Extra words with John Bisbee
By IAN PAIGE  |  January 30, 2008

"Space invader: John Bisbee's metalwork hijacks the Portland Museum of Art." By Ian Paige.
The following is a transcription of the proceedings before my interview with artist John Bisbee over libations in an undisclosed location in Brunswick, Maine. Before I could begin recording, the bright-eyed, sage-bearded sculptor had already spoken at length with our server about her photography hobby, hacking away at her scripts of self-doubt and suggesting how easy it could be to start taking it more seriously. He then began to get my interest piqued in a top-secret project with which he needed assistance.

IAN PAIGE Something must have happened to you along the way that makes you want to talk to the waitress about her photography, to be a teacher, to invite me to work on a project...

JOHN BISBEE My favorite part. It’s the best thing we can do, Ian. To help unplug someone, or even just to help plug someone ... you know, whichever ever way you want to look at it? It’s the most exciting art form. To be a facilitator. That’s teaching. To see it through their eyes. The waitress’s epiphany feeds me... [The waitress approaches.] We’re talking about you. You can read about yourself in the Phoenix. Ian will put you in there, I’m sure.

WAITRESS (laughing) Someday!

JB No, right now.


JB She thinks we’re kidding. No really though, to facilitate a neophyte’s excitement. It’s like a sonic boom that echoes back to you. You remember that you get to do that too. Hold on, let me turn my journal on for a quick sec. [He unpacks a camcorder from his bag and turns it on.] I don’t even watch the tapes.

IP What happens here?

JB Cheers. [clink] I’ve had a journal for about twelve years now, since I moved to Maine. Started with big cassette tapes, then I went to microcassettes, then MiniDisc, everywhere I ever went, every class I ever taught. Then it went to Super8, Hi8, now I’m on these MiniDVs. I’ve had everything I’ve ever eaten on film.

IP What?

JB It’s going to be a kick-ass movie. Eight years now I’ve been on video. I have three meals a day. It’s going to be such a beautiful film whenever I edit it. I also have the New York Times date on there every day. It’s good.

IP The rigidity of that structure feels paradoxical to me because you emanate such a feeling of liberation.

JB Hope so. It goes back to permission. Everyone gets to internalize their own permission. Whatever they do, whatever they follow I’m assuming is going to be invariably good. And they should feel free to follow it. So I don’t know if I’m creating a structure, I’m just observing one. It’s the passive observation of a structure that’s already there. Like filming my meals every day; they’re happening three times a day anyway. That’s the structure and it’s as hard as pushing a button to document it. And once again, I don’t watch my tapes because it would change my relationship with it. Very few people believe it but I’ve never watched a tape.

IP So there’s a back room somewhere?

JB I have thousands. They only have the date on them. It’s a wonderfully impenetrable document. Anyway, I think permission is the big word. Giving the humans permission to explore themselves, it’s why we’re here.

I then asked John Bisbee my interview questions. We both agreed it was an excellent interview.

  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Brunswick Maine, Portland Museum of Art, John Bisbee
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