Oral history interview with Bernar Venet, 1968 Jan. 23- May 18

Venet, Bernar , b. 1941

Size: Sound recording: 2 sound tape reels ; 7 in.
Transcript, in French: 18 p.
Transcript, in English: 17 p.

Format: Sound quality is poor.
Label on reel container for May 1968 is identified as Arman; upon review by Arman's daughter, it was revealed not to be her father, and this was confirmed by an audit with another Arman recording held by the Archives. In addition, once transcribed, the transcription revealed this was an interview with Bernar Venet. Date is not articulated during the interview and has been assigned May 18 based on the identification on label associated with Arman.

Collection Summary: An interview of Bernar Venet conducted 1968 Jan. 23 and May 18 by Sevim Fesci, for the Archives of American Art.

Venet speaks of being a teacher at UCLA; his relationship with students; methods of teaching; comparison with European art training; grading; discovery of young artists; definition of art; ideas for arts in the future; experiments in group art; and POP art.

Biographical/Historical Note: Bernar Venet (1941- ) is an art instructor from Los Angeles, Calif.

This interview is part of the Archives' Oral History Program, started in 1958 to document the history of the visual arts in the United States, primarily through interviews with artists, historians, dealers, critics and others.

How to Use this Interview

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  • The transcript of this interview is in the public domain and may be used without permission. Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Bernar Venet, 1968 Jan. 23- May 18, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
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Interview Transcript

This transcript is in the public domain and may be used without permission. Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Bernar Venet, 1968 Jan. 23- May 18, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Interview with Bernar Venet
Conducted by Sevim Fesci
May 18, 1968


The following oral history transcript is the result of a tape-recorded interview with Bernar Venet on January 23 and May 18, 1968. The interview was conducted by Sevim Fesci for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

The reader should bear in mind that he or she is reading a transcript of spoken, rather than written, prose.  This is a rough transcription that may include typographical errors.


January 23, 1968

May 18, 1968

January 23, 1968


SF: Maybe you can talk a little bit about your experience as an art teacher in Los Angeles.

BV: Yes, I was hired by UCLA to teach painting during two quarters.  They wanted the, the complete academical year but I couldn’t because of the show here and so forth.  And it has been a very interesting and very stimulating experimentation.  And I discovered with amazement and deep interest, academical system, American system of universities.  Yet it is very interesting because it’s quite free and with so many painters not so rigid.

SF: Free?

BV: Free, yes.  Not so rigid and so stiff as the European - German, and French systems.  And I guess it’s quite efficient.  I’ve been amazed because really when I was hired to teach painting, and the first time I faced the class of 27, I was really a little bit annoyed because I had the impression that technically, as painters, they were students who had three years of university and I had some graduates too, that I had nothing to teach them, technically.  They were maybe technically better than me. And very quickly I decided for the two quarters I was going to spend there, there will be not any kind of technical teaching.  Sometimes, yes, if a student asked me a specific question about style or balance of one painting or one sculpture work he did, I answered about it, this I could.  But I decided to have a kind of game, ludic you could say, a game, a stimulating game relationship with my students.

SF: A kind of challenge you mean?

BV: No, a game. Like we decided to make games, I decided.  For instance I started with some “Cadavre d’exquis”.  It was a Surrealistic system to build a composition, you know, with paper.  You divided a piece of paper in four sections.  On the top, you start by, theoretically, the head of something.  You fold it.  The second one doesn’t know what you did and start with the upper middle section.  Fold, fold it, he fold it.  And the third one the low, the low middle section.  Fold it.  And the last one the feet or the base of the composition.

SF: Ah, I see.

BV: And it was a kind of game.  After you defold [sic] - how do you say defold?

SF: Yeah, defold

BV: Defold the paper, and you get a very strange result.  Nobody knows how they start.  And it’s quite stimulating because it’s not a question of guess, but every student is a little bit imaginatively stimulated.  And it’s like those “Exquisite Corpses” that the Surrealists did in the 20’s.  And we had a very good time with that.  After. I divided the class, after I saw their work, a little bit arbitrary - but arbitrary is a part of the life too, challenge - on the modern and the classic.  And we decided to kind of fight between modern and classic.  All the modern will work on painting without subject, and the classic with a painting with a subject.  After we gambled.  We divided a very large canvas in sections and we had dice and we decided if the dice give from one to six that the right to paint to one to six squares on the big canvas.

SF: Yes I see.

BV:  And if it was a number, odd or even, they had the right to paint- they had not the right, they should paint - in black in white or color.  And that was a very strange progression, that progressed like an animal, that painting with a gambling system, they become more and more fond of this gambling.  After we went to the beach.  We played with the sand, the water.  We swim.  We visited some exhibitions, on textiles, on the-  But always with discussions, with stimulating games and sometimes tales, legends, I was telling tales or comparative stories or history of art anew or something like that.  And we had a really good time and we became pretty much quite friends and at the end it was a really good time. 

SF: And for them it was something completely new that they had never -

BV: A little bit, yes.  They enjoyed it.  I received letter, later, and right now I still have some contact with some students.  I think everybody enjoyed it: the students, me, and maybe the academical staff, too, because they asked me if I can come back one day.

SF: Oh yes?

BV: I would like, but it’s a matter of scheduling time.  Because already to spend six months there has been quite difficult for me.  I had to set up a new studio just before a show and it was difficult.  But I liked it.

SF: But you taught in France, too?

BV: No, never.

SF: Never?

BV: Well, what I taught was Judo.

SF: Yes, that I know, but never art?

BV: No, never art.  But it was interesting.

SF: How come that they asked you to teach there?

BV: I guess it is part of the American system.  And I like it because it’s so interesting, so living.  It’s the living experimentation.  It’s the education throws more this way.  They don’t care if you have a diploma or not.  If you, if you-  In European universities it’s almost impossible.  You have to have, to teach, you have to have the proper diploma.  You have to be a specialist to teach.  And that’s been always.  That amazed me so much because I realized how it was efficient. I could imagine in the literary field in French universities, if we hired Mr. Sartre or Mr. Camus to spend one week, two weeks, three weeks with the students to speak with them.  To, to -

SF: Yes, I know. [laugh]

BV: And, yes, I like very much this system.  It’s a confrontation.  You know sometimes the education in Europe has been great because we, I guess we come out of it very well.  For a while, for a long time, the academic system was very good.  But, it become a little bit stiff and a little bit rigid.  And I guess that confrontation with reality, with life, is widely used in all the American universities.  They just hire somebody who is supposed to be good in his field, whatever it is.  They can hire a businessman if he knows how to, or if he has a way to succeed.  They can hire, I am pretty much sure, every kind of human activity, when they feel that men are good specialists, and to be confronted with the reality, for the student, it’s a great thing, it’s very efficient.  And, well, in art, in the art field especially, I guess something is interesting in the case that all the American universities, they have an art school and they prepare graduate students.  They make a large number of graduate students after a number of years, and the percentage of good, of good artists is quite amazing because it is always the same system.  It’s a question of normal proportion, it is always a proportion.

SF: Yes, that’s right.

BV: And I know the French system.  The French system is quite efficient, difficult to fill, to succeed the tests and exams.  To go to the School of Beaux-Arts in Paris is very hard, very difficult.  You have to be ready to work twelve hour days during one or two years.  And you have to affront very difficult examinations at different -

SF: Yes, at the end of the year.

BV: Yes, and very, all the labor, you know, from anatomy, to life drawing, to perspective, to science of color.  It’s a specialist.  But they form very few specialists.  And that makes the proportion less good.  If you have a hundred good specialists a year, maybe you will have a very great to good painter like that, a good artist every two years.  But if you have thousands and thousands like all the American universities, maybe they are less accurate on very specific fields, like perspective or anatomy, or whatever it is, still life, or “fusain”.  I don’t know the name of “fusain”, charcoal, yes, charcoal, or everything.  But the proportion of two thousand will be anyway better and more.  I guess it’s more efficient in this case.

SF: Do you think that unknown or isolated artists can still exist, you know, now, exist in this time?

BV: Yes, yes, yes, but I want to add, I have something to add about the university.  The problem at the end of my quarters, it was the grades I have to give my students.  And I didn’t have a fight, I didn’t fight with the staff of the university, but I guess they were a little bit worried because I gave an A to everybody.

SF: You gave an eight? 


SF: Ah, A to everybody.

BV: ‘A’ to everybody, the best grade to everybody without distinction.  Because I felt that in the particular field of art it’s absolutely impossible to discriminate from the good or the less good.  Yes there is, sure, some academic standards in art.  And I couldn’t for the ones with the more classical, or easier with the medium, give a better notation that the ones who were more clumsy or had some difficulty of expression.  But by experimentation and by evaluation -

SF: You can’t judge.

BV: You can’t judge that.  Some seem artful or very clumsy, but sometimes there are more chances to get out some things out of difficulties than some very perfect academical ones.  And I didn’t want to get - I prefer to give an A to everybody than to be deeply unjust, because if I kept then from graduation, or if I cut away, or if I delayed the study of somebody who is gifted in a sense which is not a traditional one, I could feel really worry for it.

SF: Yes that I can understand.

BV: Are you asking me about -

SF: Yes I was asking if you think that unknown or isolated artists still exist today as in the past.

BV: Yes, sure.  But less than in the past, because there is more demand for art than before, and the market is larger, and the interest is growing and the information is more efficient.  But I guess there are naive painters, primitive painters still exist, some.  They can be very interesting and very good.  But as creative, from classic to avant-garde artists, very seldom undiscovered artists can exist now.  It’s so easy, when somebody sees something they thing is speaking to somebody else, taking a photo.  That spreads very quickly even from the deepest countries in the world, the farthest countries in the world.  You can really find - The information works very well.

SF: That’s very exciting.

BV: Yes, and as we know now, the kind of enormous melting pots, like New York, London, sometimes Paris, produce more artists anyway, because the information is more dense.  That’s a result of the information, a direct result of the information.  And I guess it’s very stimulating and interesting.  But -

SF: Mass medium, yes.

BV: Yes, and the discovery of the artist is faster than ever and now we have talent scouts, the talent scout, the specialized talent scout.  They already find artists when they are -

SF: The talent scout you said?

BV: The talent scout, yes, scout [alters pronunciation].

SF: I didn’t know either.

BV: They find artists younger and younger and younger.  Sometimes, it was usual to work until forty to be discovered and have some one-man show, year and years ago.  But now you have one-man shows of very interesting artists at twenty-four or twenty-five.

SF: Yes.

BV: And pretty much twenty soon.  Because the the information is spread out.  And you save time because when you receive information, as a young artist, a lot of information, you can take the short way very quickly and know what you want to express, and you don’t loose time to make experimentation that has already been done.  This is quite interesting.

SF: Today there is so much dissension among artists and so on about what art should be or is.  Could you give me your own definition of this term?  A definition, or even some words.  A definition is very difficult to express.

BV: Well that’s quite complicated.  I guess it’s a disease.

SF: A disease, yes.

BV: I don’t think - Well, in first, art is a disease, and a neurotic disease that a neurotic disease fits himself to.

SF: Yes

BV: Well, it could be a search for a kind of lost paradise or the substitution for creativity.  I would say, natural life creativity.  But it’s very difficult to make a very short definition.  I remember Mathieu made a definition some years ago in the famous fight between Mathieu and Yves Klein in Paris.  Mathieu was asking to Yves Klein what was art for him, his own definition of art.  And he gave him his own definition first.  Mathieu said that for him art is like an algebraic formula, a function, in which each term is little bit less as a quantity than the total of a total.  You’ve got the difference between, I guess, if you take the value of each part itself and you add it as an addition, the total is less than the whole thing.

