I’m going on and on about
Athena and this idea of a goddess who served because
she could represent opposites. She could be simultaneously
the goddess of peace and the goddess of
war, simultaneously. That sounds like
my wife, Jackie. Yeah. And And this is–
I mean, there’s a– like– I sort
of understand that. My father was
really mentally ill, and so I had to fit,
get into, create a world that was not insane. And one of the ways I
think I did that, and even in this talk, is
that something which is like Athena where, just
to drag out that image, that is true in terms
of war and it’s also true in terms of peace,
that’s got to be a sane world. And I mean, when you look
at– who’s a great design? And I don’t like
to be– I mean, I do like to be
involved with quality. But you can look at a great
design, and it runs true. I mean, it becomes like
a beacon of sanity. And everything you collect
in terms of design– you know, I go to
Craig’s house, and I just see– walk from piece
to piece, and each one is a beacon of sanity. I’m saying a lot of
things in public that– And I have to invite you
all over to the house. Yeah, yeah, and
jump at the chance. Any other thoughts? then maybe afterwards also here. Do you change your mind, or– No. You’re OK. There is here also. You’re OK. Go, please, Anita. Richard, you began
by saying that there was a kind of division of
labor between physical labor, intellectual, and
creative, creative being at the top, which
was great to see. Can you speak more to that
and how you see creativity as the highest of the three and
the relationship between them? Yes. The mic is behind you. Oh, it is? The other side, yeah. Can you pass it on? Then we’ll give it
back to you too. Thanks. Hi. I guess over the years I’ve
seen your drawings a lot, and they always seem
to sort of have– or they start happening at
kind of a minimum threshold of existence, which is to
say it’s like, your fabric, it’s just cut out. The cutting out is
not very thought out. The wood, it’s not
milled or cut further. The paper, it’s sometimes
just pulled right out of the sketchbook. And I guess I’m wondering
what you are actually thinking about or feeling
when you’re making things. And also to something
that you were saying earlier about–
which I didn’t think of until this evening–
a lot of your work, more so your
sculpture, really does seem to rely upon a
gallery space to exist. I mean, the frame drawings
could exist anywhere, but I can’t imagine a sculpture
in a house, for instance. And so I’m wondering
how knowledge of producing for a gallery space
informs the sculptural work, and then just more generally
your thoughts on a relationship and what happens when
you’re making works. Yep, thank you. Thank you very
much for your talk. I was thinking about– there’s
an interview with Charles Bernstein where you said
something I’ve been thinking about for several
years, that in art it’s possible to be free of beauty. And I was wondering how
you find that place, and also when you are in
that place what you follow or what that feels like. Very good questions. Yeah. Another 45 minutes. Another 45 minutes, yeah. Well I just want
to say that there are these pyramid of
energies and that the most common is physical and less
common is intellectual. But the amazing thing about
the creative energy– and I wish there were art schools
who could teach this, because it’s the hardest work. It’s the most
exhausting, the work that consumes the most calories. But it seems like nothing. There’s no registration. Even the intellectual
work, you feel like you strain in front of [inaudible]. And that that’s like–
like to trust yourself when you’re doing creative
work, that it– you could work for six months and
have nothing to show for it, and it would be so
great, so important, and for doing creative work. And it’s just– and
I think it’s also a part of where you– like it’s
outside a where tit for tat, or you do this and that
does that or something. There’s just no– and
so a lot of– I mean, I’m quoting a very
good friend, but I’ll say that a lot of
artists die of remorse. And if you look at the
record and you just say, what’s gone on here? And the remorse is a
super form of guilt, because they don’t feel they’re
worthy of the work they’ve created. And so if you build a respect
for your creative work to the degree that
you don’t expect any kind of physical
cognisizing part, you’re not going
to die of remorse. It’s a tough field. But it’s a good– and
there’s so much you can spend five lifetimes. But there’s things where
artists can help each other. Like I make a distinction
where in art schools, they teach you to be an artist,
