Juror Focus: Marilyn Minter

September 22, 2010

On Monday, September 20, the shortlist for YouTube Play was announced. These 125 videos will now be viewed by the jury, whose top 20 selections will be presented at the museum on October 21 and 22. In the following interview, we sat down with artist and juror Marilyn Minter to get her thoughts on art, life, advertising on TV, and kittens on YouTube.

Hi Marilyn, how are you? How was your summer?
I've been traveling all summer, and I'm in the middle of moving into a brand-new studio, so it's been pretty hectic.

Okay, let's get down to business. You work in several mediums, including painting, photography, and video. Could you tell us about your work?
I think that all these practices are interrelated; in my case it's been really organic. I've always worked from images that already exist in our culture, and I just tweak them—I photograph my vision/interpretation of things that already exist, and I take it to the extreme. And then I make paintings or videos.

What I wanted to focus on in this short interview is something groundbreaking that you did in the '80s for your exhibition 100 Food Porn. Instead of advertising in Artforum, which is what artists (galleries) usually did and still do, you took the money, made a commercial, and put it on TV. Could you give us all the details about this?
Nobody knew it at the time—I guess they don't even know it now! But ads on late-night TV are very inexpensive. In 1989, 30 seconds on David Letterman was $1,800. It's not like you were buying an ad that would air in the whole country, just the tristate area. I love seeing ads that intrigue me. At the time, I was on the artist board of the New Museum, and they were trying to think of ways to get more people into the museum. I suggested they make a TV ad for shows at the museum, that Bruce Nauman should do the ad; I thought it would be so great. But they just weren't interested. Someone said, "Why don't you make it for your own show?" as sort of an insult, and I thought okay . . . I will! I made the paintings JUST so I could make the commercial. I traded the paintings for production/director/sound/editing, etc. I only needed cash to buy the air time. So I took the budget for Artforum ads, Art in America, etc. and I bought time on David Letterman, Arsenio Hall, and Nightline. I called the show 100 Food Porn because at the time there were all these ads for like 1-800-LOVE or whatever.

What kind of reactions did you get? You were definitely far ahead of your time, since artists are still not advertising on TV.
Well some people liked it, but not the Academy. The idea of collapsing high and low culture just wasn't in the vernacular. I keep thinking artists should advertise their shows on TV (I think we could make some really cool ads for our work). Now I think we should advertise our shows at the Angelika or other progressive venues, but the movie theaters can't wrap their head around this at all . . . I really tried with my new video, and I could only get into the Sunshine Theater before the midnight showing.

Your commercial is next to a commercial for M&M's. I thought that was very smart, given that your initials are indeed MM. Did you do this on purpose? Were you able to choose which commercials to place your commercial between?
I did it on purpose. When I made this three minute excerpt for Youtube I edited out the insurance ads, the makeup, cars, etc. Wen my commercial originally aired, the programmer for the station came up with the placement of my commercial in relation to other commercials. If they liked the ads they put the commercial on in the beginning of the show. If they don't like them, they put them at the end of the show because they think people will be asleep! The M&M's commercial was one of many that aired along with my video. I made a whole bunch of M&M's paintings around the same time. So I thought keeping that ad in was appropriate.

We have a common interest/addiction: funny YouTube videos. Could you give me some of your favorites?
I work in a studio with lots of young people, most of whom are my former students. We delight in trading YouTube videos! We all stop working to watch them. I'm totally addicted to ANYTHING with kittens and puppies, but "Very Scared Kid" is one of my favorites.

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