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Investigations: The Expanded Field of Writing in the Works of Robert Morris

Katia Schneller
Noura Wedell

IV. Exchanges: Text to Screen and Back Again

Script of the film Robert Morris: The Mind-Body Problem

Rosalind Krauss et Teri Wehn Damisch

Texte intégral

1Opening Credits.

2Screen 1: Title slides projected on a black screen.

3“Le Centre Georges Pompidou, la délégation aux arts plastiques présentent”

4Interior night: an empty auditorium at the Centre Pompidou, Paris. A pitcher of water and a glass sit on a small table on the stage of the auditorium. On the audio track: sound of water being poured into the glass. A blinking television monitor emits a squeaky sound.

5Screen 2: Title card “Robert Morris.”

6A theatrical spotlight seeks out Robert Morris (RM), a solitary spectator, seated in the audience.

7Rosalind Krauss (RK) walks on stage toward the lecturer’s podium. She is lit by a single spotlight. She adjusts her glasses, clears her throat and taps her papers on the lecturer’s podium.

8Cut to close up of RM in black suit, hatless.


9Screen 3: Title card “The Mind/Body Problem.”

10RM, sole spectator, sits in the auditorium as he listens to the “Mind/Body Problem,” a lecture delivered by “pedantic professor” RK.

11On the sound track, the noise of construction workers drilling with jackhammers—from the performance Site.

12RK In: “Suppose I were to ask you ‘what is modern about modern sculpture?’ You would probably tell me that it’s modern because it has become abstract. And, you would add, in so doing, it has broken off all contact with the function and purpose of traditional sculpture, which was to represent the human body.”

13As RK speaks, the film Site is projected on a large screen behind her. Andrew, the young dancer in Site in white work clothes, is superimposed by RM in white work clothes.

14RK voice over (VO): “This is where we would differ. Since I would argue that all sculpture, no matter how abstract, is constantly working to build an analogue of the human form—to demonstrate the body’s relation to gravity, or the body’s capacity for expressive gesture, or even the body’s movement in the most ordinary types of labor.”

15Cut to the giant screen projection of the performance Site (1964) (recreated in 1993 at the Hunter College television studio and filmed by Babette Mangolte).

16Andrew as RM or “Bob” walks upstage center to a large structure composed of white-washed plywood board. He slowly begins to dismantle it. He takes the first board off stage.

17Interior Pompidou Auditorium:

18RK behind podium stands in the dark, lit by a single source of light. Site continues to be projected behind her on the screen.

19RK In: “All sculpture, then, no matter how abstract, is constantly working to create an analogue of the human body—its gesture, its weight, its labor. Robert Morris’ sculpture is no exception to this rule. And given the fact that what prompted him, as a young artist maturing in the late 1950s, to turn away from painting and engage with the third dimension was his experience in avant-garde dance, this commitment to the body has been doubly reinforced.”

20Cut to Site projected on full screen.

21Andrew as Bob (RM) removes the rest of the plywood boards. He removes the last panel revealing the performance artist, Carolee Schneeman, reclining on a white sheet propped up by pillows. She is naked except for a dusting of white powder and a ribbon around her neck; Carolee is RM’s recreation of Manet’s Olympia.

22Cut to black.

23Interior Auditorium: RK appears at the podium. At each tap of her professorial baton, images of Simone Forti, Yvonne Rainer and the Judson Dance Theatre dancers performing “ordinary tasks” are projected on the front of the podium.

24RK In: “There are of course bodies and bodies…”

25Cut to interior ramp in Guggenheim Museum: RM in dirty white work clothes sweeping the floor of the Guggenheim ramp.

26Cut to floor of the museum: RM in black suit and hat unfolds Felt Piece.

27RK VO on slides of Judson Dancers projected on the front of the podium:

28RK: “And the kind of dance Morris began to explore in the late 1950s with Simone Forti and then in the early 1960s with the Judson Dance Theater was engaged in a reform of gesture such that the outcome would be a different idea of the human body from ballet or even from modern dance.”

29Cut to Interior Guggenheim Museum ramp:

30RM as “Task Performer” in worker’s uniform sweeps the floor. Squeaking sounds.

31RK In: “The New Dance” (as it came to be called) turned to what its practitioners called task performance.

32Cut to “Task Performer” RM in black suit and hat, unfolding felt mattresses on Museum floor.

33RK VO: “…which meant finding wholly ordinary things to do, like walking up and down stairs, sweeping the floor or folding and unfolding things. It would be these tasks that would generate movement.”

34Cut to Site on screen.

35RK VO: “Such movement, they reasoned, would not seem to ‘express’ the interior of the dancer, externalizing his feeling or ideas held prior to the gesture; it would derive its significance instead from the task at hand, such that meaning would arise at the place of connection.”

36Cut to RK In standing at the podium wearing horn rimmed glasses:

37“The place where the body actually hits the world not before the gesture, but as a function of the task.”

38RK turns to screen behind her. On the sound track, strains of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra—Soprano Gloria De Los Angeles is heard off screen.