SF: Yes, the total equation.

BV: That’s one of the definition, a very clever, a very beautiful definition of Mathieu.  Yves Klein said: “For me, art is to be in good health.”

SF: Art is to be in good health?

BV: Yes, that was quite imaginative too and interesting.  But, me, I guess, it’s always a little bit of a joke to make a short definition.  I guess it’s a disease, a very interesting disease.  And a study could be made on what are the neurotic diseases that artists suffer in the whole history of art.  Kinds of diseases like asthma, emphysema, allergy, heart, colitis or stomach burn, ulcers, and all those very psychological diseases.  And I’m pretty much sure that somebody in completely, absolutely, definitely good health couldn’t really be an artist.  I don’t see anybody, it’s just an extrapolation of the system.  But I guess it’s a difficulty they have, as we say in France, which leads the normal person, the average person, to the desire to let his mark in life, in the field of art.  Whether it’s music or writing, the artistic field. 

SF: Creative expression.

BV: Creative expression.  The desire of, the desire of letting his mark, his passage on the life will be noted.  The biological desire, the normal one, to want to give life, to have children and to see a continuation of the life like that.  But, to express, through the imagination, that means image, the creation of image, the creation of something that didn’t exist before as being thought, a specific and subjective mark on life.  And this is not useful as just material things.  Desire is a little bit like neurotic desire of self-expression and I guess it’s a disease, not very famous one, an interesting one.  I prefer, in this case, sick people.  But I wonder if in a few centuries from now when everything could be cured in advance and everybody could be very normal and maybe satisfied,  very satisfied - 

SF: Do you think -

BV: That could be artificially made you know.

SF: Yes

BV: But that could be a result in a way.  If under that result creativity will not disappear.  Because creativity has a part of aggression, and aggression is always challenged and the reaction of some difficulty you have to overcome, handicap.  And a kind of psychological neurosis or psychological disease is enough handicap to give enough aggressiveness to create something, to build a world, to replace the world which existed before by the one we want created.  All young artists always believe that they will change over the world completely.

SF: That’s right.  Do they change their optic afterwards?

BV: Oh, with the time, yes.  You know, if you consider the history of art, of music, of writing, as a wastepaper basket, it would be interesting to see what each individual dropped in that basket. 

SF: Discarded.

BV: And what layer, what new varnish layer we’ll have on the painting of the civilization.  But enough, we have to keep enough ego to go on, to carry on.  Without ego, [in French] on coule. [transl: we sink]

SF: Art wouldn’t exist.

BV: No.  I think a definition of art could be, a definition of art could be a marriage between ego and the imagination.

SF: A kind of bridge between them.

BV: Yes, adulterous child between ego and imagination, and intelligence sometimes.

SF: Intelligence too, I think.

BV: Yes, but on the future, again, I thought about that in California a lot, and another proposition which was most accepted has been studied by some friends of mine, who have the power to do it, to perform it.  I propose for the future a kind of, not medical, but para-medical institution as a form of art.  Not as a form of, a limited form of art, but a little bit like a clinic for medical checkups.  It would be an aesthetic or cultural checkup.  Somebody will be studied scientifically - everybody who wants - to get that piece of art which is in himself, and what has to be added to himself, will go into this private institution like a gallery.  A gallery will be used for that, I’m pretty sure.  And we will have a complete study of his reactions, visual reactions, image reaction, color reactions, sound reactions, word reactions, a very, with some very sophisticated device like a lie detector, encephalogram, precision counter and everything.  What each individual has most response to kind of stimulation.  That will be a study on stimulation, aesthetic and cultural stimulation, everybody.  And a map will be issued, a booklet on what are the individual responses to all those stimulations.  And at the end of everything, some things could be properly more completed.  Deep environment will be a central environment, like [inaudible artist’s name] made especially for himself to all the stimulation in response there, sound -

SF: Our response to sound, form, color?

BV: Yes, that could be a kind of trip.  And we will always have to look closely on the next generation.  It’s very amazing that one of the most active artistic activities of a lot of young people has been a trip, a very fast trip with hallucinogenic drugs and everything.  And I guess in the future we could propose a scientific trip that bears on the individual’s response, scientifically studied.

SF: Intellectual, with machines and so on?

BV: Yes, the candidate to the trip will fit in or lay on something which will be like a very sophisticated egg, a very sophisticated rocket to send him in.  He will not move from the place he is, but to send him on the extreme border of his sensitivity.  And that would be one form of -

SF: Yes.  The colors would come, and?

BV: Yes, maybe, if he has the right eye closed, that will be maybe created artificially.  But I see that as a form of art, a complete set we can feel, get a complete set of any kind of stimulation or any kind of trip, or dépaysement.  I don’t know how to say that in English dépaysement.  I don’t know the work in English.

SF: Fell lost.

BV: Yes, feel lost, or feel nourished.  But which is the closest response of all the stimulations which have been studied in this form.  It’s a two-part system.  First, the study of the stimulation, the better stimulation, and second, the trip itself, but done like a checkup, medically, carefully and clinically.

SF: Yes.  They would spend two or three days there?

BV: Or a week more likely.  Yes, like a checkup, like in a long checkup.  And there will be some three incomes for the collector or the customer, I don’t know what you will call it.  First a booklet, or a study, or a tape.  I don’t know what will be at this time.  A study or a very accurate map on what he is to feel, what are his responses.  The second a trip.

SF: What do you mean by trip?

BV: A trip.  Like you say: “Enjoy the trip!”  He will have a kind of show made for himself, just for instance, a very complete show.  He will be the center of a show that will be from environment, to concert, to happening, to sound, to stimulation, from every kind of source.  A complete thing will be made for himself.

SF: Yes.  And you will test, you know, the way he responds to that?

BV: No, he will have been tested before.  The show will be built after the test.

SF: After the test, according to the test?

BV: According to the test.

SF: Oh, I understand now, yes.

BV: And maybe a third one, some prescription: spend two weeks in the Yucatan, and buy a record from Schoenberg, or Death and Transfiguration from Richard Strauss.  Buy yourself some things like that, like a medical prescription.

SF: I understand, yes.

BV: That could be an interesting way to make a new kind of Museum of Modern Art or gallery

SF: Yes, that’s right.  It would be very lively.

BV: Yes, more than lively.  Experimental.  Deeply experimental with some result.

SF: It would be a kind of psychological test, too.  Because you know, are you, you know -

BV: Yes, more than a psychological test.  A physical, biological test.  What are the physical responses to color or what are the psychological stimulations?  And, sure, always some things will be missed.  We can’t pretend with the better technology to dig really deeply in the unconscious reaction.  But that can be done quite accurately.

SF: And do you think it’s possible?

BV: Oh yes.  Already now that could be done.  With enough time and money to build it, that could be done now, right now, with what we have and what we know.  Maybe not as completely, not structured as it could be done later, but on the limited but quite satisfying scale, that could be done now.

SF: What is the goal of that?  That people should be more aware of -

BV: No, that they will have - For instance, we’ll take yoursef as a subject, my next guinea pig.  And, would you like to have a map, a booklet, a survey or what are your responses exactly in different fields?  You have an idea, a subjective idea, a supposition of your subjective idea, and pretty much an objective one of your response to color and sound.

SF: Yes, and which colors and sounds, and so on.

BV: Yes, a kind of, like you have when you have a medical checkup.

SF: Yes, I understand now.

BV: And it will be your response to culture, too, to poetry, what kind of poetry excites your imagination more.  What kind of associations of words, what kind of music, musicians and all.  And that can be done with some basic material and refined.  And I, do would like to have a make like that or a booklet on you as the subject? 

SF: Yes, I think it would be very interesting.

BV: So then we would take that book, that study and something is built for you especially.  You will be in a small room, you will be in a kind of spaceship, reclining seat, and suddenly everything will be done for you.  The whole environment will change for you with sound, with light, maybe vibrations, and everything.  And the world maybe, an image just for you.  How - [in French] comment on appelle ‘par rapport à’? [how do we say ‘par rapport à’?]

SF: According to.

BV: According to the tests you had before that, the booklet.

SF: Yes, I understand, I think it’s great.

BV: And at the end of everything, maybe some prescription, because really a whole life is not enough to know everything about culture or -

SF: On culture, you will ask questions, or?

BV: No, it’s very easy to define what are the responses.  The aggressiveness, the imagination, the sadism, the masochism.  You can - you know the responses are quite easy to define.  And some will be complimentary.  You need some complimentary things, you need some opposition, you need some, completely -  There is a percentage of yourself that has to be feed in the different-

SF: Yes, like a diagram.

BV: Yes, like a diagram.  There will be a lot of diagrams.  And it has to be done, I guess, with computers, too, because the data will be so - There will be so many parameters to study, that has to be, certainly, have to be studied with computers, and the more difficult things, have to make a proper programmation of all the information and to get the proper answer, because there is always some deformation from the time you have an idea, you feed the computer, and what the computer got in the end.  It’s very difficult to go from the imaginative point, from the objective mechanical point of response, yes or not, for the computer, by this system.  But I guess it can be done and it will be quite interesting.

SF: Now that you are talking about experiments, what do you think of the experiments which have begun in France, you know, with the Maeght Foundation.  Or the, you know, the other one, Centre? Nouvelle?

BV: Yes, yes, I think it was the Démaisonné(?) [phonetic] Group

SF: Yes

BV: Well, there is Group N is Italy too, and in Germany the Zero Group.  Yes, I guess it’s a modern phenomenon that not that modern.  You know, they used to work in groups quite efficiently before.  But the Maeght is something completely different than those groups.  Those groups, they always work on the same way.  You have a group of artists who have a similar direction and by brainstorm they develop.  By brainstorm, by meeting, they develop all their imagery or their way to understand the medium on the same, in the new direction.  But after -

SF: In the same direction?

BV: In the same direction, if possible.  But there is always some slight difference.  But what happened every time when, those individuals were at the departure absolutely anonymous.  It was Group N, or Group or O, Group T, or group of that, or group of this, without names.  Very quick the individual feels more secure in what they want to express and become more individual.  And every time the group explodes completely and everyone gets his own identity.  And it’s always the same thing.  And the group is the ‘machine de guerre,’ the war machine, because they feel stronger.  A group is always in a better stature to start.  It’s a very good system to start something, because if you come to a salon, to a gallery, to a place to exhibit and you say: “We are the Group that” or “We are the Group this,” you are more secure.

SF: Yes that’s right

BV: Let’s go on the - Jean! Jean!  [inaudible]

SF: It’s ok I don’t mind.


SF: That’s right.  You believe, you belive yourself in this group feeling and group thinking?

BV: Well, I myself for a long time belonged to a group.

SF: To the Twenty-Minute Group

BV: Yes, the Twenty-Minute Group, but we always feel that we have to be, how do you say that, associated with.  We feel stronger when we are -

SF: Yes, and you can share ideas.

BV: Yes, share ideas, have stimulating exchanges and everything like that.  It’s very important, and especially the younger we are, it’s better because we get something through the group system, always.

SF: Yes.  And the last question, if you have time.  You’re in a hurry? I don’t know.

BV: Not that much.  Yes, a little bit.

SF: Do you think that Pop Art will give new birth to new developments?

BV: The?

SF: Pop Art.

BV: Oh the Pop Art.

SF: Because it’s really close to its end now, and I wonder if you think -

BV: Oh, each movement, you know, not further development, but gave a very strong image of the way how to work out some ideas like popular image.  And that is the result of every movement in Art.  You will have some half-dozen or dozen strong individuals who will be remembered, and the followers will disappear, then later in another movement.

