On this day, we tie the pig's leg across its chest.

It realizes it's in danger as we lug it around keeping it off balance. But its howling squeals garner it no pity. We struggle to attach a second rope and pull its legs back to expose its throat. One puncture begins an inexorable flood of blood, and death comes after a minute of unanswered trumpeting calls.

“We recognize the grandeur of classical art.”
“We don’t deny that it was great for its time.”
“We will move on the plane of the present, of today!”
“Victory over the rubbish past!”

We cover the pig with hay and set it on fire. This is repeated several times, scraping the hair off after each burn. Tuica in hand, we rest briefly, then remove one eye. As the blood pours to the ground, chickens gather at the pool. We continue to scrub away the burnt skin and peel off its hooves.

It takes everyone of us to lift the carcass onto the butchering table.

Next the legs are removed, torn off like pruned branches— cut and peel. We strain to crack the skull and remove the head. It finally splits open with a hatchet. We move on to slitting the hide and ripping off the fat. The intestines are piled into a basket.

Organs come out and go into the soup. The spine is lifted from the shrinking pile of flesh. We tie off one end of the bladder and wash the stones free of blood with the remaining urine. Its stuffed and stitched.

Women arrive to grind the meat and sort the entrails. One woman blows into them checking for ruptures. The other fills the extruder with meat, cranking to engorge the emptied tubes with the mash. The tough bits are boiled, the guts washed and fed to the dogs.

No one else eats.

Henceforth this burden will be left to those who have been unable to free their consciousness from the surface, those whose consciousness have remained flat because they could not overcome the familiar. We will keep our rivals with us or behind us.

We lift our glasses and I stand to toast my comrades. They raise their hands, each with a fig clenched in their fist. Our action is the path.

We reject all speculation
all doctrine
and all formalism.

Our path will be difficult. Very Difficult! Niemand sagte, es wäre einfach.


