A Conversation between Isabelle Graw and Avery Singer
ISABELLE GRAW: I would like to start our conversation with the rather captivating title of your show, ‘Reality Ender.’ I was asking myself if something as charged and overdetermined as reality can ever end? And can paintings, in particular, have the power to end it? For me, this title, in a tongue-in-cheek way, overestimates painting’s potential while making a problematic finalist claim. Because in reality nothing ever ends – this is true in particular for the history of your own work, where we encounter breaks and continuities existing side-by-side. Why did you opt for this finalist-sounding title?
AVERY SINGER: I was actually aiming more at a kind of ‘banalization' with this title. It sounds very dramatic – it's a very ominous title, actually. But it also triggers quite banal associations: From video games, to postmodern neologistic concepts, to altered states of consciousness etc. These multiple associations, when juxtaposed, end up producing a ‘banalization’ of meaning. There are themes in the show about conducting lived experiences virtually. We often hear complaints of people feeling culturally disconnected. I want to highlight that, and I also want to point to a disconnect through altered states of mind, which come about through the heavy use of drugs and alcohol. ‘Reality Ender’ also points to something like an alcoholic blackout.
GRAW: It is through its overdrawn claim to end reality that the title also makes it very clear that we are not supposed to take it literally. At the same time, it toys with the idea of a reality ending with this show – maybe even the reality of you as a young successful painter. There is a tongue-in-cheek possibility of something collapsing also evoked in the paintings. What you just referred to – alcohol and also drugs – are visual leitmotifs in them. I am thinking of the depiction of alcoholic beverages and images of drunk women in ‘Sculptor & Robespierre (White Claw Drone Attack),’ or in ‘Sculptors & Robespierre (Bird Bar/Slept Café).’ Do you want to depict alcohol and drugs as a productive force in the art world, considering how they often enable interactions and exchanges that would otherwise be quite tense? At the same time, excessive drinking can become quite destructive;
it can literally operate as a ‘reality ender,’ as when it allows for a flight from reality or for dysfunctional behavior. Are you pointing to these equally enabling and destructive aspects of alcohol?
SINGER: Yes, the theme of destruction is important. Another reference embedded in the title, is a 3D printing system called ‘Creality Ender‘. We can laugh at the name, but this 3D printer is actually how people, especially in the alt-right anarchist community in the United States, are able to 3D print automatic weapons for under $200. ‘C/Reality Ender’ points to the phenomenon of mass shootings within the United States, and also the genocides we, as a nation, have perpetrated internally and abroad. You can also find military drones in some of the paintings. So these themes of destruction, 3D-printed weapons, and a disconnect from reality via inebriation, all come in to play. I also see it as a way for me to work through my experience as a 9/11 survivor, and the devastation I saw that day and in the weeks following. It expresses a distrust and skepticism I had of the United States government following 9/11. It was a harsh reality for me as a 14-year old to come to terms with: surviving a massive terrorist attack, experiencing homelessness and displacement following that, and being lied to by the government and media outlets about Iraq having nuclear weapons capabilities as a justification for military invasion. Osama Bin Laden had easily and safely set up a compound in Pakistan while our military forces mercilessly killed innocent civilians in Afghanistan. Alongside that, the theme of inebriation is present in a lot of my work – it only appears differently in these new paintings because it’s a different type of imagery. I’ve always painted baubles and glassware and visual cues that would make you think of a social setting for drinking. There’s actually a lot of signals of isolated drinking as well. A couple of years ago I was talking to an artist friend of mine on the phone because I was really distraught. I remember telling her: ‘I can’t stop thinking about what alcohol looks like! I think about what alcohol looks like all day, and I can’t stop my brain from going there, I can’t stop fantasizing about it. In fact, when I go to sleep, I have dreams about glimmering alcoholic beverages. And I look at them and I stare
at them and I fetishize them endlessly. I feel like I’m losing my mind.’ She gave me some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten. She said: ‘Avery, all you have to do is paint what you’re obsessed with. You should just work with your obsessions.’ So, instead of trying to repress my obsession, I started to embrace it by looking at alcohol as a romantic visual icon in my work.