SF: Yes, and you can -

BV:  Roy Liechtenstein, Claes Oldenburg, Jasper John, [inaudible], will always remain because they created such strong images that - and the survival in the future will be ten or fifteen years of that, then a revival in another way always.  Because every revival, like the object revival, from Surrealism to Pop Art and to the New Realism.

SF: In a way it’s attached.

BV: Yes, always, it’s always attached, but with some other - It’s like the Expressionists.  There was always a kind of hot and cold, warm and cold reaction.  After now, we’ll have cold one, after the hot Pop Art, with minimal art and the revival of the Art age.  But that will go to the warm again in five years or two years, we don’t know exactly.  It’s a cycle spiral, and directional system, which works pretty much well.  But with the acceleration of the information that goes so quick, maybe we have two or three, or four spirals in the same time intricating [sic] themselves into each other.  That’s obvious now, the acceleration of history is so quick.

SF: And in it we can feel sort of lost, that I know.

BV: It’s a phenomenon.  Pop Art was very stimulating for the newspapers because the photos of the pieces, the reproductions of the pieces in magazines was very interesting.  It was a kind of super-impression of the material which is used in ads, in magazines as piece of art.  And minimal art is less glamorous for that.  And there was a little bit of a gap in New York in information, they couldn’t inform as well as Pop Art did it.  It’s very interesting.

SF: I would like to ask you about the situation in art here between Paris and New York.

BV: If it is a situation. I don’t know that it is anymore.

SF: No, no.

BV: Well, Paris has been the place years ago during the period of the School of Paris and the Surrealists and so forth.  And I guess that now New York is the place.  There’s a bit of challenge and it’s just a very simple matter.  I guess artist survive on the place, society is offering more supply of energetic -



May 18, 1968

Original French Transcript

English Translation

Original French Transcript

Entrevue avec Bernar Venet


Sevim Fesci [SF]: J'aimerais commencer cette entrevue Bernar en te posant une question d'ordre générale: Qu'est-ce l'Art, avec un grand « A » pour toi ? Sa définition, sa définition pour toi Bernar?

Bernar Venet [BV] : J'ai une définition bien précise. Pour moi l'Art c'est un moyen pour élargir et faire évoluer la pensée humaine. C'est tout. C'est un [inaudible] C'est très très large, c'est très très vaste.

SF: Donc, c'est avant tout intellectuel pour toi

BV: Je dirais, que je ne sais pas ce que je veux dire. C'est surtout que, il faut - le système Beaux Arts est terminé. C'est-à-dire qu'on a plus besoin d'avoir des qualités plastiques et esthétiques pour créer. C'est simplement, oui, au niveau de la création pure.

SF: Oui

BV: Au niveau de l'idée.

SF: Donc au niveau de l'idée.

BV: Au niveau de l'idée, que les choses se font. L'art est au niveau de la création

SF: Donc ce qui veut dire que pour toi la sensibilité et l'intuition de l'artiste ne doivent plus enter en jeu dans le processus de création. On ne voit plus la, la personnalité de l'artiste dans la création, dans une œuvre.

BV: De moins en moins en tout cas, on, je crois qu'on peigne de moins en moins avec des sentiments, mais la sensibilité existe toujours dans la mesure que chacun a sa propre sensibilité et c'est par là qu'il peut créer peut-être, mais - Ce qui est sensé se dégager de tout ce qui vient des émotions. C'est ça qui est obligé de se dégager -

SF: C'est plus conscient.

BV: Oui, je crois à l'évolution de l'art à partir d'un système logique, à partir de déductions logiques, comme les scientistes, par exemple, arrivent à faire évoluer l'histoire de la science, simplement par un système presque mathématique. Donc je crois pas à l'évolution de l'Art par intuition par exemple. Oui ce sont des choses structurées, mais -

SF: Comment est-ce que cette idée t'est venue ? Comment t'est t'elle venue. Par quoi as-tu commencé?

BV: Mon, mon évolution dans mes nouvelles choses ?

SF: Oui. Je veux dire, dans tes premières œuvres, est-ce qu'on sent cette idée déjà ?

BV: Bon écoutez -

SF: Maintenant par exemple - Tu faisais au début par exemple, monochrome.

BV: Ah, à cet époque-là c'était, enfin, cet époque-là, écoute, je ne sais pas, c'était à l'époque des monochromes. A l'époque des monochromes c'étaient pas les problèmes plastiques qui m'intéressaient. Les problèmes plastiques m'ont jamais intéressés.

SF: [inaudible]

BV: Jamais vraiment. J'ai eu une période qui était quelque comme ça, où j'étais comme un petit peu perdu, où je me souviens quelque de l'esthétique, mais ça n'a pas aucune importance, on en parlait jamais, c'est complètement effacé.

Mais, non, les choses sont devenues très sérieuses à partir du moment, enfin, avec ma dernière période. Mon idée tout simplement de commencer à parler d'autre chose. Oublier ce qui avait été là, simplement dire, parlons d'autre chose. Je parle purement de mathématique, ou purement de physique, mais purement, purement, sans aucunes interprétations, sans aucunes conditions, avec, avec ce qui avait été là dans le passé.

SF: Et ça, je crois, tu le tentes de plus en plus, gardé par des buts, j'vois des tableaux, y'a une certaine recherche au niveau esthétique.

BV: Y'a une chose -

SF: [inaudible] les tableaux que tu vois -

BV: Une chose que je dois dire. Les premiers tableaux, les premiers tableaux scientifiques que j'ai fait, je me dois de reconnaître que j'ai été influencé par les, la forme classique de chacun. D'abord les premiers, simplement, j'ai découvert l'esthétique du graphique.

SF: Donc, une sorte de technique.

BV: Au début, au premier temps, c'était ça. Ensuite, ensuite - enfin, au premier temps, c'est que j'étais intéressé par l'esthétique. Je voyais des formes qui m'intéressaient, je les voyais sur un tableau, je les faisais. Mais ensuite je -

SF: Mais pour toi – excuse moi je t'interromps – mais pour toi il y a aussi cette précision, où on court au point.

BV: Pas important. Je n'ai pas de, de - Moi je n'ai pas de style. Je n'ai pas de style. J'ai pas - La technique m'intéresse pas. La façon dont je fais mon tableau m'intéresse pas. Ce qui est important c'est l'idée seulement. Au début je faisais ça sur toile. Je l'ai fait sur papier calque, je l'ai fais sur papier millimétré, j'ai proposé apposer des « slides », je peu faire des « plays », je peu faire sur - Tout est, tout est possible. Je peu faire de l'agrandissement [inaudible]. L'esthétique ne m'intéressant pas, je me fou de la réalisation, je m'en fou complètement.

SF: Oui. Et penses-tu qu'il fallait rejeter complètement le passé ? Enfin, tout l'héritage du passé ? En plus, que ça ne peut plus influencer-

BV: Mais, le passé, le passé a existé. Et si aujourd'hui je fais quelque chose c'est parce qu'il a eu tout ce passé-là. Autrement si j'étais né 500 avant, je suis sûr que je n'aurais pas fait ce que je fais maintenant. C'est une chose sûre et certaine. Mais moi ce que je veux, c'est avec tout, tout ce que je sais sur le passé, j'essaye à oublier tout ça et à créer à partir de nouvelles bases. [5:00 minutes] Je voudrais changer complètement tous les critères.

SF: Tous les critères que vous utilisez.

BV: Je voudrais dire des trucs que j'ai écrit il y a quelque temps, en 67, 2 mai 67. Ce que je voulais. Par exemple, je vais commencer par -

SF: Lis le, lis le - virgule.

BV: Je disais: L'esthétique ne m'intéressant pas. Le revêtement de tableau par des procédés techniques modernes ou l'emploi de matériaux nouveaux n'ont pas d'importance.

SF: Oui oui.

BV: Oui. Que je réalise mes tableaux sur toile, sur papier, ou que j'utilise l'emploi de diapositives projetées sur un mur, cela n'importe pas beaucoup. Je suis absolument en désaccord avec les artistes qui traitent des sujets milles fois exploités mais avec des matériaux différents. Il est souvent propos de différences entre natures mortes de Matisse et une de Wesselman. Il faut changer de thématique et de sujet.

SF: De ?

BV: De thématique, l'idée, et de sujet. Par le fait même que je ne suis pas intéressé par l'esthétique de mes œuvres, il va de soit que mon évolution ne peut pas être plastique. Elle sera peut-être dans le fait qu'un tableau de 1970, sera plus précis qu'un tableau de 1967, traitant du même sujet, parce que de nouvelles découvertes seront venues s'ajouter aux données de 1967.

SF: Ah d'accord.

BV: Le même en va avec la science. Les critères qui situaient l'évolution des artistes, et qui se basaient sur les transformations plastiques de l'œuvre, n'ont plus rien en commun avec ce qui dirige mon évolution.

SF: Oui.

BV: Je voudrais rompre totalement avec tous les concepts établis : la personnalité, la petite couche de verni, à ce qui a déjà été fait et ce qui ne l'ait pas [phonétique]. Je pense que la découverte de l'art abstrait par Kandinsky obéissait à la définition de Maurice Denis selon laquelle un tableau avant d'être - Je ne sais pas exactement la définition- C'était, un tableau, avant d'être un paysage, une scène de bataille, une femme nue, est avant tout un ensemble de tropes dans un certain mode rassemblé. Et même Kandinsky vérifiait cette définition. Bon, une chose importante, j'ai déjà parlé mais je peu le redire encore une fois. Je peu bien reconnaître qu'en choisissant de reproduire mes premiers graphiques mathématiques ou scientifiques, je m'ai laissé influencer par l'esthétique de chacun.

SF: Oui.

BV: C'est pour évi- C'est pour éviter de cela qu'aujourd'hui, c'est avant tout un sujet scientifique que je choisi, et mes tableaux ne viennent qu'illustrer le débardement de ce sujet, enregistré sur bande magnétique - [inaudible] manège - Un collectionneur ne pourra plus choisir un tableau parce que celui-ci lui plaît particulièrement, mais il devra choisir un sujet que je vais traiter, sur la magnétique, et emportera avec lui les deux, trois ou quatre tableaux qui viennent illustrer ce sujet.

SF: C'est à dire que le collectionneur choisira donc le texte au fond.

BV: Le sujet, c'est-à-dire l'importance du sujet. Comme dernièrement je viens de faire cette étude sur les particules qui peuvent aller plus vite que la vitesse de la lumière, et moi je considère que ce tableau est beaucoup plus important que même les plus grands que j'ai fait, qui sont -

SF: Donc le sujet a beaucoup d'importance pour toi.

BV: Le sujet, le sujet même, oui, a beaucoup d'importance. C'est pour ça que je finis par faire des tableaux, au sujet scientifique là, ou il n'y a qu'un seul petit dessin.

SF: Je ne vois qu'un graphique et, avec le texte.

BV: Oui il n'y a qu'un petit graphique et le texte a une beaucoup plus grande d'importance.

SF: Oui. Ah je vois, d'accord.

BV: Alors la première des choses, qui justement, étaient très-finalement quand un tableau, quand un collectionneur, quand quelqu'un voyait un tableau de moi que j'ai fait en 66-67, il avait un [inaudible] de tableaux, de formes plastiques, même si il ne le comprenait pas, même, il avait quand même une forme esthétique, une forme plastique, un forme intéressante, mais maintenant il n'y a presque, il n'y a que des choses-

SF: Il avait une forme donnée, tandis que maintenant?

BV: Et aussi une chose importante; chaque tableau avait, avait une esthétique différente, on pouvait reconnaître un qui avait de points, un autre qui avait des lignes, une autre, un autre qui avait des angles, avec des études de montagnes de chiffres, un autre moins, un plus chargé, d'autres moins. Maintenant tous les tableaux sont les mêmes. J'écris sur ce papier comme ça, j'écris beaucoup, je fais -

SF: Comment l'art peut vivre alors ?

