“I think I’m in hell, and therefore I am” (Arthur Rimbaud)
Slava Mogutin and Brian Kenny (aka SUPERM) are beyond doubt one of of the most inspirational and influential power couples in the art world. That’s why it’s no wonder they get so much (deserved) air time on Grateful Grapefruit. For their latest project, BEAUTY and HELL, a two part exhibition at Envoy Enterprises New York, they find inspiration in the poems of Arthur Rimbaud. SKINGRAPHS aiming to re-interpret vintage porn in a post-print world is what builds the backbone of BEAUTY while a video featuring Francois Sagat, with contributions by Josh Lee, Nick Theobald, Gio Black Peter and Erika Keck, takes us to HELL and the second part of the elaborate body of art. All details and venues at the bottom of the post.
Right before going to bed yesterday, I chatted with Slava and Brian about the influence of poetry and Berlin. Read my interviews with Slava Mogutin and Brian Kenny to find out more about their aspirations, their relationship, their artistic coexistence and the past 8 years of fruitful collaboration between the two artists.
GG: What is the process behind SKINGRAPHS? How did they come to life?
Brian: It happened totally spontaneously and organically, like everything we do. We came up with the idea a few months ago when a friend of us gave us a stock of vintage porn magazines that he wanted to get rid of. We were going through them just for the fun of it and realized that traditional print porn is becoming obsolete with the Internet takeover. So we decided to desexualize and depersonalize the images by removing faces and genitals.
Slava: We were cutting them up and mixing them up based on different skin tones, poses, lighting, image and reproduction quality. The results were striking and we were immediately offered a show based on this new series, which is our most extensive collaboration project to date. Some critics compared these collages to the work of Hans Bellmer and Pierre Molinier, which was the best compliment, since I’m a huge admirer of both.
Which is your favorite Rimbaud poem?
Slava: It’s really hard to choose just one! I grew up on Rimbaud’s poetry and was hugely influenced by him both as a poet and artist. Back as a teenager in Moscow I stole a book of his complete poems, which I cherished and studied cover to cover. To my big surprise, I recently found out from Patti Smith that she also once stole Rimbaud’s book back in her teenage years! I think he was the first punk, a century before the term “punk” was invented. If you read his Season in Hell and Illuminations, you get goosebumps from the feeling that he captured our postapocaliptic reality and our anxieties about past, present and future with such intensity and rage like no other poets, dead or alive.
Brian: We couldn’t dream of a better performer than Francois Sagat to channel Rimbaud’s vision in his native tongue for our video project together. Francois was really fun and easy to work with and he’s got such a beautiful speaking voice! He was really happy when we told him that we didn’t expect him to get naked or hard, or flex his muscles on camera! We just gave him a pile of props to choose from and he picked a couple of outfits by Asher Levine and crazy wigs to cover his signature head tattoo. And we picked 2 poems by Rimbaud that seemed most appropriate: Being Beautious and Night in Hell.
Are you planing a show or visit to Berlin next year?
Slava: We both have a busy schedule for 2013, with a few gallery and museum shows coming up in New York, Paris, Oslo and Indianapolis. No plans for Berlin yet, but we’re always open to different project and ideas.
Brian: Slava and I used to spend our summers in Berlin. It’s our favorite place apart from New York and we hope to return soon!
Part 1, BEAUTY
envoy enterprises @ 131 Chrystie Street
November 15-29, 2012
Opening reception: Thursday, November 15th, 6-8 PM | RSVP on Facebook
Part 2, HELL
envoy enterprises @ 87 Rivington Street
November 29, 2012 – January 6, 2013
Opening reception: Thursday, Nove,ber 29th, 6-8 PM | RSVP on Facebook