Flight Pattern 1e: Gordon Hall
A rainbow braid hangs next to a color photo-copy of a rainbow braid in the sparse Brooklyn studio of Gordon Hall. On nice days, Gordon takes visitors out back, where a white picnic table sits on cinder blocks and a basketball net stands lonely with inaction. Tequila flows out of ball jars into wide, flared cups. Maggie puts her elbows on the table and eats a lime. Gordon, sleeves rolled up to elbows, licks salt and sumac off a finger. There’s a red brick wall and a sunny spot in the corner. This is a backyard for stretching out the summer. –Liat Berdugo
GORDON’S FRIENDS: toast #1, Milagro Blanco
Gordon Hall: The most gratifying or meaningful or sustaining things that happen with my work are the conversations I have with my friends around my work, my friends who are artists. Though I have some friends… we almost never talk about it. My best friend, he’s a design curator, and he’s super smart and we almost never talk about our work. We’ll go to each other’s things to support each other, and that feels important, that we have this zone of radical non-professionalism where we talk about everything else.
Maggie Ginestra: So how does your Center for Experimental Lectures relate to the work and the everything else?
GH: I think of all of the things that go into the making of the lectures, all the conversations and the relationships that come out of it—for me that’s the work. In addition to the thing the public sees. And some of those have turned into real friendships. Generally, I’m not so interested in saying who’s an artist, who’s a curator, separating these things out. Why can’t we just make things? However, I do feel that defining the Center for Experimental Lectures as an art project, or a curatorial project as an art project, allows me to take more liberty to be driven largely by my own taste. Using it as a way to be talking to people who I want to be talking to, learning about what they’re doing, and thinking things through with them. And so I don’t have so many responsibilities that I think curators should have, which is to put their own taste aside to some degree so they can to represent a period or represent a moment or represent the present or try to, in a bit more of an educational capacity—
MG: That’s not work you’re trying to do.
GH: No. I’m certainly interested in pedagogy. But I’m not at all claiming that I’m trying to do some kind of cross-section or survey or anything. I spend time with the people I enjoy working with, who produce what I think are some of the most interesting things, and the things I hope the Center makes are the things I want to watch and read. So I don’t feel compromised by that when I frame it as an artist project, whereas I feel like if I were a curator, there’s more of an expectation to not be fully driven by one’s own taste. Which I think is mostly correct, that curators are involved in something slightly other than just doing what they like, showing what they like.
MG: So, is there any sense of responsibility to audience around the Center?
GH: I feel that my responsibility to my audience is one of running it well so that they can feel safe in a zone of unknowing.
MG: That’s great. That’s such a great answer.
GH: The tight design aesthetic of it, the consistency of the ways the events are organized. I’m not interested in those things just to keep face or not embarrass myself, or make something that’s sexy. It’s also that I feel like, audiences… When we go to see things, we’re trusting the planners and the presenters that they’re not going to utterly waste our time or confuse us, or bring us some place that we don’t want go. And so I feel strongly about upholding my end of that bargain, and I feel like if I uphold it well, then people are more likely to respond by being confused, but in a way that feels interesting and good and productive, and not in a way that feels aggressive. That for me is what it’s all about: experiences of confusion that feel generative or generous rather than experiences of confusion that feel antagonistic or overwhelmingly frustrating.
COMPASSION: toast #2, Centenario Reposado
GH: The piece we did at the handball court on Saturday—for whatever reason, it’s satisfying to produce a movement score for people, friends, where really all I’m doing is creating limitation and then allowing them to do whatever they are doing. A friend of mine who came to the performance, when we were talking about it afterward, commented that it was interesting to see all the participants being their own selves. Everybody’s movement quality was different. Orlando Tirado’s leaning was cruisy in this way that Colin Self’s wasn’t, which makes sense. I guess I could say that feels like compassion. It’s choreography, but it’s not about getting people to do what my body does. It’s creating objects and space and a set of rules in which we can each explore our embodiments. Oh! Actually, yesterday, for whatever reason, I decided I came up with what seemed like a reasonably good definition of queerness. Would you like to hear it?
MG: Lay it on me.
