Interviewed by Nick Kaye, San Francisco 24 October 2012
Follow the links for discussion of: The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art (1970) | One Second Sculpture (1969) | Sound Sculpture As (1970) | Piss Piece (1970) | Drum Brush Drawings (1972-78) | Studio Berkeley (1980) | Beer with Friends | Free Beer | Academy of MOCA | The Archives of MOCA | Café Wednesday | Society of Independent Artists | Birds in Flight (1969) | Allan Fish Drinks a Case of Beer (1971) | The Creation of a Situation and Environment While Becoming Increasingly More Intoxicated (1971) | The Restoration of a Portion of the Black Wall, Ceiling, and Floor of the Main Gallery of the Museum of Conceptual Art (with David Ireland 1976) | The Back Wall of MOCA (1986) | The Museum of Conceptual Art at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1979) | The Artist's Studio (1973) | All Night Sculptures (1973) | Eleven Line Drawings (1997) | Twenty Two Line Drawings (1995) | Out-of-Body Free-Hand Circle (2007/2009) | Drawing a Line as Far as I can Reach (1972) | Beer Drinking Sonata for Thirteen Players (1996) | An Aid to Communication (1979) | Process Print (1970)
TM: My installation with beer has become popular now, so I've been invited to do that a lot in the last few years. Then lately, they build the installation. We have beer and it turns into like a club and I tell jokes - so it's part of the whole scene. My performance art has evolved to end up being a stand-up joke-teller. So that's where I'm at right now in terms of performance art.
TM: It just seemed to fit the idea of a bar. My The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art (1970) has become an historic piece because this kind of relational aesthetics or social art practice has become a movement. So now, because of other artists doing that, I've become discovered (laughter) - like Rirkrit Tiravanija, for instance, because of him I got discovered. My One Second Sculpture (1969) was discovered because of Erwin Wurm - he does one minute sculptures.
Tom Marioni, The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art (1970). Courtesy: Tom Marioni.
Q: When did the term 'conceptual art' come into play in your work?
TM: 1968. In '68 I got a job as a curator at the Richmond Arts Centre. I had been doing minimal art up to that time - sculpture. When I got the job at the Richmond Arts Centre I started to think in broader terms. So as a curator it broadened my horizons. I started doing language pieces that I gave to people: a sign like 'free beer' that you put on your refrigerator - so the refrigerator then becomes like an object of art. And then I started doing actions, performances. I always thought of them as sculpture actions because of the influence of Joseph Beuys. Beuys influenced me to think in those terms. He sort of invented the idea with his Explaining Pictures to a Dead Hare in 1965. I think that started the beginning of the idea of performance being sculpture-based.
Q: In Explaining Pictures to a Dead Hare Beuys locked the audience out of the gallery where the action took place. Yet you very much include the audience in everything you do.
TM: Oh, well, I mean people have done things just for the camera. Bruce Nauman's Self-Portrait as Fountain (1966) - there was no audience for that. Yves Klein's performances with the models [for example, Anthropométrie de l'Époque bleue (1960)] was about painting and theatre - I didn't think of it as sculpture-based like Beuys's pieces were. So by 1970 when I first did The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art and the debris was left on exhibit - it wasn't an aesthetic issue. I considered the debris just residue and the evidence of the act. I considered the act the art: the act of that social interaction.
Q: Why leave the debris?
TM: Well, it was done in a museum and there was no audience for it - only the participants. It was done on a day when the museum was normally closed because I didn't want my friends - there were 16 of them – I didn't want my friends to be performers. The way people know about Richard Long's work is by a photograph - there is no audience when he places the stones out in the country. So, like leaving a photograph, it was a way of leaving the debris as a record of the act.
Q: Did you think of The Act of Drinking Beer With Friends is the Highest Form of Art as something that would keep recurring?
TM: Yes. It began in '73 in my Museum of Conceptual Art. I had free beer every Wednesday and I showed videotapes as a kind of programme of my museum. So my Museum of Conceptual Art was a museum for action sculpture - actions by sculptors.
Q: I'm really interested in the relationship between the idea of conceptual art and action or performance - in how closely they're linked.
