GM: You create all-encompassing art works. In your shows, alongside architectonic interventions and wallpapers, there is are often music and film/video programmes. How did this situation arise?
avaf: The wallpapers are one of our the tools we use to involve the viewer in a conceptual / sensorial experience. One important element for us in our projects is the possibility through installation to create a space, through installation, in which many layers of ideas and actions are possible. We see the installation as a space of diversity and multiplicity. Our wallpapers were always conceived according to a the space given to us, and since the very beginning, there has been some degree of public participation. Because the wallpapers are always so related to a specific space, architecture gradually became more and more present in the work. It was just only natural from that moment on to provide a space and/or performance that would envelop and activate the viewer and be activated by it and/or performance. It is a process whereby the viewer/artwork relationship is altered or even reversed in some way: instead of the viewer looking at a wall, we wanted a wall to literally absorb the viewer --- and the most obvious way to achieve this was for the picture to acquire its missing third dimension, i.e. to evolve from a two-dimension piece to a three-dimension entity, either by "giving birth" to free-standing sculptures or by becoming a sculpture itself. A fourth dimension, time, is rendered, for instance, through inflated balloons that expire within a few days, through one-shot performances on the day of the opening, and, of course, through the fact that some pieces are destroyed after each show. Thoughts about architecture bring us closer to the viewer. The public needs to be the master of architecture and to mold it according to their needs and dreams. Our growing relationship to architecture has also made avaf projects more ephemeral. A lot of our installations are simply destroyed after the show comes down. We are also really interested in this reminiscence, in this memory of space.
GM: Femininity plays a major role in your work; there is Carla, the reference figure and muse, then there are repeated allusions to and portrayals of female genitalia, porno queens, and naked women...
avaf: We would rather call it HYPER FEMININITY. In reality, most of the feminine images we use in our projects are, in fact, transgender images. We are interested in the concept of hyper realness and the legendary, that are intrinsic to vogue communities in the States (in fact the bqrwtpc video program's name is a combination of different categories from vogue balls' competitions and are an homage to them. The video program is punctuated by scenes of vogue ball competitions). These communities mostly consist of non-privileged gay African-Americans and Latinos. As Guy Trebay expressed well in his article "Legends of the Ball: Paris is Still Burning": "Among the ball children, there is no greater honorific than 'legendary', a status for which no fixed standard exists. A legend might be a man or a woman or a transgendered person or a butch dyke or a femme queen. A legend might be a brilliant voguer or somebody whose cross-sex impersonations inspire awe. Once attained, legendary status is never revocable. That legends are invisible to the eyes of the larger world causes no great concern at the balls, where they not only lived on but are forged anew."" (The Village Voice, January 12-18, 2000) . We are interested in the creation of this legendary muse, some sort of a contemporary archetype of Hyper Femininity, an explosion of sexuality that transgender people impersonate so well. At the same time, transgendered personss are on the edges of society and are subject to many cultural taboos and criminalization. So, these symbols of Hyper Feminism that we use in our works are also symbols of transgression for us.
GM: You issue long "to do" lists. Your works include references to pop and high culture. In a certain way, you are also collectors. Your works demand a great deal of research. Are there archives where you file your knowledge and document your ideas?
avaf: Our To Do Lists are one example of these files. We make To Do Lists everyday, lists of production we need to follow for a certain show, lists of people we need to thank for helping us and gifts to be sent to them, friends we need to call, things somebody else told you us we should look at or listen to, etc. We used to release To Do Lists statements related to shows we were working on. These lists/statements were a compilation of different daily To Do Lists from previous months. We are obsessed with information and we want to share this information. The TDLs also serve as a guide for things we are looking at and researching and, in a way, they offer that knowledge to the viewer and work in a in a similar manner as that of the bqrwtpc video program. We are indeed avid collectors, but our collections grow inside a certain project we are working withon. At a times, we can collect images of home improvement, for instance, but then we move on to collecting picture discs, heavy metal magazines, or home made DVDs documenting different vogue balls in America. These collections are always according to a specific project we are working on. For instance, in 2004, we were developing a series of collaborations with L.A. band/artist duo Los Super Elegantes. We collaborated on a song together and we wanted to release a picture disc with it. Then, we decided to start collecting picture discs and bidding on them on eBay. In a few months, we had a nice small archive of old picture discs that served us as database of what people had done with that media in the past. Nevertheless, the idea of making a picture disc with LSE was never realized, so we ended up transforming the picture discs into paper masks that we wore at the opening of another avaf project for Miami collector Rosa de la Cruz. Since we wanted to keep our anonymity in such a heavy-handed art world event, we decided to distribute the masks to conceal people's faces and our own. Intentions inside our projects (like the collection urge) can mutate according to situations and opportunities and be turned into other ideas. That is closely related to the way we approach knowledge. The thread of knowledge for us is infinite, and our necessity for it is never completely fulfilled. And we want to share that with the public, to somehow spread our obsession to the viewer.
GM: I know your sources of inspiration are very diverse. Are there any artists that you are particularly interested in at the moment?
avaf: This is a though question. Our interest in other people's works varies a lot over time, and it also varies according to the different projects we are working with. In the past, our interest has shifted from Oyvind Fahlstrom to Ed Ruscha, Ettore Sottsass to Kenny Scharf, Urs Fischer to Vaginal Davis. General Idea seems to be the one inspiration that has accompanied us for the longest time. We still, in fact, want to work with them in the near future (well or at least with AA Bronson, who is the only surviving member). We started doing that for our project for Rosa de la Cruz, when avaf served as art advisors to her and made her buy GI's AIDS wallpaper piece from the 80's. The wallpaper was used as part of our installation for Rosa de la Cruz. Vaginal too is another artist we are still waiting for the perfect opportunity to work together with. We tried in the past, but the institution we were dealing with then blocked it. Vaginal is very controversial on her own, and we think the museum was already filled with controversies surrounding our project.
GM: You counter the easy digestibility and user-friendliness of, one could almost say, an aesthetics that makes use of the surface, with a thoroughly political approach, which just precisely ventilates the lack of hierarchy of in the production and reception of art. In your installation in MOCA, Bush and Pope Benedict XVI crop up . . .
avaf: We feel like this question was answered previously...
GM: What are your projects and plans for the future?
avaf: We would like to keep on working on the bqrwtpc video program, to incorporate more and more materials from different sources, countries and eras, and make it at least 100 hours long. We would like to concentrate on making music and just do that for a while and release a White Label (anonymous) picture disc album. We would like to work with dancers, AIDS activists, local communities, and protesters. Soon we will be releaseing the first avaf book for which we will be appropriating Maurizio Cattelan's Permanent Food magazine style and concept. Maybe we should also release a book of our proposals before they were edited/censored by the institutions.