HEAD UP ... in a ten degree angle

(from an interview with the author, Berlin, March 1997)



You often mention the 10-degree angle. Could you explain what that means for you?


John Greer: Well, I have to sit up and do it. (Stands up and moves his head as he is talking). If your head is down about 10 degrees, there is a pressure on the front of your scull by the weight of your brain. I think it probably activates a part of your brain and makes you thoughtful. That thoughtful space keeps going on in any direction. If your head tips back 10 degrees from the level I find that it pulls the muscles on your face tighter, it relaxes the face. This way (head down) everything hangs down, back, everything falls back. It relaxes the inside of my brain; it takes the pressure of the front. It takes the pressure and if I open my eyes I see everything from above. With the brain relaxing I do open up and my vision is enlarging. If you are looking straight, you are looking at the horizon line and you are alert and engaged.


Which is your favourite position in terms of looking out?


John Greer: The most comfortable is 10 degrees up. The most interesting is level. People fall asleep with their head down and seldom backwards. If you look straight down, you are more aware that you are engaged. But with the head back, 10 degrees, the arc of your vision is enlarging and so you are more aware of your surrounding - including yourself.


So you prefer an aware state, you don’t like to sleep?


John Greer: I do. If you are going to sleep you are resting. The 10-degree angle is a very interesting thing. Normally you do not get people confrontational with their heads back. That is why I like the heads being back in "Vortiginous". They are not confrontational. There are two cultures facing each other, and they are open and somehow aware of their surrounding - but not quite in it.


Does being open mean, too, that you are vulnerable?


John Greer: No. Because your throat is exposed, your vision is attentive. So you are not really vulnerable when your head is 10 degrees back. When it is 20 degrees or more, than you are! I mean you do not walk down a crowded street with your head up like that. You just do not do it. Occasionally you see tourists doing it, they are looking at a map and they are looking up and everybody is worried because they seem to be a walking target. Somehow they are just not engaged in where they are. And they have to figure something else out, too.


If you are in a crowded situation it is a vulnerable state. Out of an innocent state everybody gives you a little room and other people watch out for you to a certain extent. People are aware of those things. They might not be very conscious, but they use them all the time.

Detail of Vortiginous, 1994 (Walrusman)

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Bus Shelter in Halifax with retroActive poster!
Thinking Back to Gertrude and Henrie, 2015
Installation View retroActive with Threshold, 2015; Civilization, 1990/91; PaperMoney, 2012
Wait of Water by John Greer, 2014 Bay of Fundy Detail of Wait of Water, October 9th, 2014; retroActive tied up, tide down, looking back across the bay where the piece was first realized in 1972
National Gallery of Canada : THE PROUST QUESTIONNAIRE
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