Just after 9/11, you wrote a small text for the New York Times Magazine about your first days in New York, and you made this analogy, which has always stuck with me, between the vertical expanse of New York and the horizontal expanse of Idaho. Can you tell me about your oscillation between these places? Places that are awesome but can also be intimate.
My initial entry point into New York was through the vertical landscape, and how it felt to be inside the matrix of the city. It felt comforting and familiar to me. You have these conditions in the landscape in the west, where on one side you have a kind of horizontality and openness, but then you come up against a mountain front, and then you go into the ravines of that mountain system, and you’re held. It has a very similar feeling, and it’s very comforting to me. I think it was on an emotional level that I connected with New York, through its extreme landscape.
Now, when I go back to Idaho, all of my time back there is really outdoors. When I go back, I’m going to places where I can be outside and be close to the landscape, which is not really the part of Idaho where I grew up. It’s a couple of hours away.
The horizontality of the Utah salt flats, which you filmed in widescreen at the end of Cremaster 2, does seem to get echoed in the verticality of the Chrysler Building that stars in Cremaster 3. There is an articulation of Americana through space that is absent in OTTOshaft.
There’s a number of differences. I think mounting this show made me very aware of what you’re saying, that there’s a different relationship to mythology. In a way, I think I abandoned my own body, in exchange for a mythological body.
There is a taste of that, though, in OTTOshaft, with the parking garage. The architecture of the garage [in Kassel, Germany], the elevator shafts. In these spaces I could create a narrative of adjacency, where one story could take place simultaneously across these four spaces. That kind of opened the door to going outside, which I was really eager to do in Cremaster. I had studied with Alice Aycock, and I always had an interest in land art, certainly in terms of site and non-site. Rather than to go into my body and bring out a form, to literally go into the landscape was an exciting step.
The full interview appears in Even no. 6, published in spring 2017.