John Miller’s exhibition New Realities is currently on view at Patrick Painter, Inc. in Los Angeles and featured in our current project “In the Gallery June | Los Angeles.” We’ve included Liam Gillick’s introduction first published in BOMB Magazine (and in the project space) followed by excerpts from our own Q&A with Miller about his recent work and the subjects of his paintings.
John Miller defies any precise generational positioning. For me his work is resolutely present but at the same time points in many directions. His tasks over nearly 30 years of work have been extensive. He has taken on the role of explicator, redefining the radical potential of art through a large body of written work, while never slipping into pseudo-academicism. He has tested many exhibition models and produced work that does not shy from addressing the grand histories of painting and sculpture—but throughout, there is a deep skepticism when it comes to reinforcing modes of representation or apparently correct subjects. Throughout our recent discussion he was questioning how to work and what to work on. Navigating the accretion of social representations, from game shows via the apparent raw emotion of confessional TV to occupy Wall Street to the daily routines of an artist, John shows equal curiosity for the subjects of art and the artist as subject… -Excerpt from Liam Gillick’s interview with John Miller for BOMB Magazine 118.
Paddle8: Your recent series of paintings, Everything is Said, uses images from reality television – are you a fan? Which are the shows that are likely to have the most crying subjects?
JM: I’m not exactly a fan of reality tv per se, but I did follow The Work of Art for a while. I am very much interested in what the genre suggests as a social model and the idea of modeling society as a documentary goes all the way back to An American Family, which some consider the first full-blown reality tv experiment. I can’t offer an expert opinion as to which shows have the most crying, however a lot of my recent paintings draw off the Real Housewives franchise. These have a curiously atavistic quality, owing to the resuscitated category of “housewife.”
P8: What happens after everything has been said? What might entertainment look like in the post reality television world?
JM: After everything’s been said, people break down and cry.
Entertainment seems to be moving inexorably toward a kind of repressive desublimation. Desublimation is now equated with reality. I’ve only watched one episode of Hoarders, but it offers an extreme example of this logic. It featured an elderly single woman living alone in a small house. She had crammed every room with all kinds of junk. When she could no longer squeeze into the bathroom, she started defecated in the adjacent room which eventually compromised the structure of the house itself. After the Hoarders team intervened she was packed off to a mental institution and the house was razed. So, where is the reality here? In debasement? In forced conformity to the social order? If we speculate about post-reality tv entertainment, we have to ask how closely linked is the genre to the kind of reality it purports to represent. Ultimately, it may not be very closely linked at all, but it wants to confront viewers with the sense that it is.
We may already have at least one form of post-reality tv in comedy genres that offer themselves as pseudo-reality tv: Ricky Gervais’ The Office, Lisa Kudrow’s The Comeback or Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat.