American Bricolage

»Acid Cabinet« 2005 by Tom Sachs

Whitewall: Your body is at service to your art? There is this fantasy of the artist who
endures all kind of abuses (such as drugs) as a part of the experience. You need a good body to do good art?

Tom Sachs: Yeah [laughs], but the opposite is also true — I also have to be very indulgent and explore. But I don’t think drugs are an escape; I think they are an exploratory tool.

WW: They can be both.

TS: I certainly explored them in both ways — but now that I’m old, I look at it as two separate experiences. One is about using as a social lubricant, as an escape, or to eliminate pain. But then, more rigorously, I use drugs as an exploration tool, as an opportunity to go deeper inside, or, most radically, to help see the different dimension of the reality I’m used to every day.

WW: Are you talking about psychedelics like mushrooms?

TS: Mushrooms and LSD. Psychedelics are the most dangerous, effective, and quickest ways to get to those places.

WW: They’re a shortcut. It’s funny that we’re talking about different dimensions, because while preparing for this interview I had the insight that in some ways you are like a modern alchemist. Alchemists are people who can transform lead into gold, inside and outside. Is there some sort of alchemy in your work?

TS: I’m honored by your analysis, because it’s a word that I use very often when I’m explaining what “bricolage” means [Note:Sachs often describes his work as “American bricolage”]. It’s common in French, but it’s not an American word. When people ask, “What does it mean?” I say, “It’s like alchemy meets do-it-yourself but it’s not just do-it-yourself because there’s an element of spirit or tradition to bricolage.” There’s a spiritual quality to it. It’s about showing resourcefulness and love. It’s also a word for a culture that repairs rather than replaces. I come from a culture that replaces . . . when you save something, there is a little bit of magic in it. When alchemists were trying to find gold out of lead, they found other things along the way.

WW: Real alchemists are looking for inner transformation.

TS: The ultimate creation is life. To make a baby is the most magical creation there is. Everything else, whether it’s going to the moon or building a bridge over a giant valley, is impressive but . . . technology is a shadow of natural technology — nature.

Whitewall magazine, 2010


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