GH: OK. Queerness—
GH: Is an orientation toward ourselves and one another in which we make the bare minimum of assumptions about the uses and definitions of our own and one another’s bodies and body parts. Queerness is not assuming things about other people’s bodies. And queerness is not assuming things about your own body either. What you want to use it for. How you want it defined. What you want to call it. How you want to have sex with it. Any of it. I’m not sure, it’s a work in progress. But I feels like it’s about compassion because it’s allowing people to have openness to define and to use their bodies and their body parts as they will without saying this is what sex is or this is what sex you are or this is what this body part is called.
MG: Or what having sex need or might imply socially.
MG: I love that because it’s super inclusive. I also like how it makes your pedagogical work to create spaces to endure ambiguity and curiosity. Those things are in direct… they make a little lean-to.
GH: Most of the things I’m doing come back to in some way thinking about gender and sexuality, but in ways that are more about modes of approaching, or ways of seeing things, rather than content. So I never know when to bring those things explicitly into the conversation, or whether I want to, because people are really used to talking about gender and sexuality in terms of representation, metaphor and symbolism, and I’m not very interested in that. I’m more interested in producing a mode of perception that has an openness to ambiguity, which is related to gender and sexuality, but related to a lot of other things too, like design and organizational structures. It shifts the conversation from one of outcomes to one of approach. To me, how people have sex is irrelevant. What’s more important is how they arrived at that way, and where they are going with it, and how they’re feeling about it, and the process of doing it, the level of consent that’s going on…
THE LIBRARY: toast #3, Cazadores Añejo
MG: Do you want to toast to the beach…
GH: I love the beach.
MG: …the library…
MG: …or the airport?
GH: Definitely not the airport. So many bad things happen in airports. Except that I’m always awed by the fact that everybody’s dressed, everybody got their clothes and put them on. That someone made them. The collective labor that went into just the fact that everyone who walks by you is wearing clothes. But the whole TSA line and germs and the smallness and the being organized is horrible. So not the airport.
MG: Airport is out. Beach or library?
GH: My mother always says the free library is the pinnacle of civilization. The idea that anyone can get books for free and go sit in a quiet place and read them is amazing and feels more and more amazing now that things are so proprietary and there is so little space that doesn’t cost money to use. I spend a lot of time in libraries. I like them. I feel calm in them. The beach is really special too. I really like the ocean, although I’m afraid of it. I don’t go in over my head. I’m afraid of sea creatures coming up below me.
MG: Where did you grow up?
GH: Massachusetts. I actually grew up sailing and I wasn’t scared of the ocean as a kid. I got scared of it as a teen and adult. I used to jump off a sailboat in the middle of the ocean and just swim around it. We must have had 80 feet of water below us. With all kinds of animals in it. And I was like 9 and I didn’t care. I would not do that now. Let’s go with the library because you learn things and they’re also sexy and you can make friends in them and you can work in them. I am very interested in the physical orientation of learning. The lecture that I wrote last spring that I’m re-presenting at the Brooklyn Museum this fall has a section about my carrel at the college I went to, about sitting in the same orientation in the same carrel as a way of remembering where I left off writing the night before, that my body’s position in space was wrapped up in my written argument, so I wouldn’t remember where I was until I sat down, and then it would all come back again. I always think about places in the library where I really like to sit. I think people should share the history of their research and their learning more often, including the story of the physicality of that learning, where they were, how they were sitting. You know, what you were doing with your body when you were thinking and reading and writing. So I think about libraries for that reason. And studios in a similar way. A perfect life is to spend half the day in the library and half the day in the studio every day, or alternate days maybe. Maybe 6 hours in each. So let’s do it. To the library!
GORDON HALL, an artist based in New York, has most recently exhibited at Night Club in Chicago, The Brooklyn Museum, Kent Fine Art, and in a solo exhibition at Foxy Production, New York. Hall is also the director of the Center for Experimental Lectures, a lecture-performance series that has been hosted by MoMA PS1, Recess, The Shandaken Project, Alderman Exhibitions, and by the Whitney Museum of American Art, producing a series of lectures and seminars in conjunction with the 2014 Whitney Biennial.
FLIGHT PATTERN is a bimonthly interview series that traces the curiosities and affinities of Liat Berdugo (San Francisco) and Maggie Ginestra (Philadelphia). They invite curators to sit over a flight of tequila, making three toasts. The toasts are three take-offs, and o where will we land?