GRAW: I realize now why pistols and guns appear in the Robespierre-paintings: While pointing to the Robespierre legend (he was assumed to be a shot and wounded man), they also function as an allegory for the militarization of U.S. politics and how its violence affects our social conditions. It’s funny to hear you tell the story about your obsession with alcohol because, when looking at your new paintings, I was thinking of exorcism in the sense of a religious ritual that aims at getting rid of something that deeply obsesses and tortures us. Their surfaces show traces of destructive impulses – violent scratches, harshly sprayed or wiped-out zones. But next to this rhetorics of rage there are instances of fetishization. In ‘Sculptor & Robespierre (White Claw Drone Attack),’ for instance, the liquid is depicted in a way that reminded me of the ‘Easyfun-Ethereal’ series of Jeff Koons from the early two thousands, which is also full of quite fetishistic and sexualized depictions of liquid. There are visual elements from your former works taken up, such as grids that evoke three dimensional spaces, tubes or figures that collapse into abstract zones, the theme of ‘Happening.’ But at the same time your former methods seem to deliberately collapse in the paintings. In ‘Sculptor & Robespierre (White Claw Drone Attack),’ for instance, we encounter the photographic side view of a face of a male-looking figure who seems to be getting his last drink before crucifixion. Considering that this figure shows his tongue and his bad teeth and considering that his face appears to have been disfigured in manifold ways he seems to be getting his last drink before death.
SINGER: My last studio in the Bronx was next to a famous cabaret, and they would have special nights where bartenders would pour green liquor directly into the mouths
of patrons. The advertisements were very evocative of taking Holy Communion, but with something resembling absinthe. I wondered if people looking at the ads also saw that or if they were just seeing a kind of emancipatory good time. There’s a lot going on in this painting you just described. We have two faces that look shocked or scared. They look dumb and expressionless to me as well, which results from the artificial nature of the program in which they were created. I mean, this is a video game character-modeling software, and there’s something weird with it. We can do these high-definition images of people, but they lack the spark of human life. I think that this really translates into how deadpan he looks. He actually looks kind of dead.
GRAW: Like an empty vessel. SINGER: Yes. GRAW: An empty vessel with his flesh torn apart and scribbled over. It looks as if someone has opened him up. There is not much substance left to this character. Many of the male-looking figures that appear in your new works have been titled ‘Robespierre.’ Now, Robespierre was a rather ambivalent figure: leading politician of the Jacobins, initiator of the so-called Reign of Terror, member of the Committee of Public Safety, which was responsible for thousands of executions, but also someone who fought for the freedom of the press, for ending slavery, and for abolishing death penalty. He was beheaded himself in 1794. Are you interested in him as maybe a precursor of today’s social warriors who – despite the legitimacy of their request – can appear to be quite dogmatic and occasionally even violent or do you see him, simultaneously, as a forerunner of current populist right-wing leaders? I’m wondering what attracted you to Robespierre, of all people?
SINGER: I had actually kind of forgotten about him as a historical figure and wasn’t really thinking about him for a long time until I encountered him in a video game called ‘Assassin’s Creed.’ In the game, he’s shot in the jaw, and a friend of mine had sent me some images from that
scene. I looked more deeply into the video game and unconsciously latched onto him. I don’t really know why. I just felt compelled to use him as a character. At some point it occurred to me that I was just basically pulverizing him and adding scars and blood and pus and tattoos and cuts into his skin as I worked with him. And then I realized he had become a kind of voodoo doll for Trump for me. Having complete safety and autonomy in what I do with this software, I was able to beat the living hell out of him, while doing no harm to anyone. This was my way of exorcising my enormous frustration with the political climate in this country. Things were unraveling, especially last year. This goes back to what we were saying about exorcism. I was effectively exorcising my political frustrations with Trump via this character, but I was not aware of it until the very end of Trump’s presidency. When Trump lost the election, my obsession with using Robespierre was almost entirely alleviated. With Trump banned from social media and out of office, I haven’t found myself using Robespierre as much, especially since I finished the ‘Edgelord’ painting.
