Essays, reviews, and interviews on art, culture, technology, and the environment

Interview with David Levi Strauss, Daily Serving

I first met David Levi Strauss in the spring of 2013, after taking a red-eye flight from San Francisco to meet him at his home in the Hudson Valley. He was interviewing me for admission to the MFA Art Criticism and Writing program at the School of Visual Arts. We sat in his studio–library, a two-story renovated barn filled to the brim with art, artifacts, and thousands of books. After starting the program, I wasn’t surprised to hear him say that you can’t write without reading everything. Reading, he said, is a way to be a part of the ongoing discourse and the current questions being asked. It is also one of the few ways to take control of the information we consume, through academic study or otherwise. Strauss’ education was anything but orthodox—traveling around the country to study with people he found interesting, and even spending time on a floating university—and as an educator, he takes risks. He challenges students to challenge the world. While some people may perceive critics as pessimistic, Strauss demonstrates that generating change through writing requires fervent optimism and the belief that we can improve the status quo. In July 2015, I drove back to Strauss’ house, this time to interview him about his thoughts on the current state of criticism and writing.

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