39RK turns from the camera to the screen.


40Opening credits in French slide on to the black screen behind her:

41Robert Morris dans le rôle de Task Performer, Ignatz le Sceptique, Ordinary Spectator.

42Rosalind Krauss dans le rôle de la critique d’art “Roz” Sélavy, Professeur Pédant.

43Title: Robert Morris: The Mind/Body Problem.

44Extraits du film de Babette Mangolte Four Pieces by Morris.

45Montage: Christian Girier.

46Un film de Teri Wehn Damisch.


47Exterior Day: 5th Avenue and 89th Street.

48Sync. Sound: heavy traffic noise, honking. A strangely distorted view of the Guggenheim Museum occupies the screen. The camera pans slowly upwards to discover RM in a black suit and black Quaker-like hat holding a large-sized distorting mirror. He crosses the street, walks towards the Guggenheim Museum, which is seen distorted in the mirror.


49Dissolve to Interior Guggenheim Museum.

50RM in black stands before Column.

51Sound track from Site.

52RK VO: “Morris’ earliest sculpture was called Column, which he then used for a performance at the Living Theater.” RM runs his hands along Column’s edge.

53Cut to Site: Andrew stands in same position as RM.

54Cut to Auditorium at Centre Pompidou.

55RK VO: “We could say here that the ‘task’ was simply to occupy the stage for the seven minutes allotted to Morris for his performance.”

56RK In (wearing different eyeglasses):

57“So he thought about the simplest possible division of time, and the most basic possible gestures of this surrogate body—meaning the Column.”

58Cut to RM in Guggenheim Museum, who sticks his head out from behind Column and says:

59“What?” (an intended pun of Watt by Beckett cited later in the film).

60The action is reflected within the TV monitor.

61RK at podium—new change of glasses:

62RK In: “Accordingly, the hollow plywood object occupied the otherwise empty stage for 3 ½ minutes before falling on its side…”

63Cut to Andrew the dancer in Site who falls over.

64RK VO and In: “…remaining prone for three and a half minutes.”

65(RK mimes the action with tilted head).

66RK In: “Whereupon the curtains closed.”

67Cut to TV monitor onstage.

68RM appears on the television monitor: “As Bob Rauschenberg once said: ‘If you can’t take it seriously, there is nothing to take.’”

69RK glances at RM in scruffy clothes, seated alone in the audience; he looks dubious:

70RK In: “Si vous ne prenez pas cela au sérieux, il n’y a rien à prendre.”

71RM disappears from screen.

72Interior Day: Guggenheim Museum.

73Camera sweeps across the title of the exhibition inscribed on the museum wall: Robert Morris: The Mind/Body Problem.

74RK VO: “Morris’ work is taken up with a consistent conceptual dilemma which I call, ironically, the Mind/Body problem.”

75RM in black hat and suit enters the reconstitution of the 1964 Green Gallery exhibition.

76RK VO: “In 1964, Morris installed a group of sculptures in the Green Gallery in New York. These simple objects were soon to be called minimalist and were spoken of as abstract.”

77Cut to RM bareheaded, sitting inside Window and looking towards the other sculptures in the Green Gallery space.

78RK VO: “But Morris always thought of these sculptures in relation to the body and to movement.”

79Interior: Guggenheim. Green Gallery space in Tower 7.

80RM rises from Window, puts on his hat and walks toward Slab.

81RM VO: “In the beginning when I made such works as Slab, I worked alone, using cheap materials and simple tools. Following the a priori task of how the simplest objects got made delivered the structure. Working with standard materials (e.g. the 4 × 8 feet sheet of plywood) and producing objects I could manipulate myself delivered the scale.”

82Cut to end of performance Site.

83RM/Andrew moves one of the plywood boards into various positions. He carries it on his back. He kneels next to it. He puts the board down. He walks upstage center. He covers the nude Olympia with a plywood board. He walks downstage left, and turns his back to the audience.

84Cut to RM walking through the Green Gallery space to Cloud. He is intercut with a female dancer dressed in a man’s suit and hat walking in Waterman Switch (first performed by Lucinda Childs).

85RM VO: “But horizontality is the space available to the body. We don’t move up but instead out, across. Of course we climb, go up in elevators as well.”

86Cut to RM walking towards Cloud then under it.

87RM VO: “But horizontality is the vector of bodily movement that is the least impeded, that requires the least effort. Running and walking is done best on a flat surface. Both visually and kinesthetically the horizontal, open expanse invites the secular impulse, the mundane beginning, the practical invitation.”

88Cut to Site. Andrew as RM covers Olympia with the plywood board.

89RK VO: “Morris wanted to find a single, simple shape, that he called a Gestalt—a shape that could not be subdivided and would not seem to be unified around an internal armature. It would just be the outside, the Gestalt, that would provide the unity. So the Gestalt refuses the picture of the body as animated by an interior, it insists on a body that is all surface, all on the skin. There is a parallel between this refusal and that of the philosopher, Wittgenstein; he had also rejected the model of the human subject as directed from within.”

