Artists Space

Finding Words

Angie Keefer & Lynne Tillman

Talk, reading, and conversation
September 30, 2015, 6:30pm

A talk, a reading and a conversation in assorted voices.

A black and white, square wordsearch grid.
[A black and white, square wordsearch grid.]

Lynne Tillman (adapted from her author’s page,

Here’s an Author’s Bio. It could be written differently. I’ve written many for myself and read lots of other people’s. None is right or sufficient, each slants one way or the other. So, a kind of fiction - selection of events and facts. So let me just say: I wanted to be a writer since I was eight years old. That I actually do write stories and novels and essays, and that they get published, still astonishes me. Right now, I’m working on finishing a novel, MEN AND APPARITIONS, my sixth. As I work on a novel, I write stories and essays also, for example one on Cindy Sherman, for the Broad Museum Catalog, and one on Joan Jonas’ work for a book to be done by the Wattis Institute. Many essays from the last 15 years were pubbed in WHAT WOULD LYNNE TILLMAN DO? my second collection of essays. Curiously, it was a Finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism (2014). I hadn’t expected that.

MY last collection of stories, Someday This Will Be Funny, pubbed by Red Lemonade Press, had no story in it called Someday This Will Be Funny. It’s a title that comments on all the stories, maybe, and is also an attitude I like. Each spring, I teach writing at University at Albany, in the English Dept.. And I regularly do visiting artist/writer gigs, and make studio visits to artists. I’ve lived with David Hofstra, a bass player, for many years. It makes a lot of sense to me that I live with a bass player, since time and rhythm are extremely important to my writing.

As time goes by, my thoughts about writing change, how to write THIS, or why I do. There are no stable answers to a process that changes, and a life that does too. Writing, when I’m inhabiting its world, makes me happy, or less unhappy. I also feel engaged in and caught up in politics here, and in worlds farther away. When I work inside the world in which I do make choices, I’m completely absorbed in what happens, in what can emerge. Writing is a beautiful, difficult relationship with what you know and don’t know, have or haven’t experienced, with grammar and syntax, with words, primarily, with ideas, and with everything else that’s been written.

Angie Keefer (from “Found Wanting,” Mousse #41, 2013):

Someone asked me recently whether I could recall the first time I was affected by a work of art or an exhibition. I do remember learning to read. I remember the special intensity of reading fiction when language was new. And I remember learning in a first grade drawing class that eyes sit in the middle of the head, not at the very top, a fact that surprises me still. The first exhibition I remember seeing occurred around the same time I discovered language and the rudiments of anatomical proportion. It was a touring show of Amish quilts that passed through the art museum in my town. The Amish, a Christian sect committed to communal, agrarian living, reject electricity, motorized vehicles, birth control, military service and Social Security. They drive horse-drawn carriages and wear simple, dark clothing reminiscent of the American pioneers: ankle-length dresses and bonnets for women; long pants, vests and flat-brimmed hats for men. In large part, they preserve the habits and mores of their 18th-century Swiss-German founders, including exquisite handicrafts. Amish quilts, often made of the same violet, indigo, and madder colors as their clothing, are startlingly graphic, however, somewhere between the black paintings of Ad Reinhardt and the digital landscapes of Q*bert. What I remember best about the exhibition, aside from mental images of particular quilts that deeply impressed me, is the explanation I was given as to why every regularly patterned quilt contained a conspicuous deviation—an error. “That’s to let God out,” I was told. What is this god, I wondered, and what would happen to it if there were no mistake? What kind of fallout are we talking about in the event God gets stuck? I was too intimidated to ask. I accepted then that a perfect quilt would be an affront to the gods and internalized that whatever warranted display in museums rivaled divine perfection. Now, when I consider exhibitions, I bounce between two poles. At one extreme, I wonder, “Why in the world has someone done this, when anything at all was possible?” while at the other, I perceive, “All the world is here, in this,” but my axis is subject to all sorts of vagaries, from time to weather to war. Sometimes it bends round, and the two poles meet to form a circle.

Lynne Tillman is a novelist, short story writer, and critic. Weird Fucks was her first work longer than 10 pages. Her novel, American Genius, A Comedy, was cited as one of the best books of the millennium (so far) by The Millions. Her other novels are Haunted Houses; Motion Sickness; Cast in Doubt; and No Lease on Life, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in fiction and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Her most recent collection of stories, Someday This Will Be Funny, was published in 2011. Her other story collections include This Is Not It, stories and novellas written in response to the work of 22 contemporary artists, and The Madame Realism Complex. Her nonfiction books include The Velvet Years: Warhol’s Factory 1965-67, based on photographs by Stephen Shore, and, most recently, the essay collection What Would Lynne Tillman Do?, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism. A Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, Tillman has recently served as Rea Visiting Writer at the University of Virginia and Kestnbaum Writer-in-Residence at the University of Chicago. She writes a bimonthly column for Frieze and is a professor and writer-in-residence at the University of Albany. She lives in Manhattan.

Angie Keefer is an artist, but the Internet says she is “better-,” “best-” or “predominantly” known as a writer, editor, and publisher. Her work will be on view in New York from October 10 at Greater New York, MoMA PS1. She has recently exhibited, staged, taught, published, spoken, or otherwise produced work at Kunstverein Munich (2015); Liverpool Biennial (2014); Whitney Biennial, New York (2014); Objectif Exhibitions, Antwerp (2013-14); Mercosul Biennial, Porto Alegre, Brazil (2013); Witte de With, Rotterdam (2013); Yale Union, Portland (2013); and São Paulo Biennial (2012), among others. In 2010, Keefer co-founded The Serving Library, a not-for-profit artists’ organization dedicated to publishing and archiving in a continuous loop, and is co-editor of The Serving Library’s bi-annual publication, The Bulletins. She graduated from Yale University, where she studied sculpture. She teaches listening at the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, and lives in rural upstate New York.

This public event is part of We (Not I), a four-day program of discursive meetings, presentations, and events that brings together a wide range of female artists, writers, curators and thinkers identifying with feminist practices to exchange and produce content addressing questions around the role of "we" in contemporary art practice, held at Artists Space between September 30 and October 3, 2015.

"We (not I)" typed in red, black, and blue serif font.
["We (not I)" typed in red, black, and blue serif font.]

Artists Space would like to thank Thea Westreich Wagner and Ethan Wagner for their gracious support of WE (Not I) in New York.