BV: L'art du sujet, je disais -

SF: Ah! Tu veux qu'ils lisent donc.

BV: Mais je veux qu'ils lisent, enfin, je voudrais qu'il, voilà - je disais une chose dernièrement, il n'y a pas longtemps à Ivan Karp, je lui disais que, j'aimerais presque, j'aimerais, que lorsqu'un collectionneur vient dans une galerie pour acheter des tableaux, j'aimerais qu'il vienne avec un scientiste, qui le conseillera, et qui lui dira:

SF: Ah d'accord.

BV: « Voilà, ce tableau est important pour telle et telle raison, vous devez choisir celui-là. »

SF: Il est important dans l'évolution de la science.

BV: Oui dans l'évolution de la science, oui oui, c'est ça absolument. Plutôt que: « Oh, ça c'est beau, j'aime bien celui-là, parce que c'est graphique, il y a trois pins rouges qui sont là, ça fait plus joli. » Mais ça, c'est pas important du tout.

SF: Donc, l'esthétique tu l'as complètement -

BV: Je voudrais, je voudrais la refuser. Dernièrement, mes derniers tableaux, si moi j'arrive à un résultat en tout cas – Quoi que mes, mes tableaux sont presque tous les mêmes maintenant, simplement, il y a beaucoup d'écriture, le trope qui ne prend presque plus d'importance.

SF: Non [inaudible] -

BV: Donc esthétiquement ils sont tous les mêmes. Simplement les sujets [10:00] sont différents

SF: Ah oui d'accord. Donc, ce que tu demandes à celui qui va te venir pour la première fois ?

BV: Ce que je demande à ceux qui vont venir pour la première fois, c'est de ne pas partir en riant trop, parce que, c'est très dur la première fois. [Ils rient]

J'ai eu des réactions absolu- , j'ai eu des réactions trop, très différentes comme ça, mais c'est très dur pour les personnes qui viennent la première fois dans mon studio d'apprécier, d'aimer vraiment. Mes premiers contacts, Ivan Karp par exemple, le premier contact qu'il a eu c'était un contact purement plastique, il m'a dit que c'était très [inaudible], c'est un peu comme ça. Maintenant les gens comme -

SF: Lucy Lippard aussi je crois, non ?

BV: Lucy Lippard ? Oui, elle est bien, en somme, elle est des gens qui comprends plus la recherche NTQ [phonétique] la preuve c'est qu'elle a écrit « Dématérialisation de l'Art », autrement elle n'aurait pas d'évidence qu'elle aurait fait de recherche plastique. Mais il y a des gens comme Adolf Wiffel [phonétique] qui s'intéressent plutôt à la recherche intellectuelle de la chose.

SF: À la recherche intellectuelle-

BV: À la recherche intellectuelle. Au fait que l'art plastique, l'esprit Beaux-arts est terminé. La science prend beaucoup d'importance et ce sont des choses à exploiter.

SF: Donc pour toi c'est cette manière donc d'entrer en contact avec ton œuvre.

BV: Enfin, entrer en contact avec mon œuvre, on voit le tableau, on sait pas trop au début, on s'y habitue, on le regarde, le regarde d'avantage, on voit le maître, on comprend la recherche, on l'entend parler, on voit ce que j'ai fait avant, et commence aussi à apprécier.

SF: Bien d'accord. Et que représente pour toi justement, ou plutôt, est-ce que ça rejoint les anti-arts touchés par Duchamp? Est-ce que toi te n'irais pas dans l'anti-art effectivement?

BV: D'abord Duchamp ne faisait pas de l'anti-art. Il faisait de l'Art – Art, c'est-à-dire quelque chose de parallèle à l'art. Et moi quand j'ai commencé à faire des tableaux en 1966, j'ai eu des directions très très, c'était naturel chez les gens en ce moment là, qui me disait : « Ce que tu fais ce n'est pas- tu fais des graphismes, des mathématiques, c'est pur, et- Mais ce n'a pas, ce n'est pas de l'art, et tu devrais mettre des couleurs, tu devrais mettre quelque choses, tu devrais- » Je ne voulais pas ça.

SF: Qui est-ce qui t'a dit ça ?

BV: Des gens à Nice, qui ont vu mes tableaux les premiers, mes tableaux à Nice. Mais moi je n'ai pas fais ça, je dis, je pense, je ne savais si ce que je faisais c'était de l'art, il n'y avait pas de raison. Ce n'était pas de l'art au début, c'était des mathématiques tout simplement. Simplement, ça devient de l'art avec le temps, c'est tout, mais au début, c'est bien de faire quelque choses parallèle à l'art, une recherche différente, c'est peut-être quelque chose de nouveau. Mais sa forme est loin de la théorie de Marcel Duchamp Art-Art, okay, parallèle à l'art, okay

SF: Parallèle à l'art.

BV: Qui devient de l'art après, comme Marcel Duchamp appelait l'art c'est tout.

SF: Bon d'accord. Et comment est-ce que tu procèdes à la création d'une nouvelle œuvre ?

BV: Eh bien très simplement, je vais à, j'ai deux scientistes. Actuellement, j'ai Ullman de la Columbia University, et Krieger.

SF: Et Krieger?

BV: Un scientiste du Laboratoire [inaudible] de l'University de Berkley. C'est un jeune scientiste mais lui, il est très intéressant aussi. Qui me disent, dans les sujets, dans les sujets suivants, c'est-à-dire « space science », « solar physics », physique nucléaire, et mathématique par computer, ou métamathématique, ils me conseillent les sujets les plus importants. Et à partir de, de leur conseils, je réalise mes pièces, mais je réalise mes tableaux, je ne réalise pas mes tableaux parce que qu'ils me plaisent esthétiquement, je les réalise pour l'importance du sujet, et comme je ne suis pas en mesure moi de savoir l'importance du sujet, je prends des scientistes qui peuvent me conseiller. Ils pensent pour moi au début.

SF: Donc tu ne fais pas de pièces sans l'aide des scientistes ?

BV: Sans l'aide des scientistes, je peux pas. Je cours trop avec une revue dans les mains, ne pas pouvoir réaliser quoi que ce soit parce que je ne sais pas quelle est l'étude la plus importante sur cette chose-là. Et depuis que j'ai rencontré Gerard Feinberg, ce savant qui a découvert les particules qui vont plus vite que la lumière, là je peux faire une étude très intéressante. Je pense que je peux faire des choses avec ça.

SF: Et que penses-tu de leurs œuvres? Je veux dire, que pensent-ils de ton œuvre?

BV: Ils sont un petit peu- Ils comprennent pas. Ce sont des scientistes et ils sont pas- et eux ce qui les intéressent dans l'art c'est Van Gogh et Picasso peut-être. Ils sont un petit peu avancés, mais-

SF: Donc pour toi, ce que toi, c'est pas l'art essentiellement.

BV: Non non non non, moi je leur demande quelque chose, c'est, c'est, ils sont comme des- ce sont des conseillers, c'est tout. Ils n'ont pas à comprendre même ce que je fait, c'est pas très important. Enfin, ils comprennent, ils ne comprennent pas, ils se posent des problèmes, ça leur posent des problèmes, et tout ça mais enfin- Des fois ils sont convaincus que j'ai raison, des fois ils sont convaincus que j'ai tord. Mais ça ce n'est pas important. Ils n'ont pas- Ils n'ont aucune influence dans le domaine de l'art. Simplement des conseils, je leur demande.

SF: Comment es-tu entré en contact avec eux ?

BV: J'ai rencontré -

SF: Par relation, ou bien tu es allé à Columbia ?

BV: Non non, tout à fait par hasard j'ai rencontré Ullman dans un diner en 67, janvier 67 quand je suis arrivé à New York

SF: Chez ?

BV: Chez une amie, chez une amie, non, chez une amie comme ça, qui nous avait invités à diner. Et alors il était exactement ce dont j'avais besoin, parce que il pouvait me faire [15:00] aller à la Columbia University, me mettre à la librairie à ma disposition, me parler de nouvelles idées, et me donner des conseils. Et ensuite Krieger, tout ça c'était après, c'est tous à la Columbia University que j'ai rencontré des gens après. Et Gerard Feinberg est à la Columbia University, oui je l'ai rencontré, j'ai entendu parler de lui par hasard, au déjeuner des scientistes.

SF: Donc tu vas à la bibliothèque de Columbia University, tu prends des livres-

BV: Exact-

SF: Tu reviens ici, et tu-

BV: Exactement, exactement.

SF: Tu choisis des graphiques de textes qui t'intéressent le plus.

BV: Non, non, non, non - c'est Krieger qui m'a dit: « Bernar, il y a par exemple, Cantor, qui est le plus grand mathématicien, ou Brussel [phonétique], qui a fait des études précises sur tel et tel sujet». Et il me dit: « Tu devrais faire cette étude-là. »

SF: Ah d'accord

BV: Je vais à l'université dans la bibliothèque, je prends les livres importants, je copie le texte et je fais mon tableau. Et je fais, bon, mon études, oui.

SF: Donc tu n'as pas une idée précise avant de commencer un nouvelle œuvre.

BV: De ce que ça va être esthétiquement ? Mais certainement, plastiquement, c'est pas important.

SF: Non non, une idée pour une œuvre.

BV: Non, simplement je sais que je vais faire une étude importante sur une copie littéraire portant sur les mathématiques, ou sur les études nucléaires, bon bien, c'est ça, c'est tout. Mais pour moi, je ne fais pas mes tableaux par plaisir. Je ne suis plus un peintre qui passe des heures à analyser une œuvre. Simplement c'est une étude importante, je la fait, comme ça. C'est une discipline, je travaille les jours les soirs pour faire mon tableau. C'est très grand. Je travaille pendant 10-12 heures sans arrêts pour écrire. Et c'est tout, il n'y a plus aucun plaisir. Simplement, je sais que j'ai fait quelque chose d'important

SF: Tu aimes le faire quand même.

BV: Je suis content quand j'ai fini une œuvre, je sais que j'ai quelque chose devant moi qui m'intéresse. C'est tout. Mais je n'aime pas du tout le réaliser, je suis malade, ça me fait mal aux yeux, mal à la tête.

SF: Et si on reprend au début, est-ce que tu peux dire quelles ont été tes diverses influences? À part les scientistes, les scientistes dont tu viens de me parler?

BV: Pour attaquer ces choses-là, les choses mathématiques et scientifiques que j'ai faites, je ne me souviens d'aucunes influences, bien honnêtement Les choses sont venues, dans- là, ça a été l'évolution plastique au début, c'était l'évolution plastique. J'étais intéressé par la peinture industrielle, en faisant mes tableaux, ils étaient modernistes au début, je faisais des tableaux, peintures industrielles [inaudible] je faisais ça avec haubert, avec un masque. Je faisais mes peintures industrielles comme on peint des voitures, industriellement. De là, je suis passé, après des projets industriels qui étaient des tubes d'unités, qui peuvent être débités [phonétique] en usine. Et comme je ne pouvais pas les réaliser en France, j'ai fait le dessin industriel de ces tubes-là, tout à fait comme des véritables dessins industriels. Et en découvrant l'esthétique du dessin industriel, j'ai découvert l'esthétique du graphique et les mathématiques, et ça c'était très très court, j'ai simplement, c'était un passage très rapide. J'ai découvert dans mes bouquins mathématiques de nouvelles formes, et d'un seul coup je me suis dit : « Oui, mais la science il faut l'explorer », et j'ai exploité la science comme ça. La meilleure preuve que ce n'était pas un problème graphique, c'est que j'ai fait des textes avec vocabulaire scientifique où il n'y a pas de graphiques, qui sont aussi importants que mes tableaux.

