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by Robert Rodger
‘Every letter I write is not a love letter’. Inventing sociality with Ray Johnson’s postal system.”
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Some thoughts on these Videos

by Robert Rodger

Content Tags: Ray, Video

Viewing these videos over the years in Nick’s studio I developed a deep familiarity with Ray Johnson, a feeling that I knew him and had spent time with him. Nicholas Maravell is now offering this opportunity to the world.

The Ray Johnson Videos are not a documentary, but rather a document; a document of time, sound, and visual space from the lives of the artists Ray Johnson and Nicholas Maravell. And of course they are a work of art.

The heavy video equipment of the 1980s becomes inseparable from and assimilated by Nick’s breath, his heart, and his gaze. And inversely Ray is aware of of being viewed, recorded, gazed at, and being free to be as he chooses with someone he trusts implicitly. To play, to perform, to talk, to be quiet much of the time.

In one passage of the videos, it is a pleasure not only to see Ray’s selection of his collages to show us — withdrawing them one by one from a cardboard box in the trunk of a car, standing in the middle of a Long Island Mall parking lot — but also to see his own pleasure in sharing them with us. Thinking about it, feeling about it as I write this, I realize more clearly how the mundane, non-elitest, non-art-industry context (imagine if buyers or gallery owners had been invited there!) of a shopping mall parking lot was what was probably giving him such deep pleasure, in addition to being able to share his work. And I like that too.

The videos traverse yards, parking lots (as mentioned), streets, for example the streets of Huntington, Long Island; they take place at galleries, in restaurants, university painting studios. Nick’s presence is always felt but even more than that can be felt his restraint, intelligence, judgement, and breadth of character, always gazing at Ray on his own stage of life.

Ray and Nick are of course conscious of what they are doing: they arrange their meetings, the time, the places, they bring people, like Nadine, and things… collages, the video equipment. The videos are a flow of them making art, making themselves, keeping and letting go, and always teetering on the edge of chance and discovery.

Those are some of my thoughts about them and some of the reasons I wanted to make this website.