In late November, I sat down with monologist Mike Daisey at the historic Clocktower Gallery, in downtown Manhattan, to discuss his work in this interview for Creative Time Reports and BOMB. Daisey and I met in the recording studio of Art International Radio, founded and run—like the gallery—by the irrepressible Alanna Heiss, who gave early shows there to Joel Shapiro, Richard Tuttle, Robert Smithson, Lynda Benglis, and countless other great artists from the 1970s to today.
Daisey and I discussed the motivating ethos of his work, from his experience of “non-Euclidean” New York to storytelling after the occupation of Zuccotti Park, down the street from the Clocktower. The radio station and gallery are housed in a Lower Manhattan criminal-court building, which also happens to be the place where Occupy Wall Street protesters were “processed.” The experience of discussing the OWS movement, in the same site where hundreds of activists have “stood before the judge,” led to a conversation about the uncanniness of narration and the political role of the artist that touched on everything from Daisey’s father to Plato.
I deliberately avoided Daisey’s most famous (and controversial) piece, “The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” which details his disputed experiences at the Foxconn factory in Shenzhen, China, because others have been there and done that. I wanted to focus on Daisey’s larger project of political engagement, especially in light of his recent show “American Utopias.” It seems to me that the only utopias available to us are those we construct in language, and with that in mind, I wanted to discuss the intersections of metaphor, art, journalism, and how theater can (if only briefly) be used to create a progressive, engagé utopia uniting performer and audience.