GRAW: When looking at ‘Edgelord,’ which also depicts Robespierre’s face as something that has been defaced and overshadowed in manifold ways – scribbled upon, annihilated, partly darkened, used as background for graffiti marks, etc. – I started to think of this painting as an allegory for male dominance. A male dominance that you rage against. Now, rage against male dominance has been acted out by many female artists in different formal registers – say, from Joan Mitchell to Nicole Eisenman. And the articulation of one’s outrage and indignation has, of course, been a very important artistic strategy of the left since Zola wrote ‘J’Accuse…!’ in 1898. But the success of this articulated outrage depends on the forms and gestures it uses — its tone of voice, whether it’s self-reflective or not, whether it acknowledges its own situatedness. How you would describe the forms and gestures that you used in order to express your indignation and outrage?
SINGER: I essentially carved into Robespierre’s flesh. My initials have been included, along with teardrops and
other faces that are screaming in pain or depicted in some highly emotive state, like they’re being tortured or something. I added the wounds coming out of his mouth because the story goes that before he died, he had already been shot in the jaw. It’s not really certain if it was a suicide attempt or an assassination attempt. And when he went to the guillotine, they actually had to take the bandage off his jaw so that his head could fit through. Very gory. Even in ‘Edgelord,’ in the secondary imagery, which is all applied in rubber, there are illustrations of someone who looks like him in a guillotine. There is also a woman being beheaded by a guy with a sword. And there’s Martin Luther, hammering his theses.
GRAW: Oh, so this guy with a hammer who appears on Robespierre’s cheek in ‘Edgelord; is Luther? I didn’t recognize him!
SINGER: He’s hammering his theses onto Robespierre’s face. What I did in the software was magnify the skin detail. It became a formal way for me to deal with color variations. The scars are more red than the flesh tone, and they allowed me to engage in color exploration. It was interesting for me to think, ‘Oh, I can add imagery, detail and color through depicting scars on a person’s face and painting in this hyper-realized video game software.’ Even just spending that much time coming up with material for the skin of a character in a painting is an interesting proposition, because usually, my figures end up being idealized or simplified, and you don’t have an opportunity to go down these paths with painting. This usually has a lot to do with the size of the brush and the way paint is typically applied. But in this case, a lot of the paint is actually sprayed robotically. I get this opportunity to explore detail and really get into it. Over all, my work tends to have a lot of tiny little details, even the ones that I do by hand with airbrush.
GRAW: Opting for details is a way of underlining the importance of specificity. One could say that your Robespierre paintings focus on ‘problematic’ or ‘evil’ male individuals rather than on those social structures that have produced, enabled or justified their behavior. To concentrate on individual
perpetrators, say from Epstein to Strauss-Kahn, has been the strategy of the #MeToo movement. While it is indispensable to point to the individual dimension of sexism – how it gets embodied and acted out by some – there is a danger that has often been mentioned of losing sight of structural sexism. I was thinking about ‘Robespierre (assassination)’ in this respect. For me, this painting manages to point to the structure while focusing on an individual male figure. The depicted male figure seems present and withdrawn because it is partly obscured behind a bar-like structure. And there is blue ink or blood covering (and thus cancelling) parts of his face, referring to Robespierre’s famous wound that you just mentioned. On the side of his face there is a signature tattoo, which says John Hancock. So by introducing another individual here via the signature – John Hancock, the first signer of the Declaration of Independence, known for his excessively large handwriting, a man also often described as a populist – you make sure that more than one man gets evoked in this painting. One could even go further and say that Hancock’s signature, as it stands for any signature, opens the particularity of this scene and makes it more universal. The Hancock signature allows you to focus on individual perpetrators while pointing to overarching structures.
