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Spring/Break 2019 The curator-driven art fair…of the future ...?

To focus on one medium or one facet of this art fair would be a mistake. This fair is its own species and is to reveal itself to you and is to be experienced and is not to just be examined. Seemingly designed to confuse the senses with hidden room's that you can only view by using your cell phone flashlight or the string and black light laser beam room and with mob-like performances (which seemed real) while viewers wait for the elevators. The performative and interactive are important elements which make this fair the immersive experience that it is and a departure from the usual art fair experience.


Spring Break was conceived by the Brooklyn based duo Andrew Gori and Ambre Kelly. This year’s theme "Fact and Fiction" was inspired by today’s topsy-turvy political climate. “We thought, ‘Well, since high stations of office are calling into question what most people would consider factual, maybe it’s a good time to explore how artists inhabit paradoxical spaces," Gori told ARTnews. Kelly added, “I kept thinking about the game of telephone—how one starts with a given that’s impacted by others’ perceptions and eventually morphs into something else.”

In an article from 2018 published in Vulture magazine, "A Modest Proposal: Break the Art Fair" Jerry Saltz writes, "As a system, art fairs are like America: They’re broken and no one knows how to fix them. Like America, they also benefit those at the very top more than anyone else, and this gap is only growing. Like America, the art world is preoccupied by spectacle — which means nonstop art fairs, biennials, and other blowouts. Yet the place where new art comes from, where it is seen for free and where almost all the risk and innovation takes place — medium and smaller galleries – are ever pressured by rising art fair costs, shrinking attendance and business at the gallery itself, rents, and overhead. This art-fair industrial complex makes it next to impossible for any medium/small gallery to take a chance on bringing unknown or lower-priced artists to art fairs without risking major financial losses. Meanwhile high-end galleries clean up without showing much, if anything, that’s risky or innovative." 

As the above statement, in a nutshell, can be applied to many things in the art world, the art world at the same time will always require spectacle. Spectacle is, in a way, how it survives and how the world (for those not submerged) relate. Art is a language, it is the future, it is what humans need to move forward and it is also ambiguous, complex and expensive. BUT Spring/Break was a ray of hope, an exercise in lifting the apprehension shrouding the art world. It would be amazing to see more art fairs and art events follow suit...

Below is an interview with artist Will Rahilly who's room at Spring/Break was of his interactive installation "TRASHMARKS". We also spoke with artist Leif Low-Beer, who when asked his thoughts on Spring/Break style art fairs versus others said, "having work that does not depend on the bottom line adds variety and interest. Also, the push towards interesting curation and singular projects, although perhaps not always successful, certainly adds character and often quality and thoughtfullness to the booths and rooms."


- Laura Horne

TUSSLE: What was it like showing this kind of project at Spring/Break? Were there any challenges that you faced?

Will Rahilly: Finding the trash can was a big part of the process. The sensor had to be very sensitive, the motor, motivated. I spent a lot of time suspiciously loitering in Bed, Bath and Beyond touching garbage cans.


Like most projects, there was a tight window in which to glob everything together. You have to get through the window without shattering it, too. When I decided to use a rotating foot to activate the trash can, I realized I needed the ugliest foot in all the land. Conveniently, I've been told I possess two of the top contenders. I wanted to be sure, though, so I posted an Instagram survey to decide which of the two was supremely heinous.  


Turned out the right was the right one, at a clean 60/40 split. I'd never cast anything before, but it turns out it's not so hard, and it was deeply satisfying seeing my ugly foot emerge from hardened pink goo several times.


TUSSLE: Are there any highlights that you would like to share from your Spring/Break experience?

Will Rahilly: It was really fun to have people come in, and, after being bombarded with a lot of serious artists (who have their place) laugh at the absurdity of the piece. We're taught to be dead-serious about the work, perhaps to imbue it with the kind of intellectual properties that may make a buyer want to have it in their homes. They can tell a story about, where it came from, how it's important. This is, in fact, exactly what TRASHMARKS is about—hawking ugly things to the rich. There are undoubtedly a majority of exquisite works out there in the homes of the affluent—but a large minority are very simply varieties of garbage. When you have to find out why something is 'good' external to the work (how the person is special, etc) it has failed in my opinion. Another highlight was seeing children interact with it, and of course the intergenerational translations of my explanation into Turkish, Spanish and French, which inspired part of the documentation video.


I really enjoy talking to everyone who comes through. It becomes a wild performance that spikes out of the isolation and that's required for most creative arts I participate in.


TUSSLE: Have you shown this particular installation before? Was it conceived specifically for the art fair?

Will Rahilly: The piece was made specifically in reaction to the fair's theme: fact and fiction. Specifically, the idea was to have the specific projections show the specific facts about what's specifically happening overlaid on the empty elements in the photos. It evolved into contrasting the use of the foot as another piece of garbage or a piece of art—which is it? I came up with the idea for the sensor trash can installation at an office I worked at where they have one. The way you open it is incredible—it's like opening some ancient vessel that contains the souls of an undead civilization, say. And when you open that ancient vessel, you can imagine what would come out of there—what would the trashcan say? It would tell tales of an ancient civilization. But, in our reality, it might simply tell tall tales about all of the waste it's gobbled up.


TUSSLE: How does this installation tie in with other work that you have done?

Will Rahilly: My work often straddles the line between humor and deadly serious. The line is wobbly and drawn with a shaky hand. People don't know how to take it sometimes, but I don't think the two have to be independent of one another. I tend to really enjoy art, film, and sound that is, to put it one way, everything at once. I understand wanting to be in a certain mood or place sometimes, but, like a tense slinky, it's nice to witness the rollercoaster of life condensed into a short period of time.


Each piece I make is generally not part of a body of work, except that it comes from my body. That is, I don't have to the opportunity of time to iterate on a particular idea. Instead, it's an entirely new thing each time that I've been wanting to make. I would say that it's consistent in that I want to introduce a narrative element in everything I do. 

TUSSLE: What is coming up next for you?

Will Rahilly: I made a comedy/art pilot called Kathleeen that I'm about to launch on the worldwide information superhighway. I've been otherwise working on short films and drawings. I'd love to expand on a few of my ideas I've done in the past that involve water and vibration the next time an opportunity comes up.

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