ALESSIO ASCARI Paradox Bullets, your new film made in collaboration with Nike, premiered at Tate Modern in London last week during Frieze Art Fair. The film stars you alongside Ed Ruscha, is narrated by Werner Herzog, and directed by Van Neistat—such a dream team! I just watched it and I was struck by this phrase at the end of the film: “We are mystics, not rationalists,” suggesting a parallel between arts and sports. I would love for you to expand on this duality, and how it informs your practice.
TOM SACHS “Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists” was originally said by Sol LeWitt. It comes from his Sentences on Conceptual Art (1969). In my studio, there are several commandments that we live by. Sentences on Conceptual Art is one of them. It’s important that in school we learn 1+1=2. But in the studio, we learn 1+1=1 million. Some people call that “intuition,” and it can be cultivated. From my experience in athletics and certainly in art, you have to do all this training so you’re prepared to make an irrational decision that doesn’t make sense, and that’s how you win. That’s how you invent the new thing. The entire reason I make art is to make something that hasn’t been made before. So I never make the same piece twice. I’m only interested in that area of investigation that doesn’t exist. Ernest Shackleton is the athlete that we always refer to in the studio: he was the guy who explored the South Pole, fucked it up royally, but no one died. And through his failures are the greatest successes. So it doesn’t really matter if he didn’t get there. All those clichés – it’s the journey that counts, the marathon, not the finish line… the reason why those are clichés is because they’re universal. And in the same way with art, it’s not always about the finished object. The most important thing to me is the moment when you strike line on paper, when you make the decision.
AA The moment of inspiration?
TS Well, no. I think that’s a different idea. I meant the very blue collar aspect of running, of drawing, of working, of cutting, of using your body to affect materials, or to move through space. You’re doing all that hard work so when you have a spark of this intuition, this unknown thing, your body and mind are trained and poised to take action and to direct it usefully—to get that extra bit of energy out of your body to get through the line faster, or to combine those two things that don’t make sense into a sculpture.