Congratulations on the show. What kind of feedback have you received this week, and how do you feel about expressing and exposing yourselves in this way?
Simon Wu: The show is about relationships, about intimate ones as well as not intimate ones. It’s about calibrating our relationship as collaborators in order to show what we’ve learned about connection and intimacy, and even to project those insights onto our interactions with other people within the gallery space. That has been really … weird. Also, illuminating. We think about our interactions in a completely different way now.
Dominique Fahmy: Even people who were really hesitant about all the nudity have told us, “I got used to it pretty quickly.” I think there’s the right amount, you don’t fixate on any one thing. It’s just so omnipresent that people get used to it.
How did you decide what to make together, and ultimately arrive at this vocabulary of poses and movements?
SW: A lot of the videos are an extension of our practice of measuring each other. If that exercise was a quantitative way of figuring out difference and distance between two people, using our bodies in a spatial manner was a more bodily way of measuring difference. Sometimes I would get much more tired and have to stop, or couldn’t hold my grip for the whole five minutes, and so on. When we held these poses, we would find physical differences that weren’t numbers, but were more qualitative, and that could be translated into something visual.
DF: Even on a simpler level, we were interested in geometry. What can bodies do? What happens when we do this, what will that look and feel like? How far can we push our bodies? You have to stand and watch a while and think it through, to see what went into it. It’s hard work.
How do the sculptures relate to the videos?
DF: We used measurements of our bodies to create dumbbells and pulleys from wood and concrete, to reinsert our bodies into the gallery space. The projections are our bodies but they are flattened–they’re just light–whereas those other objects are very physical. The sculpture is a kind of stand-in for my body or Simon’s body. We’re exploring different ways of representing bodies, physically and virtually.
SW: If the video is designed to make the viewer feel conscious of their own body, then the physical objects are another way of thinking about the proportions and relationships between our bodies and the viewer’s body. Take the dumbbells: the dimensions and masses are derived from different measurements of our bodies, one side is Dom and the other is Simon, and the viewer can pick up these objects made from our bodies—plus dumbbells are made, of course, to be used to literally change one’s own body.
Have you seen viewers interacting with the work?
DF: A little bit. When we’re around, people will ask, “Can I pick this up?” Because we’re all accustomed to seeing Do not touch in a gallery, but we have a sign that just says, Please handle objects with care. It’s important to us that people interact with the work, because we see this as a project that anyone could recreate.
SW: All of the instructions for the works are included in the book we created. There’s a section about “technologies of intimacy,” about the ways people choose to get closer to others. For example you may go on a date or engage in sexual activity, and some kinds of interaction you’ll partition for romantic relationships, but in some ways I’ve seen our studio as a factory for new technologies of intimacy, in that people maybe shouldn’t be going on dates, they should be literally measuring each other. It makes you incredibly vulnerable. One argument we’re making here is that we should think of these technologies of intimacy in a more fluid manner. We often have physical contact only with those with whom we choose to be romantic. Which is not to say that you should have sex with all your friends, because that would defeat the purpose. But we partition off particular technologies for particular people, and that may limit the ways we can express ourselves or think of our relationships.
DF: I mostly agree, but part of what made the measurements a technology of intimacy was just the process of regularly seeing each other. If you make a goal of doing ten measurements a day, then you have to see each other every day for at least a half hour, and you have to figure out, “What are we measuring today” and “What are you comfortable with?” There’s something about routine. Eventually you get further on, but this exercise gave structure to that pursuit of intimacy.
SW: Also, measuring someone’s perineum is about the most intimate thing I’ve ever done.
So how did you get here?
DF: My studio was down the hall, so we just started talking … we worked together, a few hours each week, for about two months, and then met together with both of our advisors to discuss what we were doing. We found that our performance work together was more compelling than what we were doing individually. We initially set out to share the Lucas Gallery for our exhibitions, figuring I would show my stuff, Simon would show his stuff, and maybe we’d do some work together, but eventually we decided to do a fully collaborative show.
How does this work relate to your solo work?
DF: We come to this from different ends. I’ve always been really interested in physicality. For example, I did a project with strings kind of like lasers in a spy movie, and tried to navigate through them, filming and reenacting that movement without the strings. I had a sprawling, open-ended project about switching lives with another person. I’m interested in bodies and identities.
SW: My interest came more from ideas about performance and mortality. Over the summer I looked at performance spaces in Southeast Asia, and in the fall I was working with bureaucratic forms, like birth and death certificates. These are mundane things of great importance.
The opening of the book refers to your bodies being conceptualized in Egypt and Myanmar. What is the role in this show of your cultural identities?
DF: A lot of our identities were formed in those countries, whether we’re aware of it or not.
SW: Our bodies were conceptualized there and actualized here. If the U.S. is the gallery, Egypt and Myanmar were the studios. The palm trees in the gallery are a reference to the work of Marcel Broodthaers, who used plants to examine the colonial histories of museums. People haven’t talked much about the politics of our work, but they’re central to our motivations. Just the act of putting a different kind of body in a “white” space is subversive.
DF: They’re at the root of the project.
SW: Some of our earliest performances were all about how much we love and hate art at the same time, that we hate the sociological aspects of it, the classist, colonial history behind it, the amount of privilege that is required to practice, interpret, and enjoy art. Because of our backgrounds and the intergenerational friction we’re feeling, we’re not even inviting our parents to come see the show.
You created a very bubbly, funny poster for the show. How does that relate to the content of the show and the relationship you’re seeking with your audience?
DF: It’s really about our relationship, about doing whatever feels good.
SW: It stems a bit from some work I did last year, creating posters where most of the information was applied with stickers. And that gets at our “art for everyone” mindset, where anyone can do it, and the posters become unique multiples. They’re the humorous exterior to a more cerebral, serious interior, they’re like a skin. We preferred to give away nothing.
DF: All the work is better taken in together. We didn’t want one image to stand in for the entire show.
Do you see this collaboration continuing?
SW: I’d love to continue working through these ideas. A lot of our practice was meeting and talking and writing a hundred words per day, so it was conceptual and philosophical. If it means that I get to continue talking to Dom, then the answer is yes.
DF: Surprisingly, we haven’t gotten sick of each other.