but they don’t teach you what it’s like to be an artist. And you need to
know more what it’s like to be an artist
than you have to know what it is to be an artist. I mean it’s– anyway, OK. [inaudible] OK, and then this– I like
that in the first place– and I’m not happy about
this– but a lot of my work is concerned with
a pointless point. And I actually think
of it as a kind of like a primordial language. And so that pointless point
exists– well, let’s see. Yeah. OK. That’s not– what I find– also,
I’ll just throw this one out. There’s a distinction between
inspiration on the one hand and idea on the other. And it can be extremely hard
to know the difference between. But the inspiration always
holds that pointless point. And the idea never holds
that pointless point. So one of my things that’s
very important to me is the what I call raising the
respect for art and artists, and that value can
be in the art per se. And it’s even to force the
world or force the marketplace to look at that little
torn out piece of paper and give it a high value. Because it’s not
just for– I mean, it’s for a number of reasons. But I so much want to live in a
world where, one, the artist is recognized as a
natural occurrence, like a cloud going by,
something like that. And then two, two
would be knowing how great it is to understand
the nature of the artist. Because every artist
is– they come in every size, shape, and form. And then three is
to have a value that can be accumulated in a
way that someday we’ll get our Parthenon. And then that wonderful,
the beauty, the– that’s a great– you know,
Charles Bernstein– this is one of America’s
great poets, I say. But he has about zero interest
in the spiritual dimension, which is fine,
because he’s so super talented it doesn’t matter. But the beauty is
we have a place up in Mount Desert in Maine
and spend a summer there. And about 25 times a day, you
are just dropped by the beauty that you experience. And in fact, it’s
not even enough. You go back for more
and more and more. So I, in that level,
I describe myself as somebody who
is really hungry, a huge appetite for beauty. But in Maine, there remains
an edge between art and– see, this is– yeah, OK. I think I’ll get it. I think I’ll get it. When this talk, I spoke about
art being against nature. And I know that was very
strong, but in the– and I said this to the
kids who were there. Every time the artist makes
a step to achieve art, they have to be
trying to destroy art. Because if it’s all that you
think it is and want it to be, if you can’t destroy it,
that anything is left there. So you get this message. It’s a door that
swings both ways. So I am trying to
make the most– well, I’m going to use the word
beautiful in that sense– beautiful thing,
creating the beauty. Because beauty that we
respond to is already there. Creating beauty is
another category. So I would– and this is part of
why this creative work– and I know that should be expected
in design work as well, and not to be afraid of that,
because the very work has a built-in ambiguity. And I might go so far as to say
that in a project, any given project, to try to destroy
the design simultaneously as to achieve a design would
be something equivalent. But also in Maine, this
issue between nature and art, where it’s really hard
to do my work in Maine. But again, and I’m
not– I am a masochist, but I’m not that
much of a masochist. And so I’ll try to– And I might make
just a few things, but they tend to be
better quality level. And so this is also what I’m
saying about artists being a natural thing and that
if you know artists, you can study them. I mean, the Museum
of Fine Arts did a Rembrandt show a couple years
ago, and a beautiful catalogue. And you have his entire
life out in prints. And if you’re a
sensitive viewer, you can see exactly where
he was at in his trajectory, printmaking trajectory. And if I were a
collector, I know exactly the years of
Rembrandt prints I would want, and not the others. So erase the image of
somebody going to New York and trying to be a success
and a star all that. My father was
completely against this, and it wasn’t until I–
because I was talented, and I formed the usual
picture and all that. And I said, I’m not doing
this because I’m good at it. I’m doing what I
think I am worst at. And then he gave me permission. I mean, all those works up
there, this didn’t come easy. I mean, it’s like
the hardest thing. It’s like pulling– I’d give
you my right arm before doing most of that stuff. So beauty is– I
think we– yeah, I’d like– I think– and
next time I see Charles, I’m going to ask
him about making, what it means to make
something beautiful. And I know he’ll
