an interview with Nick Faust
by Patrick Gantert
I guess I caught wind of Nick Faust about a month ago in an interview with CT Art List, it was a nice little convo and he seemed like an interesting guy. Almost immediately (per the suggestion of the interviewer), I friended him on Facebook, right before heading off to bed. When I woke up the next day and looked at Facebook on my iPhone, I found myself in a different world. Gone were the incessant memes, food photos, asinine updates, and vacay pics. In their place were upwards of 15-20 separate posts from Nick highlighting the unknown treasures of Georgian painters. Things have been about the same every day since, except it isn’t just Georgian painters, it’s Byzantine art, aestheticized weight lifting equipment, forgotten ceramic artists, fantasy art, and a never ending stream of museum archive deep cuts, all peppered with Nick’s characteristically excitable descriptions (and copious amounts of equally obscure music video based comments). The breadth of artwork that Nick posts is staggering for a single person, he is currently somewhere around 15,000 images in about a year. Somewhere along the line, I decided I needed to interview this guy and was pleasantly surprised by the discussion which zigs and zags through archives, football, dancing, sportscasters, religion, and some art too.
I think maybe the best way to go about this is back and forth e-mail, so that it becomes a bit more of a conversation, is that cool with you? I'm curious to get a little background...how long have you been using Facebook as a platform for sharing artwork? How do you source the artists that you post, is it through Museum archives or just general linking? I've noticed you get on these really excellent little riffs (fantasy art, Georgian painters, etc)...is that stuff prompted?
I started using facebook as a platform to share artwork starting around last april or may. I was going through this Spanish painting database at the time, Ciudad de la Pintura, which is one of the more comprehensive archives I've come across for certain areas. Anyways, they just had this amazing amount of French and Spanish Pop, 80s surrealism, and so on that had never been shown in the states or outside Spain for the most part. It wasn't because the work wasn't good, but often times it was from a little later than when it would have been in vogue to show that kind of thing, or it was merely a case of the wrong place wrong time. Art isn't a meritocracy, so you have lots of amazing work that gets relegated to the sidelines never to be seen again, and barely remembered. This bums me the fuck out. So initially I would post the work on facebook as a way for me to remember it. As the amount of images I've uploaded increases, it will be over 15,000 works by the time this interview is published, this storage aspect of facebook has become more and more crucial for me. I love having it all in one place. I like a big spread. Speed is important to me, helps me sharpen my eyes. I might miss some things, but I have a way of circling around and catching my tail.
I find artists through a number of ways. I've been working on going through all the art fairs listed on Artforum and Art-Collecting.com, I'll go through each gallery in each fair as long they don't have awful barely functioning design. Can't tell you how many galleries I come across that just have a picture of the artist, and no CV or artwork. Mind boggling. I'll just go with the shot in the dark method of like google searching "Warsaw art galleries" sometimes and seeing what pops up. You come across a lot of wacky shit that way. A lot of it is bad, but the good shit makes it worth it. Museum databases are invaluable resources. Museums differ wildly in their attempts to digitize their collections though. Some, I won't name names, feature a lot of documentation that looks like it was shot by a bunch of drunk teens stumbling and bumbling around the gallery. Others feature a ton of annoying watermarks. But generally, you can get around okay. Tate and the National Gallery of Scotland have done an amazing job to name two. The Detroit Institute of Arts has a wonderful site as well. Tumblrs are great as a lot of time they'll focus on young emerging artists, and generally with the younger set you'll have them linking all their friends and their friends' spaces. So it all kind of spirals out, and the list of names to look through keeps getting bigger and bigger. I also have my friends recommending me other artists on facebook all the time. I get into a lot of national specific databases. Canada and Trinidad and Tobago are wonderful in this respect. Universities are indispensable. Christopher Roy's archive of African art at the University of Iowa is incredible and ambitious. The index of Christian Art at Princeton is insane. There are a number of good new databases popping up in the last few years. I use wikipaintings all the time. It is in a fun stage right now, as it seems like a lot of the uploaders are from the Balkans and eastern europe, so you get a lot of modern practitioners from those nations that you dont normally see pop up in the western european & american dominated discourse. I can't say enough good things about The Athenaeum.
