â€œWhat about Burt Reynolds?â€?
[bipolart.cc edit] Unagi Books 2008
The Fantastic Nobodies were born out of total disillusionment when the White House increasingly employed fascist-esque irrational propaganda to confuse the public and when media coverage of the war in Iraq resembled B-slasher flicks. A loose collective of artists as fantastic nobodies emerged in a self-redemptive temporary secession from this psychological and political monolith for a two month social experiment spanning two NY art shows in 2004: Brock Enright’s “720” and founder David Henry Brown Jr.’s booking of the first Fantastic Nobodies group show.
On Dans 30th birthday, about a month or 2 after 9/11, his girlfriend at the time Kaly got all Dan’s friends together at Chad’s house for a “roast.” It was to mimic the celebrity roasts of Don Rickles and the Rat Pack. Guests are invited to throw brutal insults at the host through backhanded compliments and or fucked up stories with a humor in mind. At any rate, there was a full room of people sitting on the floor with Dan in the center sitting on a chair drinking a 40oz beer and chain-smoking. Earlier that day, Kaly had asked me to break the ice with the first roast. It went something like this: I was watching the news on the infamous day of 9/11: the 1st plane hit the tower, then the 2nd plane hit the tower, a 3rd plane hit the Pentagon, and the last plane crashed in PA in a field. It was said in the news that several of the passengers on board the plane were going to overthrow the hijackers. One of the passengers was last heard on a cell phone call to his mother stating LET’S ROLL! I then said, “Hey DAN when they said LETS ROLL (slang for xtc) they didn’t intend for you to eat 2 tabs of ecstasy. Dan is the only guy i know that would take ecstasy on 9/11. This is a true story and not a joke. I called him up that day to see how he was doing shortly after the towers fell. I asked him where he was at during 9/11etc., he told me he had just dropped 2 hits of ecstasy one for each tower I suppose. This was the farthest thing from my mind. To me that day was extremely sobering. However, when I asked Dan why he took the ecstasy? He simply stated he just wanted to feel better.
â€œThere is more to it: subversive, outside, unhinged, grotesque, real, thoughtful, fucked up, marginal, friendly, naked, and adorned. The idea that art can happen anywhere may not be so novel. But a particular point of view among a particular group of friends can hold. Ideas can change your day. Ideas unfolding in front of you can change the way you understand the world. Maybe we are pariahs. Maybe we are weary of an evil empire. Maybe we are real. Maybe we are not through yet.â€?
Sometimes our performances take on other realms of the senses such as smell. On Chad’s request I dressed up for the annual Mermaid Parade in Coney Island NY as “chum,” basically fish bait. I went to Chinatown and bought a whole bunch of dead fresh fish and applied them to my shirt with hooks. Everything was fine except for the near 100 degree temperature that day. Well needless to say, the fish started to stink. I was dry heaving throughout the parade and, at one point, I was going to get a beer or something, and I heard someone disgustedly say “something smells like ass,” I turned and said that’s me.
On a road trip to Kansas City we were driving toward a big dark storm looming over the Mid-West. We wanted to set up camp and eat before the big storm arrived. Steve drove faster than his usual pokey speed as we raced the approaching storm cloud. Once at the campground we all had tasks so I set up the tent, Steve collected firewood and started the fire, and Chad started preparing the nightâ€™s dinner. We were set up with the tents and the fire was burning just as some drops of rain were coming down. Steve and I ran for shelter and started drinking beers. Everything turned black quick mostly due to the storm but the sun was also setting. It started to pour, really hard, it sounded like hail, and it was non-stop continuing for hours. Chad kept cooking, Steve and I were laughing because every once in a while lightning would strike, and we could see Chad in a shard of a moment stirring the pot in the pouring rain. He looked like some kind of ghoul or a sea captain holding down a ship in a heavy storm. Chad entered the tent soaking-wet with some fuckin 12 spice Indian chicken Kurma that was better than any I had ever tasted before. That meal is now part of me.
