Pop Culture
Jun 29, 2022, 06:28AM

I Think Everything Starts From Fear

A 2021 New England Review interview with poet Matthew Olzmann vs a 2017 Art In America interview with artist Nancy Shaver.

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Matthew Olzmann: How do these things fit together? What kind of order makes sense? Since anything could be included, what actually should be included?

Nancy Shaver: I think everything starts from fear.

Olzmann: It can entertain, comfort, or attack.

Shaver: No, not really. Which means I go buying things.

Olzmann: That’s probably how it should be, though.


Shaver: Duchamp said, “Taste can’t help you understand what art can be.” In Hudson there are all these shops selling good taste to New Yorkers; I’m not interested in doing that, which makes me not a good business person.

Olzmann: Shklovsky said, “Art exists in order to restore the sensation of life, in order to make us feel things, in order to make a stone stony. The goal of art is to create the sensation of seeing, and not merely recognizing, things…”

Shaver: The things I sell at Henry are real objects in that way.

Olzmann: The part where the focus narrows to the individual was added sometime later in revision.

Shaver: I wanted to collapse both the spatial and hierarchical differences. I wanted both elements to be equal. I didn’t want it to be about anything except the shirt and the background. I didn’t want it to be about the light. And then it was so confounding an experience in the present.


Olzmann: Those are the moments that feel like you’re walking onto a stage believing you’re going to be David Bowie, then you suddenly realize you’re actually in a cover band—and not a particularly good one at that—badly imitating the thing you thought you were.

Shaver: It’s surreal in a certain way, because who would ever think that was ordinary?

Olzmann: That’s not a manifesto.

Shaver: But it was an accident at first. [Laughs] That wasn’t always visible.

Olzmann: You thought you were looking at a stone, but you didn’t really see the stone, and now you do.


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