The Two Coolest Men in Baltimore Have a Conversation

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Drew Daniel is a Renaissance scholar, electronic musician, Hopkins professor, and all around brilliant and amazing person. You know who John Waters is. In the latest issue of art mag Frieze, Daniels interviews the Pope of Trash about Charles Manson, Baltimore boys, and God.  “In person, [Waters] is exactly as charming, voluble and manic as you’d expect,” Daniels writes, “but there’s also a sharply observant fastidiousness which you do not.” Warning:  if you read this, every other human you meet today will feel somehow… less than.

Some cherry-picked quotes below:

Waters:  “Art is like joining a biker gang; you have to wear a certain outfit and learn a certain lingo. It’s a special club.”

Waters:  “I’ve always treated what some people think of as ‘low brow’ as if it were high brow. Always. All the characters in my movies, I look up to them. I don’t think about them the way people think about reality TV – that we are better and you should laugh at them. Because, really, if you’re watching, then you’re the dumb one, you’re the one wasting time. They’re getting paid.”

Waters:  “Well, first of all, I never call what I do art. I think that’s up for you to tell me. When people say to me, ‘I’m an artist,’ I think, ‘Yeah, I’ll be the judge of that. Let’s see your work.’ History will be the judge of it. However, I’m very serious about my career and everything I do, but I make fun. Hopefully in a joyous way. I love the seriousness and elitism of the art world. I think art for the people is a terrible idea. I did a piece that said ‘Contemporary Art Hates You’ [… And Your Family Too, 2009]. And it does. If you have ‘contempt before investigation’, which most people do, then it does hate you and you are stupid. I like that idea: you are stupid, because you won’t think to look in a different way.”

Waters: “Well, one of my pieces is just the title screens of two movies, Dr. Dolittle 2 and A Knight’s Tale [both 2001], which were the movies being shown on the planes on 9/11. So, that’s not funny, but once you know it…”

Daniel: “Are you sure it’s not funny?”

Waters:  “Well, it can be funny only when I say: ‘At least they didn’t get to put the movies in, because if they had been watching those movies when they crashed it would have been worse.’ So it is, in a way, an optimistic piece. It could have been worse. You could’ve died watching A Knight’s Tale.”

Waters:  “believe in the opposite of original sin. I believe every baby is born innocent, and something fucks it up. But every once in a while, there are people … When I taught in prison, there was one especially; he was the smartest one in class. I didn’t help him but he got out, he killed more people; he was in Serial Mom [1994]. To this day, I’m shocked by it. But I don’t think he was intrinsically evil; I think something made him that way. But he’s a psycho. I believe that people who kill children are going to do it again. But were they born that way? I don’t think so.”

Waters:  “Well, religion has always been – to me – funny. All religions seem the same. It doesn’t seem any more insane when people flip out about Scientology or Catholicism, they both sound nuts. I’m happy, whatever you want to believe. I don’t think people shouldn’t believe, I just personally don’t believe in any of them myself. But maybe there is something I’ve never heard of yet. I doubt it, but I’m open.”

Daniel:  “Are you a religious artist?”

Waters:  “Well, I wouldn’t say that, but if someone said that about me I wouldn’t say they were wrong. I was in Houston last week, and I went to the Cy Twombly Gallery at The Menil Collection, and it felt like I was in church. For me, it was church.”

Read the full text here, or (even better!) watch a video here.

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