Episode 152: Anne Wilson

July 27, 2008 · Print This Article

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This week: Duncan and Shannon Stratton talk to artist Anne Wilson.

From Anne Wilson’s website:

“My work evolves in a conceptual space where social and political ideas encounter the material processes of handwork and industry, where the organization of fields and the objects they help generate is constantly subverted by the swarming, anarchic energy of the objects themselves. Extrapolating from personal subjective rituals to observations of larger systems within the built environment, I investigate the micro- and macrocosms of networks and matrices through stitch, crochet, knot, net, animation, and sound. Using pixilation and projection, I de-materialize and re-animate work that began on the border between drawing and object making, and remains liminal in whatever new medium it enters. My source materials – hair, linen, lace, pins, wire, and thread – are the props of both domestic culture and larger social systems. I join together the points where these systems overlap, and where issues of sexuality and decorum, vitality and death construct meaningful relationships, and find release.”

ALSO: Mike Benedetto and Guest reviewer Tony Fitzpatrick review The Dark Knight, and some naughty things are said!
Anne Wilson
Tony Fitzpatrick
The Dark Knight
School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Whitney Biennial
Rhona Hoffman Gallery
Three Walls
V & A
Italo Calvino
Invisible Cities
Annie Egleson
Sara Rabinowitz
Documenta 12
Judith Leemann
Tony Tasset
Takashi Murakami
Jeff Koons
Damien Hirst
Glenn Adamson
California College of Art
Cranbrook Academy of Art
Robert Morris
Eva Hesse
Claes Oldenburg
Robert Rauschenberg
Mary Jane Jacob
Ritzi and Peter Jacob
Lucas Cowan
Christian Bale
Heath Ledger
Illinois Arts Council
Maggie Gyllenhaal
Cillian Murphy
Blues Brothers
Gary Oldman
High Fidelity
Mies van der Rohe
Morgan Freeman
Frank Gehry
Liam Neeson
Tim Burton
Jack Nicholson
Michael Keaton
Direct download: Bad_at_Sports_Episode_152-Anne_Wilson.mp3

22 thoughts on “Episode 152: Anne Wilson”

  1. Tony Fitzpatrick says:

    Man….. Anne Wilson is great…absolutely the goods.

  2. Thanks for the interview, I love Anne’s work. I hope I can own a piece of hers someday.

  3. markcreegan says:

    durnit! Intellectual labor is no longer privileged over manual? I have to start MAKING things again? Hrumpf! I guess i could just wait another decade and the reverse will be the case again! GSAA (good show as always!) LOL!

  4. Good show. She’s intriguing and Duncan and Shannon did a good job of focusing on issues AND the actual art object itself.

    I’ve been fighting a long battle to get concern for technical ability/craft back into painting along with philosophy and stuff. it looks like the “craft artists” are doing some great pioneer work in that area.

    Of course those artists who had everythinbg farmed out ’cause that was CC de rigueur will soon be jumping on the make-it-yourself bandwagon as soon as there is one. Oh, …. oops … as you mention, at least one of the Chicago Neo-Cons ones already has …. guess that deconstruction of the production was just all a load of trendy memorized crap. I doubt if they’ll have the licks though.

    Nice to ehar Mike B and Tony again. I like the kickass Batman too. Loved Mike’s comment last week — “dialogue from women 20-some year-olds going on 17.”

  5. Richard says:

    Mike is the real force behind Bad at Sports.

  6. caroline says:

    anne wilson’s interview was great-
    too bad it was followed up with a derogatory conversation about maggie g.

  7. Tony Fitzpatrick says:

    Yeah….. Boo-fucking-Hoo…..

  8. Balzac says:

    Well, you take the good, you take the bad, you take ’em both and there you have…Bad at Sports.

  9. odb says:

    I don’t know how you all see it, but when it comes to the children, Wu-Tang is for the children. We teach the children. Puffy is good, but Wu-Tang is the best. I want you all to know that this is ODB, and I love you all. Peace!

  10. Richard says:

    ODB!!! YOU’RE BACK FROM THE DEAD!. I loved shimmy shimmy ya.

  11. Buzz Spector says:

    Nice to be working in my studio late at night, with my computer broadcasting Bad at Sports in place of the boom box or iPod . . . and what an enjoyably good-natured argument among Anne Wilson, Shannon and Duncan about the perennial distinction between “art” and “craft.” I loved Anne’s description of “reading . . . starched white linen … as a substrate of propriety and formality, in relationship to dirt and abjectness, the sexual, the sensual, the unwanted…”

    When more conceptualist artists spend time with more conventionally thought-of “craft practices,” the results often look really good (i.e., like “art”), but let’s not forget that the stuff which looks less, well, like art, doesn’t get shown. Anne has always worked intelligently, and her transmogrification into a conceptual/critical practitioner is a matter of the artworld extending its territory to include what she does, not a shift on her part to curry another order of favor.

