GM: How do you decide on your selection of motifs for your wallpaper?

avaf: The decision-making process varies. The wallpapers are a compilation of elements we call DECALS, elements we are working with at a specific time. First, a few words on the "decals": our idea is that whoever purchases them, would ultimately be able ultimately to create their own wallpaper by combining different elements. These "decals" can also be printed by these people on whatever substrate or in whatever size they want. The "decals" can be applied to plexiglas, foam, Xerox, paper mask, a t-shirt, a puzzle, a print, or simply a sticker. We believe that no one is better than the collector to decide on which substrate they should be printed. In this way, the collector also has some power over the work, as s/he can manufacture it according to the dialogs s/he would like to establish with other pieces in his/her collection. If the display of the collection is based on, let's say sculptures, s/he can produce the "decal" in a more sculptural manner, let's say. That's his/her choice. But, coming back to your question.. In regards to the Tom Cruising wallpaper series, for instance,. We wanted to develop a wallpaper to wrap the interior of our installation at the MoCA L.A. for this show called Ecstasy, curated by Paul Schimmel. We spent two months living in L.A. One of our concerns for this show was to bring gay politics into the work. We were disgusted by recent news of a teenage gay couple being hung in Iran, and by the extreme right-wing promotion for rallies against gay marriage and "sodomy" in the States. We wanted to talk about freedom and repression. In L.A., we were also constantly being bombarded by news on Tom Cruise, his fundamentalist Scientology faith, and the assumptions he is a closeted gay man. We also wanted to pay a tribute to groups like the Cockettes, a performance group of from late '60s, early '70s based in San Francisco, composed mostly of bearded gay guys who would cross dress and live in a community. Based on this, we decided to create this iconic figure, Tom Cruising, a Tom Cruise gone drag as the center piece of that the wallpaper and the environment we were creating. At the same time, this installation was also an homage to the history of clubs and dance music and their close relationship to the birth of gays rights, at least in America. Clubs were not just simply hedonistic heavens, but spaces for unity within that community. We were also fascinated by pictures of contortionists and the weird sort of sexuality that they emanate. Then we decided to compile images on the internet of contortionists from the Internet and make drawings of them in different positions, and we made them all bearded and hairy. We created this one figure, The Hair Cutter, a symbol, for us, of the repression of hair within gay culture, mostly American, against hair, usually spread through gay porn where models are shaved head to toe. Based on this, we made drawings of all these hairy guys with sections of their bodies shaved, as if a result of a confrontation with the Hair Cutter. We added a noose to the design of Tom Cruising I (the wallpaper title) to relate to the two Iranian guys that were beaten and hung in public. We started compiling images of protest graffiti that we found on the street against Bush and made drawings of them as well. Bush was also added to the wallpaper with canned beans being poured on his head to show the state of his brains. We are usually interested in the local graffiti of the cities we go to, and always take tons of pix of them. And L.A. has a very interesting scene of street wall drawings/graffiti scene. Some of these graffiti and wall drawings were also incorporated in Tom Cruising I. We are very interested in artists, like Antonio Lopez and General Idea, and images related to their works also made became part of it to TC I. But at the same time, the wallpaper is not created just as a piece in itself, but as a comment on a given space. Its design and proportions are determined by the dimensions of the first wall it was ever exhibited onto, by the way the viewer comes into the space we are working with, by the other elements that are part of the installation, and by existing architectural elements, such as, doorways and columns. So, its conception and choice of elements is also determined by architecture.

