We have a great appreciation for the interview format. When researching a favorite subject or person, it seems we always prioritize the interview as a primary source of information and inspiration. Essays can be effective too, but reading about someone’s work, in their own words, often with a tone that makes you feel like you are sitting in the room with them, is particularly satisfying and sometimes feels more trustworthy as a reference. Too often when we go looking for interviews with people whose work we admire, we find that they either don’t exist, were done a very long time ago, or don’t focus on the aspects of their work that we want to know about. This frustration has led us to conduct our own interviews where we get to choose the focus and ask the questions.
Frequently, when people conduct interviews, they have to be severely edited to fit within the confines of a book or magazine. While it’s not any fun to try to follow the transcript of a rambling, fragmented conversation, sometimes too much nuance, detail and personality gets lost in the editorial condensation process.
Temporary Conversations is a series where each booklet will focus on a single interviewee or subject. The booklets can be as long as they need to be. For us they will be an opportunity to connect with and spread the ideas of creative people of multiple generations. Some will be people we have a long history with. Others will be folks that we’ve never met, feel rather in awe of, and needed to work up the nerve to contact for the first time. We’d also be happy to see others conduct interviews that we publish, but do not participate in so if you have ideas for someone you’d like to have a temporary conversation with, please contact us.
Note: You can download free, low resolution (72 DPI), PDFs, by clicking on the covers of the booklets below. You can buy affordable, high resolution versions of the booklets at Half Letter Press.
This is the 7th booklet in the Temporary Conversations series and the 90th Temporary Services publication.
For us, the Temporary Conversations series is not just a fun opportunity to sit down and talk to someone we like about their work (or for guest interviewers to do this); it is also a chance to put a lot of fresh information out into the world. This time around the interview was conducted in two sessions by Nicolas Lampert. He chose an inspiring subject: artist Aaron Hughes of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).
Two excerpts from the introduction by Lampert:
Aaron is currently an organizing team leader for IVAW and spends much of the year traveling to meet with various IVAW branches and helping to organize national actions. I had first heard about Aaron’s work through a mutual friend, artist Michael Rakowitz. I was familiar with IVAW and had followed their work since the Winter Soldier hearings in Maryland in March 2008 (an event where soldiers delivered painful testimonials about their experiences). Additionally, I was deeply impressed by IVAW’s Operation First Casualty action in New York City that I had seen on YouTube. In the video, veterans patrolled the streets of New York and used street theater to “bring the war home” to a disengaged American public.
Aaron’s complex body of work seamlessly merges art, activism, and organizing. It is a timely call for action and a call to build a broader movement to challenge the culture of militarism and the institutions that profit off war. IVAW is lucky to have Aaron in its ranks as an organizing team leader. The amorphous world of art and activism is lucky to learn about these tactics employed by a ragtag group of Iraq and Afghanistan War vets: veterans who are also artists, poets, musicians, and, more than likely, your neighbors.
We are excited to expose more people to Aaron’s passionate voice and to support the work of IVAW. We are also grateful to Nicolas Lampert for taking on this conversation. It has been a joy to bring this booklet to fruition.
We are excited to share with you this moving and inspiring interview with Peggy Diggs, a true pioneer in developing and pushing art in engaging, relevant and interesting directions. This is the sixth in the Temporary Conversations series, #88 in our overall booklet count.
Two excerpts from the introduction:
Peggy Diggs first started actively exhibiting her art in the early 1980s. She began making art in the collaborative and socially engaged manner that she is best known for today in the early 1990s. Trained as a print maker, Diggs started to explore the possibilities for mass dissemination using printmaking when a woman who was in prison for killing her abusive husband suggested that she get her art placed onto product packaging. This was a suggestion that, after many tus- sles with bureaucracy, ultimately resulted in a graphic about domestic violence that circulated on approximately 1,500,000 milk cartons (Domestic Violence Milk Carton Project, 1992). In this process, Diggs recognized that sometimes it can be more effective to do away with calling the work “art” and let the work have a life in the world that is freed from peoples’ preconceived notions of what art is and how it should be judged.
