distinctions in proximity: Chloë Bass and George Scheer

distinctions in proximity: co-interviews between artists and activists was a printed companion to Artist In Solidarity, a People’s Movement Assembly co-hosted by Amber Art & Design, People’s Climate Arts and the Arts & Culture Working Group as part of the US Social Forum held in Philadelphia, PA on June 27th, 2015.  The Arts and Culture Working Group of the USSF called for (self-identified) artists and activists to engage in dialogue via email. The published interviews were gathered by Phoebe Bachman and Maggie Ginestra with the hope of creating a document of shared ways of working and thinking.  

Chloë Bass is a conceptual artist based in New York. She focuses on the co-creation of situations, conversations, installations and publications dedicated to deep questioning of the everyday. She holds a BA in Theater Studies from Yale University and an MFA in Performance and Interactive Media Arts from Brooklyn College. You can learn more about her at chloebass.com.

George Scheer is the co-founder and director of Elsewhere. George is a writer, scholar, and artist who fosters creative communities at the intersection of aesthetics and social change. Sylvia’s grandson, George leads organizational development and restoration of the historic property.  George holds an MA in Critical Theory and Visual Culture from Duke University and a BA from the University of Pennsylvania in Political Communications. You can learn more about him at goelsewhere.org.


Chloë Bass, Brooklyn NY:

Dear George,

We have been encouraged to begin this conversation with a question from artist to activist, or vice versa. However, given both of our discomfort with these frames (what is artist? what is activist?), I think I want to take on a different aspect of the initial terms:

What is it to co-interview?

​And further: how does the concept of co-interview mingle with the idea of making life together?

​For both in my activism (perhaps loosely defined) and in my art-ivism (perhaps more formally defined), the goal is always to make life together.

In water,
Your Fish Chloë

P.S. Please also prepare for a 100 word bio for publication. And/or we could write a shared bio of 200 words. This may also be an interesting exercise.

P.P.S. 6 email limit; email 1 of 6.

George Scheer, Greensboro NC:

Dear Chloë,

You ask, “what it is to co-interview” as a practice of togetherness? Are you also asking about making? Making life? Making worlds? We can make life! We are equipped!

macht leben : macht welt :: artivism : activism. Or vice versa?
Is analogy a sufficient form of togetherness?

To make life together commits us to transforming our conscious relations, bio-social-orientations, and way of proposing futures for each other. Do you wish to make worlds while we make life, and by doing so make spaces for many lives to cohort better?

How big is together, really? Can the space of togetherness be the basis for an ethics of togetherness–between you and me, interviewer and interviewee? How do we measure our lebenswelt?

Currently, I see no sharks in the waters even though the news people tell us differently.
g (2/6)

P.S. I’m left wondering about the effect of clauses:  “The interviewer, together with the interviewee, carefully shaped their conversation.” or, “Together, the two made a life.”

p.p.s. I am sorry I cannot properly format my response, but I’ve delayed too long to monkey with it any more.

CB, Piedmont Triad International Airport:


In my own framing — however vaguely — life became the co-interview. These are one and the same! Especially, as you say, when the interviewer, alongside the interviewee, carefully shapes the conversation. And/Or: what is analogy except a prompt to find difference while remaining together?

A further question, then: what is sufficient to make a world? When is enough? And when is enough-enough?

​SIZE MATTERS, but what comes with togetherness is perhaps, instead, a kind of layered density. A world is such not when it is simple, but when we can no longer see — or separate — component parts any longer.

Behind me, conversations about tamales.
Ahead of me, the sky.

C. (3/6)

P.S. No ps.

GS, Greensboro NC:


Have you ever heard the tale of the Talmudic scholar who knew the great book so well he could insert a needle through the pages and say which word the pin point would touch?
I have always marveled at the magic in this form of mastery. Mastery here is not simply a form of total knowledge through rehearsal, but the singularity of the learned mind with the multiplicity of voices and words present at any depth inside this book of knowledge. In this mythic tale about a parlor trick, we nudge closer to the sufficiency for which we quest, you and I, reader and writer.

Yesterday was Bloom’s Day, and I was reminded of this quote,

Any object, intensely regarded, may be a gate of access to the incorruptible eon of the gods.
-Buck Mulligan, contemplating a Bass Ale label (U. 14.1166-67)

I’m awake, lying in bed, and I can sense a bit of emptiness in all the rooms of the apartment that surround me. My nephew is in another room. I don’t know if he is up yet, though I suppose he is. In the most immediate space between my thoughts and this page, there exist many images of you, your voice, and my own. The space here feels full, though not with the kind of density that I know our actual togetherness to be.

Here with you Here,
George (4/6).

CB, Astoria NY:


Thank you for this story. I had not heard it before. It reminds me, as so many things remind me, of Borges’ Aleph. Another way of containing the world. The potential in the single item. Buck Mulligan’s Bass label. My own Bass label, reinterpreted.

A final question, in an attempt to keep this brief (yet expansive; or as my teacher Deb Margolin used to say, “in brief but astonishing detail”):

What is the place of the symbol within the analogy? What serves as a greater link: comparison, or scrutiny? Are these things actually separate?

Rooms & rooms to you, although it’s not walls that keep us together —

C. (5/6)

GS, Greensboro NC:

Dear Reader,

You made it this far? Thank you.  It certainly wasn’t coherence, linearity, or relevance that brought you to this point!  You deserve a straight response to something, so let me respond directly to Chloë’s question:

What is the place of the symbol within the analogy? What serves as a greater link: comparison, or scrutiny? Are these things actually separate?

Analogy is a means for posing a relationship between two things. Analogy, like Wittgenstein’s family resemblances, articulates a field of similarities that border one another and share similar forms, but do not support an exact causal or even metaphoric overlap. Language, Wittgenstein would argue, always operates at this level of analogy. The symbolic is some-thing standing in for something signified and presumably of greater valence. Symbolic thought is a form of analogical reasoning, but the symbolic gathers together a broad field of relationships (freedom, valor, consciousness, emancipation) and condenses them into a single thing (bottle of Bass Ale).

In symbolic thought we lose the distinction of difference emerging from a field of narrowed possibility (A is to B as C is to D). The symbolic points us toward a broad host of meanings that are distant and expansive. Analogy guides us around a carefully chosen set of shapes in whose variability meaning is made. Analogy maintains difference. Symbolism collapses difference. Analogy takes us only as far as a comparison and invites our scrutiny into both similarities and differences. The symbolic overextends a comparison and resists our scrutiny into the order of truth.

Initially, I posed the analogy: macht leben : macht welt :: artivism : activism. To Make Life is to Make Worlds as Artivism is to Activism. We make life and worlds together, for ourselves and others, for you and I and our readers. Together we can pose thr distinction between Life and World//Art and Activism (water : vessel :: spirit : social change).

Truth be told, the Bass Ale is neither symbol or analogy. It is the gateway in-itself.  Our correspondence is not symbolic of our togetherness, it is our being together as thoughts reaching across one another like twines of a rope. I hope future iterations will further a rhythm of simplicity and complexity. For now, I wish for you, Chloë, and you, Reader, the simple pleasure of two eyes on a page.

yours in thought and spirit,





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