SINGER: I think that highlighting an individual who’s known for having an oversize signature is, in a way, pointing to malignant narcissism. That’s another theme that is very present in my work. Artists are often characterized as being very narcissistic individuals in our culture. It’s a self-portrait of the artist as a malignant narcissist.
GRAW: Yes, but the signature in art is also the place where a physical bond is created between the unique art work and her singular maker. By importing another signature into your painting there is a kind of meta reflection on signatures that is going on. It is your own signature as well that gets evoked in Hancock’s oversized signature. I must admit to you that as a young woman I also had a very, very big signature, and it would be sad if this means that I was a hopelessness narcissist!
SINGER: I have a really oversized signature, too, and people always point it out to me. They’re like, ‘Wow, you just took up the whole page.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, yeah, it’s fun. This is how I sign my name.’
GRAW: So we have that in common! Maybe we can talk more about the tension between individual male figures and a misogynist structure called patriarchy that runs through all the Robespierre paintings. When I first saw them I thought ‘This is Avery’s answer to De Kooning’s woman series.’ Because De Kooning also de-individualized his targets, if only due to his serial procedure. And there’s a dynamic in his paintings as well that oscillates between worship and the desire for annihilation. While the worship part seems less pronounced in your paintings, its seems no coincidence that there is one painting which shows, again, an empty-looking male face covered with aggressive scratch-like graffiti marks and lots of splattering and it is called ‘Expressionism.’
SINGER: Well, in my first body of work, which was in black and white, there really wasn’t a gender being ascribed to the figures. There are a lot of things not happening in those paintings — there’s no color, there’s no gender, and there’s no location.
GRAW: Are the figures in the new paintings not gendered either? Did I just project a (white heterosexual) male identity onto these faces?
SINGER: No, these do appear male and I feel that they are, because Robespierre identified as male in his life. My last paintings, though, didn’t utilize gender identification. The figures are gender neutral, because I never felt resolved on how to use explicit gender identities as a leading subject in a painting. I believe that if I tried, I would get lost in how to depict it and then the right painting wouldn’t come out of me because I’d be too critical of the subject and not the painterly application. Whether these new paintings reflect weaknesses, insufficiencies, or clichés about representing genders can actually point to some interesting problems.
GRAW: Since the faces are treated in a way that deindividualizes them, they could be perceived as stand-ins for a kind of residual leftover human being. Maybe my reading of them as addressing patriarchal structures is a projection that’s triggered by their Robespierre-titles?
SINGER: My post-facto realization that I had constructed a Trump voodoo-doll in Robespierre is indicative of some kind of unconscious fixation on patriarchy. Maybe it hasn’t been able to reach my prefrontal cortex yet, but it’s in there. The question of gender, in this day and age, and the problem of how to represent it, has really exploded recently. We have so many different postgenderism discourses in art and critical theory. In a more theoretical context, I feel somewhat insufficient in what I could bring to the subject, because I’m currently not academically steeped enough in it. But I hope I have the potential to bring something to that conversation.
GRAW: What you bring to the conversation may have something to do with the way you use liquid rubber. You use it as a masking solution in a lot of these paintings. And due to the liquid rubber, part of the imagery seems foggy or removed – as if the figure got dis-identified. It’s not that the image withdraws by itself. It is the artist who has visibly, and at times quite violently, introduced negativity into these paintings via liquid rubber. I thought of other artistic procedures that import negativity into paintings: the wounded surfaces in some of Jack Whitten’s memorial paintings, Charline von Heyl’s negative spaces or Albert Oehlen’s foggy, retreating areas,which seem to be his way of spoiling the viewer’s desire for a positive aesthetic experience. But once a painter withdraws whole areas – as you do with liquid rubber – traces of artistic labor come to the foreground. And this is why painting has a specific valueform – at least according to my theory of the vitalist economy of painting. So introducing negativity can be – while undermining the sense of a positively given image – good for the process of value creation.
