– Autumn/Winter 2002
'For nobody knows himself, if he is only himself and not also another one at the same time...'
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Allen Ruppersberg, Al's Grand Hotel, 7175 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, CA, 1971, Courtesy of the artist.
At the time the question was posed as to whether or not I would like to contribute a text about Al Ruppersberg, I was full of promises to myself to turn down any request for writing that came my way. Presumably, saying 'no' to others might constitute saying 'yes' to myself or, rather, I may have been thinking that it might be best to dedicate myself to writing something that stemmed from my own requirements, not something that was somebody else's idea. Perhaps what lies at the bottom of such selfishness - and, incidentally, at the forefront of any discussion of Al I have the luxury of initiating - is the assumption that the aim of life is self-development. To come under the influence of someone else is to become an actor in a part that has not been written for him - an assumption adorned and articulated courtesy of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray.
Let me first explain how I was introduced to the work of Al Ruppersberg. I was in my studio with an advisor, both provided to me by the art college I was attending at the time, and we were looking at a piece I had just made. The advisor asked: 'Have you ever seen the work of Al Ruppersberg?' And I answered 'no'. Now, the reason they asked, the reason anyone asks of any aspiring young artist 'have you ever heard of X', is generally because the young person, in this case me, has apparently attempted to do what X, in this case Al Ruppersberg, has already done. Just being asked the question is not the
Paul de Man, Blindness & Insight: Essays in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983, p.273↑
Stanley Cavell, In Quest of the Ordinary: Lines of Skepticism and Romanticism, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988, p.7↑
Paul de Man, 'The Inward Generation', Critical Writings 1953-1978, Minneapolis University of Minnesota Press, 1989, p.12↑