  12. Michael Workman says:

    Hey, Buzz! Can I say I miss you? I always felt like we never had enough time for the conversation we were wanting to have. Maybe sometime.

  13. Richard says:


    We’d love to have you on the show!

    Richard and BAS

  14. Hi Buzz! I haven’t seen you since the CAA two years ago. I’d love to hear a Buzz interview (as well as a Phil Berkman and Edith Altman, speaking of conceptual folkis from “that time”)!

  15. Richard says:

    I heart Phil Berkman!!! He was the greatest professor I ever had.

    Has he joined the early 90’s and obtained e-mail yet?

  16. Tim Porges says:


    One point that was made in the interview (don’t remember by whom; hard to credit accurately when it’s all collaborative, yes?) is that as the work evolves, definitions evolve (mutate, exfoliate) with it. Back when conceptualism was new, it was either a scale reduction of the aims of Minimalism, or it was a confused expansion of those aims and ambitions. The latter; the Kosuth version, got popular in the art schools, and what followed was a decade of rigorously meaningless artspeak.

    With the return to things, what we ALSO return to is language that has to be clear about things and can’t get lazy and vacantly self-referential. Listening to this show, i was thrilled that here were some artschool hotshots talking about process and goals, and there was hardly a single meaningless word (even “relational” is starting to mean something). Objects have (and this is particularly true of your work) a granularity and potential for self-contradiction that concepts don’t have. It seemed like a really smart thing for people to aspire to Conceptual Art, but it was actually intellectually lazy, and that showed up in the opacity and astonishing bullshit level of the language that was used to support it. There is not a single Conceptual Artist whose work is not more interesting than his/her ideas about it. So we haven’t “returned” to the object: it was always there.

  17. Interesting points Tim. I agree with your outline of the unfortunate development of Conceptualism into Neo-Conceptualism, especially since Conceptual ARt seemed so freeing at first.

    “Hardly a single meaningless word” — very good observation. I concur. I suspect that has a lot to do with Anne’s very solid, “concrete” concern with technical process, among other things. I would add that one of Duncan’s strengths in the interviews is often how he gets things to the point, to even controversial points, in an often self-deprecating fashion.

    I would like to call a moratorium, however, on the trendy, bureaucratic back-built verb “references” in the artworld. We have a verb. I.e.: “That work REFERS to …” or “That work makes a reference to …” To take a noun built from a verb and build a further verb is unnecessary double-latinizing.

    The Columbia Journalism Review describes it so:

    “…the unattractive use of “reference” as a verb has grown exponentially in recent years.

    The verb is solidly established in the phrase “cross reference,” and it has some specialized applications of its own (a textbook that is well referenced, for instance). But mostly it’s legal and business (and art) jargon–you know, the above-referenced quadruple ax murder–and should be shunned by English-speakers. It was painful to read:

    * that a governor wrote his legislators “a letter referencing the Rolling Stones”

    * that a speaker “referenced the old parable: pride goes before the fall.”

    * about “communal tables referencing a …”

  18. Tim Porges says:


    I by and large agree re. “referencing,” but most folks aren’t excited by “cites,” which tends to imply a specific source that you’re citing. The slightly wrong new word has a kind of flexibility that people like, almost *because* of its wrongness. It’s a cheesy, small-time wrongness; not much of a thrill to it, to misuse “cohort” or “presently.” So I think we’re stuck with “referencing.”

    What impressed me about the discussants of #152 is how confident they all are. The link between that and the grounded, descriptive quality of the language they used is that nothing brings out the meaningless preemptive blather, in the artworld as elsewhere, like anxiety. I keep reading about how the artworld (the academic side of it at least) is a confused ruin these days. Would that it were true, but if it is, why is it that these people are all so confident, so relaxed, so smart and even funny? Maybe it’s just the company, the intimacy of radio and the hosts doing a great job.

    Hooray for them, then, but I’ll reserve the right to reference this as part of a larger trend sometime later. See you.

  19. Tim, one is only struck with bad language when one allows it. Yer own darn fault, “selberschuld” as we say here.

    I will never reference anything. I will refer to things, I will cite them, and I will make/write/display/utilize/use references. Check this out:

    Mostly, my bad habit, is typos and then not using the correction feature to fix them.

