Coughs and Sounds Off to Jeff Dalton

Below are excerpts from the transcript of a video-taped interview with Hector Lieblicht-Zusammen, conducted in his assisted living apartment in Haltom City, Texas, on January 1, 2002.

Summertime view from HLZ's window, Haltom City


HLZ discusses a decade of change in the career of one of his most intimate associates. Sadly, I can offer no compensation to you for not sharing the secret of this artist’s identity, which must remain strictly under wraps. HLZ suffers from emphysema, thus the occasional long gaps between pronouncements, during which he coughed profusely, but with a certain dignity, removing himself each time to the far end of the apartment by a picture window, which overlooks a truck sales lot.

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8:53 a.m.: “…at a certain point, he gave up on making merely thought-provoking art. His taste for controversial art dwindled away also. In his circles, controversy bred only impotent conversation. And it seemed pointless that art should only make formal or conceptual advances within itself. At best, innovative art seemed to make a certain set of people sort of happy from time to time, and in need of a way to continue the buzz, which mostly meant dissipation at the bar or in the bed or both. A buzz and a good f**k can be good, of course, as way stations on the path to a greater end, a more complete resolution of problems. But let’s not go into that just now…”

The medical laboratory in question, near Chapel Hill, NC, as it appears today


9:15 a.m.: “In short, he felt himself a complete, bent-over whore, and quoted an obscure passage from Adam Smith, of all people, from The Wealth of Nations. As I recall, Smith tells us that we compensate successful artists, entertainers and the like extraordinarily well to make up for the collective guilt we feel because we attach exchange value to talents and gifts that ought have no price. We cannot, of course, forgive Smith’s horrendously bad, mainstream taste.”

9:27 a.m.: “…the changes in my friend’s work came as part of a three-part progression. It wasn’t planned, it just happened that way, like a miracle…”

9:35 a.m.: “…in the very beginning, and for a long while, he made work that was comforting and passive. Looking back, he called this a period of whatisism, not the most elegant term ever coined, but lucid nonetheless. Next, after taking up certain extra-vocational disciplines to broaden his horizons, including work at a medical lab, he began a phase of producing genuinely provocative, controversial and even inspirational work. Cohorts heralded this gigantic leap in ambition and rigor, and this second phase became his most successful in the eyes of the world…”

Tom Hanks, clipping above HLZ's bathroom sink


9:57 a.m.: “…he won many prestigious awards, enjoyed excellent gallery representation and even lived off the sale of his work. Between us, there were many awestruck boys and girls at his disposal, too, and all the varieties of power-based sex and pleasure, and free drinks at several clubs. Like popular forms of entertainment that appear to “tap into” a cultural moment, his work during this period relied on and relieved stresses inherent in the order of things, rather than increasing those stresses. Not a brilliant man at all, it took him some time to realize that, although individuals may believe they require forms of entertainment to survive, the relevant forces bearing on the individual require these forms even more…”

10:32 a.m.: “…the work of his interventionist phase was stunningly effective, particularly the use of rumor to give key members of the audience “permission to do XYZ” to his own property in museums, galleries and other public spaces. He knew how to free people up and get them to smashing things. And then sometimes events would spin out of control. He said to me, “most people, like all potentially explosive materials, feel a vague longing for something unknown and unnamed to turn them into an actual device. They may toss about aimlessly for years until they find true love in a detonator”…”

Artist's rendering of Bonnie, a golden belonging to HLZ's neighbor, Mrs. Annabelle Frost


10:41 a.m.: “…the great difficulty, which has yet to be solved by anyone, is how to plant good reasons for uproar into the minds of aimless imbeciles, who may go on bashing things for bashing’s sake, or for paltry half-reasons, at best…”

10:53 a.m.: “…there was little coordination, integration, or knowledge of the whole fueling their otherwise gorgeous exertions. Remember, these are the same people who will work for a buck’s sake, f**k for a f**k’s sake, indeed do almost anything for its own sake…”

Video interview conducted by Jeff Dalton, January 1, 2002, Haltom City, Texas. Jeff Dalton is a writer living in Dallas, Texas.

also by Jeff Dalton

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