Jan Verwoert sits down with Sam Korman to tell him what he wants for the world. What he really, really wants.
Jan Verwoert is a writer and educator based in Berlin. After a missed opportunity to buy his book, Tell Me What You Want, What You Really, Really Want (Sternberg Press, 2010), I looked high and low for the volume, eventually mail ordering it from a book seller in New York. When it finally arrived and I read the first essay while at work, the Occupy marches in Portland were just beginning to take hold a few blocks away. In a recent conversation, Verwoert and I discussed Occupy, but it lead to many other things: throughout, Verwoert threads the idea of the commons, the shared, the public, and the civic space. As we looked at various examples from the art, theoretical, and pop-cultural worlds, we attempted to circumscribe the tragi-comic mood of the commons, asking, Where does the power lie? And the funny thing is, it may be in the exchange.
Sam Korman One of the primary reasons I wanted to talk to you had to do with the Occupation Movement. After reading your essay, “Exhaustion and Exuberance”, I saw a lot of similarities. But now, I’m looking at it, and as the protests have progressed and been kicked out and returned, and developed all sorts of institutions within themselves, it doesn’t seem that it’s all just a denial of performance as you outlined in that essay.
Jan Verwoert I’m never too sure from which position to comment on such political phenomena when arguably the right response would not be to comment, but to join, to participate. So, I feel that there is something inherently awkward about commenting on such things. Even calling them such things from a drawing room perspective. Yet, I feel I strongly sympathize with this idea of highlighting the value of the commons, common culture. That’s how I will understand the central concern of this Occupy Movement. To highlight the fact that the commons are being commercialized and destroyed at the very same time.
Miriam Katz on crying with Aziz Ansari, her new podcast and the role of comedy in the art world.
Over the last few years, Miriam Katz tracked through basement bars and comedy clubs, galleries and museums, trying to split the difference between the high and low of the comedy world. Her recently inaugurated monthly podcast, Breakdown, focuses on a wide range of funny people, from comedians to artists to those in between. In this conversation, we tried to locate Katz’ position in the comedy world. While tracing her engagement through laughter, stand-up, and a lot of feelings, we found our way into some of the darker depths of the comic, but wove our way back, redeemed.
Sam Korman It’s nice timing that we’re conducting this interview during Obama’s oath of office. It is such an important moment, today is his big inauguration speech and we decided that we’re going to sit down on our computers and talk over Skype about comedy. . .
Miriam Katz I don’t know if I’m proud of that. . .
SK I don’t know either. So, you’ve worked in the art world for many years and have recently done a number of projects related to the work of comedians, all of which leads me to ask, why is comedy so important?
MK Partly it feels important because it gives people relief. Also, it allows very difficult truths to come forward. I love the gamut that it encompasses: very serious things and the most playful, childlike things come together. It’s critical and also really fun. That’s one reason I think the art world ought to look at it. The art world is interested in criticality, but often in a very serious way. There’s something about being critical in a joyous way that’s especially powerful.