SINGER: Okay, but now I have a question for you: Do you think of the rubber as a vitalistic gesture? Does it produce vitalistic fantasies in the painting?
GRAW: [Laughing]. I would say that the liquid rubber – when considered as a material that visibly traces artistic labor – allows for the sensation of the painter’s ghostlike presence in her work, even though she’s, of course, absent. So, in that sense, the rubber can trigger vitalistic fantasies. But since it also partly covers, hides or damages the surface, it gets in the way of vitalistic fantasies as well. Both scenarios are possible.
SINGER: For me, the use of rubber is about introducing a space of failure into the painting, because this type of expressionistic mark making, if painted by someone who’s young and active today, reads as a super-romanticized gesture. We associate such gestures with artistic failure because at this point they are considered non-innovative. The type of painting that results from these gestures doesn’t produce a new meaning or a new idea if utilized today, compared to the way it would have 80 years ago. Back then, the meaning production of such gestures would have been way higher. By introducing this gestural effect I am setting up an arena where the painting can really fail if it’s unaware and jejune. I associate these gestures with paintings that I often don’t like. This is true for the layers of robotic airbrushing as well – they often result in paintings that I don’t like it at all. So, I had to figure out the alchemy of this question: How many things that are bad or uninteresting on their own can, when put together, start to produce something meaningful? And why? And how? I can’t really tell you. It’s not that it’s ‘bad painting.’ There is no ‘bad painting’ happening in here because it’s still hyper realized. I was having a conversation with an artist friend about this recently. I was like, ‘You have to let the liquidness of your material speak for itself somehow, because it’s getting lost. You can’t really tell where it could go wrong anymore.’ And then how do you start to bring these things back into a hyper realized artwork? It’s a really interesting problem to have. I’ve had this happen with my printer before, where I’ve printed something
that I thought would be fantastic and it just falls flat. It’s just a super banal image, and the result is something I can’t show. But that’s where the painting begins, when you have to figure out: How do I start bringing this into producing meaning for my audience and for me?
GRAW: One could also say that by embracing gestures that seem to ignore the lessons of the conceptual turn of the 1960s and by allowing for the possibility of failure you aim for a process that is unsure of its outcome, open ended and questionable. I’m thinking of one painting of yours in this respect which I especially like, called ‘Sensory Deprivation Tank (sad face),’ made in 2018. It is a painting that announces its deprivation strategy right in the title: We will not get sensory satisfaction by it. And in the midst of its dark- and light-blue grid structure, we detect the outline and morphology of a head, a head that, again, doesn’t get specified gender-wise and remains somewhat abstract. It’s supposed ‘sad face’ gets illustrated by excessive drippings. It’s a painting that avoids seemingly ‘expressive’ gestures while demonstrating expression being the effect of a rhetoric.
SINGER: I’m trying to think of an alternate title for that painting. Maybe: ‘Sensory Over-Fulfillment Tank (happy face).’ I mean, it would be a totally different painting. I actually don’t think we go to look at paintings to feel happy. Maybe some people do and that’s great for them. But we go to paintings for a different type of experience, different feelings, for mixed emotions and sensations. The title of that painting points to being deprived of happiness and to being deprived even of sensation.
GRAW: It also deprives us of something that can be figured out, because its figure morphs into abstraction. Due to the limitation of its chromatic spectrum, it restrains from producing vitalist effects via color. It reminded me of Duchamp’s ‘Jeune Homme Triste Dansun Train‘ (1911-12) because of its title claiming an emotional state that is not necessarily confirmed in the painting.
SINGER: This painting actually has four colors! It has a really, really dark blue. It has white. It has a greenish white, and it has a lavender that has a sparkly powder pigment in it, which is really lightly dusted on the areas where the shadows are falling in order to give it a more ethereal kind of look. You can’t tell this latter color is present by the naked eye. You would have to be informed.
