Interview: Cory Arcangel

July 13, 2011

Pencil printers never caught on. The obsolete technology essentially died in the ’90s soon after it debuted, which is why Cory Arcangel likes it. He has one in his studio now, which he uses to print a drawing of a palm tree over and over. That illustration, along with computer-generated wire sculptures, a trompe l’oeil Kelly Clarkson tribute and a huge stack of flat screen TVs in their boxes, will be part of his solo show, Pro Tools, at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York this summer. He explains that he’s not trying to be a dick; it’s art!

Are you funny? Is your work? Absolutely. With the caveat that sometimes humor in art functions differently than humor for a comedian. It’s not always laugh-out-loud funny. Pro Tools is supposed to be kind of funny.

What if someone doesn’t get the joke? You’re getting right to the meat and potatoes.

Sorry. Tell the intern transcribing this interview to leave that “sorry.” I want you apologizing on the record. I assume people will understand different parts of each work. With these abstract, computer-generated wire-form sculptures, one thing I considered is that they’re just going to look like weird sculptures. You don’t have to know anything about how they’re made. It’s kind of funny to me that someone will walk in and see them and think that I’m just some kind of sculptor. I press a button, they take me less than a second to make. They look like a lot of sculptures from the ’50s, and they’re kind of a play on that. If people don’t understand that, that’s kind of funny.

So are you kind of an asshole then? I like this interview a lot. Put that in bold. Directly after that question, “Are you an asshole?” put, “I like this interview a lot. This is fun.” I think one of the ways to make art is to cut down the past, or to invalidate what came before, or to play on it, or to comment on it. It’s a more polite way to say part of what I’m doing is making fake versions of art, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into me doing something negative. In fact, this process has to happen in order for art to move forward. I’m doing this in good spirit because I think it’s cool, but there’s an element of criticality to it. Criticality, that’s the word art people use for being an asshole.

Why are you so attracted to decrepit things? I think that everything becomes useless, especially in terms of fashion and style and culture and technology. So the question is, Why am I attracted to that transition? I’m either attracted to things that currently have no value, or making work about things that will very shortly have no value. There are these loops in life, and fashion and technology traverse through them, but everyone is just doing the same shit every day over and over again, so none of it really matters.

Do you ever look at something you made afterwards and think it wasn’t right? Yeah, totally.

That stinks. But it happens. Sometimes you have to cut your losses and move on. I’m curious which of these will end up in that bin. Certainly some of them have to. It’s the law of averages.

Isn’t it cool then that it becomes its own unwanted thing? Yeah, totally. Oh, there’s the end. That’s the perfect end of the interview.

Interview: Cory Arcangel