SEE FarRther I have not had the chance to see it so without disregarding efforts my favorite color is white with some black or black with some white and the way they look with a splash of blood red. sometimes red is fine just on its own. as is black true also for white. Got sent to the clink again for heat exhaustion with a dose of dehydration. Saline drip to the main for a night has allowed for six poops in the course of a sunrise. The delirium of death seems to come to me with great clarity. Somehow a port opens and like the ancient loggerhead my way is guided by an all encompassing magnetic field. Perhaps it is always out there and can guide animals home. I think for the most part humans have lost their way, but sure as shitting, it don’t hurt to try.... When it goes to yellow you’re already there
“So I have a story about the remains of group of renegade art poets called The Fantastic Nobodies. A sort of “where were they then, where are they now” concerning the real roots of these Brooklyn artists. Currently, a show is being organized in Berlin to expose this group to a European audience. There is also a scrapbook of sorts being produced to highlight some of the stuff that went down. The band has somewhat dispersed, spread out, yet is still functioning quite tightly. The nature of the group is to function pretty far outside the box, certainly outside the “studio artist” trappings, as well as the art world market factory. The Nobs collectively blur the boundaries between art and life, the real and the fantastic, the absurd and the mundane. With underworld and underground grit, there is a tendency to give equal importance to the subversive qualities of the superhero powers that lurk within, as well as harsh criticism to the powers that be. Materials and medium are secondary concerns, if a concern at all, with the primal instinct to be what is said and how to get the thought out.” In midst of the Bush era’s political zeitgeist, seven artists and friends Brock Enright, Chad Spicer, Daniel Joseph, David Henry Brown Jr., Eric Laine, Marc Grubstein, and Steve Johnson paused from their solo careers to collaborate as the Fantastic Nobodies in a 2004 Brooklyn art show. In fact, the power of the group was already gelling in studio dungeons like 300 Meserole, 248 Flushing, 73 N1st., or 3 Keap St.. Brock’s contribution in the “Scream” show at Anton Kern was a major catalyst by appropriating this studio netherworld in a 720 minute video stream freak-show from his and Dan’s studio the month prior to the first Fantastic Nobodies show. However, this group of artists had also become notorious for performance and sabotage in the anonymous public sphere ranging from kidnappings to event crashing to the Mermaid Parade. As the first group show went into production inclusiveness, interaction, and instigation prevailed as guiding themes for drawing in heaps of fantastic nobodies into the creative process from the doldrums of post 9/11 NYC. 28
For their performances the cast create provocative characters to infiltrate existing social situations and public events or they make their own spontaneous situations to set up a stage. These two approaches are used in order to create a total breakdown of existing social barriers between performer and audience. They are creating in this way temporary machines for the human imagination. “Actually, it’s not as deep as it sounds. It’s hard to remember all that inspires you even if you write it down. Art should speak for itself; you shouldn’t have to speak for it. It’s like David Bowie makes a better myth than Bob Dylan. Bowie was wide open and all over the place. Dylan talked too much and made it too precious. It’s completely random in a certain order. That’s the thing. The complete spazz and casual disregard of context/critical theory/selling points/so on. While at the same time being fully aware of and, in fact, playing into these very notions and orders. It’s simple and simply impossible. It’s showing people stuff and trying to see what happens. It’s taking advantage of the space given.” Be a mess, but clean it up.
put some ketsup on it
After drinking a few bottles of red wine at an upscale bar, Steve bought me a shot of Grappa that the bar ownerâ€™s father had made. I had never drunk Grappa before. Apparently it is for sipping. Unknown to me I drank it straight down, one big gulp. As soon as it hit my stomach I knew something was wrong and I had a gag reflex or something. An uncontrollable force came from within me. I projectile vomited about a bottle and a 1/2 of red wine across the bar room floor, probably a good 10 feet with the spray and splatter. It must have looked like an exorcism with red wine that looked like blood. It wasnâ€™t drunk barf it was a violent physical reaction to the grappa. I tried to explain this to the beautiful female bar tender through teary eyes. At that point I told her I was fine and I asked Steve for another shot. We both laughed uncontrollably as she just told me that I had puke dripping from my beard and that I should just leave her bar immediately. The next day I brought her flowers.
â€œArt is a lie that makes us realize the truthâ€? a) Picasso b) A.E. Neuman c) Bob Ross 46
LITTLE BROTHER IS WATCHING It’s all a big critique of America in the Age of George W. Bush. And you won’t see anything like it in Chelsea. Dada-esque, punk-inspired, messy, maybe even disgusting—but while everyone else had their eyes on the prize, the Fantastic Nobodies actually stopped and paid attention. Grubstein wields a chainsaw. He has a goalie mask over his face, a scraggly beard covering his crotch and, through his skimpy little bikini, he flaunts his sweating man butt. The motor screams. The crowd quickly parts. He’s deneutered it of its chain blade, so in theory it can’t hurt you. But people push at each other—bemusedly, but just short of panic—to get away from him. Meanwhile, David Henry Brown Jr., dressed like a park ranger from days of yore, is proudly showing off his bottle of fox urine to a gaggle of fans. It’s a sweltering summer evening in Brooklyn. Welcome to the closing party of Camp Weird, the Fantastic Nobodies ne’er do well city-picnic of an exhibition. “What have I done?” I’m thinking. I’m the curator here, and the owner of the space. They seem a little dangerous some of the time. They’re not playing by the rules. What happens next? —There’s no plan. It’s all improvisation.... props, costumes, situations. It’s not always framed by the traditional trappings of an official show, either. They’ve been at it for a while, all over town. I was chatting with Cynthia Broan at her gallery in Chelsea during the opening of Brock Enright’s film “Forest,” when Grubstein strolls in, dirty with green smears and wearing a tunic he’s roughly fashioned from a sheet. He distinctly resembles a lunatic. He just stands there, for an uncomfortably long time, unmoving, gazing off into space. Cynthia can’t take it. “May I help you, Sir?” She doesn’t know who he is. “I’m a tree,” he says. It’s very gentle, without affect. But she becomes noticeably agitated. She asks him to leave. He repeats himself, very patiently, “I’m a tree.” Grubstein’s not mocking her. He wants her to understand. But good luck getting him to speak out of character.
