Friday, July 11, 2008

Guess who’s coming to dinner?

Some time back in the early eighties Wystan Curnow called to ask if we could have a visiting American artist to stay for few days. The artist turned out to be Dan Graham. He arrived, shuffled around the house a bit, and then sat down at the kitchen table where he pretty much stayed for the whole time he was with us. Dan had a way of mumbling that made it quite hard to hear what he was saying so, as the days passed, we found ourselves sitting closer and closer to him.

As someone who had been at the centre of the development of conceptual art he knew a lot people but sometimes it was tough to work out who he was talking about. For instance, was the Benjamin he was quoting Buchloh or Walter? It was a bit more obvious one morning when Dan asked us to mail some postcards. They were addressed to a who’s who of conceptual and minimal art. “Dear Sol”, “Hi Carl”, “What d’ya know Joe, I’m in Wellington New Zealand.”

We only side-tracked Dan from art and philosophy once. We were at City Limits and when his hamburger arrived he lifted the bun to find the meat patty covered in bean sprouts. There was not a word from him for about five long minutes. We were thinking about those days when we had coffee in a pavilion that Dan Graham designed for the KW Institute for Art. It was reflective, complex, and practical, just like Dan Graham himself. Thanks Wystan.
Images: Dan Graham's cafe installation at KW