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The Yes Men's Andy Bichlbaum: A Different Kind of Chaos

by Robyn Coffey

The Yes Men, Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonnano, are renowned for their political stunts. In recent year they have taken the stage at many public events, proposing absurdities rangint from a gold lame phallus that keeps watch over employess to recycling excrement into hambugers.

F Newsmagazine: Do you consider the work you do more art or more activism? Both? How do you classify it?

Andy Bichlbaum: If we’re asking for art funds, it’s art. Otherwise it’s activism. Or activism that happens to use some of the techniques of art. As all activism does, come to think of it.

F: Can you tell me more about the activism aspect of your work? You use some pretty guerrilla techniques, like the fake George Bush website and the fake WTO website. How anarchic have you gone? And how important is it that people see your “performances”? How does a fake website or gold lamé outfit go from being something you slap together to an Activist Statement?

A:
We wouldn’t call ourselves “anarchists” on an average day, but we do think the world could use a different kind of chaos. As with any performances, people must see ours, but not just while seated on a stiff-backed chair and fed up with their lives and impervious in the earballs to anything that might enter, at all. No. We would like a whole different kind of chaos in the heads of our audience, on an average day, and therefore a whole different audience, as it turns out. (Note: whoever put this outfit together should have their godhead examined.)

F: Is chaos necessary to relay your message? Who exactly is the audience your work is meant to reach?

A: Chaos is not necessary. Order is much more necessary than chaos. But without a bit of chaos maybe order can’t change. So I should have said, “We would like a slightly different kind of order.” Our audience is as large as we can make it.

 


Paul Chan:Quantity is not Quality

by Natalie Edwards

F Newsmagazine asked former F Editor and practicing artist Paul Chan for his thoughts about art and activism in a recent email interview. Paul Chan was featured in the 2006 Whitney Biennial and is impossible to keep up with. He is currently installing a show in Amsterdam which ends in June, and is a globetrotting fool.

F Newsmagazine: How do you define activism?

Paul Chan: It is something you do that you would not normally do with people that generates
fear, confusion, and doubt, in yourself and others.

F: How do you see activism merging with art?

P: I don’t.

F: Do you expect your work to reach a wider audience, thereby becoming a form of activism?

P: No. Quantity is not quality.

F: How has the relationship between activism and art changed since you have been a practicing artist?

P: It has become more separate and more free. All creation is separation: every birth is as solemn a parting as death. “Authentic politics is the art of the impossible.” —S. Zizek

 



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