tsnoK: Savannah Bob, is that a pseudonym?
SB: Don’t really know, from the beginning it was you who coined the name. The text could well have worked without a signature, but apparently not… So it’s I who should ask: why do you want an author for every text?
tsnoK: We don’t really. We probably just thought it was a cool name, a little “Lynch”.
SB: So you did want a name to the text. Why hide that?
tsnoK: Anonymity implies that there is trust between the editor and the writer. We put a name there to avoid responsibility and intimacy.
SB: There is a difference between being anonymous and operating under a pseudonym.
tsnoK: Yes, but…
SB: Had the text been anonymous, with no signature or author, it would just be there along with the other anonymous stuff and no one would know if it was the same author or a different one. The question may not even have been asked. But now that you have put a name there, it doesnt really matter any more how many of us write the articles (now you’ve only published one of them, but if you were not so keen to reject….).
It doesn’t matter how many of us there are because we are homogenised in a character that people can be for or against, that people can relate to from article to article. So then you get a position, the text is anchored firmly in something, people can say that they agree with Savannah Bob instead of considering the ideas – the name becomes representative. In this way, it is a political act to use a pseudonym instead of letting the texts remain anonymous: one creates a small centre of power, something that lives through time, and that can live on, or be undermined by, past merits.
At the same time, it is the worst kind of abstraction and politicisation of discourse: it invites people to take a position for or against, rather than just take an interest in the matter in question or not give a shit about it. The name, true or false, becomes a point of interpretation and the reader will end up being irritated by or liking the figure behind the name rather than simply enjoying the text or thinking about something else.
tsnoK: But can the anonymous text be recognised “for what it is”? Is it the context in which the text appears in that gives it legitimacy? If, for example, we think of that interview with Foucault (“The Masked Philosopher”), published in Le Monde…
SB: He was perhaps too vain to be truly anonymous. The text was published again later under his name. Or there might be texts that we do not know are actually “Foucault”.
tsnoK: After his death, yes, it was republished after his death. As long as he lived, no one knew. He had the idea that we would have an anonymous year in culture, no books with names – which would also force a new kind of criticism to appear. Though he seemed to doubt that people would actually agree to be anonymous.
SB: It’s actually the text itself, and the reader, that gives it legitimacy or relevance. Couldn’t one just think fuck context?! In any event I like the idea that there are anonymous Foucault texts out there that experts do not care about because they have not been certified as authentic Foucault statements and therefore don’t count.
It’s a particular epoch for individuals in academia as well and no-one writes apocryphal texts, not even for the fun of it. Sad times we live in: not a single pseudo-Deleuze, only specialists who ventriloquise through Deleuze (or Heidegger or Harman or whoever you want). But what do you mean with the question of whether the anonymous text is able to be recognised for what it is? What is the problem?
tsnoK: OK, stuff Foucault. We’re talking about Savannah Bob. In this case, the texts have been written in a situation where it was not possible to write without hiding behind a pseudonym. Anonymity is something else. The word means that familiar ‘nameless’, but it also means ‘lawless’. Usually it means that there is no identifying information, such as when the person is not known for any older works, or just a few (in this case, as a magazine editor) and they do not want to use a pseudonym.
There are always those who try to silence the opinions of others. Sometimes by force and sometimes through the law. Anonymity can be a matter of integrity and a tool for ensuring a rich variety of views…
SB: ….or discretion. Discretion as a means to become like everyone else – the whole art scene, if you read its texts from the outside, is mightily discreet, without any identifying information in fact. And therefore it would be fun if it actually became anonymised for those who are in that scene too – so people couldn’t work on the relationship between name, the last “-y” suffix, and readers’ need to place the author on an almost feudal credibility scale. Instead, people could draw the benefits of the anonymous text itself, and recognise it for what it is! A texts’ paradise!
tsnoK: That sounds fine.
tsnoK: The question is whether it is at all possible. Doesn’t a reading also depend on the context? There are many examples where a mediocre contribution in the right context is taken more seriously than good reasoning in a mediocre context. For example, when you publish your texts with us, in Artforum and E-flux, they mean different things.
SB: Yes, certainly, but I think that in the long run the context is shaped by its content, if it continues to be anonymous. One can, so to speak, access Art and escape the art world and all its values!
tsnok: We are tsnoK.
tsnoK: You have called yourself Theodor Ringborg when you did an exhibition in tsnoK.
SB: Yes. I heard he got upset. Thank you for not removing it.
tsnoK: Why did you do that?
SB: Because he would have been able to do such an exhibition. And I wanted to see if he took responsibility for it.
tsnoK: It’s quite different from both pseudonym and anonymity.
SB: Yes. It’s fun.
tsnoK: For whom?
SB: What sort of a question is that?
tsnoK: Are we really going to publish this interview?
tsnoK: It’s not us who publishes it.
SB: I’m still here…
tsnoK: OK, in what way does the content change when you do something that someone else could have done in tsnoK?
SB: Yes, but that’s just it. Anyone, anyone at all, could have done it. Someone else could embrace another person’s identity and do something in their name. The best and most generous way to do that is to do something that the other could conceivably do.
It makes the content representative, instead of the messenger.
SB: Yes, if anyone at all could have written it, it means that anyone could have seen and thought it. Don’t you think? It applies a generalness, a universality to the writing.
tsnoK: When you are Theo?
SB: No, when I write anonymously. It was just fun to give another perspective to, or get involved in, his development: much like when people began blogging possible “what happened nexts” about a TV series a few years ago and television companies began to adapt developments to their ideas. But that you’ll have to ask Theodor about.
tsnoK: Is not the idea of universality also a value?
SB: Yeah. A desirable value. But in a different way than that to which leading art magazines aspire.
tsnoK: What does one of those aspire to?
SB: Well, the maintenance of its position in a Eurocentric patriarchal heteronormative order for example. Good relationships with gallerists, critics, placing itself in an international discourse (which few, if any, can see for themselves). It’s about anxiety.
tsnoK: And by being universal, and ideally anonymous, you can get around it?
SB: Yes. There’s another danger. Becoming mobbish, or populist. There is a seductive freedom in anonymity: making an honour out of being the first to boo a great performance at La Scala whether it’s deserved or not.
tsnoK: So with an established position one is perhaps more careful?
SB: With some things – yes. But it’s better to aim for universality than to aim to be accepted or conform. Art is not about following the rules. We can know the rules, and at best exploit the fact that there are so many others who follow them.
tsnoK: But then your universality becomes a new norm.
SB: No. I see it more that I become an example of a relation to something. The example does not represent a norm, but rather a personal, possible way of relating. I gain nothing from it based either on current or future norms: “I” am not involved.
tsnoK: Will we benefit from it?
SB: Yes. And you do. But I suspect it may not be why you do what you do.
tsnoK: No, we are above such things.
tsnoK: Or at least beside them.
SB: With cap in hand…
Hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frère!
SB: But hey – what do you represent then?
tsnoK: What or who?
SB: You decide.
tsnoK: We speak for no-one. We represent in a sense you, and Theodor, and everyone we love. We don´t suck.