JOINT CUSTODY: THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS

July 5th, 2008 | Interviews


dan monick

Silverlake’s Found Gallery will be presenting a double-blind exquisite-corpse artwork experiment beginning tonight. Brady Brim-DeForest explains to Drew Denny.

Brady Brim-DeForest (Found Gallery): Joint Custody Project is essentially a double-blind collaboration. The idea behind the whole thing is to take the artistic process out of the control of the individual artist and force them to be open to the idea that art is a collaborative experience. We received over 200 submissions and chose 22 artists. We pair artists together, making 11 pairs. This year we worked to match up artists with mediums that we felt would be both cohesive and would allow for a collaborative process. For instance, we have a photographer and a painter, and that’s actually turned out to be pretty neat in terms of what they’ve produced so far. This year, we’re giving the artists six weeks. Each artist has the piece for three days at a time. There are swap days, which are kind of magical around here–whichever artist has the piece brings it by in the morning. We’re vigorously documenting because we’re producing a book at the end of the process. Later that day, the partners will pick up the piece and have it for three days.
So they never cross paths?
Exactly. It’s completely anonymous. They don’t know the gender, age, background, name—anything about their partner. We scour each piece for clues. There are some limited communications that we allow through ourselves. For instance, if there are technical issues between artists–multimedia artists doing video and they need to choose standard def or hi-def-–we allow them to communicate through us, but besides that it’s completely anonymous. It’s really amazing. An artist will walk in and pick up their piece, and they’re very surprised–usually in a good way. But there’s also a certain level of anxiety–with artists, by their nature, there’s a certain level of control that they like to experience. This project forces them to go through that process with another artist. Drop all those walls.
Are they allowed to change what their partner does?
There are no rules. For example, the photographer-painter team–the photographer was artist A, so he got the first crack at it. He brought in prints. Artist B, the painter, took the prints and pasted them on a canvas and then painted over them. Everything from that to another pair—partner A created a painting, a diptych, and partner B built a structure around that painting, a frame that contains it. We have another pair—artist A actually built this box that came with a 150-foot roll of paper inside, so they’ve been collaborating on drawings that will eventually be 150 feet wide. Figuring out how to hang that will be interesting.
So one partner starts the piece and the other partner finishes?
Artist A starts and artist B finishes. While one has the advantage of beginning the work, the other has the advantage of actually being able to execute that final bit of control if they need to. Artist B is responsible for the install.
One of the artists doesn’t see the piece until opening night?
Right. Last year, tempers flared and we had an artist who took it very personally and actually destroyed his piece on opening night. The possibilities are endless. It’s very interesting to see how people work together. If you absolutely love what you did, and the other artist paints right over it, it can be incredibly frustrating. The net result can be that people get angry and passionate and do things they wouldn’t normally do. I think there’s an analogue here to the online world where anonymity allows people to do and say things they never would in normal social environments. In the same way, this project not only encourages people to be open-minded but allows them to be—well, vindictive. It gives them their opportunity to do exactly what they want to do without any fear. Until opening night.
Seems like the gallery and the curators give up quite a bit of control as well. Are you ever worried about what’s going to come in the door? Is there anything you wouldn’t show?
I don’t think so. Especially with this show. When you curate shows, there’s a variety of criteria. But with the Joint Custody Project it’s like, ‘Whatever you guys come up with, we’re gonna put it up!’
Must be fun to see the artists meet.
Absolutely. It’s interesting because we have pairs in which one artist is in his or her early 20s and their partner is in his 50s, so there really is no rhyme or reason as to how we pair them outside of their artistic abilities and their mediums. Results can be a great clash of style or one of synchronicity. We’re also doing this show concurrently in Berlin. In L.A. we have 22 artists, and in Berlin we have 26 artists. The Berlin show’s taking a slightly different direction with a lot of actual real-world installations. We have a pair of artists that have provided GPS locations for their pieces, and they send the other artist to that spot.
How does the other artist add on to that?
That’s a great question. Partner B has a bit of a challenge conceptually coming into it because they often tend to lock themselves in a box: ‘Partner A showed up with a bunch of Polaroids so I have to do that, too.’ But then they come in saying, ‘Polaroid discontinued this line, so I can’t do this.’ We have to tell them—you can do anything you want. You can take all those Polaroids and cut them up, you can make a collage, you can photograph the Polaroids. I think that’s a shock at first because we’re all socialized to follow directions.
Each of these shows has a theme, right?
Correct. The L.A. theme is ‘double up:double down.’ Tad Beck and Shana Nys Dambrot, who curated the show, agonized over it for a while then finally chose that. Any way you can interpret it, it works. This is the Joint Custody Project, there are two partners, and there’s a lot of risk involved.
What’s the relationship between the Found gallery and the one in Berlin?
Raab Gallery in Berlin is partnering with us. It’s a Found show and Raab’s hosting it. They are excellent partners. Jonny, who curates here regularly, and Chris, a friend from college, curated that show and came up with the theme: ‘You Can Never Go Home Again.’
Where did you go to school?
USC. I started in Cinema-Television and ended up in International Relations.
How long have you been here at the Found gallery?
The gallery opened in August 2006 as the Orphanage and got into a little bit of a legal spat with Orphanage Animation Studios. We did a screening for Four Eyed Monsters and apparently they caught wind of that- we’d crossed into territory that felt like was infringing on their trademark, so they sent a cease and desist and we went through many iterations of names and eventually settled on Found. Our second anniversary is coming up this fall. We might do something in conjunction with Sunset Junction, and we’re hosting the Art Crawl again, like we did last year.

THE JOINT CUSTODY PROJECT RECEPTION ON SAT., JULY 5, AT FOUND GALLERY, 1903 HYPERION DR., SILVERLAKE. 6 PM / FREE. VISIT FOUND AT FOUNDLA.COM. JOINT CUSTODY CLOSES ON SUN., JULY 13.