90RK In at podium: “Wittgenstein refused this model of mental space as well as what goes along with it, which is that words and their meaning are also a function of this internal space of the mind.”

91Cut to RM listening to RK lecture.

92RK In at podium: “He thought instead that the meanings of words are not dependent on what we have in our heads but rather are a function of the public space in which we speak to one another. The public space of conversation. The public space that in fact Morris’ dancers would have called task performance.”

93RM wearing black hat, points to the shape of the sculpture called Corner Piece; he traces the outline of the sculpture with his pointed finger.

94RM VO citing Philosophical Investigations by Wittgenstein:

95“There are of course what can be called characteristic experiences of pointing to the shape. For example, following the outline with one’s finger or with one’s eyes as one points—but this does not happen in all cases in which I mean the shape and no more does any other one characteristic process occur in all these cases.” Wittgenstein.

96Cut to final sequence in Site. Sync sound from the film dissolves to black; a rhythmic metallic hammering sound, introduces Ring with Light which is shot from all angles.

97Mesh Piece is shot from different angles.

98RM’s hand caressing Mesh Piece.

99Cut to RM walking around Mesh Piece; he walks off screen.

100Cut to RK at the podium, who taps her papers in rhythm to the metallic sound from previous sequence.

101RK In (new eyeglasses): “Wittgenstein refusing the mental was one source of support to which the minimalists turned. Another was the work of the writer Samuel Beckett, whose world of tramps and clowns and outcasts was also devoid of a comforting notion of an inner world of meanings. As Beckett wrote of Watt, one of his early fictional characters: ‘Watt had seen other people smile and he thought he knew how it was done.’”

102Cut to RK. RM looms large on screen behind her, grinning.

103RK In: “…and he thought he knew how it was done.” (This last phrase is repeated in echo).

104Cut: RM in black hat, standing in front of Passageway, reads from Beckett.

105RM In: Beckett wants to know “what is it like to be a body?”

  • 1 Samuel Beckett, Three novels: Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable (New York: Grove Press, 1991) p.  (...)

106The camera follows RM into the curving corridor of Passageway (1961). He reads a text from Beckett’s The Unnameable: “I know I am seated, my hands on my knees, because of the pressure against my rump, against the soles of my feet, against the palms of my hands, against my knees. Against my palms, the pressure is on my knees; but what is it that presses against my rump, against the soles of my feet?”1

107Close up of RM’s feet pressed against the wall of Passageway.

108RM In continues to read from Beckett but one hears him reading in reverse mode.

109RK VO: “Let’s follow Morris into Passageway. Can you see then that it is a curving corridor that narrows to a point? Can you feel it both welcoming and refusing your simplest expectations about motion, namely that you can act on your desire to traverse this channel of space? Instead it exerts a kind of pressure on your body that makes you aware of the way space itself shapes both your physical being and your desires. In this sense one might say that Passageway is, precisely, a task performance: it is nothing but a bodily gesture caught in the act of surfacing into the world.”

110Cut to RM as he exits Passageway; he resumes his former position and speaks to the camera:

111“What is it like to be a body?”

112RK In: “What is it like to be a body?”

113Interior Guggenheim ramp: Camera pulls away from ramp then zooms in towards Pine Portal (1961).

114Cut to a free standing doorway lined with mirrors, nothing but threshold, doorjamb and lintel.

115RM in black hat walks through the door leaving the ‘trace’ of his passage registered in the mirrors.

116RK In: “In 1961 Morris also made Pine Portal, a freestanding doorway, nothing but threshold, lintel and doorjamb which Morris has lined with mirrors. So when he walks through the door, it means that each time he does so he leaves the trace of his passage registered, in the mirror, like a weird afterimage: the memory of his transit is wrenched away from his body and seems to appear strangely out-of-synch with it. “What is it like,” his reflection seems to be asking, “what is it like to be a body?”

117RM inside Pine Portal; he appears and disappears and reappears in a slide of a younger RM.

118RM inside the original Pine Portal (1961).

119RK VO: “When Morris fashioned the ironic self portrait called I-Box he made the door out of this pronoun, this ‘I’, this reference for the Cartesian ego, the self. Yet as I open the door what I find is not the soul, but Morris grinning back at me.”

120RM collaged into the I-Box—nude—grinning.

121RK VO: “…as though he were saying…”

122Cut to auditorium: Bearded RM in black hat seated in Pompidou auditorium.

123RM In: “‘The human body is the best picture of the human soul.’ Wittgenstein.”

124Cut to Interior Guggenheim. Water swishing in ground floor pool. Reverse angle shot of Guggenheim atrium with L-Beams in the center.

125RK In: “Three L-Beams from 1965 is a case in point. The positions assumed by its identical elements are entirely gestural.”

126Cut to various views of L-Beams (1965-1994), shot from different ramps, various points of view. The camera zooms into the three L-Beams.

