Jeff Wall Interview: We are all Actors



An enjoyable and philosophical conversation between the pioneering Canadian photographer Jeff Wall and Belgian Wall expert Thierry de Duve about how Wall works with people, places and variations of beauty.

“The most wonderful place to be in art is to be on the outside, being the spectator, enjoying the art and not worrying about how it was made. Having an experience of it, taking that experience into your own life somehow – and making it your own.” Wall comments on the current need to go “behind the scenes” and challenges his audiences to create the narrative of the photographs themselves. He builds exact replicas of streets, houses, rooms and places people in them, leaving the viewer with nothing more than a real moment in time of which only they can decide the outcome.

“Acting is inherent in being.” When he works with people, Wall makes them repeat the same actions in the same way, over and over. After a while the repetition makes it less of a performance: “They’re not really performing anymore. It’s a kind of behavior that emerges.”

Jeff Wall (b. 1946) is a Canadian photographer based in Vancouver. In the 1970s he began to produce and exhibit large-scale transparent photographs mounted on light boxes, which became his first artistic hallmark. He holds a MA in art history from University of British Columbia and the Courtauld Institute in London. His work has been exhibited in numerous international exhibitions, including Tate Modern in London, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, Kunsthaus Bregenz and MoMA in New York. Wall is the recipient of numerous prizes, including the Erna and Victor Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography (2002) and the Audian Prize for Lifetime Achievement in the Visual Arts (2008).

Thierry de Duve (b. 1944) is a Belgian professor of modern art theory and contemporary art theory. He has been a visiting professor at Sorbonne, University of Lille III, MIT and Johns Hopkins University. Among many books, he has published works on Marcel Duchamp, Édouard Manet and Jeff Wall.

Jeff Wall was interviewed by Thierry de Duve at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk in March 2015 in connection to the exhibition ‘Jeff Wall: Tableaux Pictures Photographs – Works from 1996-2013’.

Camera: Kasper Kiertzner and Kasper Bech Dyg
Produced and edited by: Kasper Bech Dyg
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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