Temporary Services has had the good fortune to cross paths with Peggy Diggs a few times over the last five years as co-exhibitors and co-panelists at a conference. We felt that Peggy would have a lot to teach others who are interested in experimental, generous, and socially engaged ways of working. We first became aware of Peggy’s work about ten years ago when we were researching art projects that used mass-produced multiples and public signage to engage diverse audiences outside of the usual art presentation channels. Years later we learned that Diggs’ project WorkOut with prisoners was partly inspired by our project Prisoners’ Inventions.
This is the 5th booklet in the Temporary Conversations series. Bonnie Fortune, artist and curator, interviewed Suzann Gage, an artist turned nurse, who used her skills as an illustrator to help revolutionize health care for women. Gage’s work was hugely influential on the Women’s Health Movement. It an incredible example of art entering daily life and having an impact on shifting the practices away from the abuses of the then male-dominated medical profession.
Fortune organized an exhibition, EveryBody!: Visual resistance in feminist health movements, 1969-2009, that examined the impact and continuing legacy of the Women’s Health Movement both on women’s health and women’s production of art and visual culture. Gage’s illustrations – 13 are reproduced in the booklet – are uncompromising, strong, and tell a story of empowerment central to the exhibition.
Fortune’s introduction to the booklet sets the tone both for the interview and the exhibition Gage’s work anchored:
When Suzann Gage saw her cervix, her life changed. Gage has always been a visual person and loved art as early as she could remember. In 1972, as an art student, Gage attended a meeting with several other young feminists to learn about cervical self-examination. This was a radical new trend in the Women’s Heath Movement, which had itself evolved from the 1960s human rights and anti-war movements. Gage was taught by other women to see her own cervix with a speculum and a mirror. This caused her to have a political epiphany.
Suzann Gage gave up her professional training as an artist to become a full-time health activist. Soon after, she left small-town Illinois for Los Angeles. Gage now runs Progressive Health Services in San Diego, California as an OB/GYN nurse practitioner. She is also a nationally certified licensed acupuncturist and a nutritionist. Though she is no longer a practicing artist, her visual sensibilities and contribution to the visual culture of feminist health movements remains influential.
More about the exhibition: EveryBody!: Visual resistance in feminist health movements, 1969-2009
Jean Toche / Guerrilla Art Action Group
This booklet, #84, is the fourth in our interview series Temporary Conversations. It provides some extremely hard to acquire information, numerous illustrations, and is one of very few interviews Toche has given with numerous personal biographical details he has never shared before. Stephen Perkins contributed questions and editorial insight on this publication.
An excerpt from the introduction:
It’s easy to imagine that 75 years ago, Jean Toche came into the world kicking and screaming – not just throwing a fit like a baby, but courageously and creatively articulating what was wrong with doctors, the health care system, the staff who were indifferent to his and other babies’ concerns, and every other injustice that might have been readily observable. Artists don’t come a whole lot angrier or less compromising, but that’s not all there is to Jean Toche.
Surely, in between the piss and the pus, and the shit and the spit, spectators in the neonatal ward would have been able to observe not just an exhilarating, fighting spirit in baby Jean. There would have been more than a couple giggles, a quickly developing delight in the absurd, and an excess of kindness and generosity toward those who care deeply for the rights of other human beings.
Okay, so to be truthful, Jean Toche’s radicalization took perhaps a little longer to percolate – though not too much longer.
Jean Toche, along with Jon Hendricks and Poppy Johnson, is a founding member of the Guerrilla Art Action Group (GAAG). The three formed the group on October 15, 1969 in New York City. Jean’s wife Virginia Toche, and Joanne Stamerra were also involved in multiple aspects of GAAG’s work. Toche and Hendricks still issue statements as GAAG from time to time, but for all intents and purposes, the group’s primary years of activity were from 1969-76. The bulk of their actions took place, in rapid succession, between 1969 and 1971.
What follows is a highly selective and greatly abbreviated chronology of GAAG’s work. Because their work is so dependent on their many written statements and accounts of their actions, the reader is urged to track down a library copy of Printed Matter’s 1978 book on their work, GAAG: The Guerilla Art Action Group, 1969-1976: A Selection. Photographer Jan Van Raay, who documented many of their actions in great detail, also has a website at www.otherthings.com/janvanraay, which includes many images and goes a long way toward showing the visual side of their work.
Toche and Hendricks first met at the Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village in Manhattan on the south side of Washington Square Park. The church had, and continues to have, a long history of making space available to artists for art exhibitions, rehearsals, and performances. Hendricks worked at the church as its gallery director. Toche began participating in events at Judson in 1967, two years after arriving in New York with his wife Virginia.
GAAG began at a time when artists were increasingly challenging the conduct of museums and other institutions on grounds that included sexual and racial inequality in collecting and exhibition practices, the need for free admission days so that the poor could see art, and the involvement of museum board members in corporations that were enabling the Vietnam War.
This booklet, #82, is the third in our interview series Temporary Conversations.
Some excerpts from the introduction:
The Dicks were confrontational right out of the gate. A seminal band, and not just because singer Gary Floyd sometimes threw condoms filled with fake cum into the crowd.
By all accounts, the Dicks challenged their audiences and revealed new possibilities. They made their concerts a hell of an experience and created memorable political music with a sound that was completely their own.
The Dicks formed in Austin in 1980. They relocated to San Francisco and changed personnel halfway through the duration of the group, before breaking up in 1986.
For this booklet we wanted to include not just members of the Dicks’ Austin line up, but also hear from others who witnessed their Texas years. Tim Kerr of the Big Boys, a band that shared many shows and the aforementioned live split LP with the Dicks, offers a short but sweet recollection. Austin Chronicle writer Margaret Moser agreed to a full interview where she describes the musical landscape of Austin leading up the Dicks’ formation, as well as the personal impact their music had for her. Photographer Bill Daniel sent us some photos from the Dicks’ Texas years and Dave Ensminger and Ryan Richardson scanned examples from their flyer collections. The Dicks’ singer Gary Floyd took some questions via e-mail and Dicks bassist Buxf Parrot was interviewed on the phone.
This booklet, #81, is the second in our interview series Temporary Conversations.
Some excerpts from the introduction:
Tim Kerr is a musician, studio engineer and visual artist based in Austin, Texas. He played guitar in the Big Boys, an Austin band that was heavily responsible for putting Texas on the map in the punk and hardcore underground.
The Big Boys lasted from 1979-1984. Kerr went on to play in numerous other bands, including Poison 13, Bad Mutha Goose and the Brothers Grimm, MonkeyWrench, Jack O’ Fire, Lord High Fixers, King Sound Quartet, the Now Time Delegation, and most recently, Total Sound Group Direct Action Committee. He has also recorded and produced (or, as he modestly says, “… [B]een a guidance counselor,”) for dozens of bands on nearly 150 releases.
In addition to all of that, Kerr has increasingly immersed himself in painting and drawing. Since 2000, he has widely exhibited his works, which commonly pay tribute to exactly the kind of musical, social and political revolutionary ass-kickers that one would expect a trailblazer like Kerr to be inspired by.
If Tim Kerr had only played in any one of his bands, or recorded a few of the great records he’s helped bring into existence, he would have paid his musical dues and then some. Thankfully, he remains as creatively hyperactive as ever, while paying the bills by working for the University of Texas (UT), along with his wife Beth, where he digitizes audio and video collections for the archives of their libraries.”
This is easily one of the most extensive interviews with Tim Kerr that we have ever seen. He has an incredibly positive and inspiring approach to life, creativity, and working with others that we are excited to be able to share. In addition to the interview, this includes photos by Bill Daniel, Tim’s wife Beth Kerr, and others. It also features multiple illustrations of Tim’s art, as well as punk fliers that he designed in the early 1980s. Now what are you doing to participate?
This is our 79th publication – the first booklet in our Temporary Conversations series where we give over an entire half-letter size booklet to an interview with someone whose work and ideas we value and want to share.
The booklet consists of an interview with Japanese musician Kawabata Makoto of the band Acid Mothers Temple and a little introduction to the Japanese psych rock scene that his music emerged from. We sat down with Kawabata last May and got it all into print just in time for Acid Mothers Temple to play Chicago. Twenty pages, purple paper, metallic ink on the back cover, and die cut window on the front.