127RK In: “We immediately sense that whatever the L’s are modeling, it is not ‘abstract’ geometries that are in question but a picture of the gestural subject, of the human subject assuming a position: sitting up, lying down, and crouching on all fours.”

128The positions of the L-Beams dissolve into one another. RM’s hand sets black hat down on L-Beam. Camera in reverse angle shoots RM from above sitting on L-Beam. He rises, leaving the three L-Beams, and walks off screen.

129RK VO: “So counter to what we might expect—that the simple block would look the same through all its possible rotations in space, like a kind of changeless ideal Platonic solid—each L’s appearances dependent upon its orientation to the world and its relation to us, its viewers.”

130Dissolve to black, RM in scruffy clothes appears seated in auditorium, looking very bored.

131RM VO: “What is it like to be a body? What is it like to be a body?”

132RK In at podium holding a professor’s pointer: “And if the Platonic shape is an analogue for the ‘mental idea’ of the solid form, Morris’ erosion of the permanence of that shape is intended as an attack on such a conception of the space of previously held and permanent ideas, the space that is, of the mental, the mind, consciousness…”

133RM taps impatiently on the arms of his seat.

134RK (with still another jacket and eyeglasses) addresses herself to RM:

135“Are you doubting what I am saying?”

136RM In: “‘My doubts form a system’ Wittgenstein.” Dissolve to Self-Portrait (EEG) (1963).

137RK VO: “At the same time that Morris generated the large-scale, plywood works that fed into the minimalist movement, he was also working on a type of smaller, conceptual object that would address the ‘mental’ more directly and with far more evident irony. The Self-Portrait (EEG) he made in 1963 by having his electro-encephalogram recorded is a perfectly skeptical or ironic self image.”

138RM appears beside Self-Portrait (EEG). Interior Guggenheim: Close-up of Morris grinning. He covers his eyes with his hands.

139RK VO: “It mocks the convention whereby the portrait conveys the inner being of its sitter, the facial expression understood as a gateway to the mental events that shape it.”

140RK In at podium with giant screen and RM portrait behind her:

141“Instead of showing us this inner soul, Morris’ portrait seems to ask…”

142Cut to RK at podium in still another jacket holding a pointer, slides of Brain are projected onto the front of the podium:

143RK In: “…‘what is it like to be a brain?’”

144TV Monitor begins to blink: RK turns to the screen behind her and “reads” her own text projected on the screen:

145“I am conscious of myself thinking. But how does this consciousness hook onto my physical body? The Mind/Body Problem is the philosophical marker for this question. Can the mind simply be made equivalent to the brain the way for example?”

146Close-up of RK’s hand pouring a glass of water from the pitcher.

147“…that H2O is equivalent to water?”

148RM flips the card “conception” from Card File.

149RM VO: “July 11, 1962, 3:15 pm. While drinking coffee in the New York Public Library.”

150Very tight close up of Morris reading:

151VO: “Forms… Future”

152His finger follows the cards alphabetically:

153VO: “Index, Interruptions, Locations, Losses.”

154Close-up of card “Losses.”

155RM VO: “July 14, 1962, Losses: discover small pack of 3 × 5 cards missing, unable to remember what was written on them.”

156Very tight close up of Morris reading: “Interruptions, July 18th, 2:45 PM: on trip to find file met Ad Reinhardt on corner of 8th Street and Broadway. Talked with him until 5h30 by which time it was too late to continue trip (see Names).”

157Slide: Thinking in Public.

158Duchamp’s Notes for the Large Glass: Sketches, scribblings, notes filmed in rapid succession.

159RK VO: “The idea of a work that would be nothing but the notes of its own conception and making—thinking out loud in public, as it were, comes from Marcel Duchamp’s ‘Notes for the Large Glass.’”

160RM in silhouette walks rapidly in front of the camera from left to right and then from right to left—in front of 3 Standard Stoppages.

161RK VO: “And in the early 1960s Morris made works specifically to honor Duchamp. Like Three Rulers, his homage to Duchamp’s Standard Stoppages—his three yard sticks deformed by chance.”

162Three Rulers dissolve into Three Standard Stoppages.

163Cut to shot of Metered Bulb.

164RK VO to the sound of ticking electrical meter: “Or Morris’ version of the perfect Bachelor Machine: the closed circuit of a light bulb and an electric meter that records the bulb’s energy.”

165RK In behind podium (change of eyeglasses):

166“Maybe it was the dancer in Morris that was attracted to Duchamp’s love of role-playing…”

167Slide of Marcel Duchamp as Rose Sélavy.

168RK In: “…of travesty of cross-dressing…”

169RK In (appears first without glasses, then slips on flashy rhinestone glasses):

170“…of being in turn: the artist, the inventor who copyrights her work ‘Rose Sélavy,’ the champion chess player, the traveling salesman, the art dealer, the crook.”

171Cut to brief shot in black and white of Michael Stella removing his glasses in the performance 21.3.

172RK In with pointer at podium, about to show slides:

173“Morris liked playing the laborer…”

174(As RK is about to continue her lecture, the cardboard screen tacked on to the podium, on which the slides are projected collapses.)