Other collections lead in a thousand directions. For example, the Daimler Art Collection is stunning. They do a wonderful job of archiving all of their exhibitions. Can't tell you how many nights I've spent just googling each artist featured in past exhibitions there. I'm still a student, so the best thing about being at school is library access. I've been going through all of the Artforums this semester. I've done the mid 70s and 80s thus far. I will go in the library with a big notepad and write down a list of folks who look interesting from each issue. So many folks just dropped off the face of the earth. Canon formation really does leave a staggering amount of folks on the sideline. There's a really important quote from Raphael Rubinstein in an Art in America article on the reception of neo-expressionism, where he says, "There is, however, an excellent corrective to tendentious, cherry-picked accounts. I would encourage anyone curious about retracing the tangled lines of recent art to spend a few hours paging through back issues of art magazines from 10 or 20 or 30 years ago. There you can glimpse the raw footage of art history in all its messy, contentious, inchoate glory. Appearing side by side are ads for shows of forgotten artists at high-profile galleries and ads for debuts of now-famous figures in long-defunct venues; page after page of exhibition reviews written in the moment, before meaning is frozen, and perhaps never read since but preserving within their columns of dense type a sentence or phrase that might forever change your sense of an artist’s work or of the period; and, when editors and publishers provide the space, ambitious articles like those I’ve been discussing here, where critics argue for a particular position, placing their bets, rashly or wisely, on certain artists while doing everything they can to quash the careers of others." I try to keep that in my head at all times. There are other periodicals I want to get through before I move in early June. Fortunately, I’ll have some more time as classes wind down. The start of Frieze and the golden age of Artnews are of particular interest. There are a bunch of other pages on Facebook that I check in with as well. Some great pages for Persian painting, medieval manuscripts, contemporary sculpture (Sculpturecenter's tumblr is wonderful), and so on.
Other blogs like Vvork (RIP), ilikethisart.net, We Find Wildness, Contemporary Art Daily, I Heart Photograph (RIP), Theories of the Deep Understanding of Things/Contemporary Relics, Triangulation Blog, and so on are all great too. Although I think I'm doing something very different from what they are.
As far as the little riffs I get on, I've always had the archivist bug. Always sorting and grouping this stuff, whether it was music, comic books, or sports stats. It is is how I'm wired. So if I'm posting some ridiculous airbrush fantasy badass warrior art, I'm gonna want to stay in Magic the Gathering land a little bit longer. I do make an effort to not get in too big of a rut, and try to switch it up daily. I definitely have my staples though. Some of my friends tease me about how many post-impressionist portraits of women or boppy super plastic cartoony paintings I post, which I get a kick out of.
Thanks for the great response! Hearing your way of thinking reminds me of that super great period that I think everyone had in undergrad or whenever where everything was new and interesting. Words like canon, trend, etc etc were abstractions...at the risk of sounding cheesy, it was a more pure way of seeing stuff, unburdened by opinion (namely because of naivete). I'm interested, do you have any particular preference in the work you are looking at or is this just kind of casting a wide open net and going from there? Even things like VVORK (RIP indeed) and Contemporary Art Daily have perceivable trajectories in their posting so the idea of being like a total free radical is pretty interesting. If this is something of a project, does your audience factor in to what you post? You said your friends mock you for posting too much of a certain thing, so do those opinions weigh on your selections or does that not matter? I suppose what I'm trying to get at here is the subtext of this whole thing, is it an entirely personal project that happens to benefit from the immediate Facebook audience or is there some kind of larger goal you are pursuing?