SF: Donc si on prend au début. Au commen-, au début, tu as commencé par faire des mono- comment tu appelles?

BV: Oui, mais ça c'était, c'était-

SF: Non mais, juste pour comprendre un peu l'évolution de ton œuvre.

BV: Mais oui, mais justement, les monochromes noirs.

SF: Non, juste ton évolution par divers œuvres que tu as réalisés, par divers tableaux que tu as réalisés. Donc tu as commencé par faire?

BV: Oui bon, les monochromes noirs.

SF: Juste pour qu'on puisse mieux comprendre ton œuvre.

BV: Oui bon, les monochromes noirs, les collages noirs. Quand j'ai découvert Ad Reinhardt, le noir m'a ennuyé. J'ai fait des collages rouges, ou verts, ou jaunes, que je peignais industriellement. Je peignais au revolver. Je peignais au relief, carton au revolver toujours. Je suis passé aux tubes, premiers industriels. J'ai fait le dessin industriel, je fais mes premiers dessins industriels, les premiers dessins mathématiques, premiers dessins scientifiques, sur toile et ensuite sur papier- bon ça s'est passé comme ça.

SF: Quels sont tes autres projets que tu veux faire maintenant? Tu as parlé - au point de vue, au point de vue scientifique, je veux dire.

BV: J'ai une chose importante. J'ai une chose importante qu'il faut que je dise, super importante. Une chose importante qu'il faut que je dise. C'est que je suis arrivé à un résultat, en tout cas. Premièrement, je ne choisis pas mon sujet, c'est okay.

SF: D'accord

BV: Une chose si importante, je ne choisis pas généralement - Quand un peintre, quand un artiste fait un tableau, il choisit un sujet, il choisit la dimension de son tableau, la composition, tout ça c'est un travail. Et il choisit, il décide aussi qu'il va faire un tableau. Donc prenant tout ça, voici où j'en suis moi. Je ne choisis plus mon tableau, parce que ce sont les scientistes qui me disent: « Tel sujet ». Je ne choisis pas les dimensions du tableau non plus, puisque que je commence à écrire mon sujet sur un rouleau [20:00] de papier millimétré. Quand c'est arrivé, je coupe. Donc je ne choisis pas les dimensions de mon tableau, okay. Je choisis pas la composition de mon tableau, puisque j'écris, je commence par écrire le titre, je marque « study by », et je marque le nom de l'art-, du savant qui a fait l'étude, je commence à écrire mon étude, je fais le graphique quand le graphique vient au milieu de l'étude, je continue, je marque les références, je signe et je coupe mon rouleau, okay, donc pas de propositions. Mais j'en sais toujours un résultat, celui de décider, que je vais faire un tableau. Je décide toujours que je fais le tableau.

J'ai déjà l'idée de faire la chose suivante. Je voudrais, je voudrais, programmer un computer, qui déciderait lui de l'importance des sujets qui sont découverts chaque année en physique, dans toutes les sciences les plus importantes. Et ce computer réaliserait aussi lui-même les sujets importants, réaliserait l'étude sur papier de ces sujets-là. Donc je ferais, le computer ferait peut-être une étude seule par an. Est-ce qu'il en ferait une à tous les dix ? Est-ce qu'il en ferait vingt dans le mois ? Simplement en fonction de l'importance des sujets découverts dans le monde. Alors là, j'aurais, donc, je pense déjà à la solution de ne pas réaliser, de ne pas décider de l'art que je fais. Ça c'est la solution, mais je n'ai pas encore de computer qui peut le faire, alors je suis toujours en train de réaliser des choses.

SF: Mais c'est libérant pour vous.

BV: Je veux me libérer complètement, je pourrais demain arrêter complètement de faire mes tableaux, de faire quoi que ce soit, et ça, ça me rend- On prend un computer qui est programmé, et qui réalisera mes œuvres. Il en réalisera peut-être qu'une dans les vingt ans qui vont suivre, je ne sais pas, mais enfin, ça sera simplement fait par un computer. Et après ma mort, il va continuer à faire les œuvres de moi, enfin, des œuvres qui partiront de mon idée, simplement, qui seront réalisées par computer, si c'est important, moi je pourrais réaliser encore des œuvres.

SF: Ah je comprends, oui.

BV: [inaudible] Donc, je crois, j'arrive au point absolu de libération totale, avec cette chose là.

SF: Et que devient l'artiste dans tout ça ?

BV: Eh - la création, j'ai créé l'idée.

SF: Quel?

BV: J'ai eu l'idée, j'ai créé l'idée. Je compte sur la possibilité. Demain beaucoup d'artistes -

SF: Ça semblerait sur le plan idée.

BV: Eh oui, bien sûr. Mais, demain, je sais que, je pense que les artistes vont faire des concessions d'avantage avec l'art, est-ce que, et -

SF: Des concessions?

BV: Des concessions, c'est-à-dire, j'imagine très bien un jeune artiste demain, faisant un « happening », par exemple, avec des projections - imagine une pierre comme ça, « happening ». On projette des, une photo de Einstein sur le mur, en même temps, on fait des bruits, on a des enregistrements sur bande magnétique de vocabulaire scientifique, comme ça, en même temps, on projette sur l'autre mur des diapositives. Mais tout ça, ça fait, c'est assez spectaculaire, donc ça fera des concessions.

SF: Donc un environnement scientifique.

BV: Oui, un environnement scientifique, mais tout ça, je suis sûr qu'on le fera, c'est à faire en tout cas, mais ça fera d'avantages de concessions, ce sera beaucoup plus esthétique, beaucoup plus artistique. Parce que dans tout ça on mélangera, on, le spectateur sera perdu, il devra, il verra pas tout ça à la fois,ça lui créera un choc, ce lui fera, et, ça c'est des possibilités d'études ça.

SF: [inaudible]

BV: Mais moi je suis pas intéressé.

SF: [inaudible] à réaliser-

BV: Non non non, je suis pas intéressé par ça.

SF: Qu'une idée-

BV: Qu'une idée, au niveau de la création, je veux, tout ce que je fais est purement théorique, théorique, théorique, absolument, je voudrais seulement des idées théorique.

SF: As-tu déjà parlé de cette idée, dont tu viens de me parler, par exemple, parce que-

BV: Non, je l'ai déjà écrit, je l'ai déjà, c'est tout, ces trucs-là, mais c'est pas, j'en ai parlé.

SF: Ah oui, d'accord.

BV: Mais je pense à d'autres choses, je pense, mon idée, c'est parce que c'est au niveau de la théorie, je peux me libérer aussi de la science. Pourquoi uniquement la science, pourquoi uniquement la physique nucléaire, pourquoi les mathématique ? Je pense déjà travailler avec la médecine par exemple.

SF: La médecine.

BV: Ou avec la stratégie militaire. Pourquoi pas faire de la stratégie militaire? Pourquoi par parler de choses, de choses qui [inaudible] stratégie militaire, demain, voilà. Comment attaquer une ville avec toutes les, il y a-

SF: Ah, c'est vraiment un champ illimité, alors.

BV: Illimité, absolument illimité. Oui, plus j'y pense, plus il y a de possibilités. Quand j'ai fait mon premier « essay » mathématique les gens m'ont dit : « Mais, oh, qu'est ce que tu vas faire après ça ? », mais j'y travaille pour quelques années encore. Même après ma mort.

SF: [rire]

BV: Non. C'est vraiment un autre domaine, mais il faut que je voie purement au niveau de la théorie. C'est pour ça que je suis d'accord avec des idées sciences et technologie, okay. Je suis d'accord avec ces autres trucs du futur, j'y crois absolument, mais ça n'a rien à voir avec mes idées, absolument rien. La technologie ne m'intéresse pas. Faire des épisodes qui font du bruit, du son et des lumières et tout ça, ça ne m'intéresse pas. Ça ne m'intéresse pas. C'est vraiment, faire des objets, c'est faire de l'art, c'est faire des petites choses comme ça, c'est gentil, qui sont faites pour plaire, pour avoir, être spectaculaire quand même. Ça ne m'intéresse pas. C'est pour ça que maintenant, même avec les sujets mathématiques, c'est pour ça en ce moment, si c'est les mathématiques qui m'intéressent le plus, c'est tout simplement parce que les mathématiques sont d'avantage théoriques. Quand je fais de la physique solaire, j'apprends le soleil, ce qu'est, ce que c'est, on a une idée un petit peu, et à mon avis, c'est moins avancé que les mathématiques par computer, métamathématique.

SF: Alors, que, que, comment pourrais-tu définir l'artiste maintenant ?

BV: L'artiste, il avait eu, c'est sûr que-

SF: Mais à ton niveau, je pense de toi. Là je parle de toi.

BV: [25:00] Je ne sais pas.

SF: Celui qui donne des idées.

BV: Quelqu'un oui, qui ouvre, qui ouvre, qui donne, qui ouvre-

SF: Qui ouvre de nouvelles possibilités

BV: Voilà, et en tout cas qui délimite l'art, qui, qui, amène des limites à l'art, comme ça au champ de vision, au champ intellectuel, n'importe quoi. C'est plus, car, moi quand je parle d'art, je parle pas de peinture, ou de sculpture ou de cinéma, ou tout ça, je parle, une vision, un vision générale. Je crois par exemple à une synthèse de toutes les sciences de l'art plus tard, qui sera une science évolutionniste. Simplement, on ne fera plus de la peinture, ou de la science ou quoi, seulement on fera évoluer les choses. Voilà, on fera évoluer, on fera évoluer tout, et on ira pas... Moi, je ne sais pas si je suis plus un artiste qu'un scientiste. Je suis plus un artiste en ce moment, mais je sais pas comment ça va finir.

SF: Tu sais pas ou ça va finir.

BV: Mais simplement je suis pour l'évolutionnisme, alors ça c'est certain, comme un savant, et comme un scientiste, et comme un artiste, et comme tous les gens qui œuvrent [inaudible]-

SF: Mais est-ce que tu es intéressé à lire des bouquins, des livres scientifiques.

BV: Non, je les, je ne comprends pas. Oui, j'ai lu un truc sur la physique nucléaire, qui m'intéresse, mais ça m'importe pas beaucoup. Ça me, non. Je préfère lire, j'ai un livre sur Einstein, sur les idées savantes. Ça, ça m'ouvre d'avantage de possibilités, surtout sur l'idée des, du raisonnement théorique pour faire évoluer, du raisonnement logique pour faire évoluer les choses. Ce que j'exploite en art.

SF: Oui, c'est la logique

BV: La logique

SF: Absolument, oui oui, je comprends, oui c'est-

[pause audio]

SF: Donc quels sont les artistes de marques avec lesquelles tu penses avoir quelques relations ? Quelques correspondances? Avec lesquels tu t'entends au point de vue -

BV: Je ne suis pas tout à fait d'accord. Il y a deux artistes ici à New York avec qui j'ai quelques choses d'autres à voir. Mais c'est vraiment parce qu'il faut en trouver, hein, c'est vraiment parce qu'il faut trouver les autres qui ont quelques choses à voir avec moi. Quand on me demande toujours, je dis justement, c'est toujours Joseph Kosuth, mais il y peut-être aussi On Kawara, qui est un japonais, que je connais très bien aussi. Mais ce ne sont pas- Sur le plan théorique, ce n'est pas purement abstrait, on a quelques choses à voir ensemble, mais ils ne sont pas par exemple du tout intéressés par la science.

SF: Qu'est-ce qui les intéresse surtout.

