Object as Parody of This Life: An Interview with Tibi Tibi Neuspiel
What is failure and what limits need to be broken to be a successful artist… Are we all pretending, living in a parallel universe just a degree away from our true selves? How is one to survive in these times with no money or too much money, with no ethos or pathos, no ins and/or no outs?
Tibi Tibi Neuspiel is a multi-faceted purveyor of art who has an MFA, a successful body of work, fruitful ideas... and yet something is missing. Or is it?
Neuspiel's fabricated objects, like a lampshade made out of Doritos, Infinite shrimp rings, burnt toast portrait sandwiches and a series of ‘how to’ videos which may or may not save your life, deliver a humorous spin on the banal. Each impose a view into art as a vehicle to determine what separates us from object and then how we move beyond the object. Maybe our dogs can advise?
Tussle: You recently Graduated from NYU or Columbia? Was it an MFA program?
TIBI TIBI Neuspiel: Yes.
Tussle: But you registered into both schools MFA programs? Can you expand on your reasoning?
TIBI: Of all the artists I came up with the only 3 who have had any real success come from very wealthy families. While socio-economic class structure discreetly coincides with success in the art world in many places such as Toronto, it does so quite overtly in New York. You'd be forgiven for believing that only the children of millionaires were capable of making decent artwork since they are the ones showing in, and for that matter running the majority of galleries. Feeding into this art world are schools which are far from any sort of academic meritocracy, rather they unabashedly flaunt and celebrate their ability to give credence to ones already existing status. The cachet of attending an Ivy League school is something I wanted to perform, while in fact spending my time creating work in a more conducive atmosphere. When I did the tour of Columbia before my interview I was surprised by the rudimentary facilities and by the faculty's response when I raised concerns. Essentially I was told it was no problem, because I could just buy anything I needed myself and have it delivered to my windowless studio. It was as though they just expected that you would have a lot of additional funds after paying their astronomical tuition.
Tussle: Your idea for your thesis (was it to recreate students work?) backfired in a sense, can you explain what you were trying to convey with your original idea and why you chose to create the works you did instead?
TIBI: I didn't want my thesis show to be highlights of what I had made in the preceding two years. I was interested in the peculiarity of the situation that is an MFA show and wanted to respond to it. What I was hoping to do was show up on our first install day, take a look at what my classmates had made then spend the next few days attempting to recreate it as closely as possible. I did something similar during the span of a crit in undergrad and really enjoyed the experience. It was about taking the decision making out of my hands, almost becoming a human-fabrication-machine. It's not unlike the impulse for the Art4Dogs project I did the year before, in which my dog made all of the choices and I just assembled the work. Anyhow, my classmates found out about it and some of them became very vocal in their opposition. I wasn't forbidden to do it exactly, but there were strings attached and the thrill of uncertainty was lost. The work I did end up making had nothing to do with my original plan at all, although there was an aspect of frustration in the work that carried over. I was interested in the deep and misguided nostalgia embodied in the expression of the paleo-fantasy. Somewhere deep in the human psyche is the unshakable feeling that we are not living our lives quite the right way. The Paleo DietTM, CrossFit, and the anti-vaccine movement, are just a few examples of purity-fallacies which claim to alleviate the troubles of humankind by bringing us back to a point when we were perfectly adapted to our environment, in essence a more pure form of existence. I’m interested in but skeptical of the widely held belief that we would be healthier and happier if we lived more like our ancient ancestors. I called the body of work Paleo Kampf, and it included a few cartoon like sculptures satirizing various aspects of these beliefs.
Tussle: How much of your work is instinctive?
TIBI: All of it.
Tussle: What are you basing your future decisions on?
TIBI: I let my dog decide.
Tussle: Do you think that an unfinished artwork is a failure?
TIBI: If you've learned all you can before a work is complete and want to move on then I see no shame in it. Although I might just be saying that since the vast majority of my projects are never completed and I'm not ready to admit that I'm a failure just yet.
Tussle: How do you feel about social media today?
TIBI: It's very hollow yet addictive. It capitalizes on some of the worst aspects of human nature, namely our need for external validation and our tendency to prejudge others. Purportedly it offers some sense of empowerment or community, maybe it could have, but it feels more like a corporate version of utopia where the customers have styled themselves as micro-brands. I'm not sure how long I'll maintain it, but a few months ago I froze my accounts because I found that I was filling all the small moments between events, which can sometimes be boring, by checking my phone. However I've realized that it was in order to alleviate boredom and that was when I had my best and most original ideas. In contrast, by filling that time looking at other people's content I found my ideas increasingly becoming little more than responses to someone else's and I found that that had diminished my enthusiasm to create. So for now at least I'm rediscovering the beauty of boredom.