“The idea of affinity said something about not just my relationship with art & artists that I love, but something about the way artists treat their own relation with what we call influence.”
With AFFINITIES: On Art & Fascination (NYRB), Brian Dillon completes a “loose trilogy” of books revolving around his connections to art, writing & the world, this time through a series of amazing essays about photography, dance, video, and other art forms, as well as the drift-nature of affinity itself. We get into the tendrils of influence (and how he has to shake himself loose of the reticence of Barthes & Sebald), the act of close looking. the way metaphors & images enable to him to explore art, and why he embraces mood over argument in his essays. We also talk about the ways his recent books (Affinities, Suppose a Sentence, & Essayism) have served as a reboot of his writing, the challenges in wedding the critical/analytic & the memoiristic, his decision to rewrite by hand the previously published pieces for this book to see if new connections revealed themselves, and how he never knows what to ask an artist in the studio. Plus, we discuss how much personal info is too much in an essay, the parallels between his aunt’s descent into paranoia with his own pursuit of close looking/reading, the writers he discovered late, what comes next, why he doesn’t shy away from calling Affinities an essay collection, and more! Give it a listen! And go read AFFINITIES!
“With a writer whose work you love, in addition to all the things they enable you to do, there are also ways they can hold you back.”
“I didn’t quite realize that I was so attached to images in which there were blurred or protean bodies & substances.”
“Most my writerly influences are not writers who are looking at art. But they may be looking at the world in exactly the way you require for looking at a video or a photograph.”
“I’m trying to insist on the drift between images, and how we all relate to images that build & accrue around us inside us.”
About our Guest
Brian Dillon was born in Dublin in 1969. His books include Suppose a Sentence, Essayism, The Great Explosion (shortlisted for the Ondaatje Prize), Objects in This Mirror, I Am Sitting in a Room, Sanctuary, Tormented Hope: Nine Hypochondriac Lives (shortlisted for the Wellcome Book Prize), and In the Dark Room, which won the Irish Book Award for nonfiction. His writing has appeared in The Guardian, The New York Times, London Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, Bookforum, frieze, and Artforum. He is the UK editor of Cabinet magazine and teaches creative writing at Queen Mary University of London. His new book is Affinities: On Art & Fascination.
Credits: This episode’s music is Fella by Hal Mayforth, used with permission from the artist. The conversation was recorded at an undisclosed location in the Upper West Side on a pair of Blue enCORE 200 microphones feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4 digital recorder & interface. I recorded the intro and outro on a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Microphone feeding into a Zoom PodTrak P4. All processing and editing done in Adobe Audition CC. Photos of Brian by me. It’s on my instagram.