Gossipis serious business. Whenever Bob Rauschenberg and I get together wegossip about his work. Here are the results of my most recent visit.
ROSETTABROOKS: For some reason, Ive always thought that your Combines cameabout because you had a habit of walking round the block before thetrash was picked up in the city, collecting what interested you andtaking it back to the studio. Is that true?
Robert Rauschenberg:Yes. That's right. I wanted something other than what I could makemyself and I wanted to use the surprise and the collectiveness and thegenerosity of finding surprises. And if it wasn't a surprise at first,by the time I got through with it, it was. So the object itself waschanged by its context and therefore it became a new thing.
RB: Why a surprise?
RR:To feed my curiosity. The objects uniqueness were what fed mycuriosity. They didn't have a choice but to become something new. Thenyou put them in juxtaposition with something else and you very quicklyget a world of surprises.
RB: So by combiningjunk objects, you were making connections between objects and imagesthat were normally enclosed in different private spaces and you weremaking new connections. When objects are thrown out as trash, they arealso closed down spatially. Your juxtapositions and contrapositions inthe Combines opened the space up again to reveal hidden connections inpeoples lives, possessions, objects and spirits that had previouslyremained separate. By the same token, the process you used to createthe Combines opened us up to what the street really is and what thecity really is. Our perception of both street and city changed. And byextension, the Combines also opened up the studio to its spatialsurroundings. Like the street and the city, the studio then became asocial gathering point. And your studio has continued to be that wayever since. The idea of the social is a significant factor in allyour work, isn't it? Throughout your career, you go through periodswhere you both surround yourself with junk, and you surround yourselfwith people.
RR: Its the same thing really, isn't it? They're both full of surprises.
The rest of this article appears in the December/January 2005 issue of MODERN PAINTERS.