say I have something amazing to say on that. But thank you for that. That was great, Next time I see a cloud
blowing by, I’m going to say, there goes Richard Tuttle. Right. No, it’s– I mean, I’m
a– who’s this positivist? This Comte, has
anybody ever read this French philosopher, this
19th century Auguste Comte? Have you read? Rationalist, yeah. Rationalist, but
also a positivist. And he’s very much
denigrated at the moment because Karl Marx
really loved his work, and for the right reasons. But we don’t like communism,
so we don’t like Comte. But one of his ideas,
most important ideas, is that human beings are in
a developmental wave, a wave of the developmental, and that
we are– it is possible for us to evolve, and indeed
we are evolving, and we are getting
better in every way– moral, intellectual,
creative, every kind of way. And a lot of people pick
up the morning paper and think that’s not the case. But I do think it’s the case. And I want to participate
in– because the great thing about the– because
art is the inspiration. But you have to be an
appropriate vehicle. You could get the inspiration,
and because you’re kind of screwed up, or your
values are out of joint, or– you only get like 20%
of what you could have got. And that’s, yeah. This question of beauty
that you mentioned, which is something that
also, it’s something that Elaine Scarry
has dealt with, is something that I
think is discussed in the context of design school
or in architecture or landscape a lot because on
one level, there is the relationship to
the work, the recognition of the beauty of things. But there is also,
in the past at least, sometimes a lot of reference
to the ideality of things. And so I was really intrigued. And just a few years
ago, I was part of making a book, which
was called Approximations. And the whole idea
of Approximations was about approximating
some condition of ideality and not literally
seeking the ideal. But I hadn’t really
thought about it until you talked tonight
about the way in which living with art or art became in a
way part of the fulfillment of some condition of ideality
that was never to be fulfilled, that was missing in
a way, that one also didn’t want it to be attained. But it was living through art
that one somehow emotionally, psychologically coped with
that loss, with that trauma or however you put it. You mentioned another word
that I can’t remember. Grief. Grief, yeah, the grief. And I thought that was a very
beautiful way of describing things, because actually
the work of an artist or hopefully the work of
a designer in some way is part of that
project of reconciling some relationship with
the world that produces some level of fulfillment. And it’s actually in the denial
of the ideality of the thing that perhaps also that beauty
is achieved, not by literally trying to kind of do things. So thank you very much for being
with us tonight, for really all your thoughts,
for sharing the work. And hopefully we’ll get a chance
to hear more and see more. It was wonderful for a group
of students who actually got to spend a
little bit of time with Richard at the
Harvard Art Museum. I just have to throw in that,
because that ideal issue I find can be problematic. But we have lived through
a breakdown of the ideal. And it’s led us to be very
suspicious of the ideal, and rightly so. But I have actually
found a great prophet to go before Hegel and to look
at the formation of the ideal as a unity for the
early romantic period. And I feel it’s very valuable
to bring forward that. And maybe that’s, in
fact, the ideality that you’re speaking of. I hope so. But the one– that to me,
that’s– I’m not so interested in the ideal as
much as the unity, and that that’s where I find
the unity I need in order to see the unity between the
person and their language. It’s the same unity. And I find that enormously
powerful and valuable. And I just couldn’t
let that slip by. Sorry. [applause]

3 thoughts on “Richard Tuttle”

  1. Andrew Mwini says:

    I could listen to Richard and Look at the work simultaneously without being distracted by either. This is not normal for me.

  2. ElmwoodParkHulk says:

    Richard is a genius ,who else could take a small piece of cardboard with splashes of paint and turn it into a 45,000 master piece ,he is my hero. If you could understand his work or his language it wouldn't be art . His speech and work are non sequiturs which is priceless . His mind exists in a different dimension …amazing .

  3. Ricardo Benavides says:

    OMG, so graphic design is cheeky, arrogant and stupid!!! HUGE BALLS OF THIS MEGA ARtIST!!!

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