Worried about Punch’s latest auction prices, Max drops by Punch’s Studio to press some urgency upon him. Finds Punch sorting through boxes of memorabilia to use for a “self portrait.” The artist seems to be ignoring him. Max pulls out an art market report and Punch adds it to one of his boxes.
Let’s say it begins with the phone call.
He calls me in the morning as I sit in front of the TV with my toast and coffee. Sometime during the night, he was inspired by the notion that I should collaborate with other artists. By this he means that he’d love for me to do something with his new pet —one Peter Monday, an insufferable upstart full of stupid new ideas — and by this I infer that he’s worried himself through the night, puzzling with his giant square head about my latest endeavors —“This word thing,” he has come to say.
I tell him to fuck the hell off which he takes as an invitation to drop by.
I’m downstairs in the studio when he does.
See him now: standing in the doorway the way I’ve seen him standing so many times before, heavy with authority, perversely— stubbornly —forever, rumpled and grey, smirking collegial kinship through a cloud of cigarette smoke: annoyus maximus.
I’ve got a box of photos in my hand and I’m looking at the one on top: I took it myself, last weekend, a picture of my piece called “Review” as it rocks precariously in Socrates Sculpture Park. Max has the first version, an installation in his gallery. He hates it: calls it “the CONstruct” with icy derision. And that’s surely what it is, consisting of a complex scaffolding which is hung about with boards and construction material upon which I have assembled a sacred test: a mock “review” consisting of phrases clipped from a random selection of Dia Center pamphlets.
Frowning down at it, Max tells me that “we need to talk for real now.”
— No we don’t, Max. Look: I have my direction. I’m re-building, like you said. But MY way. And I need to follow through. Nothing’s happening unless I can follow this through.
— Follow through! C’mon, Punch, it’s just a celebrity thing you’re doing now. Don’t let’s pretend you’re driven like some sort of fucking Henry Darger. Look, I went along with a lot of shit. I’ve got this (pointing down now at my box)— this CONstruct — mucking up my main gallery. Punch; I’m telling you; it’s just not art anymore.
— Tell me, Max. YOU tell ME what ART is. “Anymore.”
—It’s not words and lectures and post-it notes and documents: that’s yawnsville. People don’t care about that right now. They’re spoiled for “IDEAS”— Punch — they want to LOOK at stuff again. Worse! It’s worse than that: they want to DO stuff. (And he’s scratching his eyebrow with his big shovel of a thumbnail) Monday, he wants to do an interactive—
— Jesussfuckingkryst, Poe: what the fuck do you think I am? Fucking PlayStation? In case you haven’t noticed, I’m an artist. Not a thrill ride. (I kick at a board that is stuck to the floor — it has the words “ruthlessly extracting the raw data from his predecessor’s Victorian flourishes” painted on it.) It is not just fucking “words!” I mean. Why do you keep SAYING that? It’s about consciousness, it’s about self, it’s about identity It all comes DOWN to words, but that’s not what it’s ABOUT. JeeZuss!
Max looks at the photo again, smiles, shakes his head.
— I’m saying! (And here he breathes, closes his eyes) I’m saying … JUST TALK to him: I’m thinking you can collaborate a bit– we make your show into an interactive between the two of you — a sort of game. Get you and the gallery back square for Basel and I’ll give you a booth to do whatever the fuck you want with!
I sit on a box, look at my feet, and then back at the big big Max: A sort of game.
He throws his giant square head back, eyes to the ceiling where I’ve placed a picture of his face, hugely magnified and foreshortened.
— What’s eating you anyway? You used to have a sense of humor, Punch.
— Fuck off Max. I never had a sense of humor. Everything just seems funny to you.
— Okay, PUNCH. I’m leaving now. (And he places a page from ArtIndex on my table top, tapping near my name with with beefy fingers) You have a think, okay? Think about giving Monday a call or think about how you’re fucking killing me.
I pick up the paper, add it to my box. He shakes his head as he leaves. And I hear his heavy shoes trodding in perfect rhythm down the paint-spattered halls.
July 11, 2017
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