Interview with Robert Markison
March 12, 1997
r is robert markison, the loquatious doctor.a - you made that?
j is me, justin, sufferer of hand woe and faithful student to many.
a is amy, my intrepid girlfriend and occasionally photographer.
becky typed this up for me, for money.
r - yeah, i made everything i'm wearing. i made it, i painted it...
a - this is like, my dad wears a hat like that
r - i made it,
a - do you have kids?
r -... i painted it, i cast it out of sterling, i made it out of upholstery fabric, i made it out of gaberdine, i made it out of cotton. do you understand what some of this is about where you draw patterns and you decide that you don't live in modern industrial time full of mass media and mass consumption? because if you do, you have a sickness of identity loss and brains falling out. ok?
a - i gotch ya
r - right. so if you decide that its time to have shoes then you decide that its time to draft a pattern. ok, you don't decide that its time to go to a mall.
j - wow. well then its like a commitment.
r - (to a) do you need a flash for that?
a - no, i have...i have fast film
r - well then its like a committment, good. thank you.
a - thank you, what?
r - its like a commitment; thank you for saying that. because otherwise you're uncommitted and you're only a passive dependent consumer of all the mass crap that everybody else committed to in the sweatshop offshore.
j - but like how long did it take you to make your shoes?
r - it took a weekend morning.
j - a weekend morning? huh, well that's pretty...
r - and how old would i be if i didn't take a weekend morning? do you understand? it's obvious.
j - wow.
r - its so important, so fundamental to human being which was - handle thoughts, feelings, and raw materials well for a whole life cycle then die as opposed to 'let's buy, let's buy things, let's buy. digital crap.
j - do you make clothes for other people or mostly for yourself?
r - i take care of myself and my family when they need it and they're interested, you know, if my daughters want some clothes and then want a beautiful -
a - do you make dresses?
r - yeah, sure.
a - do you make underpants?
r - sure.
j - wow.
a - what kind of underpants?
r - it doesn't matter.
a - do you make bloomers?
j - so you just measure things and just...
r - oh yeah, sure. well, if you can do surgery, which is really working on the human form in all depth, from skin to bone, then first of all, it helps answer your question - are we rolling?
j - yeah, we're rolling.
r - it helps answer your question about why do i have these parallel pursuits, are they frivolous, are they time wasters, or do they carry over evenly?
j - well, not frivolous, are they hobbies or something integral?
r - i don't make a difference, i don't make a distinction between making a wallet
j - ...out of purple leather
r - right, so you know, i make a wallet out of here
a - you made this wallet?
r - of course. what am i going to do, buy a wallet?
j - we were just talking about wallets in...
a - we were just talking about wallets in the elevator
r - right, so what if i spent time looking for a wallet? what does that mean? what is that for? i mean, what would be the point of that?
j - understanding the range of wallet options, i guess.
r - yeah, but your wallet is in your head - you know where the cards go and where they...
a - well, suppose you have a really tight schedule and you don't have time to design a wallet?
r - you don't live, you don't live a life that excludes self-tending. you really don't. you make things here. you make things.
j - did you make your wedding ring?
r - yes.
j - oh, man!
a - did you make a wedding ring for your wife?
r - ah she just, she liked the one that she had and it's fine. no and i don't lay this on anybody, okay you're just asking me questions.
a - but if i were married to you, i'd want you to make me a ring.
r - if you were married to me, you'd be with a free-thinker who loves inventiveness, feels like humans have an infinite capacity for creative refreshment...
j - wow.
r - that we fail ourselves, our identity, our ancestry if we fail to create every day. if we don't get up at dawn, see the sun rise and see light on objects and then render a little bit, paint - whether its a peach or a flower or a landscape or a tree or a portrait, and then if we don't make some music and understand time and music as well as space, then we're gonna live lives that are indeed passive-dependent consumption of mass goods and mass media and its going to be a serious question of when is enough enough. in other words, when are you in traffic to go somewhere and buy something when you should be in the cave creating?
a - the cave?
r - right, and that really means - how do you take care of yourself and/or ask the world to be a surrogate parent? so, if you take care of yourself, then you've individuated, you tend your identity and you can work and live with thoughts, feelings, and raw materials happily, in style. and so my kids will say, "daddy...
a - daddy
r - you have a shoe form for us from toddler to adult and so let's make some real zippy little casuals. and then it's - what fabric, what shape, what form, how much spring in the step, and how are we going to do this? and then it all becomes very obvious, immediately, as soon as you put masking tape on here and then you start to draw a shoe, then you prototype it and if, you know, you want to prototype a shoe, you make a prototype, if its gonna be a canvas shoe, will it have some leather onlay, for example? will it be something like this where you take and upholster your sofa or your setee, or ottoman that you're gonna put your feet up on and do you want to match that? if you've got the fabric. if you're gonna be on the couch, a couch potato, for a minute, you want to be a matching spud, you can do that. but as soon as you don't explore all the joy and pleasure of doing all that stuff, you lose it. that's my feeling. now that's not for everybody and my way is not the only way. but i'm living the life of people centuries ago...you know?
j - yeah. you don't see yourself living the life that the future is urging us towards?
r - well, i enjoy it. i've mingled in digital media, to tolerance. that's important.
j - to tolerance.
r - that's really important. because i realized that as soon as you took silicon sand off the beach and turned it into a chip, you did something horrible to the cycle and rhythm of nature. because the rhythm of nature was waves washing over that silicon sand, ok? that's action and repose. which is like this, a series of cycles of action and repose. the wave, the peak, the troth, back and forth, the flow and ebb of tides, natural time and cycles and rhythms. digital time is reversed in so far as it is a no wait state of progressive chip speed increases waiting for the warm-blooded primate to escape natural rhythm and cycles and get into some giddy, frantic, digital squirrel wheel with an ironic plastic object that has no feelings.
j - testify, wow.
r - that's it. and then you add poor design to the digital interface and now you've got an even bigger mess.
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