„art is not content“ Derrick Ryan Claude Mitchell, artist_ Wien 19.7.2021

Dear Derrick, what’s your routine at the moment?

While this question is first on your list I have saved it until last to answer. I am quite a private person, often secretive when it comes to both personal desire and habits, and there is something in this question that feels quite personal despite (or perhaps because of) its innocent nature.

Derrick Ryan Claude Mitchell, artist

If I am being honest I will have to admit that I am too lazy to form any routines…or at least any personal routines outside of either a project I am making or a job that I have. The more “immersive” the project or job is, the easier it is for me to settle into the routine that will ensure its success even at the expense of my own personal happiness or comfort. Some good examples of this are the most recent Laboratory I created at  dieAngewadnte “Brick Bohemians”, the daily structures I facilitated for Saint Genet company members at The Watermill Center or working on the commercial fishing vessel F/V Jackal both of which are highly structured and intensive labor practices which I am invested in for extensive period of time and create pattern, ritual, and even routine.

Derrick Ryan Claude Mitchell “Brick Bohemians”

However, when these things are finished or paused..as has been the case, I am somewhat of an empty husk. I think exercise is important, but I hate exercise.  I know I should eat food, but I don’t care when I eat it, or what it is…., my daily life exists more as a constant battle with procrastination surrounding doing things I know are important but hate (exercise, eating, doing laundry, responding to text messages, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, having in person conversations etc.) and waves of intense depression of which I am unable and unwilling to communicate about with the people I love most. Often, I can justify some of my more troubling patterns as “self-care” (a term that is meaningless and honestly offensive when bandied about as a way to conquer aspects of mental and emotional illness),  but I think that the reality is that outside of doing things for other people I don’t have a very strong foundation for knowing what might make me happy or at least less upset all the time.

Derrick Ryan Claude Mitchell “Brick Bohemians”

I guess one positive part of being too lazy to be committed to any personal routines is that you don’t feel upset when things have to change, it’s much easier to let go of something that doesn’t exist. It also preemptively avoids conflict with people who are very set in their personal routines which, while meaningless to me, seem to give them some semblance of happiness, however fleeting, and really causes me no pain and usually minimal effort to accommodate.   

Derrick Ryan Claude Mitchell “Brick Bohemians”

If I had my druthers I would  have a drip coffee and chocolate chip cookie each day,but sadly, Viennese cafes serve neither and I honestly don’t care enough to make it for myself.  

What’s particularly important for us all in these days?

I’m not sure that I can totally answer this question. Or at least, I think it would be a bit too much hubris (even for me) to try and communicate what would be important for “all of us” in this critical moment in time. The phrasing of the question has made me think of this passage in Mariame Kaba’s book “We Do This Until We Free Us” which I think communicates my own thoughts about what might be particularly important better than I would be able to through this platform.

Cedar Island Lighthouse (film) 2-Pano-Edit

“I don’t believe in the self in the way that people determine it here in this capitalist society that we live in. I don’t believe in self-care, I believe in collective care, collectivizing our care, and thinking more about how we can help each other. How can we collectivize the care of children so that more people can feel like they can actually have their kids but also live in the world and contribute and participate in various different kinds of ways? How do we do that? How do we collectivize care so that when we’re sick and we’re not feeling ourselves, we’ve got a crew of people that are not just our prayer warriors, but our action warriors who are thinking through with us? ….I think capitalism is actually continuously alienating us from each other, but also even from ourselves and I just don’t subscribe. And for me, it’s too much with, “Yeah I’m going to go do yoga and then, I’m going to go and do some sit-ups and maybe I’ll like, you know, go to…” You don’t have to go anywhere to care for yourself. You can just care for yourself and your community in tandem and that can actually be much more healthy for you, by the way. Because all this internalized, internal reflection is not good for people. You have to be able to have… Yes, think about yourself, reflect on your practice, okay, but then you need to test it in the world, you’ve got to be with people. So, that’s important. And I hate people! So, I say that as somebody who actually is really anti-social… I don’t want to socialize in that kind of way but I do want to be social with other folks as it relates to collectivizing care.”

Forgiveness 1

New start, new beginning. What will be essential and which roles will art play?

I don’t know that I can totally agree with the premise, that this is a new start or a new beginning, because, truly, what has changed? We now face restrictions being lifted on the richest countries in the world while the reality of vaccine apartide and viciousness disaster capitalism prepares to go into overdrive and profit off of the misery, idolation, and death which we are all too eager to put behind us. This makes me think that we are still mired somewhere in the middle, unable to spit, unable to swallow while the world is turning to ashes in our mouth.

Forgiveness 2

Herbert Blau said in an interview with Bonnie Marranca: “Art is what happens when I think better of myself. To a degree that there is purity in that, it accounts for the discrepancy between what I am and what I’d like to be. I can at some level, even when I fail at art, respect myself there more than I can in reality. Which is to say, I’m known to myself more accurately in art than I am known to myself outside of it. This is not all egocentric. Art for me has always been the means by which I become more available to myself and thus more responsible.”

