In Conversation With Jeffrey Perkins

an interview by Chiara Vecchiarelli

effrey Perkins is a visual artist and filmmaker who recently resurfaced at The Emily Harvey Foundation in Brain Damage on Broadway, an evening of hypnosis, experimentation and psychedelia organized by artist Taketo Shimada of Messages. Years ago Jeff co-founded Single Wing Turquoise Bird, who provided light shows to Velvet Underground, Grateful Dead and Dr. John to name a few and on October 25’ 07, through Shimada’s initiative, resurrected his first light show in thirty years to the sounds of Shimada’s own collaborative project Messages. But there is far more to know about Perkins, a decades long associate of Yoko Ono, John Lennon, George Maciunas and Nam June Paik among many others. While serving in the U.S. Air Force stationed in Tokyo in the early 1960’s, he met Yoko Ono and her husband Anthony Cox. Through them he was exposed to the works of Cage, Duchamp, LaMonte Young and others and began participating in events, performances and concerts. Jeff currently exhibits at the Emily Harvey Gallery and is now finishing up his new film ‘The Painter Sam Francis’.

The following is a preview of my full interview with Jeffrey Perkins available at the links below:



The following interview took place on a day in December 2007 in Jeffrey Perkins’ loft, in New York. We had just seen his last documentary film The Painter Sam Francis. The catalogue of the Venice Biennial historic exhibition Ubi Fluxus Ibi Motus, of which he took part, was among his books, together with a program of the experimental Cinematheque Theater 16 that he directed in Hollywood, and his personal copy of the Fluxfax Portfolio. On the floor, two suitcases fostering hours of interviews with passengers Perkins used to record in his cab, following Nam June Paik’s advice.

Jeffrey Perkins is the author of original performances, the discreet story teller of Sam Francis’ work, the friendly camera operator of Yoko Ono’s Film #4. Above all he is the witness of the fact that art is the place where the singularity of one’s own practice coexists with the sharing of ideas. Concepts that animate his practice are the source of his artistic and personal charm and one of the most interesting issues I really would like to deal with, in thinking and organizing art.

Chiara Vecchiarelli (CV): I like the idea that the material was nothing but the medium for your practice ….

Jeffrey Perkins (JP): … Fourier felt that the direct channel from the producer to the consumer was the most ideal thing, because when the broker gets involved the broker doubles the price … A talisman! Exactly, a talisman! This Fluxus publication bears the title: “How communists must give revolutionary leadership in culture.” I chose my rent. I rented out for very cheap, no profit …

(read full interview)

CV: What is interesting is that Fluxus proposed an economic alternative system and that you are still proposing it in your everyday practice, in your small economic world…

download the clip from

JP: … I’m also thinking of the artist George Brecht’s ideas … Flynt used to say to me … “this place is more important than any art museum in New York City.”

(read full interview)

CV: Joseph Beuys associated himself with Fluxus in the beginning … Can we speak of a social sculpture in your work, or rather of a social sculpture that presents itself in the collateral effects of your work

JP: I read an interview with Beuys … he probably became aware of the Fluxus avant guard art, where art could really expand, which happened to me when I met Yoko Ono in Tokyo and I read John Cage’s book on silence. We saw the work in Anthology, and suddenly I was exposed to a new universe, a new doorway to what I thought art was … When I first saw Beuys’ work, his pictures and magazines, I immediately understood what he was doing … Why is there a room in the Pompidou with a piano wrapped in felt … I guess this is what the French situationist, Guy Debord, wrote about. I think I’m a situational artist …

(read full interview)

Taketo Shimada is an artist organizer, visual artist and musician from Tokyo. He has lived and worked in NYC since the mid 80s. He has worked with a variety of figures such as Henry Flynt, Alison Knowles and Rammellzee to name a few.

Tres Warren is an artist and musician living and working in New York City. He’s involved in various music collaborations including Messages and has performed as part of Damo Suzuki’s Network, in addition to recording and touring internationally with his band Psychic Ills.

Messages – a duo comprising Tres Warren of Psychic Ills and visual artist Taketo Shimada.


Messages at Roulette

The Emily Harvey Foundation is a private foundation registered in the State of New York.

#permalink posted by Chiara Vecchiarelli: 3/03/08 02:58:00 PM


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