From our partners at Art Practical, today we bring you a conversation between artist/curator Michelle Grabner and artist/writer/concrete comedian David Robbins. This interview was commissioned by guest editor Jonn Herschend as part of Issue 5.5, Slapstick and the Sublime, and originally published on July 10, 2014.
Michelle Grabner: As you know, I am frequently visiting university art departments and art schools. In the past two years, it has become routine for me to find a copy of your book, Concrete Comedy: An Alternative History of Twentieth-Century Comedy, in the miscellany of resource material that compose many students’ studio libraries. Why do you think that developing artists gravitate to this history?
David Robbins: [I speculate it’s because] they’re in the material-culture business, and likely they welcome another way to think about material culture. Some want to better understand their comedic instincts, and it’s a happy affirmation to learn there’s a tradition to those instincts. Others suspect that thinking in the terms laid out by the visual-art context may not be, for them, the right path. All would be seeking [the invigoration] that any secret or invisible history provides. At this point, both the art and the comedy systems are awfully [predetermined] and careerist, whereas my book charts a course of inventive behavior for which no career path has been identified. Concrete Comedy suggests that wiggle room is still available. Wiggle room is always attractive.