BV: Kosuth lui, c'est la définition, c'est au niveau, je ne sais pas expliquer sont travail, parce que quand il me l'explique, je ne comprends pas très bien ce qu'il me dit, c'est très, purement, purement abstrait. Il faudrait poser les questions à lui, mais-C'est au-L'idée de, du tableau-objet apprécié pour des raisons plastiques ne l'intéresse pas. L'idée de la vision de choses, c'est-à-dire, l'idée selon laquelle les artistes jusqu'à aujourd'hui, ce que je disais tout à l'heure, ont toujours été intéressés par les objets qui les entourent et qu'ils ne peignent que ça, il faut parler d'autres choses. Grâce à la science, bien oui, c'est la qu'il en parle [inaudible] de l'époque, on peut parler de nouveaux, de nouveaux, de nouveaux sujets, des planètes, des choses infiniment petites, des réactions des gazes [inaudible], des choses comme ça, ce sont des choses qui l'intéresse.

Mais ce qu'il fait est tout à fait différent. Il parle de la définition du mot « abstrait », comme il donne la définition de « abstrait », par exemple, et la définition, c'est , c'est tout ce qui va sur un tableau. L'objet ne l'intéresse pas du tout.

SF: Sa définition abstrait, tu dis?

BV: Il prend le mot « abstrait », il voit la définition qu'il prend sur un dictionnaire. Chaque fois un dictionnaire différent. Il définit les choses comme ça. Ou, l'eau, « water ». Il donne la définition, il donne la définition de couleur, la définition de blanc, la définition de- et des choses comme ça.

SF: Et ce Kosuth ?

BV: On Kawara- non ça c'était Kosuth.

SF: Ah, c'était Kosuth-

BV: Alors, On Kawara lui. Ces tableaux représentent toujours la date du jour. C'est tout. Chaque jour il fait un tableau, qui est presque toujours de la même dimension, qui est assez petit, et, il écrit la date, il écrit 12 mai 1967, il écrit 22 mars 1968, aujourd'hui il est après faire ce tableau-là, et, et le titre des tableaux, c'est toute l'histoire, tout ce qui se passe dans le monde ce jour-là. C'est l'anniversaire d'un copain, ça peut être le début d'une guerre, ça peut être Johnson, ça peut être Martin King, ça peut être tout ça, oui, c'est le titre du tableau qui est beaucoup plus développé que le sujet du tableau lui-même.

SF: Est-ce que tu discutes avec eux ?

BV: Oui, Kosuth beaucoup. On Kawara je l'ai moins vu. Mais il est venu chez moi l'année dernière on a parlé ensemble. [30:00] Mais enfin, on a des choses en commun, mais enfin au niveau très théorique, c'est tout, quoi.

SF: Et quels sont les artistes actuels que tu apprécies?

BV: J'apprécie beaucoup d'artistes, j'essaie de, je- J'aime des gens comme Dan Flavin, par exemple, je ne sais pas. C'est le type que j'aime le plus en ce moment. C'était vraiment pur, c'était vraiment, c'est simplement une lumière, c'est tout, ça suffit quoi. Un néon, quand il commence à en mettre trois et en faire des compositions, j'étais pas d'accord, j'étais tellement contre ça, mais quand il met cette lumière sur le mur, ça m'intéresse, donc, eh... J'aime aussi, j'aime, j'ai découvert que j'aime Sol Lewitt par exemple, parce que- oui c'est très classique, tout ça c'est tellement classique. C'est vraiment de l'art, l'art d'hier, le monde d'hier, en faisant des choses pareilles. N'importe quel artiste du [inaudible] aurait pu faire ça. Simplement c'est une évolution très logique, très simple, très lente. J'aime aussi, j'aime ce qui est simple, j'aime Whitman, qui a fait ce laser qui était projeté sur le mur, c'est très simple, il a mis un laser en projection, c'est tout, ça suffit. J'aime les choses très très très très sobres, le moins artistique possible, le moins fouillé, le moins spectaculaire possible, dans ce qui j'aime, c'est tout. Il n'y a pas beaucoup d'artistes que j'aime beaucoup beaucoup. Je m'intéresse à des gens qui, j'aime Gilbert [phonétique] j'aime Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol beaucoup, j'aime Normand [phonétique], j'aime beaucoup d'artiste comme ça, Lichtenstein, oui. Enfin c'est- simplement je les aime, c'est intéressant, c'est bien c'est tout.

SF: Quels sont tes projets ?

BV: projets ?

SF: Tu m'as parlé d'un ballet-

BV: Le ballet c'est un projet qui date depuis 1966 au mois d'août. C'est que le ballet, le ballet, je vous donnerai une reproduction photographique. Le ballet c'est la création d'un graphique sur un plan vertical. C'est simplement la création d'un de mes tableaux comme je le faisais un 1966, la création d'un graphique, à l'échelle, à une très grande échelle. Les danseurs n'ont pas de, n'ont aucune fonction que celle de créer le graphique avec la corde qui est dessus. Et quand les danseurs sont sortis du graphique, et bien le tableau est présent et le ballet est terminé. C'est très simple, le moins artistique possible. Mais c'est toujours quand même très artistique en comparaison avec le « play » par exemple, que je voudrais faire, par exemple, au Judson Church, qui sera essentiellement trois scientistes qui parleront de, trois véritables scientistes, comme aux universités, qui parleront au tableau noir sur trois sujets différents, très compliqués, très importants. Ils ne feront que, ils donneront un cours comme dans n'importe quelle université, comme dans n'importe quel physique nucléaire ou science. Il y a aura aussi des projections de « slides », par un scientiste qui développera un sujet, il y aura projection de « slides » sur la médecine, par Alfred Cogan [phonétique], sur les découvertes scientifiques en médecine, et voilà, et je, des lectures de textes, de mes textes avec vocabulaire scientifique.

SF: Et tu m'avais aussi parlé de ces agrandissements de photos, que tu voulais réaliser : photos de la lune, du soleil.

BV: Ah oui ça c'est un projet, ça c'est un jeu, ça fait partie de mon domaine, comme ça. J'aimerais bien faire des expositions des mes graphiques, sur toile, ensuite sur papier, ensuite [inaudible], enfin, tous ces projets-là. Et puis un jour, pour surprendre un petit peu les gens, enfin ça fait partie de mon, de mes idées, de proposer une exposition sur, de faire des paysages, « new landscape ». Et ce sont, ce sont de nouveaux paysages, en vérité ce sont des photos du soleil en éruption, qui est très calme, c'est tout. Ce sont les paysages de demain, c'est tout, quoi. Simplement, on en a pas encore parlé, c'est pas discuté. J'ai le projet qui est tout prêt mais je n'ai pas d'exposition, catalysé définitivement.

SF: Le 4 août, tu vas exposer à Rochester, je crois.

BV: Oui, cet exposition, oui oui, ça c'est, oui, bien sûr, je vais exposer avec des peintres américains, et je suis un peintre européen qui habite à New York, c'est bien oui, je suis content-



English Translation

Sevim Fesci [SF]: I would like to start this interview, Bernar, by asking you a general question. What is Art, with a capital "A", for you? It's definition, it's definition for you Bernar?

Bernard Venet [BV]: I have a very precise definition. For me, Art is a way to widen human thought, and make it evolve. That is all. It's a- [inaudible]. It's very very wide, it's very very vast.

SF: So, before anything, it's intellectual for you.

BV: I would say that I don't know what I mean to say. It's mostly, we have to, the Fine Arts system is finished. This means, that we do not need to have plastic and esthetic qualities in order to create. It is simply, yes, at the level of pure creation.

SF: Yes.

BV: At the level of the idea.

SF: So, at the level of the idea.

BV: At the level of the idea, where this takes shape. Art is at the level of creation.

SF: So, this means for you that the sensibility and the intuition of the artist should not play a role anymore in the process of creation. We do not see anymore, the, the personality of the artist in the creation, in a work.

BV: Less and less at least, we, I think we paint less and less with emotions, but sensibility still exists in the measure that everyone has his own sensibility and that is what we can create with, maybe, but - . What should arise from all that comes from the emotions. That is what should come out.

SF: It's more conscious.

BV: Yes, I believe in the evolution of art starting from a logical system, from logical deductions, as scientists, for example, have pushed forward the evolution of the history of science, just through an almost mathematical system. So I do not believe in the evolution of Art by intuition, for example. Yes, these are structured things, but-

SF: How did this idea come to you? How did it come? What did you start with?

BV: My, my evolution in my new things?

SF: Yes. I mean, in your first works, do we already sense this idea?

BV: Well, listen-

SF: Now, for example - you made at the beginning for example, monochrome.

BV: At that time, it was, well, at that time, listen, I don't know, it was at the time of the monochromes. At the time of the monochromes it was not the problems of formal beauty that interested me. The problems of formal beauty never interested me.

SF: [inaudible]

BV: Never really. I had a period which was a bit like that, where I was a bit lost, where I remember esthetics a bit, but it has no importance, we never spoke of it, that has been completely erased.

But, no, things became very serious from the moment, well, with my last period. My idea, simply, to start talking about something else. Forget what had been there, and say simply, let's talk of something else. I am speaking purely about mathematics, or purely about physics, but purely, purely, without any interpretations, without any conditions, with, with what had been there in the past.

SF: And this I think you are attempting more and more, guarded by goals. I see paintings; there is a certain research at the esthetic level.

BV: There is one thing -

SF: [inaudible] The paintings that you see -

BV: One thing that I must say. The first painting, the first scientific paintings that I did, I need to recognize that I was influenced by the, the classic forms of each. In the first ones, simply, I discovered the esthetics of the graph.

SF: So, a kind of technique.

BV: At the beginning, that was it. After, after - well, at the beginning, I was interested by esthetics. I would see shapes that interested me, I would see them on a painting, I would make them. But after, I -

SF: But for you – excuse me for interrupting you – but for you there is also this precision, where we run towards the meaning.

BV: Not important. I don't have any, any - Me, I don't have a style. I don't have a style. I don't have - The technique does not interest me. The way I create my painting does not interest me. The only thing that is important is the idea. At the beginning, I was doing this on canvas. I did it on carbon paper, I did it on graph paper, I proposed inserting slides, I can create plays, I can do it on - Everything is, everything is possible. I can enlarge [inaudible]. Since esthetics do not interest me, I don't care about the creation, I don't care at all.

SF: Yes. And do you think that you had to reject the past completely? Well, all of the heritage of the past? Plus, it can't influence anymore -

BV: But the past, the past has existed. And if today I am making something it is because there was all of this past. Otherwise, if I had been born 500 years earlier, I am sure I would not have done what I am doing now. That is absolutely certain. But me, what I want is, with everything I know from the past, I try to forget all of it and to create starting from new bases. [5:00 minutes] I would like to completely change all of the criteria -

SF: All the criteria that you use -

BV: I want to say things that I wrote a little while ago, in 67, May 2, 67. What I wanted. For example, I will start with -

SF: Read it, read it - comma.

BV: I was saying: Esthetics does not interest me. The covering of paintings with modern technical procedures or the use of new materials does not have any importance.

SF: Yes, yes.

BV: Yes. Whether I create my paintings on canvas, on paper, or if I use the projection of slides on the wall, it makes little difference. I am completely in disagreement with artists who deal with subjects that have been exploited a thousand times, but with different materials. There's often a discussion about the differences between the still-lives of Matisse and one by Wesselman. The subject and the thematic have to change.

SF: The?

BV: The thematic, the idea, and the subject. So, since I am not interested by the esthetics of my works, consequently my evolution cannot be plastic. It will be found maybe in the fact that a painting from 1970, will be more precise than a painting from 1967, dealing with the same subject, because discoveries will have added themselves to the 1967 data.