175RK giggles, pours herself a glass of water, coughs, and resumes her talk with stern professorial tone.

176Slide of RM in Site dressed in worker’s clothes.

177RK In: “Morris liked playing the laborer. But he also cast himself—satirically of course—as the professor…”

178Slide of Morris as Erwin Panofsky in original performance of 21.3.

179RK In: “…Professor Erwin Panofsky, lecturing to us on how we can be certain we’ve figured out a work’s meaning.”

180Slide of Michael Stella in same pose as above performing in 21.3.

181RK VO: “Although, since Morris mimes a previous recording of the Panofsky text, making sure to get the sounds and the movements of his mouth out of sync, this very idea of meaning—the meanings of words—is comically eroded.”

182Cut to reconstitution of seminal performance 21.3.

183Michael Stella parodies RK who parodies RM who parodies Panofsky’s course 21.3.

184Michael Stella (MS) VO: “Iconography.”

185Cut to Pompidou auditorium.

186RM as ordinary spectator in work clothes listens to Michael Stella’s lecture.

187MS VO: “Iconography is that branch of the study of art…”

188Cut to Michael Stella In: “…which concerns itself with the subject matter of the meaning of works of art, as opposed to their form.”

189Cut to RM in black hat facing miniature film screen encased in Guggenheim wall on which MS continues to lecture as Panofsky:

190MS In: “When an acquaintance greets me on the street by removing his hat…”

191RM removes his hat.

192Cut to Michael Stella at podium.

193RM/MS VO: “what I see from a formal point of view…”

194RM facing camera puts hat back on.

195MS on screen: “…is nothing but the change of certain details…”

196RM and MS VO—exchange of voices:

197“…within a configuration forming part of the general patterns of colors lines and volumes…”

198Cut to large view offstage with MS on screen. RK faces giant screen behind her and looks at the double images of MS and RM incrusted on the screen. At the same time, the same image of RM is repeated in the TV monitor sitting at the edge of the stage.

199RM VO: “…which constitutes my world of vision.”

200Idem—with RM off:

201“I seem to speak, it is not I, about me…”

202TV Monitor: MS and RM:

203“…it is not about me.”

204Slide of nude RM and nude female dancer in original performance of Waterman Switch.

205Slide of RM as Comic Warrior.

206RK VO: “Morris has given his various personae different names, from Body Bob to the Comic Warrior. My personal favorite is a character from Beckett, the tramp, the vagrant, the clown.”

207RM plays the clown—full body fall to the ground he quickly rises up again as MS continues to silently mouth Panofsky on wall screen in the background.

208Old postcard of The Nelson Gallery, Kansas City, flashes on to screen.

209RM VO: “Many museums in the Midwest, like the Nelson Gallery in Kansas City, Missouri,…”

210RM In: “…the first I ever knew, occupy sites of former baronial estates. On certain long-ago Saturday mornings, fortified with a mother’s encouragement, I made my way from the eastern part of Kansas City on the trolley towards the Nelson Gallery. I had my crayons and two nickels, one for each way. I got the drawing paper at the museum. I was eight years old and would spend the morning drawing in the galleries…”

211Interior Guggenheim: RM as an “ordinary visitor” to his exhibition walks through the minimalist Portal towards Battered Cubes.

212RM VO: “I remember most drawing from the Egyptian objects. In 1961, I made my first works that would later come to be called minimal sculpture. Those grey columns and slabs I copied directly from the photographs of the ruins of the King Zoser complex at Saqqara, Egypt.”

213Different views of the cubes.

214RM walks off screen.

215RM VO: “At thirty I had my alienation, my Skilsaw, and my plywood. I was out to rip out the metaphors, especially those that had to do with ‘up,’ as well as every other whiff of transcendence. When I sliced into the plywood with my Skilsaw, I could hear, beneath the ear-damaging whine, a stark and refreshing ‘no’ reverberate off the four walls: ‘no’ to transcendence and spiritual values, heroic scale, anguished decision, historicizing narrative, valuable artifact, intelligent structure, interesting visual experience.”

216Cut to close-up RM in black hat and beard reading in:

217“Large unitary sculptures take relationships out of the work and makes them a function of space, light and the viewer’s field of vision. The viewer is more aware than before that he himself is establishing relationships as he apprehends the objects from various positions and under varying conditions of light and spatial context.” “Notes on Sculpture.”

218Frozen frame of Morris facing the camera.

219RK VO: “Morris’ generation rebelled against the popular notion of the artist as strong, silent and dumb. They were all articulate about their work, particularly Morris who was an important theorist of minimalism writing many essays.”

220RK In and VO (the titles of RM’s texts are flashed on screen):

221“These texts have names like ‘Notes on the Phenomenology of Making,’ ‘Some Splashes in the Ebb Tide,’ ‘American Quartet,’ or ‘Is that a Mouse in my Paragone?’”

222Slides of Ignatz, Krazy Kat are flashed on screen.

