art quote – Chamberlain 8.27.2020

Art is a particular madness where you are using a means of communication, which means are recognizable to other people, to say something that they hadn’t heard, or hadn’t perceived, or had repressed. Curiously, it’s only recently that I’ve noticed that I’m still making sculptures in the way that I made the poems. It’s all in the fit. Say you take one word that’s on a page. You like this word, this word looks nice to you. Maybe you don’t even care what the word means. But you like the word. You can conjugate the word. If the word is beauty, it can become beautiful. Then it can become beauteous, can’t it? Or beautification. You can play around with it, add to it, or if you want you can take the word apart. You can play with the letters in the word, that’s making ana- grams. There’s also a way of taking the syllables apart, rearranging the syllables.

When I went to Black Mountain, I found that there were other people who spoke with tension, trying to find out what they didn’t know. Everybody else before them had been happy with what they knew. They weren’t curious about what they didn’t know. Probably the main description of the occupation of art is to find out what you don’t know. By starting someplace that’s curious and delving in, in a common way, and coming out with an uncommon satisfaction, an uncommon piece of knowledge, that is very satisfying to your nervous system…

John Chamberlain, sculptor and poet who studied at Black Mountain College


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