Grant Watson: How We Behave

Inspired by an interview with Michel Foucault published in Vanity Fair in 1983, entitled How We Behave, Watson’s long-term project focuses on the central question that Foucault posed in this interview – why can’t life be ‘the material for a work of art?’.

At The Showroom a selection from a series of filmed portraits, taken from Watson’s ongoing research that has seen him conduct more than fifty interviews with individuals in New York, Sao Paulo, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London and Amsterdam, are presented on monitors in the gallery space.

Exploring how people shape their lives– at work, at home, with other people and with the world at large – interviewees reflect on their lives, their relationships to others and how they work on themselves. Subjects are often engaged with fluid, unconventional or experimental life patterns, working across the disciplines of art, theory, teaching and activism, and have been drawn from professional and friendship networks sometimes in collaboration with locally based organisations.

The concern here is not with ‘lifestyle’ or the link between life and art, but with what Foucault considered to be an urgent question for our time – how people make their subjectivity and invent new ways of life and relations to others, as a form of resistance.

Each interview has been carried out in the same way with a group of three interviewers, a stenographer and the interviewee. A series of questions concerning details of the subject’s life produced observations on behaviors and habits, exercises and techniques, emotional processes, economic circumstance, ethical dilemmas, politics and poetics.

Each interview was transcribed and edited before a selection of transcriptions was made and developed further in collaboration with interviewees and pared down to shorter texts. These texts were then used as the basis for a second filmed interview in which participants were asked to revisit the first interview in a part-scripted, part-improvised presentation for the camera.

First Phase Interviewees:

New York: Omar Andrade, Jessica Applebaum, Gregg Bordowitz, AA Bronson, Pascale Gatzen, Robert Greene, Larissa Harris, Martha Rosler, Carolina Ramos, Violeta Sanches and Leo Bersani.

Sao Paulo: Rafael Adaime, Alexandre Dos Anjos, Fernanda Boouchat, Suzy Capro, Daniela Castro, Daniel Fagundes, Mauricio Fernandes, Mauricio Ianes, Neka, Peter Pal Pelbart, Rosane Preciosa, Suely Rolnik and Marta Soares.

Amsterdam: Jan van Adrichem, Melanie Bonajo, Binna Choi, Yael Davids, SherDoruff, Dirk van der Heuvel, Jacob Korczynski, Matthew Luts Kinoy and Joke Robaard.

Los Angeles: Elisabeth Blainey, Michelle Dizon, Caribbean Fragoza, Romeo Guzman, Hans Kuzmich, Mary Kelly, Dont Rhine, Frances Stark, A.L. Steiner, Leonardo Vichis and Sylvere Lotringer.

San Francisco: Randy Alfred, Nicole Archer, Peter Berlin, Mike Kuchar, Kirk Read, Morris Taylor and Paul Rabinow.

A second phase of interviews begins in September 2015 with people living in London and Mumbai. Initially fifty interviews will be made across the two cities, to result in a series of short films that will join this ever-growing archive of ‘life practice’ and reflection on contemporary subjectivity.

The first phase of How We Behave was commissioned by If I Cant Dance I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution, and supported by Mondriaan Fund and the Arts Council of England.

Phase two is developed in collaboration with The Showroom and If I Cant Dance I Don’t Want To Be Part Of Your Revolution. Additional support has come from Nottingham Contemporary, Wysing Arts Centre, The Wattis Institute, The Kitchen, Casa de Povo, GuestHaus Residency, Human Resources and Nucleo de Estudos da Subjectividade (PUC-SP).


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