223RK is wearing glitzy rhinestone glasses:

224“Who’s the mouse you want to know? Why it’s Ignatz from the comic strip Krazy Kat, the mouse who’s always being mean to Krazy, who’s always puncturing the balloon of Krazy’s love for him, the ironic mouse…”

225Slide of Ignatz throwing a brick at Krazy Kat.

226RK VO: “…the destructive mouse…”

227Shot of Andrew/RM in Arizona dissolves to RM in same position—finger pointing upwards.

228Dissolve to Andrew/RM facing camera.

229Dissolve to RM with back to camera.

230Interior Guggenheim: RM in work clothes gives numerical gesture to introduce Arizona. Andrew/RM performs Arizona.

231RK VO: “In the dance called Arizona, Morris begins by rotating his upper torso so slowly that we can’t even tell he’s moving. It’s an image of the body centered, curled around its own interior, while the voice in the work ‘remembers’ scenes of Morris’ childhood watching his father work in the stockyards. But the dance progressively moves away from this idea of an inner center, until Morris creates an image of the body’s projection into outward space, like the noose of the lasso the cowboy whirls around his head and flings over the neck of the running animal.”

232Andrew in Arizona rotating the “lasso”; whirling sound continues under RM reading in and off:

233“As a child, it seemed a long streetcar ride to the gilded Loewe’s movie palace downtown. I would sit stiff and sleepy, sometimes lucky enough to be over a rare heater that warmed my bottom through the cane seat, staring out at the lights in the crystalline night air. At one point in the trip I would look out and see high up, formed in blue and white incandescent bulbs, an enormous sphere—a disc actually, but meant to read as a globe—a hieroglyph of the earth itself.”

234Animation of old advertising sign for Sherwin-Williams Paints.

235RM Off: “Suddenly, out of nowhere, at the top of the globe, a small can of paint materialized and tipped forward in a most wonderful syncopation of coordinated lights. Out of this little deus ex machina flowed a quantity of red paint wildly incommensurate with the volume of the can. The entire globe demonstrated with a thousand red lights the triumphal words that flashed above the whole scene: ‘Sherwin-Williams paints cover the Earth.’”

236Cut to Interior Guggenheim: Whirling pool.

237RM bends towards small pool and assembles the individual pieces of Stadium Piece on the pool’s rim.

238RK Off: “A sculpture without a center is a sculpture programmed for constant change. It can be permuted infinitely, and each permutation is a repetition of the work in different form.”

239RM at pool edge permutates the individual blocks of Stadium Piece, and finally pushes the separate pieces into the pool one by one.

240Interior of Guggenheim Museum. Leaning against the ramp, RM reads from “Notes on Sculpture.” He begins to walk down the ramp passing numerous felt works; the music of Verdi’s Simon Boccanegra is heard in the distance.

241RM VO: “Recently, materials other than rigid industrial ones have begun to show up. Sometimes a direct manipulation of a given material without the use of any tool is made. In this case, considerations of gravity become as important as those of space. The focus on matter and gravity as means results in forms that were not projected in advance. Random piling, loose stacking, hanging, give passing form to the material.” “Anti-Form,” a text from 1968.

242RM stops in front of the reconstitution of the video performance Waterman Switch projected on the wall of the gallery.

243RM continues to walk down the ramp sometimes stopping in front of one of the felt pieces.

244The aria from Simon Boccanegra sung by Gloria de Los Angeles continues on the soundtrack.

245The felt piece Catenary (1968) is raised then lowered by the art handlers of the Museum.

246RK VO: “So if this is anti-form, why is it so beautiful?”

247RM standing before the felt pieces responds:

248“Nobody’s perfect…”

249Cut to Auditorium Centre Pompidou.

250RK In standing before podium—a scene from Waterman Switch is projected on the screen behind her.

251RM sits in the audience with back to the camera looking at the scene.

252RK In: “The human body is the best picture of the human soul.”

253Sequence from the 1990’s filmed performance of Waterman Switch: two nude dancers impersonating Beckett’s “Watt and Sam” move back and forth in a narrow channel of space.

254RK In, in yet another change of jacket and RK off:

255Waterman Switch, another of Morris’ dances, occupies a strange frontier between sensuous eroticism and the painful concentration of the dancers glued to their task. It called up many pictures for its audience in the mid 1960s, particularly ones from Samuel Beckett—like the scene from Beckett’s novel Watt where the two main characters (Watt and Sam) are described as moving back and forth in a narrow channel of space, pressed, as Beckett says, ‘pubis to pubis,’ while Watt tells Sam what happened to him in a world he didn’t understand.”

256On the soundtrack the aria from Simon Boccanegra is superposed and doubled back on itself. The tramp character in Waterman Switch walks back and forth along the narrow channel unraveling a ball of string, paying no attention to the nude dancers on the track.

257Cut to Interior Pompidou auditorium. The last images of Waterman Switch are projected on screen behind RK. Music fades out.

258Cut to Interior Guggenheim Museum. Zoom out from felt piece House of Vetti.

