Goshka Macuga, Preparatory Notes for a Chicago Comedy

Following her critically acclaimed solo exhibition at MCA Chicago earlier this year, Polish-born, London- based artist Goshka Macuga returns to Chicago this spring to embark on a yearlong project as the museum’s 2013 artist in residence. Macuga’s audience-engagement residency project begins with the history of the MCA and relies heavily on the social fabric of the MCA community to excavate some of Chicago’s lesser-known histories, forgotten folktales, and best-kept secrets. Visual and written records of the artist’s many adventures and encounters will be made accessible to the public, both on-site at the museum and online, as her journey slowly moves to its conclusion—the eventual shape or form of which will be determined in the second half of the residency.

Dieter Roelstraete: I’m going to introduce a sentence about how, in a way, in the introduction, it’s one fourth choreography, one-fourth lecture, one-fourth performance; we could add, "and three-fourths collage" because it is actually – and collage is your medium.

Goshka Macuga: Yeah, it’s my idea.

DR: Everything you do, in a way, is collage.

GM: I collage it all.

DR: What will eventually culminate as a result of your residency is a play: "Preparatory Notes for a Chicago Comedy." It’s based on another comedy, "The Hamburg Comedy," written by Aby Warburg in the late 19th century.

GM: I first came across this play, I think in 2007, when I was at the archive, Warburg Institute’s archive, looking at material and I already then thought that there was an interesting possibility to think of taking on this potentially funny piece of writing about nineteenth-century art scene of Hamburg and translating it into more contemporary context, which was then not really specific to Chicago.

The original play was designed to be set in a living room, basically—Warburg’s play.

DR: Yeah, well in summer houses.

GM: Yeah, summer house, in a living room.

We actually photographed houses of the collectors and patrons of MCA in Chicago, whom we thought had interesting collections. And we’re basically mixing up these different references to different houses or this possibility of the house of a person who is engaged in art.

DR: The original Hamburg comedy, the subject matter of it, or it’s content really is a fight between ancient – the old and the new. So there’s a conservative, art-loving uncle then there’s a progressive, young painter, and in a way, that dynamic, which is a classic, generational conflict, it echoed a little bit in the history of the founding of the MCA.

One of the figures that appears in the play is Jan van der Marck, the founding director of the MCA, and Art by Telephone, which is like this pioneering art exhibition from 1968, is the centerpiece really of one scene.

GM: But Warburg is representing this complete kind of unorthodox way of collecting knowledge, which we do. So we are not specialized; in a way with him being academic and specialized as an art historian, he’s not a conventional art historian, so what is unconventional we like.

DR: So in the introduction we just observed that the art world loves Aby Warburg, but the explanation we hold out for the second scene or something. Do we feel we want to analyze the basis of the art world’s [unintelligible] for Aby Warburg? We could.

GM: But how we do it in a funny way, like it’s not too serious?