SF: Oh, I see.

BV: The same applies to science. The criteria that situated the evolution of artists, and that was based on the plastic transformation of the work, don't have anything in common anymore with what directs my evolution.

SF: Yes.

BV: I would like to break completely with all established concepts: personality, the thin layer of varnish, with what has been, and what still isn't [phonetic]. I think that the discovery of abstract art by Kandinsky followed Maurice Denis' definition, according to which a painting, before being – I don't know the exact definition – It was; a painting, before being a landscape, a battle scene, a nude woman, is before everything a combination of tropes, assembled in a certain mode. And even Kandinsky verified that definition. So, one important thing, I've already said it, but I can repeat it. I am willing to admit that when I chose to reproduce my first mathematical or scientific graphs, I let myself be influenced by the esthetics of each.

SF: Yes.

BV: It's to avo-, it's to avoid that, that today, I chose a scientific topic before all, and my paintings just illustrate the transfer of this subject, recorded on magnetic tape, [inaudible] carousel [inaudible]. A collector will not be able to chose a painting anymore because it particularly pleases him, instead he will need to choose a subject that I will be dealing with, on the magnetic recording, and he will take with him the two, three or four paintings that illustrate this subject.

SF: Therefore, the collector will essentially be choosing the text.

BV: The topic, that is to say, the importance of the topic. Like, lately, I just did a study on the particles that go faster than the speed of light, and I consider that this painting is much more important even than the largest ones I have done, which are -

SF: So the subject has a very high importance for you.

BV: The subject, the actual subject, yes, has a great deal of importance. That is why I end up making paintings of scientific subjects, where these's nothing but a small drawing.

SF: I just see a graph and, with the text.

BV: Yes, there is only a little graph and the text holds much greater importance.

SF: Yes, oh, I see.

BV: So, the first thing, which actually, was very - Finally when a painting, when a collector, when someone saw a painting by me that I had made in 66-67, there was a [inaudible] of paintings, plastic forms, even if he did not understand, even, there were still some esthetic shapes, a plastic form, an interesting shape, but now there is almost only, there are only things.

SF: There was a given shape, but now?

BV: And another important thing: each painting had, had a different esthetic, we could recognize that one had dots, another one had lines, and another one, another one had angles, with studies of mountains of numbers, another less, another more loaded, another less. But now all the paintings are the same. I write on this paper like this, I write a lot, I make -

SF: But how can art survive then?

BV: The art of the subject, I was saying -

SF: Ah, so you want them to read then -

BV: But I want them to read, well, I would like them to, you know - I was saying something a little while ago to Ivan Karp, I told him that, I would almost like, I would like that when a collector comes to a gallery to buy a painting, I would want him to come with a scientist, who would consult him, and who would say:

SF: Ah, I understand.

BV: "See, this painting is important for this and this reason, you should choose this one."

SF: It is important in the history of science.

BV: Yes, in the evolution of science, yes, yes, that is absolutely it. Other than: "Oh, this nice, I like this one, because it is graphic, there are three red pines there, it makes it pretty." But that, that's not important at all.

SF: So, the esthetic aspect, you've completely -

BV: I would like, I would like to refuse it. Lately, my last paintings, if I arrive at some result, in any case - well my, my last paintings are almost all the same now, simply, there is a lot of writing, the trope holds almost no more importance.

SF: No [inaudible]

BV: So, esthetically, they are all the same. Simply, the subjects [10:00] are different.

SF: Ah, yes, I understand. So, what do you ask from the person who comes to you for the first time?

BV: What I ask from those who come to me for the first time, is to leave without laughing too much, because, it's hard the first time. [They laugh]

I've had reactions that were abso-, I've had many reactions, very different reactions like that, but it is hard for people who come to my studio for the first time to appreciate, to really like. My first contacts, Ivan Karp for example, the first contact he had was purely plastic, he told me it was very [inaudible], a bit like that. Now, people like -

SF: Lucy Lippard also, I believe, no?

BV: Lucy Lippard? Yes, she's fine, generally, she's of those people who most understands NTQ [phonetic] research, the proof is that she has written "Dematerialization of Art", otherwise she wouldn't have evidence that she had done plastic research. But there are people like Adolf Wiffel [phonetic] who are interested more in the intellectual research of the topic.

SF: In intellectual research -

BV: In intellectual research. In the fact that plastic art, the spirit of Fine Arts, is finished. Science is gaining in importance and it is something to exploit.

SF: So for you, this is one way of making contact with your work.

BV: Well, to make contact with my work, we see the painting, we don't really know what to make of it at the beginning, we get used to it, we look at it, we look at it some more, we see the master, we understand the research, we listen to him speak, we see what he has done before, and we start to appreciate too.

SF: Fine then. And what in fact does it mean to you, or rather, does it join up with the Anti-Art touched upon by Duchamp? Aren't you effectively going towards Anti-Art?

BV: To start with, Duchamp did not make Anti-Art. He was making Art – Art, which means, something parallel to art. And me, when I started making paintings in 1966, I received advice that was very very, it was natural amongst people at that time, who were telling me: "What you are doing is not - You are making graphs, mathematics, it's pure, and - But it is not art, and you should put in some colors, you should put in something, you should -" I didn't want that.

SF: Who told you that?

BV: People in Nice, who saw my paintings first, my paintings in Nice. But me, I don't do that, I say, I think, I did not know if what I was doing was art, there was no reason. It wasn't art at the beginning, it was mathematics quite simply. Simply, it becomes art with time, that is all, but in the beginning, it is good to do things that are parallel to art, a different research, it's maybe something new. But its shape is far from the theory of Marcel Duchamp, Art – Art, okay, parallel to Art, okay.

SF: Parallel to art.

BV: Which become art afterwards, just like what Marcel Duchamp called Art, that's all.

SF: Very well. And how do you approach the creation of a new piece?

BV: Well, very simply, I go to two scientists. Currently, I have Ullman from Columbia University, and Krieger.

SF: And Krieger?

BV: A scientist from the University of Berkley [inaudible] Laboratory. He is a young scientist, but him, he is very interesting too. They tell me, in the subjects, in the following subjects, that is to say, space science, solar physics, nuclear physics and mathematics by computer, or meta-mathematics, they suggest the most important subjects. And based on, on their advice, I create my pieces, but I create my paintings, I don't create my paintings because they please me esthetically, I create them for the importance of the subject, and since I am not capable of knowing the importance of the subject, I use scientists who can advise me. They think for me at the beginning.

SF: So you don't do any works without the help of scientists?

BV: Without the help of scientists, I can't. I run too much, magazine in hand, not able to create anything since I don't know which is the most important study on that subject. And since I met Gerard Feinberg, the scholar who discovered the particles that go faster than light, I can now make some interesting studies. I think I can do something with that.

SF: And what do you think of their works? I mean, what do they think of your work?

BV: They are a little - They can't understand. They are scientists and they are not - and what interests them in art is maybe Van Gogh or Picasso. They are a bit advanced, but -

SF: So for you essentially, it's not about the art.

BV: No no no no, I ask something from them, they are, they are like - they are consultants, that's all. They don't even have to understand what I do, it's not very important. Well, they understand, they don't understand, they ask themselves questions, the art challenges them, and all that, well - Sometimes they are convinced that I am right, sometimes they are convinced that I am wrong. But that is not important. They don't have, they have no influence in the field of art. I just ask them for advice.

SF: How did you make contact with them?

BV: I met -

SF: Through acquaintances, or did you go to Columbia University?

BV: No no, by coincidence I met Ullman at a diner in 67, January 67, when I arrived in New York.

SF: At who's?

BV: At a friend's, a friend's, just a friend who had invited us to diner. Anyway he was exactly what I needed, because he could [15:00] get me into Columbia University, make the library accessible to me, discuss new ideas with me, and give me advice. And then Krieger, all that was after, I met all of these people afterwards at Columbia University. And Gerard Feinberg is at Columbia University, yes, I met him, I heard about him by coincidence at a lunch with the scientists.

SF: So you go the Columbia University library, you take some books-

BV: Exact -

SF: You come back here, and you-

BV: Exactly, exactly.

SF: You choose graphs from the texts that interest you the most.

BV: No no no no - It's Krieger who told me: "Bernar, there is for example, Cantor, who is the greatest mathematician, or Brussel [phonetic], who has done precise studies on this and that subject. And he tells me: "You should do this study".

SF: I understand.

BV: I go to the university library, I take out important books, I copy the text and I create a new work. And I do my study, yes.

SF: So you don't have a precise idea before starting a new work.

BV: Of what it will be esthetically? But of course, plastically, it's not important.

SF: No no, an idea for a piece.

BV: No, simply I know that I will be making an important study on a literary text dealing with mathematics, or on nuclear studies, well, that's it, that's all. But for me, I don't create paintings for pleasure. I am not one of those painters who spends hours analyzing a piece. Simply, it's an important study, I do it, just like that. It's a discipline, I work days and nights for my painting. It's a big thing. I work for 10-12 hours non-stop to write. And that is all, there is no more pleasure. Simply, I know that I am doing something important.

SF: You like to do them, though.

BV: I'm happy when I've finished a piece, I know I have something in front of me that interests me. That is all. But I do not enjoy creating it at all, I am sick, it hurts my eyes, gives me a headache.

SF: And if we go back to the start, can you tell me what were your diverse influences? Other than the scientists, the scientists you just mentioned to me?

BV: To attack those things, the mathematical and scientific things that I do, I don't remember any influences, quite honestly. Things came in - well, the plastic evolution came first, it was the plastic evolution. I was interested by industrial painting while doing my works, they were modernist at first, I was making paintings, industrial paintings [inaudible], I was doing that with an armor and a mask. I was doing my industrial painting like one paints a car, industrially. From there, I went on after to an industrial project, which were unit tubes, which can be cut up [phonetic] in a factory. And since I could not realize this project in France, I made industrial drawings of these tubes, just like real industrial drawings. And by discovering the esthetics of the industrial drawing, I discovered the esthetics of graphs and mathematics, it was very very short, I simply, it was a rapid passage. I discovered in my mathematical books new shapes, and right away I said to myself: "Yes, but science has to be explored", and I exploited science in that way. The best proof that this was not a graphic problem, is that I created text with scientific vocabulary where there are no graphs, and they are as important as my paintings.

SF: So, if we go back to the start. In the begin-, at the start, you started by making some mono- how do you call it?

BV: Yes, that was it, it was -

SF: No but, just to understand a bit the evolution of your work.

BV: Yes, so exactly, the black monochromes.

SF: No, just your evolution through various pieces that you have created, through various paintings that you created. So, you started by making?

BV: Yes, fine, the black monochromes.

SF: Just so we understand your work better.

BV: Yes, fine, the black monochromes, the black collages. When I discovered Ad Reinhardt, black started to bore me. I made red collages, or green, or yellow, which I would paint industrially. I was painting with a paint gun. I was painting relief, cardboard, always with a paint gun. I went on to the tubes, the first industrials. I did some industrial drawing, I did my first industrial drawings, the first mathematical drawings, the first scientific drawings, on canvas then on paper - So, it went like that.

SF: What are your other projects, which you would like to undertake right now? You talked about- from a scientific point of view, I mean.

BV: There is one important thing. I have one important thing that I need to say, super important. One important thing I need to say. At any rate, I've arrived at a result. First of all, I don't choose my subject, that's okay.

SF: Fine.