TM: I always think of conceptual art as having three arms; language, system, and action. I did a series of art journals called Vision, '75 and '76 and up to '81. And I tried to define conceptual art in those art journals. The language artists, like in New York and in London, and the systems artists, like Sol LeWitt and Hans Haacke, make art that other people execute. And then action art, like Joseph Beuys - I consider Joseph Beuys a conceptual artist - he did performances but they were experiential. In New York they didn't consider performance art as conceptual art, they were very narrow about their definition. I think a conceptual artist is free to work in any medium and is not defined by the medium in the way a painter is. In the early '70s, there was a break away from painting and sculpture. Everybody starts out as a painter - and then they become a sculptor and then they become a conceptual artist, that's how I see they've all been. So, for instance, Richard Long is a sculptor and Hamish Fulton is a painter, even though they both exhibit photographs. But they see it, I think, from that point of view. That's their background - they bring that background to what they do.
TM: In 1970 I organised the Sound Sculpture As exhibition. And I performed in it as Allan Fish, which was my alter ego. While I was a curator I needed to have an artist name separate from that - conflict of interest. So I did the Piss Piece (1970) in the Sound Sculpture As show. It might have been one of the first sound art shows anywhere. Fluxus did concerts and comes mostly out of John Cage, so their intent is music - they didn't make sound art. My One Second Sculpture (1969) was about sound, too: a sculpture that performs itself and makes a sound. The sound was an element, a material. Because Beuys had said he worked with curious materials, I considered sound as a curious material for a sculptor. So in the '70s I did a lot of sound performances.
Tom Marioni, Piss Piece (1970). Courtesy: Tom Marioni.
TM: Drum Brush Drawings (1972-78) and then later the drawings of my shadow that had the microphone behind the paper [for example, Studio Berkeley (1980)]. I did those back in the late '70s/early '80s.
TM: Into social practice, yes. I always thought of my graphic art as my private art and my Museum of Conceptual Art and Beer with Friends as my public or social art.
TM: I didn't think of the art that I showed at MOCA as my art, but I thought of the idea of the museum as my art and the social activities as my art. So every Wednesday the Free Beer was a programme at the museum, but it was my art. And then I started hanging out in Breen's Bar downstairs in '76. MOCA was the second and third floor and they were the ground floor. I've been doing this every week since 1973, since '76 in a bar, then since '90 in this building [Howard Street]. So it's been in about five different places and I keep changing the name of it. It started out as just Free Beer, then it became the Academy of MOCA, then The Archives of MOCA, then Café Wednesday, and now the Society of Independent Artists.
Marioni Studio with Café Wednesday in progress, 1992. Courtesy: Tom Marioni.
Q: Why The Archives of MOCA?
TM: Because I'd stopped doing MOCA and I was getting together the archives. Eventually in '94 I sold them to the University of California [Berkeley], so then I stopped using that term. But that's what I was calling my space. It was on the other side of this building - I was back there on the other side of the building for five years, and then since '95 I've been in this space we're in now. So it was where the archives were kept, so that's where we met. At that point it became like an artists' club. When it was in a bar, then it was open to everybody. And for two years I had artists' credit cards I painted up with a grant, and they could just show the card to the bartender and get free beer.
Q: At Breen's there must have been quite a few people at the bar who didn't know you were having this event.
Tom Marioni, MOCA, Museum of Conceptual Art, founded in 1970 by Tom Marioni, closed in 1984. Located at 75 3rd Street, above Breen's Bar and Restaurant which functioned as a reception centre and artists' saloon. Courtesy: Tom Marioni.
TM: It was sort of in the front of the space. In Germany they call it stammtisch – a family table, where similar people meet on a certain day. So I took that idea. It comes from a lot of things – from Paris in the '20s, from the Cedar Bar in New York in the '50s, where all the artists hung out. So I had an idea of carrying on that tradition. It's changed with the times, kind of.
Q: And does it change with the repetition? It's interesting to me that you can have something that's in a way so much a part of this social event, but at the same time it seems quite distinctive. It is almost indistinguishable from a group of friends drinking beer.
TM: Well, something I said a long time ago is that I'm trying to make art as close to real life as I can without it being real life. And somebody said to me, well, if The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art, I do that all the time with my friends. And they said, is that art? And I said, no, that's not art - it's a copy of my art.
Q: (Laughs) well, that's funny because it's also true.
Q: It's interesting in relation to Beuys, and his recasting of everyday activity as social sculpture to politicise it.
TM: Sometimes people refer to what I do as social sculpture. I've used the word 'sculpture' in a lot of things I've done because of the influence of Beuys. I think it was 1972 at the Documenta that Beuys first did his idea of the Free University, which was where he used the term social sculpture. I don't know if he used it before that. But I didn't use the term social sculpture - I always say it's my social work or social art. It's fun for me - that's why I do it. It's disappointing to some critics that I don't have any real heavy philosophy about it - art philosophy.
