On the Left Front of Art: An Interview and Counter-Interview with the Anarchist Performance Artist Kalan Sherrard

The following interview with Kalan Sherrard, the 23-year-old self-described “anarcho-naïvist” performance artist originally hailing from Seattle, took place over the course of a series of e-mails exchanged for a few weeks between myself and Sherrard last month. I first encountered Mr. Sherrard outside the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, where he was going through one of his set interactive pieces entitled “Discourse on the Other.” Recognizing that this probably in some way related to the Levinasian/Derridean vein of recent French theory, I approached him with questions regarding his vocation as a leftist artist, whereupon he referred me to his official website, The Enormous Face. From there I set up a correspondence with Sherrard, the fruit of which is the interview (and counter-interview) that is reproduced below.

It is my hope that this engagement will form a part of an ongoing occasional series of interviews/intersections with parts of the artistic Left, both Marxist and non-Marxist alike. My intention is to problematize the political aspects of the artist’s relationship to himself, to his work, and to his world. In these ways do I believe that I can challenge the politics of the artist through an ethical, logical, and pathical examination of their existence, in keeping with the Aristotelian rhetorical schema of ethos/logos/pathos. I aim to encourage the subjects with whom I’ll be dealing to understand themselves at a critical and historical level, in order that they might situate themselves more properly to the various discourses and practices in which they take part.

It is my personal belief that contemporary art stands at an historical impasse, especially in its expression of politics. As the opportunities for revolutionary political change have dwindled, so have the prospects for genuinely revolutionary artistic innovation. Increasingly, art has struggled to deal with its own incoherence, an incoherence which has arisen historically in proportion to the incoherence of the social order out of which it has emerged. Art and politics, which have for so long struggled in common with the utopian business of imagining another world (different from our own), have arrived at a point at which they have become untethered from the transcendental basis of their own possibility. These problems of contemporary art, and especially contemporary political art, I intend to elicit through my interviews.

With respect to the present interview specifically, I should like to highlight several of its peculiarities. First of all, I would like to make clear that Mr. Sherrard, upon receiving my interview questions, proposed that he should write his own meta-interview questions to me, in an attempt to interview the interviewer. This I happily agreed to, though I will hardly be making this a standard practice or general requirement of my inquiries going ahead. Second, I have chosen to leave Mr. Sherrard’s written answers in the form in which I received them, rather than polish them up as for a more formal publication. I feel that their jagged character reflects the quasi-academic, schizoid, and confused nature of his answers in all their original urgency. I am not sure as yet if I will make this a broader policy of my interviews or if it will be observed only in certain instances. Either way, this is the form in which the interview (and counter-interview) will be published for now.

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