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Since the early 1980s the influence of Peter Halley’s writings, paintings, and installations has been widespread.He makes what he terms “diagrammatic images,” which delineate the hyperreal circulatory feedback loop of contemporary social and political culture.
I can recall the sickening weirdness of that period too.
It’s just so relevant with the onset of Trump; these periods seem like bookends or something. Rail: Let’s talk about how you began to inscribe this period in your writing.
I’m thinking of artists such as Sherrie Levine and later Christopher Williams as examples.
Some would say that this in itself is a voluntary form of cultural confinement.
The fact that this concurred with the onset of the Reagan regime of the 1980s seemed significant.
Halley: Well yes, except the other thing that was occurring at the same time was the emergence of the Pictures Generation with artists such as Cindy Sherman and Richard Prince.Your interpretation will always be filtered through your own cultural lens.The only way to have any claim to critical rigor is to focus on your own culture.In your 1981 essay in Arts Magazine, “Beat, Minimalism, New Wave and Robert Smithson,” you explained that the Post-Minimalists evinced “a fixation on phenomenological philosophy and private reality.” In the same essay, you cite Robert Smithson’s advocacy for interdependent principles of consciousness, reality, and dialogue as a means to escape what he called cultural confinement.It seems that for some of the artists emerging in the eighties, the emphasis on consciousness devolved into a hyper self-consciousness.A number of artists were looking for sources of meaning outside the modern West.I myself was mostly looking at Native American art, Islamic art, and African art.When I moved back to New York in 1980—it was a bit like Buddha leaving the palace.I was suddenly confronted with this Post-Structuralist critical wave engulfing intellectual life in the US.In all those traditions, I saw geometry used to describe the essential codes of the natural world.The formal language I was developing was surprisingly similar to what I do now, but the meaning I was giving to geometric form was diametrically different.