I did an interview with Guillaume Desanges for a French art magazine, about three years ago. It's only about this Beer with Friends idea. We did this interview for 6 months over email. He would send me a question and I would send the answer back. He was very clever about how he finally published it. He published the interview in English and then published in French what he thought I meant (laughter). He interpreted it.
Q: And was it what you really meant?
TM: No, but it was like he was being frustrated that I wasn't being more French and theoretical about it.
Q: I also think of relational art as a practice whereby the art is almost lost in some social exchange, whereas my impression of what you're doing is that it's very precise in creating these simultaneous experiences.
TM: It's evolved over time and I've perfected it. Now it has basic elements and in the last few years I'm strict about how it looks and everything. It has a table and chairs and a bar that they've built, a refrigerator, a yellow light, a shelf for the empty beer bottles, a video of the beer filling up like the inside of a glass. Those are the basic elements. It also has elements that a lot of my installations have: a male, a female, and a spirit. The beer bottle is the male, the refrigerator is the female, and then the yellow light is the spirit. And the yellow light for me represents California light. It's the colour of the intellect and the colour of enlightenment - and in different cultures it means different things. So yellow is a colour I've used a lot in my installations, in my work - to warm up the space, to make it more human-like.
Q: There also seems to be a theme about structures that are embedded within everyday experiences that go back to things like your alter ego, Allan Fish. Then, you were implicitly performing a role, but the role might be hidden from your audience. How common knowledge was it that you were Allan Fish?
TM: Well, I had a disguise that was a kind of joke disguise - not a serious disguise. But mostly people didn't know because I would perform an action for Allan Fish, which is what they did in Fluxus. People in music do that all the time - perform a composer's work. So, for instance, Piss Piece was announced as a work by Allan Fish - and I was the director of the museum and I was performing his work. So at that point nobody knew that. At the Richmond Arts Centre I exhibited a work in a show that was an object - it was pieces of paper.
TM: Yes. When I did The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends Is The Highest Form of Art the sixteen friends arrived and they found out it was me.
Q: (Laughs) and then you did a performance, Allan Fish Drinks a Case of Beer (1971).
TM: Yes, I did that one, too. So at that point my friends knew, but the public didn't know.
Tom Marioni, The Creation of a Situation and Environment While Becoming Increasingly More Intoxicated (1971). Courtesy: Tom Marioni.
TM: I changed the title because I thought the new title was much more definitive of what was happening. It was like a spontaneous thing, where things occurred to me, as I got more intoxicated. It was dependent on that. When I was in Poland I heard about a guy who used to paint portraits of people, and he would get high or stoned on different kinds of alcohol or drugs and paint their portrait. It was always in a different style and while he was high. And when he signed the portrait - he had a shop where he would do the portrait paintings – he would sign the ingredient that he was high on when he painted it. So he could say whisky and then his name or something.
Q: And has the event evolved in specific ways or changed significantly?
TM: Well, when I first did the The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends Is The Highest Form of Art, like I said, how everything was left behind wasn't an aesthetic issue. It was like if you were in a bar and there'd just been a fight and everything was upset - you knew what took place from that. It was a picture of what happened - that's how I thought about it. Now it's an aesthetic issue for me - like the tea ceremony in Japan is all about the aesthetics of the experience. In the meantime I became influenced by Japanese culture in the '80s. Also people were saying conceptual artists didn't care what it looked like. I thought that was pretty ridiculous, because all visual artists care what their work looks like - even if it's invisible art. The more invisible it is the more exacting the aesthetic has to be. There's less to see, so what there is to see is then really very important.
Q: Did you think of your conceptual art as an extension of the minimal art that you were involved in?
TM: It was a logical step for me. I thought minimal artists created a stage that the object and performance artists then performed. That's California art to me - experiential art. We don't have that much of a literary tradition, so it's more about the body in California.
Q: By contrast, Vito Acconci's early work in New York comes out of poetry -and Samuel Beckett in particular. It's very literary in its orientation.
TM: He did his last performance in my Museum of Conceptual Art - and his first time in California in 1975 [Chair Installation (1975)]. He had a tape recorder playing with speakers, and he was in the back room watching the people who came in. And he put all my furniture on the ceiling. It was like science fiction, in a way. He turned the room upside down. It felt surreal. Then he had this dialogue going, playing. It was more an installation than a performance - but it was like in keeping with his performances.