Forgiveness 3

What we have seen over the past 40 years of neo-liberal brainwashing and something that has exploded in the last year of pandemic lockdowns is to worship at the altar of superficial spectacle and the Cult of the Individual, in the face of  sacrifice and solidarity, service to others, and substantive transformation. We see that there is an ocean of “content creators” that have flooded our systems and dulled our senses, and yet this content while using the language “dialogue, compassion, and self-love” has only served to deepen the chasm between people and magnify individual feelings of alienation, otherness, division, and “being-in-it-for-oneself”. These bad actors are the enemies of Art and in being the enemy of Art they in turn are the enemies of Society.

Forgiveness 4

It is then the role of Art and the artist to reject any notion of “content creation” or of entrepreneurship. The disgusting term “entrepreneurial artist” has for the last decade of funding strangled those who may have committed themselves to creating art work while elevating the most vapid elements of art commodity.   Art is not content.  Samuel Beckett once said, “I’m writing into the void. There’s nobody there. So they always ask: “Why do you do it?…“Why does one write for the void…because the void is there.”

Forgiveness 5

What essential role will art play? The impossible and most important role of of art and the artists is to save the world. “The world, of course, doesn’t always want to be saved”

What are you reading?

We Do This ‚Til We Free Us

Abolitionist Organizing and Transforming Justice–Mariame Kaba

Cawdor and Medea–Robinson Jeffers

The Idiot–Fyodor Dostoevsky

And at night: Mercie–Anne Sexton

Perhaps somewhat embarrassingly as I have been battling waves of depression I received the “I-Ching” as a birthday gift, and while John Cage’s “Music of Changes” and really beautiful ideas of “chance operations” have been a major influence on my life, for some reason I have only installed it as an alter in my home and have not yet had the ability to open it. Perhaps, I am not yet ready to absorb what is inside.

Promised Ends 1

Which quote, input or text will you propose:

Since I have referenced so many other (much smarter and more articulate) artists words and ideas in these questions I will propose this “collective agreement” that I wrote for the artists of Saint Genet before we began a very long 3 year journey of making what would become a “Vienna Series” a trilogy of works that began in an abandoned factory in Traiskirchen and ended at Wiener Festwochen and Holland Festival. A series that may well be viewed by history as a failure.

Promised Ends 2

One throughline of those pieces was what happened to the “pioneers” (settler-colonialist’s) known as the Donner Party, and what decisions are made when you find yourself in the most vulnerable and desperate situation imaginable.  There is a lot to unpack historically, sociologically, and culturally, especially considering the current situation, however, I think the poetic conceit is still both meaningful and beautiful and much like Blau’s description of “Art” mentioned earlier this is something I come back to quite often…if only to remind myself that once upon a time very special things were able to be made by people that believed in something greater than themselves.

It has been agreed:

Above the gods stands Destiny.

And so we say:

That problems of destiny are still more entrancing than problems of chance because within the compass of destiny one requires perspective on the return of the will. Here we find our Party (ourselves), facing the desert where property and past have been abandoned, and the social contract, nothing but wheel tracks disappearing, the ghost of a dance, and cannibalism about to start.

Frail Affinatie

That problems of destiny are still more entrancing than problems of chance because within the compass of destiny one requires perspective on the return of the will. Here we find our Party (ourselves), facing the desert where property and past have been abandoned, and the social contract, nothing but wheel tracks disappearing, the ghost of a dance, and cannibalism about to start.

Frail Affinities 2

That this place, where the gods are most likely to fail us; where the doing as it’s done, doing it over and over, with no promise that anything will add up, knowing we do not know, we can not know, knowing only: what we do is about who does it.

And so we discover:

That the same soul can not serve two masters.

And we have determined:

That what we have to seek for, we seek relentlessly; all of the time. Insisting on images that become obsessions, on fate shrouded in silence.

Watermill_Tintype 2

It has been said:

That every gift involves a gmasacrifice.

And so we say:

That ours will be an exemplary case of love without respite opening a psychic space in the very center of indifference. Where our every action has been dreamt into being keeping, if not death, at least the deadening outside of this circle of existence inside our fantasy of longevity through which we all expire. This can never happen but always is. There is madness here. Extraordinary things happen rarely anymore.

We bring bodies back into souls.

Thank you very much for the Interview, dear Derrick, joy and success for your great artprojects und personal all the best in these days!

Five questions on artists:

Derrick Ryan Claude Mitchell_artist_performer

D. Ryan C. Mitchell (dieangewandte.at)

Alle Fotos_ Derrick Ryan Claude Mitchell

30.4.2021_Interview_Walter Pobaschnig. Das Interview wurde online geführt.


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