Flight Pattern 1w – Fictilis
Time passes in roman numerals in the home kitchen of FICTILIS’s Andrea Steves and Timothy Furstnau, if it passes at all. Visitors who bring tequila are offered tall juice glasses, so that the tequila poured in their bottoms is like rainwater, and the painted flowers on the sides of the glasses flash their colors in thanks. Timothy holds his cat like a banjo. Liat leans back to watch the cat dance across a red carpet, then leaps up with Timothy to learn a new way of walking. Andrea asks the Internet a question that even a whole pantry of jars cannot answer. There’s a ladder on the wall, a ready-ness for anything. This is a place to tell stories.
TRICKY PRODUCTION: toast #1, Milagro Blanco
Andrea Steves: I feel like we trick people every so often. Artwalking 101 came from having our gallery right in the middle of Seattle’s Art Walk. We had a ton of people coming through on First Thursdays to see art — just see it — and that was it. We started asking: what if your art walk was a form of participation and creation?
Timothy Furstnau: The trick aspect comes out, too, in the taking of a term that existed and reinterpreting it. We were interested in responding to the expansiveness of the city’s curation: you could do anything in the Art Walk. It was super-inclusive and blobby, which is challenging. How do you do something interesting when everything you do will just be labeled “art”? We reinterpreted the term “Art Walk” to challenge that inclusivity. And to make people produce rather than consume in that all-consuming way.
Liat Berdugo: Do you really want to do Artwalking 101 at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs?
TF: Did we say that?
AS (to TF): You probably did.
TF: It’s fun to Artwalk as we defined it. I would do it at Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.
LB: Do you have something at stake in wanting to get people to participate in art? Is participation always a value?
TF: “Participation” is itself a tricky subject in art these days. Who participates, and what does participation actually entail? Is it temporary or lasting? Who gets credited? How is a “participatory” piece choreographed, or co-designed?
AS: We use participation as a platform — as a way to get people to think and engage. We both come from different artistic backgrounds. I was very much a performer, so I always think about the audience and how to structure performances around them. Tim, as a writer, always comes from a place of narrative. In our shows and projects, it’s not just about getting participation. We’re trying to get a point across. How do you do that? You do that by tricking people to be in the middle of it.
TF: I want to bring a Baudrillard quote into this. I’m going to butcher it. It’s about how the walls around Disney World are there to convince you that everything on the inside them is Disney World, and the outside is not. And that’s the gallery door. Our trick is to disturb that, because it’s just not true. Disney World is fucking everywhere. You can leave that fucking in there, too.
DANGER: toast #2, El Jimador Reposado
LB: Could people touch the wire assemblage that would harm people with pacemakers?
TF: Yes. It delivered a shock like — have you ever put on a dog collar and then walked through the invisible fence? I have. I did that in high school many times.
LB: So danger runs deep. Danger is kind of sexy. Have you gotten in trouble for any of your projects?
AS: The police took down that one of our pieces, but we don’t want to talk about it.
LB: Why do you think that, in your Not For Sale show, there were so many dangerous objects?
TF: Because we live in such a litigious society.
AS: And what space is going to show a dangerous thing?
LB: Maybe there were so many dangerous objects because they produced experiences that people would describe as undesirable. It’s not desirable to be tortured with corporate sayings, so that object won’t sell. Not For Sale is about danger versus market value.
TF: There’s something there: it’s this idea that sellable equals good, and non-sellable equals bad. And on danger: you should see the waivers we’re making people sign for our most recent project.
AS: We’ve had a lot of projects that required waivers. In our Collections show, one of the objects was a rat-poop-infested collection of band riders from the 80s. We made people sign waivers in order to handle them.
TF: It was dangerous.
MONEY: toast #3, Cazafores Añejo
LB: Did they actually give you one thousand Sacagawea dollars as a your prize for your winning bank heist proposal?
TF: Yes. It was a heavy sack. One thousand Sacagawea coins. They wanted to be obnoxious. They could have just written a check. It was part of Aaron Gach’s — from the Center for Tactical Magic, who organized this — process. He wanted to go to a bank and say, “I need one thousand Sacagawea coins.” When you make that request at a bank, they have to get the manager, and go back to the vault, or maybe even tell you to come back because they don’t usually stock one thousand of those coins. The way the show itself was put together was performative. Our part in it was minor.
LB: Is no one allowed to know what your winning idea was?
AS: We don’t have a thorough documentation anywhere publicly. We were advised not to — that gets back to danger. We can tell you, though: we created a new brand for Chase bank. At the time they were launching their Chase Private Client, with new, neon stores that were totally weird: at night they look like they could be cigar bars, dimly lit with purplish neon. Our idea was to rob the identity of Chase bank. We structured a new Chase bank that was similar to a pyramid scheme. Our idea was to get a bunch of people into the pyramid scheme and steal away Chase customers.
TF: It was called Chase Pyramid. We took all the Chase literature and made exact replicas.
LB: Another thing that made me think of money was the way you structured the pricing for the Astoria photocopy show. Do you want to talk about that?
TS: The idea of that show was that the pricing would be flexible. There were four levels. You could make one copy of anything you bring into the gallery for free. You could photocopy a work of art in the gallery and take the photocopy for a buck. You could take what you find in the gallery, and leave a photocopy of it for five bucks. Or just take it, don’t copy it — and then no one can copy it — for ten bucks. But the funny thing is that you don’t know if someone came in before you and copied that work, and if the “original” you just took was actually a copy. It’s originally structured to encourage copying, and to get you to think about the work of art in the age of technological reproduction–
AS: –reproducibility. The Aura of it! What is the difference between having the original, having a photocopy, and having a photocopy and leaving it there?
LB: I would never assume that anything in the gallery was original.
TF: Right. The format itself gives you the question. Then there’s the thing that just happened with artist Wade Guyton: in a somewhat genius piece of self promotion, he posted pictures of his studio printer spitting out identical copies of his piece that was about to be auctioned at Christie’s. Even so, the piece ended up going for above expected, and record price for him as an artist. The conversation that happened was that he was trying to undermine his own prices by making a bunch of copies. There’s a different economy going at that level, as opposed to in our gallery, where it’s a dollar a photo, or ten dollars. What reproduction and originality means in that context is very different to what it means in our show.
LB: How does it become so different at the level of Christie’s?
TF: Maybe it’s not — the people who bought that print at Christie’s weren’t phased by that. To me it almost seems like a cocky thing on Guyton’s part.
AS (to TF): Careful what you say, you’re on the record. His gallery representation is going to come after you, and sue you, and take our house and everything. Danger!
LB: And all of your Sacagawea coins.
AS: That’s all we have: one thousand Sacagawea coins.
FICTILIS is the collaborative practice of Andrea Steves and Timothy Furstnau. The word “FICTILIS” is Latin for “capable of being shaped or changed; earthen”. This definition refers both to the form of our practice and to the role we hope it plays within the larger culture.
FLIGHT PATTERN is a bimonthly interview series that traces the curiosities and affinities of Liat Berdugo (San Francisco) and Maggie Ginestra (Philadelphia). They invite curators to sit over a flight of tequila, making three toasts. The toasts are three take-offs, and o where will we land?