New York, Nov. 2010: Marc Horowitz—the artist who has continually insisted upon baring his soul to an adoring public, opening the door not only to his studio but to his bedroom and kitchen as well—has been living “by popular vote” since November 1st. That day witnessed the launch of his most recent project, The Advice of Strangers, in which he is breaking down the final (if existent) barrier between his art and his audience, allowing us not only to witness his life but to direct it. Advice, produced in collaboration with Creative Time, is described as a "month-long performative social experiment,” and this is apt: surrendering the “agency” of his daily decision-making, he has transformed his online audience into a “collective life coach; together they will create a wildly inventive web-based narrative artwork on http://www.theadviceofstrangers.com, in which he will ask the world [sic] to tell him what to do with his time, and how to live his life." Horowitz is everywhere; his media presence is vast. This must be due, at least in part, to his in-person and via-the-net charisma, his warmth, and what seems to be a genuine interest in and passion for sharing and collaboration.
Though an entire country divides us—Marc is based in LA and I reside in NYC—he kindly agreed to answer some questions about the way he conceives of his very particular brand of art-making.
Emily Nathan: What I find most striking about your work to date is its continued insistence on re-activating the space between the art, the artist and the audience, and your implication of us, your audience, into your work. In your view, what does the highly participatory nature of your work achieve?
Marc Horowitz: I want to connect people to one another through tiny, absurd, historical moments that we create and share together. My goal is to facilitate a collaboration between artist and audience. My projects also aim to engage in dialogue with a diverse range of subjects, ranging from entertainment, advertising, architectural environments, and commerce. I have a history of these somewhat random encounters with strangers that actually inspired my piece “The Advice of Strangers.” “The National Dinner Tour,” for examply, was a massive endeavor where I travelled across the U.S. for a year, dining with strangers that telephoned me, having spotted the phone number that I planted in a Crate & Barrel catalog. “The Signature Series” involved driving the shape of my coast-to-coast signature on a U.S. map, improving the towns that I traveled through. “The Google Maps Road Trip” was a cross-country virtual road trip that I took with my friend Pete Baldes by using Google Maps, and never leaving our homes. I hope that the interactions my work enables will help me, and the people who are interested in my work, to find joy and happiness on a day-to-day basis.
EN: Can you describe your relationship to the potentials for creative production that are facilitated by the development of new dialogue platforms -- twitter, you tube, discussion boards, etc.-- all of which you utilize in your work?
MH: I find these new resources on the web to be an extension of my intention to make my work free and accessible to everyone. With them, a broad dialogue is formed around my work via comments, reposts, twitter @ replies (or mentions), and within the blogosphere (that word already seems so dated—how strange!). What I love is that the interaction and the exchange between us is almost instantaneous: I can ask for advice about a decision and get some feedback from my online audience on the spot. I like that Creative Time is making their website a true extension of the kind of experimental public art they produce; only a handful of people might be able to see a project that exists in New York, but this use of the “world wide web” has the potential to really allow access and interaction with an audience worldwide.
EN: How do you conceive of your role as "artist"? Have any of the changes that have taken place and that are currently taking place in the landscape of contemporary culture changed the way you view your prerogatives or responsibilities as an artist?
MH: A few years ago I came across an art review in which the critic said that an artist had “deployed humor.”
Press button, deploy humor.
Roger that, humor deployed.
Allow audience time to laugh.
EN: It seems to me that one of the things that greatly interest you in your work is the concept of "transparency," the laying bare of your process. You often not only allow us to observe or witness you and your process, but also to influence the course of that process. What is your message? What motivates this practice of yours?
MH: I feel strongly that the end result of what I do is secondary to the process itself; of course, there is already a history of this kind of practice. It is much more interesting to me to work in the post-studio nature, the way I do. I trust strangers. Combining their instincts with mine heightens potential for my works’ eminence. Additionally, my work engages in the conversation between fiction and non-fiction simply because there is a camera involved.
EN: To pick up from Question 4, you often allow your audience access not only into your "art," and its various processes, but also into your life and its processes, as if to imply that your life IS your art. How do you conceive of the relationship between your art and your life?
MH: I am constantly questioning where performance stops and real life begins. I sometimes feel caught between the position of entertainer and artist and cultural producer and cultural critic. “The Advice of Strangers” encapsulates these issues while simultaneously blurring the boundaries between personal and private.
EN: Could you name a few of your influences, artistic and otherwise, people whom you admire or emulate either consciously or unconsciously? What to you respect about them and their work?
MH: Harrell Fletcher, Jon Rubin, Allan Kaprow, Sasha Baren Cohen, Andy Kaufman, David Shrigley, Erwin Wurm, Roman Signer, George Saunders, Louis C.K., South Park, Richard Pryor. I don’t really know how to separate or distinguish the influence each of these people has on my work. They all just have little tea parties in my brain at times—some stay home, and some bring it. I can say that Harrell Fletcher and Jon Rubin have had the most direct influence on my life. I studied under them when I attended the San Francisco Art institute for a year. Like embarking on an acid trip without the acid, they opened my mind to a whole new way of seeing the world.
ArtSlant would like to thank Marc Horowitz for his assistance in making this interview possible.
(All Images: Marc Horowitz; Courtesy of the artist)