Vito Acconci, Chair Installation (MOCA, 1975). Courtesy: Tom Marioni.
Q: Did the space at MOCA carry traces of the works that had taken place there?
TM: Not every time, but in the later years it did. I had moved the space from 86 3rd Street to 75 3rd Street. From that point on I had a much bigger space - I had 10,000 square feet. The original space was like a large office space – it was in an office building. But the space that I moved into at the end of '72 until '84 was more like a factory space. Starting in '75 a lot of the pieces left something behind - either some residue or an object - or something that was built into the space, so it became part of the actual physical space. Then when the museum was closed and torn down a lot of the art was torn down with it, because it was not art if it was taken out of its context.
TM: The Restoration of a Portion of the Black Wall, Ceiling, and Floor of the Main Gallery of the Museum of Conceptual Art (1976), which was a collaboration between the two of us. I wrote about it in my book [Beer, Art and Philosophy: A Memoir, The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art, San Francisco: Crown Point Press, 2003]. It was influenced by the destruction of The Night Watch by Rembrandt in the State Museum in Amsterdam. They opened the restoration up for people to watch. And at the opening the guy who had originally painted the section of the wall and floor white [Daryl Sapien] that David Ireland had restored said that he felt like he was being scolded, because he had his work erased. But it wasn't really his work and it wasn't his place to leave behind what he did. When someone left something behind it became integrated into this natural space. So in a way he defaced the space and David Ireland restored it. That was the beginning of David Ireland's work as architecture.
David Ireland and Tom Marioni, The Restoration of a Portion of the Black Wall, Ceiling, and Floor of the Main Gallery of the Museum of Conceptual Art (1976). Courtesy: Tom Marioni.
Q: So it was subsequent to that that he worked on 500 Capp Street?
TM: Right. That came out of that experience. He was older than me, but he went back to school and studied printmaking and painting. He was actually a student of my wife's [Kathan Brown] at the Art Institute, so I got to know him. I told him that I wanted to restore this space. I said I wanted to commission him to do it and that I would pay him - because I was going to hire an art student to do it. Then it evolved into being a show where he created an invisible work, because when it was finished there was nothing. It looked the way it did before it had been damaged. So it was a photo-realist painting. I always refer to it as the only painting show that was ever in MOCA.
TM: Well, I did a facsimile of it on canvas. And then some of the objects from the back wall - they were part of the back wall. I put that on it, too. And then I had a little relic, a little shard of the actual back wall that showed the original colour - that went with it. So it was like a religious relic.
Q: Yes. There are a number of works, aren't there, where you've taken one place and put it in another place, like The Museum of Conceptual Art at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (1979)?
Tom Marioni, The Act of Drinking Beer with Friends is the Highest Form of Art (1970-ongoing). Installation view at the Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, 2012. Courtesy: Tom Marioni.
TM: And also The Artist's Studio (1973), which was part of the All Night Sculpture (1973), where I hired somebody, a friend of mine named Frank Youman - who was a plaster-caster mould-maker - to make a mould of a woman, a naked model. And that took all night to do. He made a casting and left all the debris. So the space turned into kind of the traditional nineteenth-century artist's studio. And then about twenty years later I sold that piece to the Oakland Museum. It was like a big bench table, some shelves and a plaster bust. There was a raised part of the floor that was elongated - and there was an opening that was the window to let the light in so that it gave a dramatic lighting. When they exhibited it in Oakland they had to build another wall with a window in it so the light just comes from that side and casts shadows - it makes it more dramatic.
Tom Marioni, Artist's Studio (1973), in process during All Night Sculpture (MOCA, 1973). Courtesy: Tom Marioni.
Q: And All Night Sculpture had a series of pieces that were running simultaneously?
TM: The show was performances and installations that were viewed from sunset to sunrise the next morning. So people came throughout the night. All the shows at MOCA were one evening events, because they were always actions. In that case I had a lot of rooms, so each artist had their own room in which they did different things. That was probably the best show that happened at MOCA.
TM: Just because all the artists did interesting things - and because of the idea about sculpture having a duration of time.
Tom Marioni, Eleven Line Drawings (1997). Courtesy: Tom Marioni.