GM: Precisely the wallpapers mix abstract and figurative forms with figurative ones. They overlap into each other, mutually condition, and generate one another. What is the relationship between abstraction and configuration? What significance does ornament have in your works?

avaf: We approach the conception of our installations and also the conception of the wallpapers themselves in a similar way we approach music. In our opinion, music is the media that is the closest to perfection, in terms of reaching the viewer and transmitting ideas. We envy music's power. The way we deal with our installations is, from our point of view, music-like. The way music reaches out to people is very corporeal. It elicits an immediate reaction. Your body can even transmit music (like Laurie Anderson's 1977 Handphone Table project). Music uses our bodies as an instrument of its manifestation;, it becomes personified through our bodies. This link between the corporeal and sensorial realms interests us. Music is also universal, and easily transmittable and shareable. Music changes people's lives. This is also related to your previous idea in regards to the recipient. In this sense, the relation between abstract and figurative elements is like composing a song:, one of the elements is enriched, contradicted, enhanced, hidden, juxtaposed, and clashed against the other. But we do believe in the abstracted reception of the work, even if we deal with figurative elements and that, in our view, is related to music's reception. There's an abstract absorption/understanding of music (it is ethereal, it is not an object) that is universal, and somehow we want to attain that with abstract and figurative images. That might be related with to growing up with foreign music and not understanding the lyrics, and where the words then became pure melody.

GM: Technically, how are the wallpapers made?

avaf: Most wallpapers we make start with drawings on acetate that are scanned, cleaned up, and sharpened in Photoshop. These elements are then turned into vectors, and we work on coloring them in Illustrator, where we also work on the compositingon of the wallpaper piece. As a vector file, the wallpaper is free from the constraints of pixel-based works. Once turned into vector, a work can be blown up to whatever size without loosing resolution. Some other wallpapers are Photoshop files, and are a mixture of appropriated and original imagery also mixed with vector elements. Once ready, the wallpaper file is sent to a bureau office that produces billboards or giant digital prints. We call them wallpapers, but they are in fact vinyl prints. We started making what we call "wallpapers," because of the Felix Gonzales-Torres billboard pieces, and in fact we see them in fact more as landscapes rather than as actual wallpaper. There is no repeated motif (with the exception of the first wallpaper we ever produced), and it's not sold in rolls.

GM: Could you please explain your artistic concept for the project space of the Kunsthalle Wien? The barricading of the space or the windows is a practice that you already realized in a similar way in your last exhibition in Japan.

avaf: Well, first we had to deal with the budget limitations that your institution presented to us, and the huge space we were given. That is a dichotomy we usually need to face when dealing with institutions. They have little money, but big spaces and want something that is popular and that will please and attract their public. Generally our projects are expensive, because we deal with existing spaces and their given dimensions. There are also so many different layers in our installations. One important characteristic of avaf projects, though, is that they are not entirely high-tech. We like to have a rough edge to the installations we produce. We like to deal with technology, but don't want to be sleek at all. We want to show how technology is accessible in the western world we live in, and how that can be used as tool of expression and creativity. Through dealing with smaller budgets, we realized it was a great opportunity to make this rough edge even more evident in the work and to juxtapose it to the faux sleekness of our wallpapers. In this way, we can somehow bring our wallpapers back to the origin of the real media they come from (billboard prints). At the same time, a great source of inspiration, as we said before, is the graffiti street culture. There is some sort of empowerment in this activity that relates to the way we see our work. Also, a city like New York has been passing in through a serious process of gentrification, and many neighbourhoods are completely changing;, whole blocks of older buildings are being torn down to give make room for yuppie high rises and hotels. In the transitional moment of this change, barricades of cheap/resused/trashed plywood panels are put up to conceal these construction sites-- (that they should, in fact, be called destruction sites). The local community usually reacts to them with graffiti and plastering them with posters and slogans. At the same time, these reused plywood panels are reminiscent of other destruction sites and the reaction of other communities. We felt that having such a central space in the city of Vienna, that we somehow needed somehow to offer it back to the public and transform the Kunsthalle into a raw space that could be overtaken by local artists, musicians, performers, and students. Just like as if we were squatting the Kunsthalle, or as if it had been sacked. That's when we proposed the space to be working on an open-call basis for the local community to transform it into either into a space of performance or protest. We expect people to be graffiting on top of our works, putting up announcements of their own events, bring their friends to play music together, or just have a beer and watch the bqrwtpc video program.

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