Who are the Fantastic Nobodies? Marc Grubstein is one and David Henry Brown Jr. and Chad Spicer. There have been others, legendary to this crew, who have burned out and gone away and still others who hook up and play for a time... This venture is at odds with elitist exclusivity—one has the sense that anybody could be one... that old man in the corner, carving away at his shoe, he probably is... but few can keep up.
Now, they’re at the opening of their own show at Jack the Pelican. They’ve transformed a white box of gallery space buried in the rear of the building. There’s an upside down hanging man, a campfire, a picnic table with the familiar red-checkered vinyl table cloth, a large dirty oil drum filled with water (for swimming in) and large fake boulder, which is a facsimile in Styrofoam of a legendary rock at a housing project in the DUMBO area of Brooklyn. It is tagged, “JAH IS THE ROCK,” like the original, which has been left to stand unmolested for as long as anyone can remember, respected by generations of taggers for its sheer awesomeness. Behind this looming hulk, which will come to function as an altar for all sorts of twisted goings on, they’ve strewn porn mags, as though someone were jackin’ off back there. And above it pinned a giant home-made American flag—very off. It’s a here-and-now of urban summer natural, all propped out, down to the minutest detail, to make a suitably defiled home for Camp Weird. The crickets they’ve let loose happily sing away. For the Fantastic Nobodies, their installation is a living stage for spontaneous antics that will transform it over the six weeks of the exhibition as one idea gives way to the next. Various friends come and hang out. Even strangers get involved. Some evidence remains, but much too is erased. Some things remain impressed on the brain, like Grubstein’s thrill at boasting of his intention to shave a baby beaver. There was a gleeful expectation in the air, and incomprehension... But then, lo and behold, there it was—a tiny little frozen thing, and it had a mini flat tail—all scaly—definitely a beaver. It is the moment of truth. People shuffle uncomfortably. Is he actually going to do it? ...Well, yeah... And they invited the Hari Krishnas. “The Krishnas are coming! The Krishnas are coming!” It is very infectious. A huge congo line forms, with Krishnas at the lead—everyone banging away on anything they can find in rhythm to the tambourines. “Hari Krishna, Hari Krishna,” they chant, improvising new words or just following along. What do the Krishnas make of this, one wonders? It’s perverse and twisted. Are we making fun of them? But they hold onto their dignity. They are having a blast. Everyone is. And in the end, you realize, it’s a lot about trust. One day Chad’s head appears on a platter (through a hole cut in the table.) Suddenly the gnome is gone. There are rumors it is broken. Looks like Chad’s been making a log cabin out of hotdogs (finally something we can sell?). And every day, something new, as it takes on an unexpected density of evidence. “JAH IS THE ROCK” quickly gets painted over with another inscription, a sort of home-made painting, Brown explains, such as might appear at a high school out in the country. All the while, he’s egging on the audience, with his charming grin—”Come on, take off your shirt”—and snapping Polaroids in quick succession, which he pins up in a grid across the wall. So there are documents that will live on. But really, if you weren’t there, you kinda missed it. Don Carroll, Jack the Pelican gallery 54
I hung out with Luis yesterday. Luis is a 9 year old that is a talented member of the Fantastic Nobodies. He appears in some of our film footage as a compelling performance artist. He is also featured as a visiting artist at one of our shows: he had set up a booth kinda like a kids lemonade stand and sold his work at the gallery on a busy Saturday afternoon. I explained to him that he was having an art show at a gallery, in a trendy part of New York City, and that it was pretty prestigious as a nine-year-old artist. He quickly turned to me and said, “I don’t care about that stuff just SHOW ME THE MONEY.” Being a kid, cute, thrifty and ambitious he was able to sell $75 worth of drawings and sculptures. He was also able to undercut the gallery as he kept all his profit.
At the 2008 Miami Basel Art Fair we had the opportunity to hang out as our collective, having work up at the Bipolart and brot.undspiele booths. Steve, Eric, DHBJr, Chad, Autumn, Nelly and few other friends met at the beach just after dark. It started to rain and there was a party to go to on the other side of town. We stopped to wait for the rain to let up under a bathroom facility overhang. We struck up a conversation with a couple of dudes a young kid and some homeless guy he had befriended earlier that night. The homeless dudeâ€™s eyes were going in two completely different directions. They asked what we had planned for the night I told them about the party and invited them along. They were nice enough but the homeless dude kinda freaked out the ladies we were with. At one point I saw him smiling in the rear view mirror as we drove listening and singing along to Kermit the frog. When we arrived at the party he had no money to get in, but somehow he eventually managed. When inside he found me again like a stray dog so I bought him a beer. As we were drinking he thanked me, he then bent down and picked up an emptyÂ bottle and spun it on the dance floor. It spun and spun when it stopped it was pointing right at me. He smiled at me jokingly as if we were going to kiss. I tried to align myself between his lazy eyes so that I could disappear.
If you can find in your cupboard one jar of olives, a slice of fresh bread, a plum, a banana, a piece of cheese, consider a toast, to our lives, yours and ours, to working hard and dream songs. Stop for a moment, smile and just be. It is with great love we have done the unthinkable. The moon lies gently on her back tonight and our hearts are full.
Published on Apr 4, 2011