TM: I also did the one before that called Twenty Two Line Drawings (1995) and they're both in museum collections. They come with a chart so they can be shown in the position the drawings were done. So the ones that are high were pencilled on a stick and I drew it like that, and the ones that are down low I drew reaching down. The ones that are straight ahead are more like fencing with a sword. All of my drawings pretty much are about my body measurement. Lately I've been drawing a circle on the wall [for example, Out-of-Body Free-Hand Circle (2007/2009)] - around a prepared wall. That is about measurement - it defines the body - like Leonardo's diagram of the circle around the man with the two depictions [Vetruvian Man (c.1490)]. That one is about my reach. Then Drawing a Line as Far as I can Reach (1972) is also about my reach measurement. Then the Drum Brush Drawings are just a natural movement of my left and right hand. They're not pictorial - not trying to make a picture of something. They're more like records of my action.
Tom Marioni, The Sound of Flight (1977). Courtesy: Tom Marioni.
Q: Is it important that somebody understands the process that has led to these works when they see them?
TM: If they know the process then I would think that makes it richer for them, but I think they stand on their own just as pictures - as objects. The first one I did is in the Oakland Museum on some brown wrapping paper. An art critic said it was a mindless drawing on cheap brown paper. So I told him later that he was exactly right. It was a Zen exercise. But he thought he was putting me down, because it was mindless.
Q: Yes. And Cage is another influence?
TM: Yeah. I'm mostly interested in artists who invent a new way of seeing. So Leonardo invented automation, Duchamp invented conceptual art, John Cage invented the 'happening,' Joseph Beuys invented the sculpture action, Brancusi invented abstract sculpture, Yves Klein invented invisible art and Picasso invented collage. They all changed the way we see.
TM: My sound art. I did a piece in '96 called Beer Drinking Sonata for Thirteen Players, and I've performed that many times at different places. Thirteen players drink a bottle of beer and after each swig they blow into the bottle. So as it progresses the sounds get lower and lower, because the bottle as it empties has a deeper sound. Then at the end they all blow together three times, like the boat leaving the harbour. So that is a work that has to do with chance, which is what Cage is all about. Then, of course, in the '70s I organised sound shows that I participated in: Sound Sculpture As, Notes and Scores for Sounds for the Home Audience - that was on radio - and One Minute Pieces - by twenty artists. My One Second Sculpture is about sound, too. Everything that has to do with sound for me comes from Cage.
Q: Cage seemed to want to let life into music in order to disrupt the structures by which you identify or understand something to be music. But you seem often to be investing or implying some kind of structure within an activity that otherwise would be indistinguishable from the everyday. So it's almost like you're moving in the opposite direction.
TM: Well, Cage made prints at Crown Point Press - which is upstairs - the same way he wrote music - for like 14 years up until the time he died. I could see him working, because he stayed with us. The amount of work that went into a print that ends up looking like it was just an accident is incredible (laughter). Thousands of hours go into a music composition and also to a print or drawing, figuring out which materials to use and where to place each part and how big it should be and what colour it should be - everything that was determined by chance went through a lot of calculations. And if he didn't like the result he didn't accept it. It wasn't like he just accepted everything.
Q: (Laughs) there's an important aspect of Cage, isn't there, about living in a certain way. That's one of the reasons perhaps why his process is so complicated.
TM: He used to say I'm imitating nature in the manner of her operation – not making a copy of it. And that's what I say my Drawing a Line as Far as I Can Reach. It is making a tree the way a tree grows, not the way a tree looks. I thought of them as trees and the Drum Brush Drawings as birds.
Tom Marioni, Drawing a Line as far as I can Reach (1972). Courtesy: Tom Marioni.
Q: Cage, of course, thought of himself as a Zen Buddhist. Is the influence of Zen or Eastern philosophy important to you?
TM: Well, I'm not a Zen scholar at all. But I live in the Pacific Rim in California and I think it's impossible not to be influenced by Asian ideas and Asian culture. San Francisco is an Asian and European city. I came from the Midwest - and ten years after I came to California I became influenced by Asian culture because I was in a city that was half Asian, practically. Then I went to Japan and China in the '80s and did works there. I did woodblock prints in China and performances in Japan. I'm not a Zen person, but people tell me my work is influenced by it. I think an artist can take credit for anything anybody sees in their work.
Q: (Laughs) that seems reasonable, doesn't it?
Q: Was there a period in which you weren't making objects?
TM: From '68 until around '73. I was just doing action.
Q: And was that a deliberate break from objects?
