Burning Issues Hannah Black interviewed by Larne Abse Gogarty
Manchester-born, Brooklyn-based artist and writer Hannah Black discusses the importance to her of meticulousness in writing and carelessness in art, the power of collectivism, the need for revolution, tackling racism and setting fire to police stations.
Ramey Raymond, 2019
Larne Abse Gogarty: I wanted to start by asking about what you’re making or writing during your residency at Boffo on Fire Island. Hannah Black: Fire Island is a pretty social place, so I have been walking, doing shrooms and going to look at the beautiful forest and beach. There’s no actual studio space to work in at Boffo, so I’m working on a book, which is a fictionalised retelling of the first six months of 2020. I’m trying to write characters and dialogue, which is incredibly hard – it’s embarrassing and vulnerable to make things up, much more difficult than telling the truth. Even though this project is semi-novelistic, the context is reflected in the fact that it won’t be submitted to an editing process.
Obviously, there are problems that come with this level of freedom. When I look back at other writing, there are moments when I think the work might have benefited from someone else’s editing. But I am horrible at having my writing edited. For all its failings and for all the things that feel bad about art as a job, you also have a crazy amount of freedom, so it’s really hard to adjust to anything different. But I edit my writing hard anyway. My superego does a lot of that work.
Can you tell me about the relationship between writing and making art for you, and how these practices intersect or correspond? Do you feel as though there are companion pieces? For instance, are there texts where the ideas within them have also found form in a sculpture or video? Or do you think about these different media as working for different feelings or different subjects? I was thinking about your recent essay on tenant-organising for Dissent, which is less art writing and more reportage – could something like this ever find its way into an artwork? I find there is something pointless about trying to put ideas of ‘organising’ in an exhibition space. For instance, the Los Angeles Tenant Union – one of the most radical and interesting tenant unions in the US – was originally part of a project called School of Echoes, which involved people from Ultra Red. They did a bunch of workshops across the US, but Los Angeles was the only place they couldn’t find an art institution to host, so they just did it somewhere else. But that was the only workshop which turned into a long-term organising project that was collective in any meaningful way. I’m sure there are further examples of projects migrating from art spaces, but it doesn’t seem that common.
Art Monthly no. 441, November 2020