I think about sports in relation to these things a lot. I use a lot of scout language in relation to drafts. There's something scouts look for when they're evaluating cornerbacks, the small shifty fastest players in the game who have to start from a back pedal as they attempt to contain and shut down the most athletic specimens on the field (wide receivers). They're not just interested in straight line speed. The ability to run in a straight line incredibly fast, like a forty yard dash. Although that is important too, and you'd better not be slow. But they're really looking for change of direction capability, essentially loose hips. How quickly can you respond to a change in plan, are you fluid in this. What is your response time. I think it is important to have loose hips when thinking about art. I'm not interested in arriving at a hermetic navel-gazing insularity where I can only talk about this one particular field and its relation to itself. Waking up one day and having that kind of narrowness frightens me. I understand this can be seen the other way as a fear of commitment, or an overly casual approach, or that you don't even get started on anything until you start on that path. And that real art world careers don't work this way, and that you need to hedge your bets on one thing. Like if I was REALLY interested in trying to resuscitate the careers or legacy of artists like Dan Christensen or Micha Klein, I would work with an institution and try to get them a show, or I would just post about their work for a month once a week, or that the project in some way would have to be more extensive. And that what I am doing in attempting to get some of this work seen amounts to the laziest slacktivist approach possible. I understand this argument, and its realistic implications. I guess I'm partially interested in what scarcity means on the internet, and what there might be gained, if anything, from this very light approach of facebook (and it keeping it tied to myself in this and not doing it through a separate entity). This kind of all over approach, the fluidity of information available informing the form. If it seems scattered, that's partially intentional, but i'm also figuring this shit out in real time. There's a line from Wayne Koestenbaum that I love when he's writing about his experiences in the 80s in an old Artforum, where he essentially says that he spent the 80s defining and figuring out his tastes, and the 90s defending them. What you're taking about with a perceivable trajectory stems from a few things. In the case of the Contemporary Art Daily, they're casting a vote on what they think the important shows are from that given week around the world. They obviously have their predilections, but they essentially go all out with it. They're really voting. I'm using voting in the way Roberta Smith talks about it with what critics do, and what gallerists do, and what collectors do and so forth. I didn't mention it earlier, but I should have because I look at it a lot as well, but I think Joshua Abelow's Art Blog Art Blog is doing something similar to what Contemporary Art Daily is going for, but with a totally different set of aesthetic concerns and the occasional archival flourishes. Both sites act in a sense as an archival drop of shows that are going on at the time of the posting, and act potentially as advertisements for these shows as well as documentation. Sites like VVORK, or PietMondriaan, function in a different way to me. They might group works by different artists under pairings due to subject matter similarities or similar handling of material. There isn't the reflective thing of indexing art world activity as much at least in its relation to museum or gallery shows. There are a lot of student works that are cited that are documented in a studio or makeshift setting outside of this more traditional context that Contemporary Art Daily is working with. In a sense VVORK at its best, in my opinion, did act as this kind of scout. This tireless internet search that would pull out great work from artists with minuscule or non-existent CV's, and put their work in dialogue with someone like a Rachel Harrison or Richard Artschwager. And the other thing is that artists were freaking pumped to be on VVORK, especially if they were from a smaller town and hadn't shown outside their immediate network as much. It was like having your demo featured on FACT or some other tastemaking website with an exceptionally broad viewership given the subject matter. I think part of the appeal of VVORK to artists, and why it was so cool to have your work featured on it, was this selectivity or artificial scarcity and the way it mirrored real life scarcity but blended the hierarchies in a way that the institutions that enforce this scarcity rarely do. Like I mentioned earlier, a Smithson piece would be right next to a 19 year old sophomore from Pratt, or something like that, and in a sense this was and is an exhilarating idea. That there might be this other space on the internet, where some of the real world hedging of the bets i mentioned earlier don't apply as much, and that things can be looser, and kinkier, and sexier, and freer. To get back on the point of this trajectory thing, is a lot of the examples I'm discussing are run by artists. So they can also function as supplemental to that artist's practice, or there's this aspiration to turn the archive into a piece or exhibition potentially. I guess I differ in that I don't see this as potentially being anything other than an archive of my own research. I'm far less ambitious in terms of branding or scope.