259RM VO: “‘The human body is the best picture of the human soul.’ Wittgenstein.”

260Cut to felt piece Tangle.

261RM VO: “Of the abstract expressionists, only Pollock was able to recover process and hold on to it as part of the end form of the work. Pollock’s recovery of process involved a profound rethinking of the role of both material and tools in making.” “Anti-Form.”

262RM rearranges the tangles of felt in several fixed images miming Hans Namuth’s photos of Pollock painting. The sequence ends with RM throwing a pack of felt tangles towards the camera lens, blocking the lens.

263RM VO: “The stick that drips paint is a tool that acknowledges the nature of the fluidity of paint.”

264Camera floats over Floor Grid.

265RK VO: “What was marked in Pollock’s canvases was the paint’s yield to gravity, and the possible loss of form that results. The horizontal had always been Morris’ preferred dimension as well. Now he would exploit it for the sense it could produce of form yielding to its opposite: anti-form, as in this grid that seems to spread across the floor as if in the grip of a kind of capillary action.”

266Cut to interior auditorium of Centre Pompidou: A mound of powdered graphite. RM smears the powdered graphite onto a glass plate. The camera pulls back to show RM with eyes closed “making” a Blind Time Drawing.

267RK VO: “The Blind Time Drawings arose from Morris’ continuing ambition to find a new way to make a ‘mark,’ one that would not be imitative, but would emerge self-evidently from the process of its own creation. Executed in powdered graphite and made with his eyes shut, the resulting configuration was based on a task that he set about performing within an estimated time, smearing the velvety medium across the surface of the paper.”

268A series of Blind Time drawings appear on screen.

269“The first series of drawings came about in 1973. In the end Morris made four series of Blind Times, comprising a total of several hundred drawings to date.”

270RM VO: “Yes, that was pretty obsessive.”

271RM VO: “But perhaps these ceaseless and sightless repetitions echo a kind of laughter not permitted in the light. Not every dark itch can be scratched in the daylight.”

272Wide shot of RM bent over the drawing paper as he begins to smear the powdered graphite over the surface of the paper. Only the sound of rubbing and tapping is heard. The sequence draws to an end.

273On black screen: Drawing with Davidson.

274RM VO: “I like the Professor Donald Davidson’s insistence that we will never find reasons both sufficient and necessary for our action. Take, for example, the reasons I always gave for why I make Blind Time Drawings in the first place. I would always explain it as an attempt to put drawing on a new footing, a new basis. But now, I think such reasons sound too much like rationalizations after the fact. After all, those reasons would not account for the obsessiveness of the production. Perhaps I was really looking for a way to renounce control and judgement. Perhaps there were feelings of guilt that were alleviated in this underworld of blindness. Perhaps there was in it a kind of Beckett-like humor that can only be honed behind the mask with no eyeholes. Or again, does drawing ‘blind’ have an oedipal explanation; is it a form of holding up the evil eye in order to ward off the punishment one fears? So in 1992 I decided to ‘draw with Davidson.’ I liked his conclusion that ‘a man’s motives for acting in a certain way may cause him to act in that way without it’s being the case that those were his reasons for performing the act.’”

275RM begins the Blind Time Drawings on camera.

276RM lifts the drawing and presents it to the camera.

277RM In: “Gee Mom, waddya think?”

278A second series of Blind Time Drawings appears on screen.

279RM VO: “Working with my eyes closed estimating the lapsed time and summoning up the memory of the first Cézanne I ever knew—Montagne Sainte-Victoire.”

280Interior Guggenheim: RM sits at the edge of pool looking at Montagne Sainte-Victoire reproductions in a Cézanne catalogue. Slow zoom towards Montage Sainte-Victoire.

281RM VO: “I touch the page as though I were touching the Cézanne. In 1988 I went to Cézanne’s studio in Aix in order to touch his cloak.”

282Wide shot of pool and ramp with RM sitting at a corner of the pool.

283RM VO: “I stood there with my fingers against the cloth for as long as I could bear the desire, the embarrassment and the dread of being discovered.”

284Fade to black, sound of rhythmic metallic hammering: Andrew/RM in Arizona circles the space with long spear in hand; he stops to face the camera.

285Bearded RM reading an autobiographical text:

286“The Kansas City of my pre-teen youth was divided into two quite distinct realms, two life spaces. One was more continuous, often grayed out by stretches of school’s tedium and mini-dramas of family life.”

287Andrew/RM in Arizona continues to circle the space with a spear in hand.

288RM VO: “Then there were the stockyards. Father was a livestock man. Mother thought it was a bad influence on me to go down to the stockyards. So I went there every chance I got. Father himself was transformed body and soul upon entering this malodorous and exotic zone. The men who worked in the stockyard arrived in drab and proper attire, but in the locker room these ordinary looking men metamorphosized, donning their various shaped stetsons, their lizard boots, their pearl snapped shirts, their chaps and belts. There, witnessing cattle whips and wet towels flicked at unguarded rears, the boasting, the cursing, I knew I had entered a different—a secret—zone. There Father glowed beneath his Stetson. I could see that he was far more at home than at home.”