Michael Mazurek interviewed by Benjamin Lima
November 2015
This interview was conducted via Google Docs on the occasion of the exhibition “Lorem Ipsum” at the Pollock Gallery, Southern Methodist University, Dallas, November 7 to December 12, 2015. “Lorem Ipsum” was curated by Danielle Avram, Pelican Bomb (Cameron Shaw and Amanda Brinkman) and Ben Lima. Michael agreed to participate in the show at Ben’s invitation.
Placeholder: appropriated photograph of a seated Ronald McDonald sculpture carried by two police officers, inkjet print on paper
General Questions
Where were you born? What was your family like? What was school like?
I was born in Buffalo, NY and fortunate to have been raised by loving and supportive parents. School was challenging as we moved often. Every year was completely new, until I moved to Dallas in the 7th grade. I’ve been here since.
I assume your were moving for your parents’ work... What was your impression of Dallas growing up? At first it must have seemed like just another new place, but eventually became home... Did you go to museums and galleries here as a kid, and if so, do any memories of that stand out?
I solidified my relationship with Dallas right out of high school, when I chose to stay instead of moving again. It really became a home after meeting my wife and starting our family. I have fond memories growing up here­­ many field trips to the Dallas Museum of Art as well as the Kimball and the Fort Worth Modern. I was lucky to have access to these places, both for the art and the architecture and still remember looking at Rauschenberg sculptures against the parquet floor at The Modern.
Was there a single moment when you decided that you were going to make art? Or was it more of a gradual process?
I’ve made art for as long as I can remember. Art classes were always in my curriculum and in High School I thought I wanted to be an artist (although I’m not sure if I knew what that meant) and started college as an art major. The degree shifted a couple times, but eventually I received my BFA from SMU. It was roughly a decade later I quit my job and returned to school to pursue my MFA. This is when I accepted that I was an artist.
Are there particular teachers at SMU and/or UTA that stay in your mind especially? Did you focus on a particular medium in school? Were you especially interested in certain artists or periods?
While at SMU, I worked closely with Philip Van Keuren. He introduced me to Donald Judd, who was very influential for me during this period. Studying his work led me to focus on construction and craft. I also distinctly remember a conversation with Philip­­ we we were both admiring the skill that went into Shaker furniture. I said that I’d love to make furniture like that some day and his response was, “..or you could do something more important, you could be an artist.” Later at UTA, I met Stephen Lapthisophon my second year into the program (after a year in architecture school) and we quickly became friends. Our first critique, Stephen looked at my work and validated all that I was wanting to do as an artist. He immediately recognized something in me and allowed me to grow. He’s a mentor still today.
Could you talk about your formal (and/or informal) training in art? How did that shape your approach to your work?
After getting my BFA, I avoided making art, as I thought it was impractical and felt the pressure to “make a living.” During this period, I worked at a bike shop briefly and then for a long period at The Dallas Museum of Art in the Visual Resource Department. Surprisingly, the culture of the museum deterred me from making work. It did however provide a great education and the time to think. I ardently sought out a career path and researched anything that remotely interested me­­. The list was long, encompassing a ridiculous variety of hobbies and legitimate occupations. I’ve now come to realize that all of this activity has benefited my practice. My hesitancy to choose any single career led me back to art and allowed me to do them all.
What was the situation with the culture at the museum... just an institutional situation? Did you meet interesting people coming through there? I think of Robert Ryman working as a museum security guard for similar reasons. In my own experience as a museum intern, I remember escorting Chuck Close on a tour, and transcribing an interview with Philip Pearlstein ­­ random things that somehow were inspiring in an indefinable way...
Working at an art museum right out of art school was like pulling back the curtain, demystifying and killing many of my romantic and naive notions about the art world. In hindsight, the knowledge gained about the various mechanisms at play was invaluable, but at the time it was discouraging.
But, yes, I did work on some great projects for artists such as On Kawara, Phil Collins, Thomas Struth, and Felix Gonzalez-Torres and was fortunate to meet Sigmar Polke, Lothar Hempel, Richard Tuttle, and Maria de Corral. Many of these of people were responsible for maintaining a balance of sorts, reinforcing my belief in art. This was definitely the highlight of my time there.
As you know, this exhibition generally addresses questions of exhibition­ making. For my part, in contacting you and the others, I invited you to address the question of how you make decisions. As a viewer of art, I always find this question has an intriguing mystery. How do you respond to this topic?
A good friend of mine and mentor told me that art making is decision making and I’ve told my students the same. Ultimately this means one must produce what it is they’re thinking about. Many decisions follow, but this is really the decision.
Maybe I unconsciously picked this up from you! In other words, are you talking about disciplining one’s thought process to focus on a particular problem or topic? Or something else... There’s the “Don’t think of an elephant!” problem, where hearing that sentence makes you unavoidably think of something. What about the problem of how one’s subconscious mind can turn one’s thoughts repeatedly back to certain topics of hope or fear, regardless of whether one “chooses” to think about them...
