Panamarenko - 1997 - Pop Has Flopped! [EN, interview],
Pop Has Flopped!
Some questions about Pop Art answered by Panamarenko
- When did you first hear of Pop Art? What was it you heard of? What did you see? Which work of art? Which artist? Where did you see it? At school? In a magazine? In a gallery? In someone's house?
Panamarenko: Soap boxes, Andy Warhol, at school.
- When did you first see a work of Pop Art in the flesh? What did you think of it?
Panamarenko: The ‘Three Blind Mice’ exhibition in Eindhoven. Claes Oldenburg.
- What did Pop Art mean to you at the time? Was it a tone, a form of freedom, an image?
Panamarenko: A form of freedom, a tone, but mostly a form of intelligent sensitivity, which I had always missed at college, where all they did was babble.
- Do you think Pop Art had an influence on your work? In what way? On which works in particular?
Panamarenko: Certainly, chiefly the poetic humour of the many things in the outside world, and the feeling of giving value to a whole new beauty: Motten in 't riet, Krokodillen, Hofkens, Walvis.
- What does it mean to you today? Are there still any Pop artists you consider good? Who? Which works?
Panamarenko: Nothing. No. None.
- Do you think that Pop artists were influenced by other artists? By whom?
Panamarenko: Duchamp, Dada, Fluxus, Surrealism.
- Might one say that Beuys and Broodthaers, a little like you, incorporated certain Pop Art influences into their work?
Panamarenko: Certainly. Broodthaers would not exist without Pop Art, nor Beuys or Fluxus: the soap comes out of the boxes.
- When did you get to know Arte Povera? Were there works you liked or that liberated you?
Panamarenko: I was making things like Arte Povera before the term existed. No, there were no such works.
- What does Dada mean to you? When did you first see Dadaist works, or hear about them? Were there any works you liked very much or which conveyed something to you?
Panamarenko: No, not that either, though it did give a sort of feeling of freedom.
- Which of Oldenburg's works was at ‘Three Blind Mice’?
Panamarenko: A big electric plug.
- In 1963 Broodthaers considered Magritte to be a forerunner of Pop Art. Would you agree if I were to say that Magritte was a Pop artist because he painted men with noses like check slippers.
- I mean, perhaps one can see Pop Art in two ways. Either as the introduction into art of smooth, rigid forms and a sort of glamour, or as the introduction into art of everyday things, such as Oldenburg's objects, Lichtenstein's comics strips and Warhol's soap boxes and soup tin labels. In the second case I see Magritte's 1947 slipper noses as an early Pop Art, or am I wrong?
Panamarenko: You are wrong.
- Can one also see Pop Art as the liberation from the brushstroke, the master's hand and skill? I mean in Warhol's screen prints and the incorporation of existing images.
Panamarenko: It gave a stimulus. I am not a fan of Pop Art. Before Pop Art a dried herring lay on a plate, with a tea-towel next to it, and that was to be painted as a pretty picture. After Pop Art a fish could be a poetic being, in a world of its own which was worth seeing - and this for the first time. Pop Art, or what I wanted to make out of it, was the possibility of not distorting things into the familiar outward appearances that are so much appreciated by the crawling clerks of art.
- Looked at it that way, is sticking on mussel shells or heaping egg-shells in a colander Pop Art?
Panamarenko: That was what we hoped Pop was, but in fact it didn't include that, and those shells were ultimately so far removed from civil-servant-art that Broodthaers found it essential to write bureaucratic statements next to them in order to crawl at least a little for the academics, which always works, as you know.
- But can't you then also call Beuys' dirty muck-spreading Pop, since there is not a single brushstroke involved? Or for other reasons?
Panamarenko: Beuys is OK. No dirty muck-spreading. And Pop has flopped!
Montagne de Miel, 6 December 1997
8th December 1997
To Bedrich la Framboise
A little more about Pop Art. You may have been aware of this, but before too much is attributed to Pop Art…
How I welcomed Pop Art: as an enthusiast I was convinced that from then on one could realise simply anything, in all disciplines, every wish or dream.
You could just make a real aeroplane, to your own design, your own invention, fly around in it, with real engines, real pedals, a real function, as well as making all this visible.
But apart from this wish-dream Pop Art was an exercise in style, it was the ordinary publicity-seeking stand at a trade fair, stand-builders, big cardboard sewing machines with the brand name on them, or inflated versions of the company's product, such as a shock absorber or the Michelin man, a giant soap box, greatly enlarged printed items, posters in which the screen dots were clearly visible, and so on. This was not essentially a shift of objective but a variation on the old, large-scale ready-made that was, and to a great extent still is, art. But Pop Art, the way I so much liked to interpret it, did provide another aim, as a matter of course, without premeditation: the aesthetics of the 'idea' of technical function and the adventure it projects.
And for that I want the Nobel Prize! And one for you too.