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Gary Indiana: "I think everything for me is a form of writing"


The great Gary Indiana has just published his first (“and last,” he says) memoir, I Can Give You Anything But Love. In advance of the opening of an exhibition of his photo and video work at 356 Mission Gallery in Los Angeles, Indiana talks to the LA Times about writing and the other media he works in, the eighties, and Susan Sontag. Here’s an excerpt:

How did you stumble into other mediums, like photography, playwriting, visual art, actor?

I think everything for me is a form of writing. It’s a form of tracking my own consciousness and my own experience of the world in some way, registering it in some way. Sometimes you can’t write, sometimes you don’t want to write. Sometimes language is too imperfect somehow. Sometimes language doesn’t convey what you want to convey. Doing photography, video or film or anything like that I always feel like I’m writing. I’m somebody who is very preoccupied with form. Anybody that really reads my novels will understand this, because no two are remotely alike formally. I try to do as big a spread as possible in terms of the formal experiments.

In this new book, your ruminations on the past, including your estranged relationship with a writer friend like Susan Sontag feel cathartic. How do you see it?

For at least eight years, I had daily contact with Susan Sontag. Either we saw each other, went out, talked on the phone, whatever, so I have every right to describe what I feel about Susan, what I thought about Susan. Maybe what’s in the book is harsh, but Susan was a very harsh person, and she was a very difficult person to be a friend to and after a while one realized that it was impossible to be a friend to Susan and not be a hypocrite.

Image: Gary Indiana by Robert Mapplethorpe, via BOMB magazine.