Multimedia Addition: Agnes Martin, “Empty Mind”

“Empty Mind” is the extracted audio component of the ‘chapter’ of the same name in the DVD documentary “With My Back to the World” (available on DVD through newdealfilms). The interview which sparked this response from Martin must have taken place during the filming of the documentary, between the years 1998-2002, when Martin was over eighty years old, yet still painting and still living in solitude in her studio in Taos, New Mexico. I chose this clip for a few reasons. First, the response was short enough that it could be preserved intact and whole. Second, I feel it is a good opening example of how Martin’s thinking is different than other methods discussed on That’s Not It. She touches on the same subject of imagination (inspiration) versus reason (intellect), but the depth to which she’s applied these ideas to her personal life is striking. I think much of Martin’s charm, as well as her wisdom, comes from the matter-of-fact way she examines these problems as actual ways of living and not just theory. This, I believe, also leads to the quality of mysticism often attributed to Martin (which she rejects). More than anything else, I hope this clip evokes the difficulty, the mystery, and the attraction of adopting Martin as a theorist.

David Feil


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