GRAW: I should’ve seen it live. This sparkly pigment was impossible to see in the photograph.
SINGER: That painting is in New York because I made it for a show [‘Bubble Revision,’ Miguel Abreu Gallery, 2018] that I did with two other artists in which we satirized luxury urban development in New York City by creating an openair luxury toilet pavilion as a kind of proposal for public space, like Hudson Yards or Williamsburg. It had a bunch of aquatic environments that were all on view to anyone in the park. It’s stuff like going to the toilet, taking a shower, being humiliated, playing with your dog, listening to a DJ set, all of these weird things. That painting came out of that project. We made a giant sensory deprivation tank in the toilet complex that multiple people could be in. In an actual sensory deprivation tank, you are supposed to go alone, because you’re being deprived of your senses. In this one, it’s like a stadium experience. You lie in there with hundreds of people and you don’t have your senses deprived. For the painting, I made a geometric space in the sensory deprivation tank, and I had a shower-glass condensation effect. When I was beginning to think about using liquid rubber, that was my first idea for it, actually, to depict what liquid looks like in a painting. Since then, I’ve been using it in different ways to interfere between layers.
GRAW: I was struck in particular by your photographic looking ‘Self-portrait (summer 2018),’ where your figure looks blurred and foggy as well, as if appearing from another world. You seem to point to the viewer with your finger, while standing in front of a wall that is, again, covered with graffiti and sprayed marks, the obligatory drinks and glasses, plus a male figure with a cellphone. I especially noted how your
dress takes up your visual vocabulary. It is covered with scratches, as if you became one with your work. You also seem to move toward the viewer as if to demonstrate how artists are expected to show up in the current economy. SoiL Thornton talked about this in a recent lecture – how to deal with this expectation and the projections that result from it.
SINGER: That painting also comes from the collaborative exhibition I just mentioned. The background is actually a view of the toilet pavilion. In it, I’m standing in one of the public showers and I’m doodling on the glass of the shower.
GRAW: So, you’re not pointing at the viewer with your finger? SINGER: In the painting, I’m running my finger along the surface of the glass. But it does look like that. It was a funny painting to make. My friend who was also in the show said to me, ‘Avery, you should make a self- portrait if you’re into trying something new, and then do that every time you enter a new phase or a new body of work.’ I thought that was such a great idea. So I thought: ‘Okay, I’ll make a selfportrait in this virtual model, but what should I be doing? Oh, I should be illustrating my use of rubber as a painting material.’ So that’s what I tried to do with the painting. And then there’s bathroom graffiti in the background because I’m in a bathroom.
GRAW: You use a lot of graffiti-marks in your new works. Graffiti could be considered as a visual language that links individual mark-making to social spaces. It’s an individual form of expression that is equally social and collective.
SINGER: Growing up in New York City, I was always surrounded by graffiti. I think it has left an indelible mark on me. It also has connections with spraying with an airbrush and an air gun. Someone else pointed out to me recently that I use the language of graffiti. And I was like, ‘Well, it’s not really graffiti, because I’m not tagging a subway car.’ I see a clear distinction. I’m not in public spaces making graffiti. I’m in my private world in my studio.
GRAW: You use graffiti as an aesthetic language without political or underground claims. It’s not like Banksy.
SINGER: I really think it’s a product of growing up in a city where graffiti was born and living around it. My school yard, my building, everything was covered in graffiti when I was a kid. I remember staring at graffiti for hours, seeing new graffiti come up and old graffiti get covered up by the new.
