So, you were in the –what year was the “Black Male” show? Ninety-four?
That was just ok.
But was that the first major show you were included in? Like, maybe the biggest show at that time for you?
Why do you think that show was just ok? I mean, do you mean it was that way for you, or are you saying the show as a whole was just ok?
I got some good reviews, like Christian Haye wrote a really good piece for me in The Frieze. I forgot the name of the Times guy who compared me to Jeff Koons, which didn’t make any sense at all.
I think that would have been a compliment then at that time.
Oh, I don’t think it was…!
No? Oh, okay, sorry!
I was in Cleveland, at the time, and the show was about black masculinity as subject matter, or something like that. I made those funky pieces of end tables – have you seen those things?
I’ve seen pictures of them.
I mean, it’s interesting because that show and the 1993 Whitney Biennial are all often seen as these two signature shows of the early ‘90s, two of the biggest moments of identity politics in the art world.
Yeah, it was kind of exciting and boring.
Well, yeah for sure there was a lot of identity politics art that was pedantic or reductive, and people felt so at the time. But I remember it could also be very exciting, like it was changing the parameters of art. Nowadays I think about how it was a way in which things that weren’t being talked about in art could be brought into it. A framework to talk about things that had been marginalized prior to that, and bring them to the center of the conversation.
Yeah, yeah, I came out in 1990, so…
What do you think about that -- the way in which, at one point, identity politics was the framework to talk about race in art. What’s happened since then? Do we even have a framework anymore? Or is everybody on their own?
Everybody’s on they’re own, man. I’ve always been on my own. I think I was always like, I would ride the wave but I wasn’t doing that kind of shit, wasn’t making that kind of work, where I was going to tell white folks, ‘Hi, we’re black people! Hi, look white folks, I’m black!’ You know?
When I came out of school in the ‘90’s I was trying to create my own language. I think a lot of us were trying to develop a language. A formal language and a language to try to talk about what was going on.
I felt that identity politics seems liberating at first, but then it almost becomes something enforced, like ‘You must speak for your identity,’ you know?
For me, other people speak for me about identity, not me. It’s for critics to discuss. Does that make sense? I’ve made over 80 films and maybe all of them but four don’t have black people in them. That’s not what I think about in the morning. For me it’s all form and stuff. It’s about how to make an interesting art object by using these elements.