    I too was struck with how clearly all spoke here. This is not all that common in over-memorizing beaurocratic and academic artworldia. Thus, for some reason, the refernce then stuck out to me. More important, though, were all the other far more salient points of the discussion.

  20. Eight months into the year, the two “best” pieces of free-standing three-dimensional art [statuary] that I’ve seen in 2008, in Chicago, were put on display in January: (1) at Jason Hackenwerth’s show that opened at NavtaSchulz on January 11; and (2) at Anne Wilson’s show that opened at Rhona Hoffman on January 25.

    Walking into Hoffman’s space on the 25th I was struck by the amount of ferrous metal that I encountered; too, I noticed that said metal had been fabricated into angular structures — angular structures that provided the support for, and contributed to the ultimate shape of, the artworks.

    The color of the filaments used in Wind-Up – Walking the Warp received immediate and sustained attention. I’ve wondered for months about what was underneath them: the square tube and round stock used in the fabrication of the giant frame/peg loom upon which those filaments were hung.

    Was the steel work done in studio? The plastic work involved in producing the vitrines that encased Portable City? If said objects were produced for, rather than produced by, the artist: Is it necessary to think more carefully about the artist as maker? I suppose that I imagine a spectrum with, oh, Koons and Brancusi at antipodes — as portrayed in their respective mythologies.

    Christo: Running Fence, 1972-1976. Composed of textile elements strung between ferrous elements. Running-Walking. Fence-Warp. An action, and then a structure that defines. The movement from the ’72 to ’08 being a movement from the organic [the more “Natural” quality of line, at least] to something much more rigid…c’est la vie.

  21. Rosemary Lee says:

    This interview with Anne Wilson made evident common misperceptions about craft and the changing relevance of this term within the art world. The comparison of craft today to photography during the 70’s is quite applicable, as the art world is often dubious toward the unfamiliar. Rather than bringing out the art vs. craft rhetoric, a better comparison is perhaps to ask, what differentiates the craft of artists such as Koons or Murakami from the craft of Wilson herself?

    Each of these artists utilizes workshop fabrication, and teams of assistants to create the finely crafted work they produce. A major point of difference is that the art of Anne Wilson is often focused upon handwork, while Koons and Murakami, for whom craft plays more a secondary role, strive to efface the hand entirely.

    Wilson is also different from other artists in her approach to artistic ownership. She has joined Koons and Murakami in taking on the role of “artist as facilitator,” but the collaborative nature of her recent work can be set against the nameless herds of studio assistants in the ateliers of other artists.

    This stresses the importance of the act of making within her work, and highlights the cultural and political significance of craft. In so doing, we are confronted with the implications of the loss of making within Western society, and the politics of labor.

    Looking at the resurgence of craft as a response to a “culture of the screen”, as Wilson put it, a move toward tactility may be tonic for the detachment of the digital age. It can also be seen as a response to the exportation of labor to third world countries, and the growing despondency in our political situation.

    Wilson’s emphasis on continual shifts between micro and macro emphasize the need to reassess at the current situation, in the art world as well as the globalized world.

  22. Jeff Koons causes well-crafted objects to be made; he makes nothing. So that while Koons has been called many names, he has not been called a “craftsman.”

    If Koons were to exhibit a series of bronze figures produced according to a traditional “lost wax” method, the hands of the modelers of the wax — fingerprints even — would be captured, and upon close examination revealed.

    Better evidence of the “hand” there could not be. Yet still Koons would not be in any danger of being called a “craftsman.”

    No, the “craft” (noun) of wax working would reside in the wax worker; and the wax would have been “crafted” (verb) by those same wax workers.

    The art, the “craft,” possessed by Koons, and I think in these latest pieces (Wind Up, Portable City) the art most practiced by Anne Wilson, is the architectonic art: the art of ordering the other arts.

    Wilson is a good artist, and too is capable of crafting objects in a most skillful manner. I don’t know that I am willing to be led to believe the same about Koons. Having written that, my opinions are less well regarded than are their reputations; and I damage myself more than them with the present inquiry.

    But it seems ironic that where a good deal of both the interview and also the commentary deal with the concept of craft and clarity of language no one wonders about the making of things:

    – Who performs the labor?
    – In what manner is the reward of said labor divided? Fame as well as money?
    – What sort of entry barriers to competition prohibit young and/or financially disadvantaged artists from working in a similar method?

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