Hans Ulrich Obrist
In Conversationwith JulianAssange, Part I
When I first met Julian Assange Ð thanks tolawyer and Chair of the Contemporary ArtSocietyÊMark Stephens andÊcurator/lawyer DanielMcClean, both of the law firm Finers StephensInnocent Ð we discussed ideas for variousinterview formats. Anton Vidokle and I haddiscussed the idea to conduct an interview with Assange in which questions would be posed notonly by me, but also by a number ofÊartists. Thisseemed only natural considering the extent towhich so many artists have been interested inWikiLeaks, and we then invited seven artists andcollectives to ask questions over video for thesecond part of the interview.
My archive now contains over 2000 hours of interviews recorded in many different places, andI am constantly attempting to discover new rulesof the game, new approaches to how an interviewcan work. For an interview with Hans-Peter Feldmann published initially in
and then in book form, I emailed him one question per day, and each of FeldmannÕs responses wouldtake the form of an image. For my interview withLouise Bourgeois, I would send a question andshe would email back a drawing. When Juliancame to my office with Mark and Daniel for our first meeting, we discussed the idea of a differentformat with questions from artists, and Julianliked this a lot, suggesting that the artists sendthe questions as short videos so that he could seethem. We set the interview for two weeks later at10 or 11 p.m., as we discovered that we both worklate at night. Traveling more than three hoursfrom London on Sunday, February 27, I arrived atEllingham Hall, the Georgian mansion near theEastern coast of England that Vaughan Smithoffered Julian to use as his address for bail duringhis UK extradition hearings. In the living room of the picturesque home he described to me as aÒgolden cageÓ we drank many cups of coffee andspoke until 3 a.m. about his life, his nomadism,his early beginnings and the invention of WikiLeaks, his time in Egypt, Kenya, Iceland, andother places, his scientific background, and thetheoretical underpinnings of WikiLeaks.
The interview is divided into two parts Ð inthe first, I was interested in tracing his work backto its beginnings. I was not interested in his courtcase or private life, but in his public work as thevoice of WikiLeaks, and the experiences and philosophical background that informs such amonumentally polemical project. In the second part, which will be published in the followingissue of
, Assange responds toquestions posed to him by artistsGoldin+Senneby, Paul Chan, Metahaven (Danielvan der Velden and Vinca Kruk), Martha Rosler,Luis Camnitzer, Superflex, Philippe Parreno, and Ai Weiwei.
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