TM: I consider myself a first generation conceptual artist, because it came about in the late '60s as a movement. I mean, people started at different dates, sometimes '65. Sol LeWitt's Sentences on Conceptual Art (1967) seemed to be a manifesto that begins the movement - officially. Mostly the people that did shows in the period started in '65, so it overlaps with minimal art. Sol LeWitt was a minimal artist who became a conceptual artist. Robert Morris, too. I've evolved in the same way, from minimal art. Minimal art was sculpture that was, in a way, Zen-like: just simple structures which were temples or something like that.
Q: The New York minimalism is rather different, though, isn't it?
TM: We didn't have any minimal art in San Francisco. San Francisco is a city of figurative and expressionistic art and art with angst. It's an old city - I mean, for California it's an old city. It's a whole other culture in LA. In San Francisco it's always been about the body, pretty much. I consider that I'm in the tradition of the figurative artists. That's what my Museum of Conceptual Art was about: body art. The first body art show in the country was in MOCA in 1970. It was video. It was the first video show in California and the first body art show. The idea of body art came out of the Viennese actionists.
Q: Were any of the Viennese actionists at MOCA?
TM: No, but I did get my wife to invite Günter Brus to make etchings. It's the only time he came to this country. It was around 1980.
TM: I didn't return to object-making so much as working with found objects or assembling objects in a way to change their meaning. For instance, a shelf that's filled with empty beer bottles: that's an art object. The Orange County Museum owns one of those pieces - it's 216 bottles of empty bottles of Anchor Steam beer [An Aid to Communication (1979)]. That is an object that wasn't fabricated by me, but it's an art object. That's the difference. So that's like an object that's used before the renaissance, like in a religious way or an architectural way. In '79 I wrote a manifesto that talked about that idea of the artist returning to the object but not as an end in-itself.
Tom Marioni, From China to Czechoslovakia (1976). World map in beer bottles. Courtesy: Tom Marioni.
TM: It's something I was interested in in art school. Then I did a couple of conceptual ideas that resulted in prints. One was a processed print, which I ran like a couple of hundred of pieces of paper through an offset printing press with no image. So the inks built up slowly and then each piece was a little different than the one before it and eventually it was solid ink. I exhibited the entire edition in a gallery so that it became like a filmstrip or a process: it was called Process Print (1970). So the process of making it was evident and explained in the piece. There is an example of an installation that was a print project. I did a print that was a performance - the first one I did with Crown Point Press in '74, where I marked a plate outside of somebody's house. They commissioned me. The plate was scored from the reflection of the sun and then it was printed later in blue, like the afterimage of the sun if you close your eyes. So that was an example of a print that was a performance that results in a print. And then the fact that my wife has a print publishing company [Crown Point Press] means I have the medium available to me. So every couple of years I make some prints, which I've done over the last thirty years. And I'm a graphic artist as much as anything else, too, because drawing is sort of the basis of everything I do, almost everything. But my work is all from a sculptor's point of view.
Tom Marioni, Process Print (1970). Installation for State of Mind (2012, Berkeley Art Museum). Courtesy: Tom Marioni.
Q: I'm interested that you said One Second Sculpture was about the sound.
TM: Well, it's a sculpture that performs itself. It's about making a drawing in space and about the sound - and about the transformation of a circle into an abstract form into a straight line, as it falls to the ground. All that happens in one second. So that was my smartest work (laughter). It's the inside of a metal tape measure. That's the instrument that I used - you can think of it like a musical instrument because it makes a sound. So it's normally a tape measure is used to measure space, and I used it also to measure time. It's about time and space and a lot of things. It's a very simple one-second thing, but it has a lot of layers of meaning to it.
Q: And it's known by its photographic image.
Tom Marioni, One Second Sculpture (1969). Courtesy: Tom Marioni.
Q: Isn't this part of your connection with Cage?
TM: Yeah. And his birthday was a few weeks ago and we had a Cage evening. And a friend of mine did the 4'33" (1952) on this piano here, and then another friend did the radio piece [Imaginary Landscape No.4 (1951)] Radio Piece with a lot of people with different radios. So that was a good evening. My work has changed because I don't want to do the same thing. I'm influenced by Duchamp, who never wanted to repeat himself. I feel the same way. I've done some things more than once, but over time. I think of my Beer with Friends as a work that can continue after I'm dead, that I don't have to be there for. Like 4'33" - where in a way the spirit of Cage is there whenever it's performed. And I hope that my spirit will still be in Beer with Friends if it's presented in a museum according to the plan. That would be something that's always in the present. 4'33" is never dated because it's always about the sounds of the time it's performed in.