Lawrence Weiner Is Looking Up


In his latest exhibition at Marian Goodman in New York, “Gyroscopically Speaking,” seminal conceptual artist Lawrence Weiner presents new work from the past year. The show cartoon explores the fundamentals of the gyroscope, the children’s toy that stands up straight only so long as it is spinning, and whose physical and metaphorical curves the artist envisions as parallel to socio-economic conditions. Over the phone we discussed with him—as ever!—sensuality and art.

Photo by Kirsten Vibeke Thueson Weiner

O’REILLY: When did you become interested in the gyroscope?

WEINER: A couple years ago… I’ve been fascinated with the idea of the gyroscope because in fact it goes every which way, and up. I had them when I was a kid, as everybody did. I began to realize the gyroscope was a much better device to be using than the compass. The gyroscope is nautical; it keeps the ship stabilized, it tells you where you are… but so do the stars, and the tide keep the ships stabilized. From a fashion standpoint, the gyroscope allows one to step aside from classifications in order to get an appreciation and a sensuality of things.

O’REILLY: How do you mean “fashion?”

WEINER: The gyroscope is aesthetic and sensual. Style is something you get a sensual pleasure from when you see it; it empowers or frightens you, one or the other.

O’REILLY: You have spoken of the gyrascope as a proxy for reality. How so?

WEINER: One of the basic problems with the gyroscope is that you can’t find a means of presenting it. This concept, that there are simultaneous realities and not parallel realities (if they are parallel there is always hierarchy built into it) can de-stabilize what you consider the real. Within simultaneous realities, everything is essentially happening at the same time and place. There is an energy that builds because they don’t avoid each other, they bang into each other, but they’re not aware of what they are banging into.

O’REILLY: So the line is continuous, not broken up?

WEINER:  The conversation is really just head over heels after Marx and why are we looking at this logic concept always accepting Hegel. If we take the bagel from Hegel maybe something will happen… The economic structure of Hegelian thought has led to capitalism, which really is failing, and to communist economics, which also failed, although they all have decent enough intentions. The Hegelian basis made it almost impossible to succeed. I certainly don’t have another logic system that is complete to present to anybody. I’m just an artist asking questions about it.

O’REILLY: You built a wall for the show, which is curved. Where does the shape come from? Is it the path of the gyroscope?

WEINER: No, I tried to see how a curve could exist gyroscopically, any which way that it goes, it is a curve, and it implies a visual split in whatever surface it is. it looks like you could enter that curve into another world. I am not in other worlds, but i know there must be other realities  besides ours. And in fact most of the things that we find interesting as perceptions occur simultaneously all over the world, from people who had no contact with each other; it’s almost like Edison and Marconi with the radio. There are things that are needed in society, and people sense it; they try to bring it about and it happens simultaneously. Which is really rather exciting.

O’REILLY: What do would you like people to take away from the exhibition?

WEINER: The thing is I don’t want to fuck up anyones life on their way to work. I want to fuck up there whole life. The only way to do that is to present things that, in order to engage with, they have to change their mentality.