If I’m to think of the notion of a decision in regards to art making, the decision to move from the thought of making art to the act of making it, is the most important. The artist commits to the action and I think this relates to your point in terms of discipline. It sounds almost too simple, but many students struggle with this moment. They want to present their thought process as if it is enough, as if the ideas are the finalized work. But it must transcend this step. As such, the decision and the act are synonymous.
Here at the Pollock Gallery, you may find viewers who drop in­­ students or others­­ who have no familiarity at all with any kind of conceptual art. What would you say to such a viewer who might be baffled by art that is not made in a "traditional" format?
Viewers want to understand. Instead, they should allow themselves to simply trust in the experience of the work. To engage with art, it isn’t necessary to completely decipher it.
Some More Specific Questions
I would consider your work frequently to be “elusive” in the sense that I think you want to make viewers work a little bit to figure things out, rather than hand­holding or spoon­feeding, so to speak. Is that correct? And if so, is that a significant aspect of your overall strategy?
Complex ideas require complex strategies. Sometimes this approach is tough to translate, but I prefer layers of meaning and relationships that evoke richness over clarity. That’s not to say all of my work is complex, but that I allow it to be unclassified. I was at a lecture given by Lawrence Weiner and he described this space that art can occupy as floating above a table. On the surface, he said, is where definable and categorized things rest. Art exists in the zone off the surface. It’s “allowed” to be indefinable. That is its power.
Speaking again as an interested viewer: I frequently have in mind that your work is engaged with architecture, even if that is not obvious at a superficial level. Is that correct? And if so, can you discuss...
I don’t believe you can separate a work of art from its environment, but rather, they’re intrinsically linked. As we display these things for consumption of sorts, the manner in which we display them is essentially the final decision. The space around the work and the objects within that space are in dialogue regardless of the “singularity” an artist might hope for or intend. The work can not exist in and of itself. Thus, a programming is necessary, or at a minimum, should be taken into account. In this respect, exhibitions are very similar to architecture.
Would your work then be considered “site­specific” ­­ does that term fit? To come back to decision ­making, do you generally work on a piece with its site in mind... or adapt a work in progress as you learn or decide where it will be sited?
Yes, I feel all of my work should be site­ specific, that is, it needs to consider its surroundings and more importantly its context. The process is typically ongoing until the exhibition opens and sometimes has continued afterwards. For instance, a local journalist was offended by the press I sent out for a show and made a comment on social media, something like, “I’m sure people will tell me it’s as good as Bruegel or Van Eyck, but I won’t be convinced.” I was thrilled by her narrow minded reaction, provoked simply by the title, so I included an image by both artists in the installation. They tied in beautifully to the ideas I was already interested in presenting and responded to a moment directly related to the instance of their creation. There was a nice cyclical relationship happening and due to this somewhat random thing, another very relevant layer took shape.
And, speaking again of architecture, one of your most recent projects was part of a temporary installation in three old houses on Bedford Street in West Dallas [that is, a block from Singleton Blvd. in Trinity Groves]. My initial gut reaction to the houses was: wow, at night this could be pretty terrifying. The kind of place where bad things could happen. Is that at all on the mark? Does your piece play off that, at all? (Or is that just my suburban upbringing talking...)
West Dallas is undergoing a pretty drastic transition. Whenever possible my work responds to its site in some manner and this particular sound piece and installation was provoked by my feelings about the artist's role in this transition. This site was once someone’s home, now relegated to someone else’s entertainment. I question what I’m promoting by participating.
I ought to clarify that it is specifically the abandoned nature of the house that is spooky to me... West Dallas is definitely ground zero for gentrification here right now, or at least debates about gentrification (Oak Cliff too, I guess). On the one hand (unlike Manhattan or San Francisco), there is no shortage of land here, so you don’t hear about people forced out of Dallas per se; it’s more about neighborhood change. I think many artists definitely feel ambivalent about gentrification. And yet it seems almost unavoidable. Adding art to a situation seems to inherently raise its value. But what are you going to do, as an artist? Not make art? Only make art in wealthy areas? I guess that’s where community engagement and “social practice” come in, like Rick Lowe at the Nasher in Vickery Meadow. But to specifically follow up on your last line: what do you think you are promoting by participating?
A derelict space is what it is and part of the intent of the piece was to amplify its condition. I’ve been working in this area in Dallas for a few years now. Initially we were given large warehouse spaces where industrial businesses had relocated. The developers have always been very generous and I was aware of our role to some extent.
This house touched me in way that previous areas had not. In one room there were decorations on the window that were obviously placed by a child. At first, I thought of the space as simply that­­ a space to work and I’m drawn to the beauty inherent in their age and wear, but at this moment I made a connection to its past that personalized it in a much different manner. The ideas for the installation then shifted to this train of thought. I’m always interested in the role of the artist in general. In this case I asked myself, to what extent am I involved in the dislocation of families? Are artists used as a means to an end and by participating am I complicit? It’s easy to dismiss these feelings and say to yourself, this situation was here when you arrived, instead I channeled them into the work.