BV: Such an important thing, I don't generally choose - When a painter, when an artist creates a painting, he chooses a subject, he chooses the dimensions of his painting, the composition, all this is a job. And he chooses, he decides also to create a painting. So, taking all of this in, here is where I am at. I don't choose my painting, because it's the scientists who tell me: "This subject". I do not choose the dimensions of the painting either, since I start writing my subject on a roll [20:00] of graph paper. When I've reached it, I cut it. So I don't choose the dimensions of my painting, okay. I don't choose the composition of my painting, since I write, I start by writing the title, I indicate "study by", and I indicate the name of the art-, or the scholar who conducted the study, I start to write my study, I do the graph when the graph comes in the middle of the study, I continue, I indicate the references, I sign and I cut my roll. So, no assertions. But I always know of at least one result, the act of deciding that I want to create an art piece. I always decide that I am going to make an art piece.

I already have the idea of doing the following thing. I would like, I would like, to program a computer that would decide by itself the importance of subjects discovered every year in physics, in all the important sciences. And this computer would also realize by itself the important topics, would create a study on paper about these topics. So, I would make, the computer would make maybe only one study per year. Would it make one every ten? Would it make twenty in one month? Simply based on the importance of topics discovered in the world. So there, I would have then, I am already thinking of the solution to not creating, to not decide what art I am doing. That is the solution, but I still don't have a computer that can do that, so, I am still making things.

SF: But it is very liberating for you.

BV: I want to free myself completely, I could completely stop making paintings tomorrow, stop doing whatsoever and that, it makes me - We take a computer that is programmed, that creates my works. It might only make one in the following twenty years, I don't know, but it will simply be made by a computer. And after my death, it will continue to create works for me, well, works that will derive from my ideas, simply, which will be made by a computer, if it is important, so I will still be able to create works.

SF: Yes, I understand.

BV: [inaudible] So, I think I am arriving at the point of total liberation with that thing.

SF: And what about the artist in all of this?

BV: Uh - the creation, I created the idea.

SF: Which?

BV: I had the idea, I created the idea. I count on that possibility. Tomorrow many artists -

SF: So it would be at the level of the idea -

BV: Well yes, of course. But tomorrow, I don't know, I think that artists will make more concessions with art, and -

SF: Concessions?

BV: Concessions, that is to say, I can imagine clearly a young artist of tomorrow, making a happening for example, with projections. Imagine a rock like this, happening. We project some, a photo of Einstein on the wall, at the same time, we make noise, we have recordings on tape of scientific vocabulary, like that, at the same time, we project slides on the other wall. But all of this, it's pretty spectacular, so, there will be some concessions.

SF: So, a scientific environment.

BV: Yes, a scientific environment, but all of this, I am convinced we will do it, it is something to do at least, but there will have to be more concession, it will be much more esthetic, much more artistic. Because in all of this we will mix, we, the spectator will be lost, he will have to, he won't see all of this at the same time, this will shock him, it will make him, and, they are all study possibilities.

SF: [inaudible]

BV: But no, I am not interested.

SF: [inaudible] to create -

BV: No no no, I am not interested in that.

SF: Just an idea -

BV: Just an idea, at the level of creation, I want, everything I do is purely theoretical, theoretical, theoretical, absolutely, I just want theoretical ideas.

SF: Have you discussed this idea before, the one you just mentioned to me, for example, because -

BV: No, I've written it, I have already, that's all, stuff like that, but it's not, I have talked about it.

SF: Very well then.

BV: But I think of other things, I think, my idea, it's because it's at the level of theory, I can liberate myself from science. Why uniquely science, why uniquely nuclear science, why mathematics? I am thinking already of working with medicine, for example.

SF: Medecine.

BV: Or with military strategy. Why not military strategy? Why not talk about things, about things that [inaudible] military strategy, tomorrow, you know? How to attack a city with all these, there are -

SF: Oh it's really an unlimited field.

BV: Unlimited, absolutely unlimited. Yes, the more I think about it, the more there are possibilities. When I made my first mathematical essay people told me: "But what will you do after that?", but I will still be working on this for a few more years. Even after my death.

SF: [laugh]

BV: No, it's really another field, but I need to see purely at the theoretical level. That is why I agree with science and technology ideas. I agree with these things of the future, I believe in them absolutely, but it has nothing to do with my ideas, absolutely nothing. Technology does not interest me. Creating episodes of noise, sound and light and all that, does not interest me. It doesn't interest me. It's really, creating objects, creating art, it's making little things like that, it's cute, that are made to please, to have, to be spectacular still. It doesn't interest me. That is why now, even with mathematical topics, that is why at this moment, if it is mathematics that interest me the most, it is simply because mathematics are more theoretical. When I do solar physics, I learn about the sun, what it, what it is, we have a bit of an idea, and in my opinion, it is less advanced than mathematics by computer, meta-mathematics.

SF: So, what, what, how could you define the artist now?

BV: The artist, he has had, it is certain that -

SF: But at your level, I am thinking about you. Here I speak of you.

BV: [25:00] I don't know.

SF: Someone who provides ideas.

BV: Someone, yes, who opens, who opens, who provides, who opens -

SF: Who opens new possibilities.

BV: There you go, and at any rate, someone who delimits art, who brings limits to art, like that, to the field of vision, to the intellectual field, anything. It's not anymore, because, me, when I talk about art, I don't talk about painting, or sculpture, or cinema, or of all that, I am talking about, a vision, a general vision. I believe for example in a later synthesis of all the sciences of art, which will be an evolutionist science. Simply, we won't be painting anymore, or doing science or anything, just, we will make things evolve. See, we will make things evolve, we will make everything evolve, and we will not go- Me, I don't know if I am more an artist than a scientist. I am more of an artist at the moment, but I don't know how this will end.

SF: You don't know where it's going to end.

BV: But simply, I am for evolutionism, so, that is certain, as a scholar, and as a scientist, and as an artist, and as all people who work in [inaudible] -

SF: But are you interested in reading book, scientific books.

BV: No, I don't understand them. Yes, I read a thing on nuclear physics, which interests me, but I don't care much. It make me, no. I prefer reading, I have a book on Einstein, on scholarly ideas. That, that opens more possibilities, especially on the idea of, of theoretical reasoning for the purpose of evolution, some logical reasoning to make things evolve. Which is what I exploit in art.

SF: Yes, it's logic.

BV: Logic.

SF: Absolutely, yes, yes, I understand, yes, it's-

[audio break]

SF: So, who are the renowned artists with whom you think you are linked? Any correspondence? With whom you are in agreement at the level of -

BV: I am not in full agreement. There are two artists here in New York with whom I have something to do. But, you really have to search for them, you know, you really have to search for artists that have something to do with me. When I am asked this, I say in fact, always Joseph Kosuth, but there is also maybe On Kawara, who is Japanese, who I know very well too. But they are not- On the theoretical plane, we have something to do with each other, but they are not at all interested in science for example.

SF: What are they interested in mostly?

BV: For Kosuth, it's the definition, it's a the level of, I don't know how to explain his work, because when he explains it to me, I don't understand very well what he tells me, it's very, purely abstract. You should ask him these questions. But, It's at, the idea of a painting-object appreciated for plastic reasons do not interest him. The idea of the vision of things, that is to say, the idea that claims that artists until today, what I was saying earlier, have always been interested by the objects that surround them and who paint nothing but that, we need to talk about something else. Thanks to science, yes, that is where he talks about [inaudible] of the era, we can talk about new, about new, about new subjects, of planets, of infinitely small things, of gas reactions [inaudible], things like that, these are things that interest him.

But what he does is completely abstract. He talks about the definition of the word "abstract", like, he gives the definition of "abstract", for example, and the definition, it's, it's all that goes on the painting. The object does not interest him at all.

SF: His abstract definition, you say?

BV: He takes the word "abstract," he sees the definition that he takes from a dictionary. Each time a different dictionary. He defines things like that. Or, water. He gives the definition, he gives the definition of color, the definition of white, of - things like that.

SF: And this Kosuth?

BV: On Kawara. No, that was Kosuth.

SF: Oh, that was Kosuth.

BV: So, On Kawara. His paintings always represent the day's date, that's all. Everyday he makes a painting, which is almost always of the same size, which is quite small, and, he writes the date, he writes May 12, 1967, he write March 22, 1968, today he is making that painting, and the title of the painting, it's all the history, all that is happening on that day. It's a friend's birthday, it could be the start of a war, it could be Johnson, it could be Martin King, it can be all that, yes, the title of the painting is much more developed that the painting itself.

SF: Do you discuss with them?

BV: Yes, Kosuth, a lot. On Kawara, I've seen him less. But he came to my place last year and we talked. [30:00] But, well, we have things in common, but at a very theoretical level, that's all.

SF: And which artists do you appreciate?

BV: I appreciate a lot of artists, I try to, I, I like people like Dan Flavin, for example, I don't know. He's the guy I like the most at the moment. It was very pure, it was very, it's simply a light, that's all, that's enough. A neon, when he starts to put three together to make a composition, I was not in agreement, I was very much against it, but when he puts these lights on the wall, it interests me, so. I like also, I like, I have discovered that I like Sol Lewitt for example, because, yes well it's very classical, all of this is so classical. It really is art, yesterday's art, the world of yesterday, by making such things. Any artist [inaudible] could have done that. Simply, it's a very logical evolution, very simple, very slow. I like also, I like what is simple, I like Whitman, who made this laser projected on the wall, it's very simple, he set a laser to project, that's all, that's enough. I like things that are very very very retrained, the least artistic possible, the least researched, the least spectacular possible, in what I like, that's all. There aren't many artists that I like a lot, a lot. I am interested in people who, I like Gilbert [phonetic], I like Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol a lot, I like Normand [phonetic], I like many artists like that, Lichtenstein, yes. Well it's, simply I like them, it's interesting, that's all.

SF: What are your projects?

BV: Projects?

SF: You talked to me about a ballet?

BV: The ballet is a project that dates from August 1966. It's that the ballet, the ballet, I'll give you a photographic reproduction. The ballet is the creation of a graph on the vertical level. It's simply the creation of one of my paintings like I did them in 1966, the creation of a graph, at the scale, at a very large scale. The dancers don't have, don't have any other function other than to create the graph with the string that is on top. And when the dancers have left the graph, well the art piece is done and the ballet is over. It's very simple, the least artistic possible. But it is always very artistic compared to the play, for example, that I would like to put together, for example, at Judson Church, which will essentially consist of three scientists who will speak of, three real scientists, like in university, who will speak by a black board about three different subjects, very complicated ones, very important ones. They will only, they will give a class like in any university, like in any nuclear physics or science class. There will also be projection of slides, by a scientist who will develop a subject, there will be projection of slides about medicine, by Alfred Cogan [phonetic], on scientific discoveries in medicine, and there you go, and I, lectures of texts, of my texts with scientific vocabulary.

SF: And you talked to me also of those photo enlargements, that you wanted to create: photos of the moon, of the sun.

BV: Well yes, that's a project, that's a game, that's part of my domain, like that. I would very much like to exhibit my graphs, on canvas and then on paper, then [inaudible], well, all of these projects. And then one day, to surprise people a bit, well, that's part of my, of my ideas, to propose an exhibit on, to make landscapes, new landscapes. And they are, they are new landscapes, in truth they are photos of the sun erupting, which is very calm, that's all. These are the landscapes of tomorrow, that's all. Simply, we haven't talked about it yet. I have the project all ready but I don't have an exhibit, definitely catalyzed.

SF: On August 4th, you will exhibit in Rochester, I believe.

BV: Yes, this exhibit, yes yes, that's it, yes, sure, I'm going to exhibit with American painters, and I am a European painter living in New York, so it's good, yes, I'm glad-


This transcript is in the public domain and may be used without permission. Quotes and excerpts must be cited as follows: Oral history interview with Bernar Venet, 1968 Jan. 23- May 18, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.