GRAW: But to use graffiti also implies a certain preference for linguistic propositions. We find a lot of words, memes and signs of all kinds in your new work. I was looking at ‘China Chalet,’ in this respect. On the one hand it reminded me of Picabia’s famous painting ‘The Cacodylic Eye’ , made by asking his friends to leave marks and signatures and traces on the canvas. It’s Picabia’s, but it’s also a portrait of a collective scene. For me ‘China Chalet’ also portrays social rituals, because there’s a table with a white tablecloth, girls, wine stains and, again, alcohol. There are also many scribbles. Others seem to have left their marks, plus your own signature, AKS. You appear as the maker of this image but also as a figure that appears in it. The whole scene gets somewhat overpainted by black strokes. The things displayed on the table look like debris, relics of a pre-pandemic time when social life was still possible. Inserting your signature into it is a way of saying: ‘I’m not alone. I’m part of a social fabric that made me, and that contributes to who I am and to what I do.’
SINGER: That painting is named after a club that I frequented in my twenties. It closed during the pandemic. The painting represents the end of an era of partying downtown. I wanted to memorialize it in a work. You could still smoke inside that club, even though it was banned in regular places. You’d walk in and people would be sitting at tables with white tablecloths, smoking and spilling things on the white fabric,staining them. I wanted an image of a white tablecloth with drugs and alcohol, even human feces on it. There are iPhones and iPads, whippets, pills, JUUL pods, and bongs. There’s a woman passed out on a table. There’s a pregnant woman leaning on a White Claw can,
her belly bursting through her jeans. She’s heavily pregnant, holding her head like she’s got a hangover headache.
GRAW: This painting is a memento mori of how all kinds of social transgressions were celebrated in prepandemic bohemia.
SINGER: The ‘White Claw‘ beverages that are depicted – no one would have ever had them at that club, because it wasn’t served there. But now is the time of White Claw. It’s what I see everyone drinking. I took the can and I started giving it flavors from Robespierre’s time, which I thought would be kind of humorous, to see an 18th-century variety-pack of flavors, flavors you wouldn’t encounter today. I even put my signature on one of the poppers, the recreational drug. This painting has about 25 layers and was really crazy to make. It took a very long time.
GRAW: It shows how you’re not excepting yourself from this social scene. It’s a scene you are implicated in, but you are also the one who memorializes it now. Introducing your initials into this painting is also a way to reflect on the importance of a singular ‘unique’ author for the monetary and symbolic value of paintings. And drugs are also essential for our social universe: It’s hard to imagine an art world without these helpers.
SINGER: It would be super interesting to imagine the world without drugs and alcohol. I think about that a lot, actually. What would it look like? Basically just a lot of repressed people walking around with social anxiety and no outlet.
GRAW: Well, as someone, who doesn’t drink I can tell you that if you go to things like openings, it’s quite good in some respects because you can remember what happened and you can analyze it. But it also gets very boring.
SINGER: It gets very boring indeed. GRAW : You just go home quite early.
SINGER: I have that experience all the time because I also don’t drink. I have this feeling: ‘Okay, I’m around very drunk people, and now they’re going to start to repeat themselves, and someone’s going to fall over, and I’m incredibly bored and I’d rather just go home and sleep so that I can wake up in the morning and read something that’s more interesting.’
GRAW: But I don’t perceive you as a repressed person! SINGER: I think we all are repressed to a certain degree. Culture itself breeds repression. I don’t know why. It’s just a fact. There’s always something to be repressed over.
GRAW: But refusing to drink (like myself) can also be a way of staying in control. You don’t want to lose control. You don’t want to deliver yourself to an unpredictable situation. Of course, this idea of control is a fantasy as well because we can’t get life under control.
SINGER: A friend of mine, who’s an artist, told me that drinking is about control, which I thought was interesting. She said, ‘You’re going to get the same thing out of it every time. And you can’t really say the same thing about sober reality.’
GRAW: So life becomes more controllable and predictable when drinking?
SINGER: Yes. Drinking provides a more predictable experience than dealing with reality sober.
Hauser & Wirth 542 West 22nd Street New York NY 10011 +1 212 790 3900 32 East 69th Street New York NY 10021 +1 212 794 4970