289Andrew in Arizona halts to take a stance.

290RM looks up toward him. Andrew throws a javelin against a plywood board. RM looks towards Andrew/RM. Fade to black. RM in seated in Pompidou auditorium:

291“The whole story can never tell the whole story.”

292RK In (change of jacket and glasses):

293“That’s right, the whole story can never tell the whole story.”

294On screen: slide projections of Mirrored Portal, Mirror Cubes, Untitled (Portland Mirrors), Threadwaste, Curved Mirrors.

295RK In: “In fact, the whole story of Morris’ work I’ve told so far could be told all over again, using only the works he made with mirrors.”

296A hand inserts a slide into the slide projector.

297RK VO: “The work with mirrors folds minimalism into anti-form and the object into the world. In this sense it is both a reprise of Morris’ entire oeuvre and the expression of the title Morris once used for a work of his Continuous Project Altered Daily. The film called Mirror made in 1969 is yet another variation.”

298Cut to Mirror.

299Cut to RM sitting in Pompidou auditorium, in scruffy clothes looking disabused and bored:

300“It’s time to get Body Bob back up here: maybe they have his number. The ‘heroic,’ does that ring a bell Ignatz?”

301Cut to Body Bob lifting a heavy cannon ball.

302RM In: “It wouldn’t be that meatball from Waterman Switch, greased, bare-assed, overweight, inching down the tracks?”

303Cut to Waterman Switch: Nude male dancer pours liquid mercury down the back of female nude dancer.

304Cut to RM seated in the audience his arms crossed; he is wearing sunglasses:

305“How about the dirty white worker hoisting the plywood in Site. Huh?”

306Andrew/RM in Site.

307RM In: “And what about the pedantic professor, mouthing Panofsky?”

308Cut to MS in 21.3.

309Camera zooms out to discover MS projected on screen behind RK at her podium.

310RM In: “That’s three… guess he strikes out. Oh! Those were the days, though Ignatz, those were the days.”

311RK VO: “Oh yes, those were the days, those were the days.”

312Cut to exterior Guggenheim Museum and Steam Piece.

313RK VO: “The days in the late 1960s when art was less an object than it was a process. When art was not an idea frozen into solid forms, but a state of transition…”

314RM in black hat and beardless, emerges from the steam.

315RK VO continues: “…like liquid evaporating into a cloud of steam, pure process, pure anti-form.”

316Same image of RM standing in Steam Piece but incrusted in TV monitor.

317Cut: RM seated in Pompidou auditorium:

318“Whatever art is on the simple level it’s a way of making.”

319RK In at podium: “Oh, those were the days though, Ignatz. How we used to dance with our mouths on tippy toes, your bricks sailing by to remind us of what old Neech the Screech used to say about the idiocy of positing a doer for every deed. ‘The illusion of identity.’”

320On soundtrack—Gloria de Los Angeles aria finale. Pedantic Professor RK gathers her papers and exits right of screen. Screen goes to black.

321RM VO: “Oh yes, those were the days.”

322Cut to exterior Pompidou esplanade. RM in Black hat carries distorting mirror as he did at the beginning of the film—but this time it is the Centre Pompidou that is reflected in the mirror.

323RK and RM VO: “Ah yes those were the days. Those were the days. Yes, those were the days.”

324RM VO: “Yes those were the fucking days (giggle). Oh yes, those were the days…” Screen fades to black.


325The end

53-61. Stills from Teri Wehn Damisch,Robert Morris, the Mind/Body Problem, Paris, la SEPT/Vidéo, 1995.

53-61. Stills from Teri Wehn Damisch,Robert Morris, the Mind/Body Problem, Paris, la SEPT/Vidéo, 1995.

Images: Courtesy Robert Morris and Teri Wehn Damisch. © 2010 Robert Morris/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

62-73. Stills from Teri Wehn Damisch,Work in Progress Robert Morris Blind Time: 28 September 1994, Paris, la SEPT/Vidéo, 1995.

62-73. Stills from Teri Wehn Damisch,Work in Progress Robert Morris Blind Time: 28 September 1994, Paris, la SEPT/Vidéo, 1995.

Images: Courtesy Robert Morris and Teri Wehn Damisch. © 2010 Robert Morris/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.


1 Samuel Beckett, Three novels: Molloy, Malone Dies, The Unnamable (New York: Grove Press, 1991) p. 304.

Table des illustrations

Titre 53-61. Stills from Teri Wehn Damisch,Robert Morris, the Mind/Body Problem, Paris, la SEPT/Vidéo, 1995.
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Légende Images: Courtesy Robert Morris and Teri Wehn Damisch. © 2010 Robert Morris/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
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Titre 62-73. Stills from Teri Wehn Damisch,Work in Progress Robert Morris Blind Time: 28 September 1994, Paris, la SEPT/Vidéo, 1995.
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Légende Images: Courtesy Robert Morris and Teri Wehn Damisch. © 2010 Robert Morris/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
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