Art & Political Consequences
SH: Why do you think people are interested in art?
DH: I think they want to touch the source of something, you know? It doesn’t make people better. It doesn’t make them happier. It doesn’t make them smarter, and you can’t teach people to do it or like it. So who knows?
SH: Can you teach people how to see more sensitively?
DH: Danger makes us see more sensitively—anxiety—the prospect of the gallows. But you either see or you don’t. I think you want to learn about art because you had an experience of some sort—a totally nonredemptive but vaguely exciting experience, like brushing up against a girl with big boobs in the subway. It’s about that level of intensity. So you want to find out more about it since its sources are so mysterious, and these sources reside in you as well as in the object. But I have no evangelical feelings about art at all. I despise art education. Art doesn’t lend itself to education. There is no knowledge there. It’s a set of propositions about how things should look.
SH: Like an aesthetic proposition?
DH: Yeah. It doesn’t contain any truth. It doesn’t contain any fact. It’s just a proposition to be argued for or against.
SH: There are a number of artists I know who want to make art out of a political impulse, and this impulse seems kind of incompatible with art-making.
DH: The political impulse is fine but moot. Art has political consequences, which is to say, it reorganizes society and creates constituencies of people around it. Miles Davis creates a constituency. Andy Warhol creates a constituency, and any object or occasion that organizes people in terms of what they want is a political constituency. The idea of political content is irrelevant. Content is irrelevant. I always tell my students, “Never forget you’re writing words! You know, word one, word two, word three, word four. The words have to be organized. Nothing else does.”