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Interview (November 12, 1969)
Ian Wilson

I would like you to tell me about your idea of Oral Communication as an art form. Would you prefer giving me a statement or having a discussion?

I find a discussion form preferable. The fact of a discussion might be more important than what I have to say.

Maybe you could start at the beginning and tell me how you came to think of oral communication as an art form.

It occurred to me when I looked at a Robert Morris sculpture it would be possible for me to say it, to describe it quite easily. I went away thinking that it was not necessary for me to see that sculpture again, I could just say it – not even say it – but think it. It was so primary, so reduced to one unit.

You could experience it thinking of it.

Well, when someone says to you: I am working with a cube, you know exactly what he is talking about. You hold the essence of the idea in your head. It’s just like someone saying: I am thinking of God – that’s as close as you will ever get to it – you have the essence of the idea. My next step was simply to realize my interest in speech as a medium – first of all – of communication and secondly as the object of communication.

Is oral communication an art form per se or an art form relating to other art forms?

Perhaps I can clarify it by using a Wittgenstein analogy. He found a report in a newspaper in which a model had been used to help a jury decide on a motor accident. Because of this, he was inspired to say or to write: a proposition is a picture of a state of affairs – as the model was the picture of the accident. If you take it a little further and think of the other forms of propositions, one would use to picture the state of affairs of the accident, you could have a written statement, you could have a model, you could take the jury to the place of the accident and have them watch a rerun using similar cars and people or, if you were able and magical enough to turn back time, you could have the whole thing happen once again. The thing about these four propositions is that each one is complementary to the others. But the final one – if it were possible – is the most essential of the four. This is what I am after when I use oral communication as an art form.

Then oral communication is the art itself? There is a difference between the act of oral communication and the object it concerns?

Any discussion, any oral communication, is an example of the object of my thought or the object that I am trying to communicate to you. When I say, I am using oral communication as an art form, I am not only using it at this moment, but I am using whatever other oral communication we might come in contact with in our future or we might remember in our past. What I am trying to do is to direct your attention to the idea and activity. Though the carriers are physical, their thought-object is not and therefore becomes an easily transported experience.

(in conversatation with Ursula Meyer)