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The first ever Art Handling Olympics launched this May, thanks in no small part to lead organizer Shane Caffrey. Aiming to find the best art handling team in the city, early on Caffrey produced a compelling promo photograph showcasing dual ass cracks—his own and one other handler's, as a teaser for what was to come. As it turned out audiences didn't see much of these—handlers tend to opt for overalls—but we did see a Jackass-like competition in which handlers were subjected to humiliating tasks. We're signing up for a repeat performance next year.
The L: Do you consider the Art Handling Olympics part of your art practice?
Shane: The Art Handling Olympics is a community event, not an art piece. That being said, I have a sketchbook filled with drawings of each event and all the ones that didn't make the cut, cartoons of characters I created, dialogue notes (which all went out the window, because apart from the basic structure of the event, everything was improvised), costume ideas, music, logistical mathematics, etc. I poured my creative imagination into the AHO; jokingly at first and then intensely as it materialized. But the real success of it came from the collective imaginations of all the people who helped make it happen (most of whom are artists).
The L: Where did you get those hosting skills?
Shane: Maybe those endless hours of watching game shows and eating Cap'n Crunch were good for something after all...
The L: You have two uber obsessive line drawings in Employee of the Month at Marianne Boesky Gallery, one called "Apple Pie from Scratch"—which resembles a smashed pie—and another ancient brain-like form, "Powers of Ten." How do you come up with your titles?
Shane: I take my titles from the jumbled soup of my artistic and cultural influences. "Apple Pie from Scratch" is an excerpt from the following Carl Sagan quote: "If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe." I'm a big Carl Sagan fan and his words have deep roots in the nature of my art work. The drawing "Powers of Ten" shares its title with the short film from 1968 by Charles and Ray Eames. The film starts with an aerial shot of a couple laying on a picnic blanket; the frame is 1 meter square. The rest of the film is a visual trip created by zooming out to 10 to the power of 24 meters (the edge of the known universe), and then inward to 10 to the power of negative 16 (the realm of quarks). By the same token, another drawing is titled "Get Your Ass to Mars," one of the more memorable quotes from the movie Total Recall.
The L: Do you have any advice to artists in the city who are looking to "make it"?
Shane: As an artist myself trying to "make it" in NYC, I feel utterly unqualified to offer advice to anyone in the same boat. But if I had a gun to my head, I'd echo what my mother always told me and my brothers growing up, "Do what you love." Sounds too simple, but I find it's one of the hardest things to do in life.
The L: If you could collaborate with any other New York City artist (living or dead), who would be, why, and what would you create together?
Shane: I'm a huge fan of Brooklyn based artist Tehching Hsieh. His five "one-year-performances" are often categorized as "endurance art". I propose a collaboration where Hsieh and I live our regular lives, never meeting or corresponding. From a synchronized time, we both systematically weed out endurance from our actions in life. The performance project would follow us separately as we endure to un-endure. The piece will have no time limit. The project would end when both of us, in our own times, give up giving up or fade away and die.
Either that or I re-enact Terry and Edie's walk in the park scene in On the Waterfront. I stand in for Brando as Terry, and Brooklyn born Marisa Tomei plays the part of Edie.
(photos by Crystal Gwyn, shot at The Invisible Dog)