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Interview: Robert Ladislas Derr

January 30, 2019

Robert Ladislas Derr in Seating Arrangement photo courtesy of the artist.


The next interview in our ExA 2019 series is with Robert Ladislas Derr. Robert brings a much needed and sophisticated sense of humor and humility to his work and the discipline of performance Art.


ExA: Have you ever been to Houston? What do know of it and It's performance art scene?


RLD: The last time I was in Houston was Spring 2005. I have visited many of the galleries and museums including the CAMH, Lawndale, DiverseWorks, Menil, and lectured about The Heroic Century: The Museum of Modern Art Masterpieces to a Teacher's Workshop for the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in 2003. 


ExA: You speak of the social media revolution, which makes me think of the revolution of the written word. One of the early mediums of that revolution was the clay tablet. Do these clay/ceramic balls reference that technological revolution? I imagine that revolution had its own critics of using a technology to mediate communication. 


RLD: I like your observation. My work, from the titles to visual presentations, are meant to unfold. Each element unfurls leaving room for the viewers to jump in on my journey. My work requires the viewer's interpretation. There are no right or wrong interpretations.


ExA: In your proposal, the audience is a passive observer being "attacked" by an onslaught of very masculine stimuli. Other than leave, which would be tantamount to quitting a social media platform, is there any other way for them to interact with the performance? 


RLD: The observer of any performance cannot be passive, he or she is always engaged through cognition. Sitting through a performance or leaving, the viewer is participating. To me, attacked is too strong. I do not consider the duration of breaking 100 balls as an attack. Attack on the balls maybe, but not the audience. The vulnerability of nudity relinquishes dominance in a society that jails for indecent exposure. There are many meanings beyond the obvious masculine overtones. My choice of title has several interpretations, even the choice of material for the balls and number of balls. I never know what the audience will do when I perform. I depart from an idea and surrender to whatever comes next.  


ExA: To me, this seems very Dionysian (a la Nietzsche)? Is it? Do you hope to perform some sort of community catharsis?


RLD: Exactly! It is primal, immediate, irrational, sensual, etc.


ExA: You're making not faking but what is your response to the layman performance art critic who asks? What is the point? 


RLD: Ah, what is the point? In asking that, the layman, audience, critic, or whoever is thinking. Asking questions has led society forward. Activity reveals meaning, while indolence discovers nothing. 

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