Totally. I love that sports analogy because, anymore, flexibility and 'loose hips' as you say are key to even being able to deal with the amount of content being produced. Going off your point about the content being posted, I don't read your approach as like a non-approach lets say, it is actually, to me, quite the opposite. I see you post about weight lifting sometimes and that really interested me because, all of a sudden, I saw this crossover in mentality. Weight lifting, for one, has this really regimented thing to it; reps, timing, how much weight you apply, etc etc. Ultimately, it pursues the same end goal, gettin' swole, but it does so through a dense variety of movements and gestures in endless combinations, each working with or against the other to produce a final result. Therein lies what, to me, engenders your approach, utilizing the kind of juxtapositioning that you found in something like VVORK to categorize, compare, and contrast an incredibly disparate array of things. That is all to say that any scattered vibe doesn't feel disruptive, it seems purposeful. I'll come back to the loose hips idea here as well because, in the context of football, that flexibility is engineered for reaction to something systematic, a play or a route. To me, a lot of what you do seems to be parsing out forgotten artists and works that can help to re-contextualize or open up the things that something like a Contemporary Art Daily would vote for..if that makes sense. So to me, the work that you post tends to react to what is going on currently, whether conscious or not.
I like the way you phrase it. I wouldn't say it is a non-approach either. Because I'm totally taking an angle with this. My angle might be bent, and loosey-goosey, but it is definitely a fucking angle. I think weightlifting is definitely a key to all of this shit. I'm still working out the exact vocabulary that I want to use to really break it down, but I'm starting to get a few essential ideas in place. I gave a loose talk at Outpost Artist Resources recently where I tried to map out some of this stuff, in terms of the desire for branding, self-maintenance, care of the self, body control, body extension, monitoring and ritualized discipline in both art production and actual discipline like punishment and their relation to body building, pro wrestling, and the church. The loose hips are definitely responsive. I don't want to be merely reactionary. But I need to be able to adjust to these other players on the field. If we're all on the dance floor and they're really working the floor and ground and staying low, I'm gonna take to the air and get vertical or extend my body out through spins or big big postures, you know what I mean?
That is a really incredible response in part because of something we've not totally touched on yet, which is language. I may have mentioned it at some point when we were talking, Gchat or whatever but you have a really specific way of describing artwork or even just explaining a link that is reminiscent of someone like John Madden or Dick Vitale. I'm not sure that is totally going to make sense but I guess it has to do with an excitability that seems to be spurred on more or less by accomplishment or achievement or the unexpected, which I think you find in a lot of the artists that you post. You know, like everyone in New York went fucking crazy for Jeremy Lin because it was so surprising and just weird but I think that is a really pure emotion in some ways. Sports fans are an excitable bunch and underdog stories are their kryptonite. When we were gchatting briefly, you mentioned that you were starting to look into the ties between religious art and contemporary art and methodology. As a fan of Boris Groys, I think you've got something there, do you want to speak to that a bit? Follow up question, I really liked DIS Magazine's post on our last Pope's fashion sense, can I request a few posts (a whole day!?) of Pope styles (those robes! The accessories!)?
The play-by-play/color/announcer thing is ingrained. Out of the two announcers you mentioned, they're both fantastic and inspiring in their own ways. Vitale's schtick rubs a lot of people the wrong way, but it is so genuine and his love for the game is just infectious. He's been at this gig for a long ass time, and he's still as excited as ever. I hope I'm that psyched when I'm in my seventies. One of my favorite books from the last few years was Peter Richmond's Badasses: The Legend of Snake, Foo, Dr. Death, and John Madden's Oakland Raiders. I love the bad boy rugged outlaw football during the deadball era. Al Davis was a genius in his prime. RIP. In terms of what Madden brought to the broadcast booth that I think can be put into play is just his great teaching voice, and the way he could elucidate the nitty gritty details of interior line play and get people to watch the game even if the ball wasn't there. Because 95% of football happens away from the ball. The television angles really aren't good for showing that, but Madden tried his hardest to work around that problem. That's pretty cool to me. There were three vocabularies that I was raised on, that I feel pretty comfortable with and inform a lot of what I do. I've hinted at a few of these. The first is the church, the second is synth funk/disco, and the third is SEC college football. The emotional/sexual susceptibility of being a sports fan, constantly being on edge, is something I think about a bunch. The Boris question is a good one, and I should have an answer. I'm still piecing a bunch of his writings together and forming my take, so give me a few months on that one :P. Ha! I love liturgical wear as well, I've posted various vestments on a few occasions, but I really do need to do a few days where I go all out. Orthodox chandeliers are wonderful as well.